In the final class of His teaching ministry (months after the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus gave additional instruction concerning prayer.
After observing His final Passover and dismissing Judas to consummate his betrayal, Jesus tells His apostles: “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…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…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 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-24). Acceptable prayer includes the “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
It is quite unfortunate if you think of this ingredient of acceptable prayer to be some sort of spiritual hashtag or mysterious, magical incantation. Its significance is far more. In Scripture, a “name” can be used in three weighty ways:
As a descriptor of a person’s character, purpose, or role. The first woman was named “Eve” (i.e. Life, Living) because of her role: “she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). Joseph was explicitly told to name Mary’s firstborn child “Jesus” (i.e. Savior), “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Praying in the name of Jesus, therefore, is a recognition of Jesus’ essential and unique role as Savior (Acts 4:12) and Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). Because He is a great High Priest, we can come boldly to God’s throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
As an acknowledgement of one’s identification with another. Newly married brides are traditionally presented at the close of a wedding ceremony as a woman now wearing her husband’s name. To become a disciple of Jesus, a person is baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). This is how and when a new relationship with the Godhead begins. This washing of water by the word is how and when we become a member of Christ’s bride, the church (Ephesians 5:25-28).
Praying in the name of Jesus, therefore, is an acknowledgment that I belong to God the Father as a son because I have identified through my death, burial, and resurrection in baptism (Romans 6:3-5) with His only begotten Son, and now I lovingly desire to live in submission to Him as a Christian.
As an expression of one’s power/authority. When David answered Goliath’s challenge for a duel, he told the irreverent Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45). The name of God expresses the superior authority and power His exalted and pristine character inherently has.
Praying in the name of Jesus, therefore, ought to express my recognition that Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18) and my life—every word and deed of it—is governed by His authoritative name (Colossians 3:17).
Praying in the name of Jesus is an acknowledgement of all He has done for me as my Savior, is doing for me as my Mediator, and will do for me as my Bridegroom.