If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:14).
Some contend that Jesus is indicating that our prayers must include the phrase, “In Jesus Name” (or, “In Your Name”). It is then believed that this becomes a formula by which we can ask for anything, and because of Jesus’ promise along with our faith expect to receive such things. To add these words to a given prayer is certainly appropriate, but Jesus is not presenting a God-coercing formula when He invites, If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it? A prayer may indeed be in Jesus’ name without using the above “formula”. A person’s name is linked to that person’s identity. Thus to ask for something in Jesus’ name relates to at least three aspects of His identity.
First, to pray in Jesus’ name means our prayers must be consistent with His two natures. Jesus is truly a man, born of the flesh and blood of the Blessed Virgin. When we pray in His name, we joyfully realize He is in heaven interceding as one of us! In our Gospel reading Jesus also identifies himself as uniquely united with the Father. He explains that to know Him is to know the Father, and even to see Jesus means to see God the Father. He further describes the unbreakable connection He has with the Father, for He explains that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. The Son of God is one with the Father, and as explained later in this chapter of John, there is a third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, with whom Jesus is also united (v. 17). Though Jesus as the Son of God has a name separate from the Father and the Spirit (v. 26, “…the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name…”), yet the three are one, having one name, one essence. Nonetheless in the mystery of the Holy Trinity and in the Son’s incarnation, Jesus is separate from the Father for He is on His way to the Father (v. 12). Thus the name of Jesus encompasses this mystery of the Holy Trinity—that God is one, and yet in the Godhead there are three distinct persons, each fully God. To pray in Jesus’ name means our prayer is consistent with each person of the Holy Trinity, consistent with the unity of the Trinity and consistent with the incarnation of the Son of God. To pray in Jesus’ name is to align with these Bible-permeating realities.
Second, to pray in Jesus’ name means such prayer relates to the work of Jesus. When Jesus informs us that He is preparing a place for us, He is not describing the use of his carpentry skills to make a structure of earthly or heavenly materials. To prepare a place for us, Jesus had to go to the cross, and then rise from the grave. This is how a place in the Father’s presence is prepared for us; this is how we can go to God’s eternal dwelling. Thus our prayers in Jesus’ name will magnify this lofty lowly work of Jesus—His crucifixion. When He says that He is the way, the truth and the life, the Lord Jesus is not only describing who He is but how He will give the way, the truth and the life to us—through His crucifixion and history-changing resurrection. We are not given to pray as if God’s Son primarily came to be our great example and teacher. To pray in Jesus’ name our prayers reflect and submit to His life, death and resurrection.
Third, to pray in Jesus’ name means to pray consistent with His will. The Apostle John explains this clearly in his first epistle: And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us (5:14). To pray in Jesus name means that we cannot petition for anything that conflicts with the will of Jesus. For example, we can neither pray that someone be damned nor pray that someone be saved apart from Jesus. We can and should pray for the unsaved, that they come to the knowledge of the truth. Many other petitions are also in line with Jesus’ will.
We can indeed petition God for any heavenly or earthly blessing. But we pray in Jesus’ name, thus aligning our prayers with His two natures, His saving work and His holy will.