We each have our own story. It is a personal experience and not two are alike. It is that awkward moment in life when we step out of our comfort and exchange our thoughts verbally to an unseen God.  Here is a cute recount of one’s moment.

“It was a sacred moment, and I didn’t want to make a mistake. I knew the day would come, and finally, as the youngest of three children, it was now my turn to say the dinnertime prayer.

Like many children who grew up in a Christian home, I first learned to pray from watching and listening to my parents and older siblings. Traditionally, whenever my family sat down for the evening meal, my father was the one who would pray since he was the head of the family. I always got a kick out of how he would pray in simple language at home, and then when called upon to pray in church, he would run on some kind of “King James Version” with lots of “thees” and “thous”. Maybe it was the pressure of praying in public, but either way I was impressed wand knew he was sincere.

I was about five years old the day my father gave me the opportunity to pray at the table. I jumped right in and prayed the best prayer I could muster. But when it was over, all I heard was laughing. Soon it became clear what the hubbub was about. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had closed my prayer with the same words my father would use whenever he would finish praying. After thanking God for the day and the food, I had confidently “landed the plane” with the words ” and God bless my wonderful wife, daughter, and sons. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.” When everyone started laughing, I didn’t know if I should be horrified or join in. And when I realized what I had said, my face turned beet red. I had definitely made a memory.”

Where did you learn how to pray? Can you remember? Was it from a grandparent, parent, or friend?

Perhaps you have never been taught. If so, you’re not alone. Everyone must begin somewhere, and this was true for Jesus’ disciples as well. Luke writes:

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” – Luke 11:1 NIV

We’re not told which disciple asked for guidance, but it doesn’t really matter. They all needed to learn, and it is evident that even the followers of John the Baptist were eager to learn from John as well.

But as Jesus taught his disciples about prayer throughout the course of his ministry, he taught them something specific that has often been misunderstood in Christian circles. Jesus told the disciples that when they ask for things, they should ask the Father “in my name.”

But what does that mean? Does it mean that asking in Jesus’ name gives the prayer an extra boost of sorts, somehow increasing the chances of that prayer being heard and answered? Is it like a magical formula that guarantees we will receive whatever we ask, no matter what, as long as it is prayed “in his name”?

What are your thoughts of praying in Jesus’ name?

There are many misconceptions about this act. It can be mistaken as if these three words were not attached to the end of every prayer, then the prayer would be illegitimate, or that somehow God could not hear it. That isa  naive understanding to say the least.

So what did Jesus mean when he advocated that we pray in his name? First, as we look through the Scriptures, we discover that this phrase is used in a variety of contexts.

For example, Jesus talked about welcoming disciples (who are like little children) “in my name”:

And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. – Matthew 18:5 NIV

He spoke of assembling together for judicial action “in my name”:

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. – Matthew 18:20 NIV

And he spoke of miracles done, cups of water given, and the Holy Spirit being sent “in my name”:

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,” – Mark 9:39 NIV

Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. – Mark 9:41 NIV

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. – John 14:26 NIV

Apparently Jesus had much more in mind than prayer when he spoke about the power of his name.

To be sure, to do any of these aforementioned things “in his name” means that we do them in a manner that is consistent with who Christ is, what he taught, and all that he stands for (his kingdom purposes). It is to be do them in accordance with God’s will, and ultimately for his glory. This is very important for us to remember as we approach the test where Jesus spoke about asking for anything “in my name.”

It is best to go to the place where Jesus uttered these words, cite it in its context, and allow the other Scriptures to aid in our interpretation. The words of Christ are found in John 14:13-14, but let’s begin in verse 12:

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. – John 14:12-14 NIV

Jesus is speaking to his disciples at the Last Supper in what is a rather long eventing of drama, dialogue, teaching, and prayer. It is here that Jesus makes these astonishing statements. First, he tells them that whoever believes in him will do the words that he does, and more than that, they will do even “greater works.”

On the surface, this may be difficult to understand, but Jesus is surely not saying that the disciples will have more supernatural power than he had.  He is God, and to interpret it that way does not make sense. The key to interpreting “greater works” is linking it with the final phrase, “because I am going to the Father.”

