3 Magic Words?
By Joel Greenwood
When I was young, I remember saying a prayer at the dinner table. I finished it with, “Thank you God, Amen.” My older sister leaned over with her hands still bowed and whispered. “You have to say ‘In Jesus’ name, or it doesn’t count!’” So I quickly corrected what I thought had been a fatal mistake.
But was it really?
Why do we finish our prayers by saying “In Jesus’ Name, Amen?” In John 16, Jesus tells his disciples about the power of the forth-coming Holy Spirit, the presence of God that will reside in the hearts of Christians. In verses 23 and 24, Jesus said the following to his disciples:
“Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
This leads us to two important insights about praying in the name of Jesus when we do pray to God:
1. Praying In Jesus’ Name reminds us of the identity of Jesus.
If we’re not careful, we can allow the actions we do to become traditions, which become routine, which can easily lose their meaning. As Christians, we can often be tempted to allow this to happen with acts of worship like communion, offering, our benediction, the songs we sing, and yes, even the way we end our prayers. When we say “In Jesus’ Name,” we should remember what, exactly, that means.
Jesus came to earth as the presence of God in human form, and he offered himself as the sacrifice to bridge the gap between humanity and God. Each time we pray in his name, we remember that we wouldn’t be able to pray to God without him.
2. Praying In Jesus’ Name reminds us of the character of Jesus.
Unfortunately, as much as younger me thought it was true, inserting those three words at the end of our prayers doesn’t give us a “Prayer Granted!” coupon.
In the times the Bible was written, to perform an action “in the name,” of someone meant to do that action while imitating the character of that person. When Jesus told us to pray in his name, he was telling us to pray with his character in mind.
And how did Jesus pray? Check out Matthew 6 for Jesus’ guide to prayer!
As with most of the other teachings of Jesus through the New Testament, praying in the name of Jesus isn’t a matter of the words we say, or even the order we say them. It’s a matter of the heart. When we pray, we should seek not to come to God with a wish list of prayer requests, but with a heart that is seeking God’s will through worship. When we pray with a heart that seeks not our own will, but that of Jesus, then we are truly praying in his Name.