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)
Even as a new creation in Christ and as a saved person who knows and follows Him, I am increasingly aware that I must pray in His name and not my own. Praying in the name of Jesus means coming to God as a representative. I am part of the Body of Christ, His sister by adoption, yet the prayers that God listens to must be presented on His behalf, not my own.
This has good reason. Even with a new nature, I am stuck with the old, at least until full redemption in eternity. That old nature is sinful and corrupt, so when I pray, it has a determination to have its say, to get its way. My prayers might start out selfless but so easily turn to reasons why the answers would benefit me rather than bringing glory to God. (Even when I pray in Jesus’ name and God gives me what I ask, my sin nature can turn that answer into a pat on my back instead of praise for what He has done.)
Other reasons come to mind, but praying in the name of Jesus is commanded and is important. Otherwise, God will not hear me. How could He answer prayer in any way that departs from who He is and what He wants? Impossible.
Before Jesus was crucified, He told His disciples that He would return, but the intervening time would not be easy so He told them to pray and God would answer and give them joy in their trials . . .
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 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. (John 16:22–24)
His joy overcomes sorrow and is mine when I pray in Jesus’ name. This involves at least three things. One is knowing that His name is about who He is and what He has done. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) Jesus is no ordinary man. He is God in human flesh who came to die for our sin. If anyone rejects either His deity or His reason for coming, then that person cannot pray in His name.
Two is realizing that He has the power to answer, particularly when we agree together on what it is we want done. The following verses are about church discipline. When another Christian sins, we are to love that person enough to take action, action that includes prayer. Jesus promises, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:18–20)
Not only is Jesus present with us in the Spirit and helping us take care of each other, He is also highly exalted. This means that when I pray in His name, I will have an attitude of humility and submission. Yes, the Bible says that I can come “boldly to the throne of grace” but that boldness is not about me, but about the One in whose name I come, leaving my list of “I wants” and remembering who He is . . .
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth . . . (Philippians 2:9–10)
Sometimes I imagine approaching my Father with Jesus holding my hand, giving me His thoughts and words, and saying, “Listen to her, Father, for she is my child too.”
Praying this way keeps selfish thoughts where they belong and my attitude as it should be. It also focuses my heart on listening and praying according to the will of God, and deeply appreciating the privilege and assurance of praying in Jesus’ name.