Praying in Jesus' Name
Timothy Paul Jones recently recounted his daughter’s battle with COVID-19 at The Gospel Coalition. It’s a wonderfully written piece about trusting God when things seem out of control and confusing. It’s about trusting God when we may want to control life ourselves. I recommend reading the entire thing, but one section struck me as clarifying an often confused (or abused) part of prayer.
And so, we prayed for Hannah’s healing, and such prayers are good and right. Many nights as Hannah lay in the hospital, I repeated the words that Jairus the synagogue leader spoke to Jesus: “My little daughter is dying. Please come and lay your hands on her” (Mark 5:23). But I also prayed these prayers “in Jesus’s name.” These words are not a mere tagline we add to upgrade our petitions to first class or to increase the likelihood that God will do exactly what we ask. To pray in the name of Jesus is to surrender our requests to a plan that’s greater than our own. When I pray “in Jesus’s name,” I am asking God to do whatever will point most clearly to the glory and majesty of Jesus, even if that answer brings suffering and pain.
I’ll admit, when I first read his emphasis on praying in Jesus’ name, it raised a caution flag in my mind. You see, in many circles, the idea of praying something “in Jesus’ name” is seen as a magic token that obligates God to do whatever we ask. Akin to casting out the Devil “in Jesus’ name,” these people seem to believe that the power comes from a simple statement, rather than the one to whom that statement points.
Thankfully, Jones further explains praying something in Jesus’ name, and it gets to the heart of why we are told to pray in Jesus’ name. It’s not a magic spell that makes God do what we ask, but a desire that our prayers would align with God’s will. It’s recognizing that we are bringing our requests to God and asking that He would work things according to His plan, not our desires.
So often, like Jones says, we can see praying in Jesus name as, “upgrading our petitions to first class or increasing the likelihood that God will do exactly what we ask.” Or, we can swing the other direction and tack it on at the end of a prayer as a habit, rather than actually petitioning to the Creator of the universe. We would all do well to consider the true reason for our praying in Jesus’ name, and recognize what we are asking for when we do so. We should take seriously what we are doing and know that we should always seek to align our will with God’s, rather than trying to hold an obligation over His head by saying the right words in our prayers. There, in seeking His will rather than our own, we will find the true and right answer to our prayers.