"Stop Praying 'In Jesus' Name, Amen'?"
Have you ever been in a gathering of Christians when someone offered a heartfelt prayer but concluded by simply saying, “Amen”? I have. Sometimes, there’s been a noticeable gasp of astonishment because this apparently sincere, but possibly misguided, believer did not conclude with the standard three-word phrase, “In Jesus' name.”
Another Look at Jesus’ Ideas
Consider with me two interesting questions:
1. Is this three-word traditional prayer conclusion really what our Lord had in mind when He told His disciples to ask and pray “in My name”?
2. If this was not His intention, what do we need to understand and practice in order to comply with this important aspect of prayer?
First, let’s look at the passages in view:
- John 14:13-14 – "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."
- John 15:16 – "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you."
- John 16:23-24 – "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
What do we learn about this idea of praying “in His name”?
1. He promised to answer and do the things we petition in this way.
2. The purpose of praying this way is the glory of the Father.
3. He chose us so that we would be fruitful as we also pray this way.
4. We experience full joy when we pray in His name.
Clearly, the promises here are pretty profound, some might say “carte blanche.” Was Jesus saying, pray anything you want – just put these three words at the end and “presto,” you’ll have it? No questions asked? And, is it true that speaking these three words represents the spiritual fruit of being chosen by Him? Oh, and will tacking these three words onto the end of our prayer guarantee joy? Then there’s this catch...it always has to glorify the Father. This gets pretty confusing, maybe even restrictive.
Clearly, this essential element in prayer is not about the three words of conclusion that we so often add without even thinking of their meaning.
So What Now?
To understand His intention, it is helpful to discover that the New Testament speaks of doing other things in His name. For instance:
- In Matthew 18:2 Jesus speaks of being gathered “in My name”.
- In Mark 9:37 He said to receive a child “in My name”.
- In Mark 9:41 He speaks of giving a cup of cold water “in My name”.
- John 1:12 says that we become children of God when we believe “in His name”.
- John 20:31 says that by believing we “have life in His name”.
So, with ramifications far beyond our three-word benediction, consider this:
In both the Old and New Testaments, to do something in the “name” of God, or another person, was to do it in compliance with that person’s character. It meant to do something just as that person would do it, and in a way that honors the reputation of that person.
So, we are to gather in a way that honors Christ. We are to receive children and give a cup of cold water in the very spirit and heart that He would. To become a child of God, by believing in His name, is accomplished by complete faith in His character, His work, and His words.
What About Prayer?
So, what do you suppose Jesus had in mind when He told us to pray “in His name”? He really meant that we should pray in compliance with His character, praying just as He would pray, and in order to honor His reputation and purposes in this world. So how can we do that more effectively?
One clear pathway to understanding this is to study the prayers of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. In my book Transforming Prayer, I presented a thorough examination of His prayers, the most notable of which is found in John 17. Even a cursory evaluation will tell you that most of the things we pray, using our three-word conclusion, are not even remotely close to the concerns and purposes Jesus prayed about. Houston – we have a problem.
A Very Clear Pattern
You will remember that the disciples specifically asked Jesus to teach them to pray. He told them how to pray using the same pattern He also gave in the famous Sermon on the Mount (Luke 11:1-4, Matthew 6:9-13). He said emphatically, “Pray this way.” This was not a suggestion or an option among other prayer ideas we may want to concoct. This was His clear teaching about how we practically and truly pray “in His name.”
This is why I am absolutely passionate that churches learn to pray using the pattern Jesus insisted on. I would be so bold to say that if we do not follow these principles, we can add anything we want at the end of our flowery prayer, but we are not praying “in Jesus’ name.”
This is why I have written in most of my books about the four movements of REVERENCE, RESPONSE, REQESTS, and READINESS in keeping the major focal points of Jesus' model prayer. This is why I am insistent about worship-based prayer, not a grocery list approach of just telling Jesus what we think He needs to do to arrange the universe in compliance with our desires for a happy and problem-free life.
When we truly pray “in Jesus' name” as He instructed, we learn a balanced, biblical way of praying that fulfills the promises He made about our proper approach to prayer. And, it transforms us into His image.
The next time you pray, think about His idea of praying in His name. Just for fun, don’t use those three words before the “Amen.” Instead, try something like this: “For Your glory, in honor of Your purposes, and according to Your will I pray...Amen.” Let me know how people respond.