One way to break down someone’s faith may be to quote Jesus’ promise that… the Father in heaven will give us any thing we ask in Jesus name (John 16:23).
Many of us have discovered the hard way that ending our prayers “in the name of Jesus” doesn’t necessarily make a difference in whether we get what we’ve asked for.
Am reminded of what the Bible says happened to the seven sons of Sceva. They tried to take authority over an evil spirit in the name of Jesus, only to hear the demon say, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” (Acts 19:15). At that point the possessed person attacked the seven brothers, beat them up, tore off theirs clothes and sent them running, and probably wondering… what they had missed.
It’s true that these “self-styled exorcists” were not real followers of Jesus. But many of us can probably identify with discovering for ourselves that the name of Jesus has no inherent power.
So what are we to think about using “the name of Jesus?” Why would our Lord have said something that could lead to such wrong expectations?
It’s been interesting for me to be reminded that we are not just told to pray in the name of Jesus, but to be baptized in Jesus name, to teach one another in Jesus name, and also to say everything we say… and do everything we do… in the name of Jesus (Col 3:17).
One thing I can’t find in the New Testament (but maybe I’m overlooking something) is an example of anyone ending their prayers with, “in Jesus name”. Maybe I’m missing the obvious, but it seems like the one thing some of us think “praying in the name of Jesus” means… may be the one thing it doesn’t mean.
Yet more than a few of us (me included) have been afraid to not end our prayers that way, and probably were afraid of sounding faithless and disloyal–especially in public prayers– if we didn’t use some form of those closing words.
I find it worth thinking about that when Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray, he gave them a model prayer that did not end with any thing like “in Jesus name, amen (amen= lit. ”so be it”) (Luke 11:1-4).
The Luke 11 version of this prayer seems to end abruptly, and when we find it in Matthew 6 it ends with the wonderful crescendo “for yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever… amen.” Yet that God-honoring ending not only stops short of using the “name of Jesus” but doesn’t even occur in some ancient manuscripts.
Yet some of us wonder about the credibility of the Bible, question the point of prayer, or find ourselves doubting whether God really loves us if using Jesus name doesn’t get us what we want.
By now, many of us have heard that praying in the name of Jesus actually means praying in the personal character, spirit, and purposes of Jesus.
If that explanation is true, then it should also help explain why Jesus’ words about praying in his name– will not let us down. If we truly want to honor the name of his Father (as Jesus did); if we long for God’s will to be done in earth as it is done in Heaven (as Jesus did); if we really want to live in dependence upon God for our daily provisions (as Jesus did); if we really want to forgive and be forgiven (as Jesus wants us to); and if we really want to avoid temptation and evil (as Jesus did); then– if the faith of Jesus is in us… we will be willing to wait as he did for God to answer our prayer in the Father’s own perfect ways, wisdom, and timing.
What we can’t afford to forget in the process is that there will be seasons of our lives that parallel Jesus’ struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. At such times we will, understandably, resist the hard thing God wants to help us endure– for His sake… and for reasons he has not yet made clear. In those moments praying in Jesus name will mean breathing and meaning… “nevertheless, not my will… but your will be done.”
So can we conclude that whether we can honestly say (in agreement with the heart of Jesus) “yet not my will.. but your will be done”– is more important than adding “in Jesus Name” to a prayer… that may not really have been prayed in Jesus’ interests or honor?