Praying in the Name

In John 14:13-14, Jesus tells his disciples, “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.”

At first glance, this is an astonishing promise and one that just doesn’t seem true. I mean, I’ve asked for a lot of things “in the name of Jesus” and haven’t gotten them. This passage has led some (including me at times) to wield Jesus’ name like a magical incantation. The thought process being that if I add Jesus’ name to the end of my prayer and if I really really mean it, then God will give me what I’ve asked for. But is that what Jesus really meant by this teaching?

Part of the disconnect for us westerners in reading this passage is that we don’t ascribe the same depth of meaning to names as was done in the ancient near east. The Greek word for name is ónoma. Strong’s Concordance defines it this way, “the manifestation or revelation of someone's character, i.e. as distinguishing them from all others.” So to pray in Jesus’ name isn’t just to invoke his authority, but to appeal to the fullness of his unique, divine character.

Strong’s goes on to say, “’praying in the name of Christ’ meant to pray as directed (authorized) by Him, bringing revelation that flows out of being in His presence. ‘Praying in Jesus' name’ therefore is not a ‘religious formula’ just to end prayers (or get what we want)!”

There is a similarity between praying in Jesus’ name and the way an ambassador represents a king. An ambassador knows intimately what the king wants and has the king’s authority to act in those matters to which he has been appointed. Therefore, when he acts, he has the full backing of the king. A good ambassador doesn’t leverage the king’s name to get his own desires, but seeks to bring the desires of the king into reality. To use an old cliché, we are to be ambassadors for Christ, bringing the divine will to bear within our appointed spheres of influence. To do this well, we must gain the aforementioned intimate knowledge of the will of our King. How do we do it?

There is a lot we can gather about God’s will from scripture that we can put into practice without much hesitation. For example, does God want me to care for the poor, the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow? Absolutely yes. You don’t need to wonder about that. It’s black and white all over the pages of scripture (Click here and here for numerous examples). Does God want me to make disciples and proclaim the gospel? Again yes (Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 1:8). If you’re doing these things, you’re doing the will of God.

Where it gets tricky is when we’re praying for specific outcomes or in situations where scripture is less clear. This is where the pursuit of unity with God is so important. We need to seek his presence and his voice. The more we know God, the more we hear from God, and the more we know his heart. When we know his heart and come into alignment with it, we can be more confident in what we pray for. To know and pray in alignment with God’s heart is to pray in his name. These are the kinds of prayers God loves to give his full backing to.

Lord Jesus, may we be a people who don’t merely act under the “Christian” label, but rather who live and act in alignment with your name: your character, your love. May we be sheep who know the voice of our shepherd, distinguishing it from all other voices. May we be a people who are radically obedient to your will, as expressed in Scripture and as revealed to us by your Spirit.

Sean's Picks

God Has a Name by John Mark Comer - I recommended this one awhile back, but it fits well with today's blog and it's one of the more impactful books I've read in the past few years., so I don't mind recommending it again. Comer brilliantly exegetes of the most important passages of scripture (Exodus 34:6-7). In fact, it's the most quoted passage of the Bible by the Bible. Ultimately what I love about this book, is that it unveils God's own answer to the question "who is God?".  It's also a really enjoyable read because of Comer's fun artwork and "tweet" style of writing. Click the image below to check it out:

Missions Spotlight:
Jeff & Kate in the Holy Land

Ministry Updates:
  • Pray for wisdom in efforts to provide leadership training for lay people and leaders to equip people in missional and spiritual formation. 
  • Thankful for being able to do zoom meetings with new believer.
  • After-school program still running on site, but haven’t been able to be as present as they wish because of pandemic- yet outreach has been stable during the pandemic.
  • Mentees moved to the US for studies. Pray for them, that they would come back soon.
  • Couple from the US coming to serve has VISA ready, but because of lockdown cannot come into the country.
  • Pray for opportunities to connect believers who feel isolated.
Personal Updates:
  • Doing homeschooling for the girls.
  • Staying at home because of baby.
  • Thank God they are doing well!
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