Select Page

May 2022 GPS

Several times Jesus gave his disciples an amazing promise regarding praying in His name. “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13–14, ESV) “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16, ESV) “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf;” (John 16:23–26, ESV) Recently I read a portion of John 14 to someone, including verses 13-14 as above and that person responded, “But that is not true!” The reason she said that was that she had made requests in prayers which she concluded with the phrase, “in Jesus’ name, Amen.” I explained to her that concluding a prayer with the words, “in Jesus’ name” is not the meaning of Jesus’ promises in these verses. Of course one meaning is that when we pray in Jesus’ name we are acknowledging the fact that basis for being able to ask anything of God is the fact that Jesus made that approach possible by His death, burial and resurrection. Still, the phrase means more than that. Then what does praying in Jesus’ name mean? In order to answer that question we need to look at what is meant in the Bible when written or spoken communications are said to be “in the name” of someone.

In some cases a communication would come “in the name of” a human being. Early in David’s career, when he and his men needed supplies, he sent some of them to Nabal to ask for his help, giving them the very words they were to use. “When David’s young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited.” (1 Samuel 25:9, ESV) That is, the request was coming with the authorization of David himself. It was David’s will that the request was being made. Of course it was possible for someone to claim falsely that a communication had the authorization of someone when that was not the case. When Jezebel wanted to get Naboth murdered, without Ahab’s awareness, “She wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city.” (1 Kings 21:8, ESV) These letters accomplished her purpose because they were purportedly coming with Ahab’s authorization. Whether Ahab would have agreed or not, we have no way of knowing, but to write a letter over Ahab’s name ostensibly made the claim that he wanted Naboth murdered.

The same kind of meaning is conveyed when people are said to speak “in the name of the LORD.” One example can be seen from the ministry of Jeremiah.“And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” (Jeremiah 26:8–9, ESV) Jeremiah had truthfully claimed that what he prophesied came with the authorization, fulfilling the will, of the LORD. Here again, it was possible for someone to claim that a communication had the authorization of the “sender” (the LORD) when that was not true. “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:22, ESV) It was possible falsely to claim to speak in the name of the LORD when the LORD did not authorize the message.

Returning to the topic of this article, if we apply the same meaning of “in Jesus’ name” to praying, what conclusion do we reach? Prayers in His name will be those that accord with His will. If I had to be away for an extended period of time and knew that certain bills would need to be paid, I could sign several blank checks and give them to a friend. That friend could them get the bills out of my mailbox and fill in the payee and the amount and send them to the appropriate person. They would be paying the bills “in my name,” according to my will. Praying for something “in Jesus’ name” means asking for something that is consistent with His character and will. It is no surprise to read in 1 John: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14, ESV)