There are six occasions where the book of John records Christ saying that if something is asked in His name, that will He do. My thoughts in this post aren’t centered around the idea of God doing whatever we ask of Him (context is still important to making heads or tails of that promise), but rather I’d like to focus on the “in my name” aspect of these statements.
John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
(You’ll find the remaining references in John 14:14; John 15:16; John 16:23-24; 26)
It is very common for a believer’s prayer to close with saying, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” I think it is commonly taken that asking things in His name means we need to incorporate that phrase into our prayers. However, is this what Jesus meant by asking things “in [His] name”? If the prayer was full of utterances of His name, does it not count unless you close it with this phraseology? I think the actual understanding of this phrase is closer to understanding what the name of God means, rather than a tagline for a prayer.
In my series on Romans, we looked closely at the idea of the “name of God” when we studied Romans 10:13 – for whosoever shall call upon the NAME OF THE LORD shall be saved. (feel free to read more about that here: https://libertythrugrace.com/2018/02/11/romans-chapter-10-pt-2/)
What we discovered as that to call upon the name of the Lord was to express acknowledgment of His PERSON. Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus Christ is the express image of the personage of God. The name “Jesus” means, “Jehovah Saves” or “the Salvation of Jehovah”. The name isn’t an empty suit, but is the sum total of who and what Christ is. All of the various aspects of Jehovah that God manifested in the Old Testament were personified in the person of Christ. Paul’s point in Romans 10 is that salvation is found in the person of Christ, therefore, for a Jew to “call upon the Name of the Lord” would be for the Jew to correctly express alignment in his heart that Jesus Christ IS the salvation of God. Gentiles were responding to this message in droves, yet, the Jews were hesitant at best and downright rejectionary at worst. However, Paul makes it very clear that the salvation of Jehovah is only in one place – the same declaration Peter made in Acts 4:11 when he said that there is none other NAME under heaven, given among MEN, whereby we must be saved.
Keep this in mind when thinking about Christ’s statements in John about asking things IN HIS NAME. Is Christ saying to invoke His name as a means to unlock a successful prayer? I don’t think that is the case at all. Recall it wasn’t uncommon to make a decree or a covenant, etc. by APPEALING to an authority HIGHER than yourself as the surety for the agreement. This was true in the pagan world as well – people would appeal to a god or goddess as surety for the strength of an agreement or as a “trump card” if you will as to the authenticity of their claim. How many today try to validate their claims by saying, “I swear to God”? Although the swearing to God means nothing anymore (as society uses it so flippantly), the idea behind this is more closely aligned to asking things in the name of the Lord.
Recall in the book of Hebrews when the author was describing the covenant made with Abraham, we see the practice of appealing to a higher authority to solidify the covenant. The covenant was between Abraham and God, so reckon whom was appealed to?
Hebrews 6:13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because HE COULD SWEAR BY NO GREATER, HE SWARE BY HIMSELF.
Exactly! What authority is higher than God that God would appeal to, except Himself? In other words, God made the covenant with Abraham by “asking in His own name” or “appealing to His name.” Again, if “His Name” is nothing more than an uttered representation of the totality of His person, then swearing by His name is synonymous with swearing by Him.
When Christ says that prayers should be asked in His name, what it seems He is saying is that our appeal of the prayer should go “straight to the top”. In other words, if a prayer is made, it isn’t closing it out by saying, “In Jesus Name” that solidifies the success of the prayer, but it is that the prayer itself is being “sworn” by Jesus Christ. The appeal of the prayer is anchored in Christ – that’s the idea. The strength of our prayer is not determined by ourselves nor by appealing to some other god or [whatever], but is by appealing to no higher than there is, which is Christ. A prayer that is sworn by the Name of God (Jesus Christ) is a prayer fit for being heard/answered. It is not only an acknowledgement that we could swear/pray by no greater, but likewise an expression of humility because we are not predicating the prayer upon ourselves.
So, is it wrong to close a prayer by saying, “In Jesus name, Amen”? No, not at all. However, if we think that this tagline is what seals the deal for the prayer, then I think we’ve missed the larger point of what appealing to His name really means.
Now, what does He mean when He says we can ask “anything” in His name? That’s for another time 🙂