From Gospel Translations
We often tack this phrase onto the end of our prayers out of habit. Perhaps because of our Christian conditioning, or maybe because it signals that we’ve finished our turn in group prayer times, we regularly repeat this phrase, but do we really think about its significance? Praying in the name of Jesus is no formality. We approach God in prayer through Jesus because Jesus is the grounds upon which God chooses to hear us.
Jesus talks to his disciples extensively about prayer in John 16, preparing his followers for not only his death, but his post-resurrection ascension to the Father’s right hand — a time when they would no longer be able to depend on his physical presence. This particular chapter is helpful in recovering the potentially diluted meaning of praying in Jesus’s name. Through this passage, we get an awe-inspiring look into the relationship between Jesus and his Father. We see a beautiful mingling of Jesus’s glad submission to his Father, and the Father’s unabashed exalting of his beloved Son.
The Proof Is in the Prayer
Regarding prayer, this unique relationship between the Father and the Son has profound implications upon the way followers of Jesus are to approach God in prayer. As Jesus speaks to his followers about the sorrows and joys they’ll soon experience, he institutes a pattern of prayer that seeks to glorify his Father and simultaneously validate his identity, all to the fullness of our joy:
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:23–24)
Similarly in John 16:26–27, rather than considering the Father unapproachable, Jesus makes clear that the Father is willing and eager to answer our requests when we come in his name:
In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
God chooses to hear us because we have loved Jesus and believed that God sent him. God answers those who ask of him on the basis of Jesus and his gospel work, as God is committed to confirming the legitimacy of who Jesus is. God loves those who recognize his Son as the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3).
In a sense, “name-dropping” — that subtle art of implying a personal connection to someone of significance in order to establish a greater hearing and sense of credibility — is what’s happening when we pray in Jesus’s name. We are employing a kind of sanctified “name-dropping” — though we don’t merely imply a relationship. All who believe in Jesus are children of God (John 1:12). We pray as the Father’s sons and daughters in Christ — those whom he has chosen before time, rescued in the fullness of time, and will be with for the rest of all time.
Because we know God’s unwavering love for his Son, and because we are found in the Son, we can be assured that God hears us. God is eager to answer our requests when we come to him for Jesus’s sake — because God wants to make much of Jesus.