Jesus instructed His disciples to make their requests to the Father in His name. What does that actually mean, and how should this be done?


Specifically, in the book of John, Jesus instructed His disciples about prayer. In the hours before His death, He revealed that they would now have access to the Father—but that He, Jesus, was the means by which that would be possible.

Here are the relevant verses:

“‘And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it’” (John 14:13-14).

“‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you’” (John 15:16).

“‘And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give 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).

“‘In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God’” (John 16:26-27).

To understand more fully what this means for those who follow and obey Christ’s instructions, we will need to consider other applicable and compatible Scriptures.

First of all, praying in the name of Jesus Christ is not an incantation; that is, a formula that evokes an answer to anything we say as long as we incorporate doing so “in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Jesus warned:

“‘And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him’” (Matthew 6:7-8; compare 1 Kings 18:26).

In another example, some misused the name of Jesus, and the consequences were devastating:

“Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.’ Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, over-powered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (Acts 19:13-16).

These self-appointed exorcists were guilty of misappropriating the godly name, Jesus—they broke the commandment of God:

“‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain’” (Exodus 20:7).

Using the name of Jesus Christ must be done with the reverent awe that reflects His place in the Family of God:

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Note that “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” There has arisen a demonically inspired teaching—one that threatens to “overthrow the faith of some.” Essentially, the idea behind this heresy is that one should only say the name of Jesus Christ in the Hebrew language. In answer to this fallacious concept, consider what happened on the Day of Pentecost—the time when the Church of God began amidst powerful and miraculous circumstances:

“And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.’ So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘Whatever could this mean?’” (Acts 2:5-12).

The very first thing that occurred to the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ upon receiving the Holy Spirit was to speak under God’s inspiration—carefully note what they did:

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). They spoke at that time about Jesus Christ (Acts 2:30-36), but they did not speak only in the Hebrew language, but also in other tongues or languages.

This coincides with the work of the Church—that of being sent to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God in all of the world and to all nations (compare Matthew 24:14; Mark 16:15-18; Acts 26:17-18).

Quite plainly and unmistakably, the name of Jesus Christ would be spoken—along with the rest of the message of the gospel—in one’s own language.

The warning for us is to “…be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth” (Titus 1:13-14).

What, then, should we ask for when we pray “in Jesus’ Name”? Here is the foundational approach for us in prayer:

“And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).

When we pray, using the name of Jesus Christ, we must have persevering faith:

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

In one of His parables, Jesus told of a proud Pharisee and of a humble and contrite tax collector who came before God in prayer (compare Luke 18:9-14). The key for us is that we must not exalt ourselves—rather, we are to seek God out of a submissive heart, willing to yield to God and obey His Will.

This is what Jesus did. In the record of Jesus praying to the Father in deeply fervent agony over the death He was about to face, He, nonetheless, humbled Himself, saying:

“‘…Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will’” (Mark 14:36).

This dramatic example brings home the lesson that we are to pray and make our requests within the framework of God’s Will. However, we must not draw back from God and use this as an excuse for lacking faith! Jesus made this a point in His teaching:

“So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matthew 17:20).

“So Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” it will be done’” (Matthew 21:21).

Jesus did what He did in the name of the Father (compare John 10:25). He did none of the miracles by His own authority—something that He carefully taught:

“Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner… I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me’” (John 5:19, 30).

His obedience is our example!

Peter understood that he needed to rely on Jesus Christ, and the lesson that is brought clearly home is His role in the healing of a lame man: “Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk’” (Acts 3:6).

Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

In both of the cited examples, Peter and Paul speak of relying on Jesus Christ in ways that are all encompassing. In baptisms, in healings, in preaching—the ministers of Jesus Christ did what they did through the express authority of Jesus Christ!

This holds true for all Christians, and it is an absolute imperative for each one of us to recognize the supreme authority that Christ holds over the Church of God. While many professing Christians acknowledge that Christ existed, only the few believe that He is seated at the right hand of God as our living High Priest (compare Acts 5:31; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22)—intervening on our behalf in order to complete what He has promised (compare Romans 8:34).

Furthermore, we must be close to God by following the example of Jesus Christ. That means we are to live as He lived—by living obediently to God. The way is open for us to have direct contact with God in prayer. However, it is only through Jesus Christ that this is possible:

“‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing’” (John 15:5).

When we speak to the Father in prayer, we do so by recognizing the authority of Jesus Christ—that is, in His Name. Christ also explains:

“‘…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6).

There are additional meaningful and important aspects associated with praying in the name of Jesus Christ. Note the following excerpts from the chapter “In the Name of Christ,” in our free booklet, “Teach Us to Pray”: 

“When we do something in the name of Christ, we recognize His great power through which He works… When we pray to the Father in Christ’s name…  we are praying through Christ—expecting Christ to back us up, support us, and do something in regard to what we say…

“Since we belong to Christ, Christ allows us to do and say things in His glorious and all-powerful name. That is, we can do things through the power of His Holy Spirit in us. When we pray, write, or say something in the name of Christ, we are actually asking Christ to do those things for us. We speak to the Father through Christ. It is as if Christ speaks to the Father on our behalf—as if Christ communicates our prayers to the Father, helping us express to the Father what we think, how we feel, and what we are going through. Sometimes, we may not know exactly what to say, but Christ, through His Spirit in us, helps our weaknesses.

“When we end a prayer by using the words ‘in Christ’s name,’ we had better make sure that we CAN say this—that Christ IS actually speaking though us, or interceding for us. The warning here is that just saying ‘in the name of Christ’ after a prayer can easily become a vain repetition. To prevent this from happening, we must be well aware of its meaning, and when we use this expression, we must realize the accompanying great responsibility, and liability, for us.

“Every time we use the words ‘in Christ’s name,’ we are to be very conscious of the fact that Jesus Christ is acting, at that very moment, as our Mediator, Intercessor and Advocate, interceding on our behalf as our merciful High Priest, and that He is pleading our cause, expressing to the Father our most intimate feelings and temptations, as well as our personal struggle with ourselves and our own human nature.

“Christ promised that He would do for us what we ask when we pray to the Father in His name. The Father will answer our prayer through Christ. But we must ask the Father in the proper way, and with the correct understanding of what it means to pray ‘in Christ’s name.’”

Rather than becoming perfunctory and carelessly muttering the name of Jesus Christ at the close of our prayers, we need to very deliberately and in a deeply meaningful way mention the name of Jesus Christ with true esteem and in a spirit of worship.

For a more in-depth study on prayer, please read our free booklet, “Teach Us To Pray,” which is available on our website.

Lead Writer: Dave Harris

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