Jesus is about to tell the disciples that upon his return to the Father (which will happen after his death and resurrection), they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which will have major implications for them and their future ministry. Not only will the Holy Spirit supernaturally empower their ministry, but because Jesus has returned to the Father, they will have the distinct advantage of hindsight and be ale to point back to the finished work of Jesus Christ, who will have died and risen again by that time.

This picture of Christ and the purpose of his coming will be fuller than what early believers understood during Christ’s earthly ministry, when it was somewhat veiled. (due to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence and influence, whose role is to illuminate their minds, teach them, and remind them of the truths Jesus taught):

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. – John 14:26 NIV

This clarity, along with the Spirit’s power, will result in many more converts than were seen during Jesus’ earthly ministry, and in this sense the good news of the gospel will be made more widespread.

What is your thoughts on the concept of “greater works”?

Here then is what “greater works” means. The number of “physical” miracles that were performed by Jesus will pale in comparison to the number of “spiritual” miracles that will take place when both Jes and Gentiles are converted to Christ in this Spirit-filled church age.

And it is there within this new era of ministry that Jesus promises his help:

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. – John 14:13-14 NIV

In other words, their powerful ministry is bound to be aided by answered prayer. And the key to the effectiveness of there prayers is that they will be asking “in his name,” which again is to pray in a manner that is consistent with who Christ is, what he taught, and all that he stands for (his kingdom purposes).

In essence, it is to pray in accordance with God’s will — ultimately for God’s glory — “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Then as the disciples pray “in Jesus’ name,” with those motives in mind, they can rest assured that their prayers will be answered and that Jesus himself (“I will do it”) will be assisting them from heaven in their ministry efforts.

When people learn to pray like this, with these motives and with this perspective, it is amazing to see how God answered their prayers. Prayers turn from a selfish focus to a more God-centered, God-Glorifying focus, and the results are dramatic. In fact, this is the clear promise of apostle John:

14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. – 1 John 5:14-15 NIV

Our first inclination usually is to pray in a way that fits with what we think is best, or according to the results we desire. For example, if we are in pain, or receive an unfavorable diagnosis, we will usually immediately pray for God to take away the pain or completely heal whatever is ailing us. We pray for our circumstances to change.

It is not wrong to pray for these things, but it would be better to pray something like this:

Lord, I know you have a purpose for everything you bring into my life, and my prayer is that you would be glorified in whatever way seems best. Please teach me what you want me to learn from this so that my faith will grow. Please help me to see what your sovereign purposes might be, so that I may rejoice in your plan and rely upon your grace. But Lord, if it would be pleasing to you, I do ask that you would bring relief from this pain and healing from this hurt, and this is my desire. Either way, I trust you and I pray that your will be done. I ask this is Jesus’ name. Amen.

This I believe, is a healthy way to pray. It may not be perfect (I am growing in my understanding of how to pray), but it does display trust, teachableness, and reliance upon God. It also seeks to humbly accept his sovereign plan, whatever that may be. At the same time, there is no hesitation to ask God for the desire of your heart, knowing that if God’s answer is no, or not yet, God will give sufficient grace to meet the challenge.

Our goal in prayer is to see God glorified no matter what. Our goal is to see things his way, so that our will aligns with his. And once this happens, our prayers are filled with power. They will be answered, and with confidence we can say:

we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we knowthat we have what we asked of him. – 1 John 5:15 NIV

This, my friend, is what it means to ask “in his name.”

So it is safe to say that praying “in his name” is not a mere mechanical phrase we can involve simply to make sure what any and all requests we make are heard by God. Neither does it have anything to do with giving our prayers an extra boost to heaven so that they find additional favor with God. And it is not a wild card that can be played so that we forward a personal agenda and “force God’s hand” on anything that is not part of his plan.

We can smile when we think about our father and his steadfast prayers for his “wonderful wife, daughter, and sons.” God has granted some of us with children and family that is truly a blessing. And  as I pray for them, we will learn what it truly means to pray in Jesus’ name.

Let’s put it into practice now and be confident “in His name”….



The lesson this week is from the book: “The Most Misused verses in the Bible” by Eric J. Bargerhuff

The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 7:1–2). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.