Praying in Jesus’ Name
Someone recently pointed out that I didn’t pray “in Jesus’ name” in a public prayer. In truth, I had prayed in Jesus’ name even thought I didn’t say those words. (In the old days when I always said “in Jesus’ name,” I’m not sure I always did it.) Actually doing it is much more important than saying the words.
Saying those words seems to be important because then everyone will know you’re done praying and they can wake up. Or because these words are an almost-magical formula that you have to use to pray the so-called right way (to get what you want). This formula approach resembles praying with “vain repetitions” (Matt. 6:7, KJV), in which we treat Jesus like a vending machine - hoping that we if insert the right words, the blessings will drop. But God invites us into a relational way of being with him, not a mechanical, manipulative way of being with him. When talking to God (or anyone else), we want to mean every word we say - or not say those words.
To pray “in Jesus’ name” is something that happens within. It includes what we pray (praying for things Jesus would want so that “that the Son may bring glory to the Father” John 14:13-14) and how we pray (asking for things not on our own authority but with the authority of Jesus--mindful of the presence of Jesus, the power of Jesus, and the reality of Jesus).
So to pray in Jesus’ name we pray for what Jesus wants for the world. (Or as Dallas Willard says, we pray about what “Jesus and I are doing together.”) We also pray with mindfulness of God’s presence. That’s why I am often silent before I pray, to remind myself that I live in the presence of Jesus and in prayer I am interacting with the unseen world of God. I need time to live and breathe in the name, presence and power of Jesus. (Maybe we would be better off saying “in Jesus’ name” at the beginning of a prayer rather than the ending.) We want to truly be with God as we pray.
Praying this way changes us because this mindfulness of Jesus’ presence becomes part of the way we live; then whatever we do, in word or deed, we do it all in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3:17). We live in Jesus’ presence. In Jesus’ power. In the reality of Jesus’ life in me this moment. When we don’t live this way, we’re only half-alive.
Grace and peace,
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