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Praying in Jesus’ Name – is this the way to pray?

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon  MA., D.Phil (Oxford)

petertoon@msn.com

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. (John 14:13-14)

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. (16:23-24)

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 perfect.

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 holiness.

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.