You may have wondered about this yourself. Most Christians that I know end their prayers in this way. And it almost seems heretical to do otherwise. But where did this formula come from? Is it something that we should be doing? Do any of the New Testament prayers end in this way? The addition of this phrase actually comes from a statement made my our Lord in John 14:13-14. While preparing his disciples for his departure, he told them that they could ask the Father for whatever they wanted in his name. But was “the phrase” what our Lord had in mind? Somehow I don’t think so.
I was always taught that this is a way of reminding ourselves that we can only come to the Father through Jesus. This fits with a statement made earlier in the chapter (John 14:6). So, one who prays in Jesus’ name is stating his inability to approach God the Father except through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. That view has some merit to it, but I’m not sure it accurately explains the idea of coming in someone’s name.
Consider what may be the best way of understanding our Lord’s meaning. In his book More Than Spectators, Paul W. Downey presents the idea that Jesus was promising that “God would give them whatever they needed for the task if they would but ask as if they were Jesus Himself” (81). In other words, Christians can ask God for whatever they need to accomplish his will because they have been authorized by Jesus himself.
Think of it this way. When my school bus breaks down, I take it to the Diesel Pro garage in Painesville. I have been given the authority to do so by the administration of Head Start. And all I have to do is tell the mechanic what I think needs to be done, hand him the repair slip, and the job gets done. Nobody questions my boldness because I have been authorized by Head Start to carry out the task.
So it is with Jesus’ promise in John 14. Because he has set me apart as his ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20) and has given me a Great Commission to fulfill (Matthew 28:18-20), I have all the authority needed in Jesus’ name to ask for and receive whatever is needed to accomplish his will. That is what I believe the Lord meant by asking in his name. But before you get too excited and ask for a new car, consider the seriousness of what Jesus was saying. “When we pray in the name of Jesus or baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, what we are doing is acting in their authority, in their stead, according to their command, and consistent with their desires.”1
So, the next time you pray, think through what you are saying. You may want to discard some of the common phrases if they have become vain repititions. And then pray for the purposes of God with the authority given you by the Lord himself. That is what it’s all about.