Praying His Name in Vain
“In the name of Jesus.”
These are the words that tell us when someone is about to finish praying. Or, are they more than that? While we all pray in the name of Jesus, it can be easy to neglect what that really says about our prayers. Praying in this fashion easily becomes another thing we do that we don’t think much about. But praying in this way defines and shapes what prayer is.
One of the reasons why we fail to think much about praying in Jesus’ name is because we often subconsciously relegate Jesus to earthly history. We look back to Him in history as little more than a great teacher, someone whose life we should emulate. He becomes little more than an example of good behavior. We, of course, want to claim that His life (particularly His death) was important, but now we must work hard to imitate His life. We come to believe that we must become good people, if for no other reason than out of gratitude for what He has done.
Life in Christ undercuts the belief that Jesus is merely a behavior specialist who deserves my allegiance. Observing His life is not intended to collapse into a self-willed mimicking of right choices. Jesus is with me here and now because Jesus’ life continues on, and my own life is lived within His. We pray in Jesus’ name because He is our hope. We pray in Jesus’ name because it is within His life that we now live. We pray in Jesus’ name because everything about who we are has changed since He was born for us, died for us, was raised for us, and ascended to God for us.
Standing Before the Father
The reality of our prayers of faith, therefore, is that in Christ we will be known by the Father. When we draw near to God, He will accept us as Christ’s. Christ, therefore, is our only hope. Again, the author of Hebrews drew the picture well:
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever… – Hebrews 6:19-20
The anchor that establishes the foundation of our souls is Christ, who grounds our hope and identity within His person and work. Our identity is out of our hands, so we must unclench them and release all to God. Prayer, true prayer, is the act of opening our hands before the Father and receiving the gift we could not earn. Christ allows us to draw near. Only in the name of Jesus are we ushered before the Lord of glory. You stand before the Father because Christ brought you there. You are raised because Christ died and rose again. You are free because Christ took on the bonds of sin and death and exposed them for what they are. Part of what we are doing in prayer is coming to grips with who we are before the Father as His penetrating gaze undoes us.
As we stand before the Father in Christ, we learn how to pray. As we stand before the Father as dust, we learn to grasp that we are beloved dust.
Paul told us,
Our citizenship is in Heaven. – Philippians 3:20
Therefore, in prayer we come to acclimate ourselves to the nature of our home. In prayer we come to grasp that the currency of heaven is love. In prayer we learn that the language of heaven is grace. In prayer we learn to harmonize ourselves with the songs of heaven. In prayer we learn, actually learn, that “it is finished” (John 19:30). It is only through the life of prayer that we come to earnestly pray, “Abba!”
Excerpted from Beloved Dust by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2014.
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Praying in Jesus’ name helps us to firmly place our hope in Him who is faithful. Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you about how praying in the name of Jesus has shaped your walk with God!