Asking and Praying in Jesus’s Name
As we move along in John 14, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death and resurrection, and he is promising that the Holy Spirit who will take his place will come to them. In John 14:12-14, Jesus says:"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
Jesus has just been telling the disciples that if they have seen him, they have seen God, for he and the Father are one. Now he is telling them that just as he represented the fullness of the Father to them, so after his death and resurrection, the Spirit he will send will represent his fullness and will guide them.
It is hard enough to believe, as he says, that he is operating with the full authority of the Father in what he says and does. But now he is saying that, when he sends the Spirit, it will be possible for his followers to operate in his authority, and by extension the authority of the Father.
How could this be?
Jesus says, “Whatever you (plural) ask in my name, that will I do.” There are two important details here that people often overlook. First of all, Jesus makes this promise not to an individual “you” but to a community. Led by the Holy Spirit, more than one mind and spirit must come together in agreement for the prayer to be effective.
But even more importantly, Jesus says this Spirit-led group of more than one must “ask in my name.” Asking in Jesus’s name does not mean merely tacking “in Jesus’s name” onto the end of the prayer. If the President of the United States sends an ambassador to sign an agreement “in his name,” that means his representative acts with his full authority and knowledge and in agreement with him as his humble representative. Therefore to pray “in Jesus’s name” does not mean merely adding those words to the end of the prayer. It means that we are praying this prayer as representatives of Jesus, with his authority and knowledge, and in agreement with him as his humble representatives. A community must spend time immersed in the Bible to know Jesus well enough to begin to do this, and a community must be led by the Holy Spirit to be able to do this.
As the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia puts it, “The significance of the name of Jesus in relation to prayer deserves special notice. To pray in the name of Jesus, to ask anything in His name (John 14:13; cf. v. 14; 15:16; 16:23 f; etc.), is not merely to add to one's prayers a meaningless formula, but it is to ask something from God as Christ's representatives on earth, in His mission and stead, in His spirit, and with His aim. Such a phrase, correctly understood, cannot help but govern the kind and quality of the prayers Christians pray.”
Let us seek to learn, as a community of believers, what it truly means to pray in Jesus’s name, and we will see God answer powerfully.
This column first appeared in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News. Winfield Casey Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.