The Three Most Important Words in Prayer

The Three Most Important Words in Prayer

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13–14). The glory of God himself is at stake in our prayers (even our seemingly small or insignificant prayers), and God will not surrender or violate his glory. That means no prayer is insignificant to God. He will answer your prayers in Jesus’s name because he’s fiercely devoted, with all his sovereign might, to the exalting of that name. For God to disregard requests made in the name of Jesus would be to abandon his reason for creating the universe: his glory. Our prayers, then, aren’t just in the name of Jesus, but for the name of Jesus.

As a child, I had an unhealthy fear of voicemails.

Since voicemails now are something of an endangered species, this may require some explanation. When I was in school, most phones were still attached to walls and didn’t have caller ID. So, if you called and no one picked up, no one would know that it was you who called — unless you left a voicemail. Seems easy (and safe) enough, right?

One day (I was probably ten), I called to see if a friend across the street wanted to play, but no one picked up. I hung up. A few minutes later, I called again. No answer, I hung up. I did this a few more times over the next hour. My mom noticed my strange behavior and asked what I was doing.

“I was just calling to see if my friend wanted to play, but no one’s home.”

“Well, why don’t you just leave a message?”

I tensed up. “Oh no, no. . . . I’ll just try again in a few minutes.”

“No, Marshall, that’s rude to keep calling like that. You really should leave a voicemail.”

“No, really, Mom, it’s not a big deal. They don’t mind.”

“No,” she said firmly, “you’re going to pick up that phone right now and leave a voicemail.”

I waited to see if she was serious, then slowly lifted the instrument of terror from the wall. There was something about being recorded — with no opportunity to delete, or try again, or call timeout — that made me feel exposed. It certainly didn’t help that my (female) friend could be a bit of a bully and relished just about any opportunity to laugh at my expense.

Again, no one answered. The dreaded beep came. My mom stared at me intently. “Hi, uhhh, Jenna. . . . This is Marshall. Umm . . . just wanted to see if you were home and wanted to play. So . . . give me a call when you get back. . . . Umm . . . in Jesus’s name, Amen.”

My mom’s eyes widened, and she covered her mouth. Her cheeks strained to fight back laughter. My young, insecure blood boiled. She made me do that. How could she!

It’s funny, but my (tiny) humiliation plays out a common paradox in prayer: Those three words — in Jesus’s name — were already so deeply ingrained in my mind through countless prayers in our home that they instinctively poured out. At the same time, they had become so familiar that they had begun to lose their weight and meaning (so that I blurted them to the 10-year-old girl across the street). Many of us have forgotten, through lots of meals and bedtimes, services and Bible studies, what we hold in these three staggering words: in Jesus’s name.

Six Facets in the Name

Where do we learn to pray in Jesus’s name, anyway? The Lord’s Prayer doesn’t end that way. In fact, when you go looking, you realize that we don’t have any actual prayers in Scripture that end with those words.

We hear people baptize in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38), heal in the name of Jesus (Acts 3:6), teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18), exorcise demons in the name of Jesus (Acts 16:18), and perform wonders in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:30). The apostle Paul goes as far to tell us to do everything we do, in word or deed, “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). The clearest teaching on praying in Jesus’s name, though, comes from Jesus himself, on the night he was betrayed.

In John 14–16, we have Jesus’s last words to his disciples before he goes to the cross, and in all three chapters he mentions the power of praying in his name: “Whatever you ask in my name” (John 14:13) . . . “Whatever you ask the Father in my name” (John 15:16) . . . . “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name” (John 16:23). In the repetition, we see how critical this kind of prayer will be for followers of Jesus, and we learn at least six reasons for Christians to pray in his name.

1. Access: God Listens to You

When we pray in Jesus’s name, we rehearse our only reason for believing God will actually hear our prayers. We dare to bow before the Father only because the Son chose to bow upon the cross. Before he encourages his disciples to pray this way, Jesus says to them, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). No one comes except in me — but everyone who comes in my name will be received, heard, and loved. His life, cross, and resurrection lift our prayers into heaven.

Jesus goes as far as to say (really listen to what he says here), “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” (John 16:26–27). In other words, I don’t have to ask him anything for you anymore. No, in me, you can ask the Almighty yourself.

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