“If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14).
This saying of Jesus is much misunderstood, but it is so simple to comprehend. Many respond to this message by treating Jesus as a genie who grants wishes, as long as they add the magic words “in Jesus’ name” at the end of their prayer requests. But I seriously doubt Jesus was saying that “anyone can ask Me anything and I’ll do it for them, as long as they make it out to “in My name””.
The expression “in my name” actually connotes that whatever is being done is “with my agreement”, “on my behalf”, “inline with my principles”, “bears my mark” and has “my seal of approval”. For example, people campaign against causes they disagree with by declaring that it was not done in their name (#notinmyname). So whatever was being done was not done on their behalf, in agreement with them or inline with their principles, and they did not give their approval by signing any document or leaving an imprint of any kind! They have nothing to do with it and it doesn’t in any way reflect them!
I suppose Jesus could say that for much of what is going on in the name of Christianity. He would declare on Judgment Day that many people didn’t do their works in His name, and in fact, He never even knew them (Matt 7:22-23). Even though they called Him Lord, even though they prayed “in Jesus’ name”…what they prayed for was not “inline with His principles”, nor did they make those requests “on His behalf”, and since they never really sought His will and approval in the matter, it was not done “with His agreement”, was not endorsed with “His seal of approval” and does not in any way “bear His mark!” He had nothing to do with it!
However, many of us miss the spirit of Christ’s message here, by being legalistic or superstitious. All our prayers start or end with “in Jesus’ name”, as though if we didn’t expressly say that, God would not hear us and would not be obliged to answer, because we didn’t say the magic words. But it isn’t about the words. It is about the agreement. The Spirit. The principles. The submission. The dependency. The unity. With Him.
For example, if a Missionary is in a foreign land, and meets natives that cannot speak English, he could ask God for the gift of tongues, that he may speak the language of the natives. Whether or not he adds “in Jesus’ name” at the beginning or end of his prayer, his request was made in Jesus’ name! He is seeking to act on Jesus’ behalf, in obedience to Christ’s command to go into all the world to preach the gospel, and in keeping with His principles. Now, this is the sort of prayer that Jesus is constrained by His NAME to honour. It bears His mark.
By inviting us to ask “in My name”, Jesus was also alluding to the fact that His name has power! His name commands respect. His name causes His enemies to cower (Luke 10:17). When we go forth, bearing His name as “Christians”, we bear His power and authourity. To ask in His name is to ask as a bearer of His name – a Christian, who knows and is obedient to their Lord – not merely a speaker of His name!
Let’s move away from legalism and superstitious prayers. When we walk with God, we can pray as He leads us to. And when we pray, we will do so in His name, because we are walking in agreement with Him and by His power. So, without even saying “in Jesus’ name”, we have the assurance of answers to our prayers. Those who say “in Jesus’ name” repetitively, as though it is a magic phrase that only works when said rightly, show that they do not truly know Its power, nor even know Him.
If we are truly His, we already bear His name. It is a family name. We need only abide in it. As bearers of His name, we must ensure that we live up to the good name we proclaim and that we do not soil it by acting contrary to His principles.
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