Praying in Jesus’ Name
During these strange, and for some, very difficult times, prayer becomes a special and treasured gift from God. I want to reflect a little on prayer, specifically praying in Jesus’ name, to encourage you and me in our prayers.
Westminster Larger Catechism Q 180 What is it to pray in the name of Christ? A. To pray in the name of Christ is, in obedience to his command, and in confidence on his promises, to ask mercy for his sake; not by bare mentioning of his name, but by drawing our encouragement to pray, and our boldness, strength, and hope of acceptance in prayer, from Christ and his mediation.
I want to focus on the last statement: ‘by drawing our encouragement to pray, and our boldness, strength, and hope of acceptance in prayer, from Christ and his mediation.’ To pray in Jesus’ name is not just a command without a reason. Nor is it a command that is fulfilled when we finish our prayer with, ‘in the name of Jesus, Amen.’ We should explicitly end our prayers in Jesus’ name, but to pray in Jesus’ name should characterize our whole prayer, not just the ending. Praying in Jesus’ name gives us:
Encouragement to pray: ‘Nothing means so much to our daily prayer life as to pray in the name of Jesus. If we fail to do this, our prayer life will either die from discouragement and despair or become simply a duty which we feel we must perform’ (Hallesby). I have no right for God to hear me. I am sinful, very far from God, and have no access to him. I lack faith when I pray, and sometimes don’t even feel like praying. We know our sin, our unworthiness, and so prayer seems daunting, and even scary. But praying in Jesus’ name is to come to God empty, helpless, and to receive and rest completely on Christ; to take Christ as our Mediator before God. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are drawn to him, and realize that we are welcomed before God, and given everything we need from God, through God, and in God.
To pray in Jesus’ name is to claim in humility, who Jesus is, and what he has done, as belonging to us. How crazy is that? ‘The supplicant receives Christ and all His merits. With these merits he goes to God and displays them, and in this manner he petitions God for all that he desires’ (Brakel). In Jesus, you can ‘Now pray for whatsoever you will. In the name of Jesus you have permission, not only to stand in the presence of God, but also to pray for everything you need.’ Why am I to be encouraged? ‘It is for Jesus’ sake that you are to receive what you ask for’ (Hallesby).
Boldness: we can pray with boldness if we pray in Jesus’ name. ‘Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water’ (Heb 10.19,22). We do not pray as those who are trying to convince God, or twist his arm, or get him to accept us or our prayers. Instead, we come in Jesus’ name with confidence.
Strength: praying in Jesus’ name gives us strength. Why do we have strength? Because we are relying, in our weakness and sin, in the work of Christ. His strength is made perfect in our weakness, and his strength is given to us when we pray in his name.
Hope of acceptance: Hope is a great thing. Would you pray if you had no hope? Well, when we pray in Jesus’ name, we have bright, lively, life-giving hope as we pray. John 16.24, ‘Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.’ 1 John 5.13-15, ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.’ John says ‘we know that he hears us.’ That is hope.
Praying in Jesus’ name is the very life-blood of prayer, and prayer is the very breath of the Christian life. So pray, and pray in Jesus’ name. It means that we can come before God with all our sin, lack of faith, hardness of heart, helplessness and neediness, and even weariness in prayer, and find rest, acceptance, forgiveness, hope, in that glorious name. Most of us end our prayers with Jesus’ name, but begin there too, and stay there until the end, and you will find more and more what a gift prayer is, because you will be drawn, through prayer, to Jesus himself, as your Mediator.
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear!// It soothes his sorrows, heels his wounds, and drives away his fear.
Dear name! The rock on which I build, my shield and hiding place,// my never failing treas’ry filled with boundless stores of grace;
Weak is the effort of my heart, and cold my warmest thought;// but when I see thee as thou art, I’ll praise thee as I ought.
Till then I would they love proclaim with every fleeting breath;// and my the music of thy name refresh my soul in death.
— How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds