In the 15th Century, some church leaders objected violently when men like Copernicus suggested that the Earth might actually revolve around the sun. Certain theologians became indignant. They cited Psalm 104:5 – “He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” You and I can appreciate God’s assurance that he has tilted the planet at a perfect angle and has located us an ideal spot in the universe for human life. No power on earth can knock us from that ideal position. That doesn’t mean the planet must remain perfectly still.
When you and I quote the Word of God, light suddenly shines into darkened chambers of the mind. But when we misquote God, we are confusing at best, and may actually do more harm than good.
We’ve all read Christ’s instructions in texts like John 14:10 – “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The result is that Evangelical believers often wind down our prayers with benedictions like this: “I ask it in Jesus name. Amen.” But let’s be frank: Christ was not literally telling us to invoke his name whenever we pray. Rather, to do something in someone’s name means that I act in accordance with his purposes and his priorities. For example, if I sign a document in your name, it means I am acting under your authority. I am representing your interests.
According to the New Testament, it is the work of Christ and his righteousness that wins our prayers an audience in Heaven. Specifically, it’s about his death on the cross, his resurrection from the grave, his authority in Heaven, and his Spirit in my life. When I pray under those circumstances and call upon the Father for things that are in line with the principles of Christ, I am praying in the name of Jesus. Whether or not I literally cite his name at the end is not a factor: I am praying under his authority. Significantly, when the Apostles asked the Lord to teach them how to pray, he specifically did not direct them to always mention his name at the end. (See Matthew 6: 5 – 15.)
On one hand, this means that I cannot ask for selfish, materialistic blessings and expect to obligate the All-knowing Almighty just because I referred to his Son at the end of the prayer. A prayer is a conversation: not an incantation or a magical spell. And on the other hand, I can boldly go forth and pray in the midst of some secular organization even if they ask me not to use the name of Jesus. I can pray that the people in the meeting would be able to hear God’s voice and respond to his purposes. I can pray that the people in the meeting could be drawn away from sin and toward the holiness that our Heavenly Father desires. I can pray for spiritual revival in the land and a personal awareness in every life of how far we are from God. And even if I don’t mention Jesus of Nazareth by name, I am still praying in his name.
More in a few days. Lift up the Cross!