Praying in Jesus’ Name – is this the way to
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
If Christian prayer is going to be heard by the Father in heaven, it
must – for there is no other way – be offered in the Name of Jesus, the
exalted Messiah of Israel, who is also the Lord of all. For he is the One
Mediator between God and Man and he is the glorified High Priest, who ever
lives to make intercession for the people of God.
If prayer is going to move mountains (either metaphorical or real), it
will be prayer that proceeds from faith/faithfulness and is sent humbly
and reverently to the Father Almighty, in the name of his only-begotten
Son, the Incarnate Word, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
If prayer is really and truly directed to Our Father in heaven, and is to
be heard and answered by him, it is not only to be offered and sent “in
Jesus’ Name,” but also is to be from Christian believers who are engaged
in the work given them to do by the same Jesus, the Head of the Church.
The words, “In Jesus’ Name,” are not a kind of magic spell that is uttered
at the end of any prayer, a prayer that we may have put together hastily
or carelessly or even that we have composed carefully.
Prayers “in the name of the Lord Jesus” are prayers from deep in the souls
(mind/heart/will) of those who are the committed servants, disciples and
representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ and they are thus intended to be
in their attitude and content according to his will, and for the
achievement of his purposes and designs, and his alone.
Here are some of the important statements of Jesus concerning prayer,
statements made in The Upper Room just before his arrest and crucifixion.
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do that the Father may be
glorified in the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.
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. (15:16)
Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he
will give it to you…Ask, and you will receive that your joy may be full.
To ask in Jesus’ name is then to ask as his representative, while going
about his business -- whilst knowing both that he is the One Mediator
between the Father and man and that his will as the Lord of the Church is
This is surely what Jesus himself means when he speaks of himself as
having come in his Father’s Name (“I have come in my Father’s name and you
do not receive me” – John 5: 43; “The works that I do in the Father’s Name
bear witness about me” – John 10:25). Jesus spoke and acted as the
Father’s representative as he did his will. And the same kind of meaning
is there when Jesus says, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father
will send in my name, he will teach you all things….” (John 14:26) The
Holy Spirit is the Representative of the Lord Jesus, bringing his virtues,
characteristics and graces.
And in the Acts of the Apostles we read that the Apostles, united in
mission with their heavenly Lord, performed miracles in Jesus’ name (Acts
3:6 &16; 4:10; 16:18).
Now turning to prayer as it is commonly offered in our churches. The
evidence appears to suggest that some of us seem to be under the
impression that we can offer just about any kind of prayer to God as long
as we end it with the formula, “in Jesus’ name, Amen,” for then, it is
held, it is a valid prayer, and will be heard and answered by the Father.
In a sense, and most regrettably, the kind of extempore prayer encouraged
in many circles these days leads people to think and speak in this kind of
way – to the detriment of true piety and godliness.
It is most important to recognize and to grasp, as has already been
suggested above, that there is a wealth and a depth of meaning in the
three words “in Jesus’ Name” or in the five words, “in the Name of Jesus.”
In fact, it may be stated, on the basis of what the Lord Jesus is recorded
in the Gospel of St John as having taught about prayer (see especially
chapters 14-17), that few of us seem to have grasped what praying to the
Father in the Name of Jesus really means, contains and requires.
In fact, it may be justly claimed that only those whose lives are truly
those of disciples and servants of the Lord Jesus; only those who are
wholly submitted to his teaching and his will; only those who desire to
think his thoughts and do what is pleasing to him; and only those who are
daily engaged as his representatives and ambassadors – only they are in a
position to pray in the name of Jesus to his Father in heaven and, as they
do, expect their prayers to be heard and to be answered.
So we ought not to think of the phrase, “In Jesus Name ” as the preferred
or even superior way of sending requests to heaven. Instead we should
regard it the one and only way of godliness, for it is the approach to the
Father that those who have passed through the narrow gate and walk in the
narrow way unto “life” offer, for they are the ones who are walking in the
Spirit in obedience to the Lord Jesus.
Prayer and General Convention:
What has all this reflection on the “routing” and character of true prayer
to do with the present concerns of Episcopalians who are “praying” for the
upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church in June? And
especially for those who fervently desire the Convention to engage in a
U-turn in sexual morals and practice?
First of all, it makes the important point that for petition and
intercession, for supplications and beseechings, to be received in heaven
by the Father Almighty, they have to pass through Jesus, the exalted
Prophet, Priest and King. He is the One and only Mediator and he cannot be
bypassed or avoided or negated! It is not by accident that the vast
majority of prayers and collects used in the Church over the centuries
have ended, “through Jesus Christ the Lord.”
Secondly, it makes the point that only those prayers, which proceed from
baptized believers who are truly committed and consecrated to the service
of the Lord Jesus and thus know his will, shall be heard by the Father,
for Christ’s sake.
Thirdly, it suggests that much fervent prayer, as well as much ephemeral
prayer, will not be heard in the realms above, because it is in its
content and aim not within the known will and purpose of the Lord Jesus –
even though it is concluded with the words, “in Jesus’ Name. Amen.”
All this is a way of stating that truly to pray “in Jesus’ Name” is a part
of a godly life and cannot be manufactured or put into place simply when
facing a crisis, only to cease when the crisis is ended. Praying in Jesus’
Name is habitual for an individual committed Christian, who is seeking to
be his Lord’s ambassador and servant, even as it is also habitual for a
congregation that is seeking to worship the Lord our God in the beauty of
The apostasy that the General Convention has caused to occur within the
Episcopal Church since the 1970s occurred primarily because the membership
ceased really and truly to pray “in Jesus’ Name” even though parallel
phrases were used in a liturgical form. And it ceased to pray thus because
it was not living in such a way as to believe, adorn and propagate the
Gospel of the Lord Jesus.
For the ECUSA to change in ways that are noted as significant in heaven,
there has to be throughout its now diminished membership the recovery of
truly praying “in Jesus’ Name,” and this of course will only occur when
there are growing numbers of renewed lives of consecrated discipleship of
the same Lord Jesus.