While in Rick and Diane's last week, I received a call from our town Moderator, Bob Flanders, asking if I could give the invocation at Thursday's town meeting. I was honored at the request, and said that since Mikey's Pops Concert was the same night I'd have to confirm time coordination with Michelle, but yes.
And even though I've done prayers for Boy Scout activities, that is the first time I'd ever been asked to do one in a town setting, so I'll admit I was a bit nervous…but also thankful God gave me the opportunity.
The night came quickly…and other than initially…and wrongly…figuring the meeting was at the town hall (it was at the town gym)…I was all set when the time came to pray.
I asked everyone to bow their heads…opened with, "Heavenly Father"…noted that just as Solomon asked for wisdom to lead the Israelites we requested wisdom to make decisions for the town of Antrim…and ended with, "In Jesus name, amen."
But before I could hand the microphone back and rush off to the ConVal Pops Concert, a lady in the crowd spoke up and exclaimed:
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
"You can't pray just in the name of Jesus!"…or something close to that. Bob calmed her down…and I was off…
Now, I'll admit I knew that praying in Jesus' name could be controversial, although I didn't expect anyone to actually speak-up.
And in fairness to the woman, she did call to clear things up…although it was to say she knew it wasn't my fault…that I didn't know 20 years before it had come up and people had agreed not to give specifically Christian prayers…and that she held Bob Flanders responsible for not letting me know.
As I explained to her during our conversation, for me not to pray in Jesus' name would be to deny my faith…
What may be especially interesting is that I was the third choice…Bob only asked me because the town's Baptist and Presbyterian ministers both had a conflicts. That would seem to imply that they pray in an ecumenical way that doesn't bother the sensitivities of Jews, pagans, or even atheists (all which came up during my discussion with the lady who I offended).
If that is true…and I suspect it is…that disturbs me quite a bit…and although I'm not surprised that a Presbyterian (USA) minister would be willing, I'm a bit astonished that a Baptist pastor would…he doesn't seem like a liberal Christian.
Praying in Jesus' Name
But am I actually right…could it be okay to say a prayer without "Heavenly Father" and "in Jesus' name"? (Yes, "Heavenly Father" disturbed her too…although she wasn't the one who brought it up in our conversation…and I suspect that offended her feminist beliefs more than her religious ones.)
What is in a Name?
Now…there is only one place that we can get that answer…the Bible…but before we do let's again quickly discuss what a "name" is as in "in Jesus' name."
- Biblically, Jesus' name is not a bunch of letters assembled in such a way that it only creates an auditory symbol for a man who lived a couple thousand years ago.
- Biblically, Jesus' name is not some magic sounds that are a Christian equivalent of "abracadabra."
- Biblically, Jesus' name is a representation of His character…His nature…His entire being. When we do anything in His name we are connecting it to His person…invoking Him
When we pray in Jesus' name we are connecting our prayer with Him, trusting Him (and His and our Father) to listen and to answer…and knowing that that the response will be what is best for us, our family and friends, our neighbors, our town, our state, our country, our planet, and our universe.
That's because Jesus' name represents the one who created us, our family, our neighbors, our town, our state, our country, our planet, and our universe.
It is not just a fancy bow to wrap a prayer in that supernaturally forces God to listen.
Now…if praying in Jesus' name is not referring to the words themselves, then couldn't I still pray in His name without making the sounds, "Jesus Christ"?
Although I can see a little validity in that argument, if I adjust my prayer so that anyone of any religion…or no religion at all…feels 100% comfortable…then how can I claim that it, at any level, is in Jesus' name? Sure, I could drop the words "in Jesus name" right at the end…but "Amen" is definitely tied to Christianity quite a bit…"Heavenly Father" at the beginning would clearly have to be jettisoned…and I probably shouldn't mention Solomon…especially since he clearly objectified women with 700 wives and 300 concubines.
By the time I was finished with the scissors, everyone listening would be left with a verbal equivalent of oatmeal…it would make everyone feel warm and fuzzy, but it really would be gooey tasteless slop.
No offense meant to oatmeal lovers out there… 🙂
And the Bible Says…
Now that we've reestablished what "name" is, what does Scripture say about praying in Jesus' name.
Two quick references plainly answer that question:
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it (John 14:13-14).
Based on those verses, if I wanted my prayer for the town meeting to be answered, in whose name should I have asked?
John also provides our next Scripture:
In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God (John 16:26-27).
What does Jesus say we will do? [We will ask in His name.]
Do we believe Jesus is Lord? [Yes!]
If He says we will pray in His name and we believe He is Lord…then we must pray in His name.
Of course…my guess is that those who would feel comfortable avoiding saying the offensive words "Jesus Christ" would also discount the authority of the Bible, especially the book of John…but for those of us whose faith is anchored to the one who provided us all 66 books, it seems cased closed at this point.
Not just praying…
However, since the question of "in Jesus'name" has been forced to the forefront…sort of like in a court case when the judge tells the lawyer, "You've opened that line of questioning…"
Let's see what else the Bible tells us about "in Jesus' name." We are going to quickly go through a bunch of references…some we'll look up together…some we won't.
23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us (1 John 3:23)
We believe in the name of Jesus.
We love in the name of Jesus.
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us (2 Thessalonians 3:6)
We command in the name of Jesus.
We keep away from those who reflect badly on the name of Jesus…in the name of Jesus.
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:15-21)
We give thanks in the name of Jesus.
We submit to one another in the name of Jesus.
Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13).
We die in the name of Jesus.
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10).
We appeal in the name of Jesus.
We unite in the name of Jesus.
16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour (Acts 16:16-18).
We cast out demons in the name of Jesus.
26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord (Acts 9:26-28)
We preach…boldly…in the name of Jesus.
4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, "Look at us." 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong (Acts 3:4-7).
We heal in the name of Jesus.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31).
We have eternal life in the name of Jesus.
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38)
We baptize in the name of Jesus.
We repent in the name of Jesus.
We are forgiven in the name of jesus.
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
We were washed in the name of Jesus.
We were sanctified in the name of Jesus.
We were justified in the name of Jesus.
11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:11-12).
We are saved by the name of Jesus…and there is salvation in no other name.
It should be pretty clear that…
At this point the scope of "in the name of Jesus" should be pretty clear, but luckily God inspired Paul to spell it out:
17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17)
We do everything in the name of Jesus!
Everything we have that is worth anything is in the name of Jesus!
Quite a list…
Zooming through those scriptures it would be easy to miss the enormity of the list…so going through it quickly again…
- We pray in in the name of Jesus.
- We believe in the name of Jesus.
- We love in the name of Jesus.
- We command in the name of Jesus.
- We keep away from those who reflect badly on the name of Jesus…in the name of Jesus.
- We give thanks in the name of Jesus.
- We submit to one another in the name of Jesus.
- We die in the name of Jesus.
- We appeal in the name of Jesus.
- We unite in the name of Jesus.
- We cast out demons in the name of Jesus.
- We preach…boldly…in the name of Jesus.
- We heal in the name of Jesus.
- We have eternal life in the name of Jesus.
- We baptize in the name of Jesus.
- We repent in the name of Jesus.
- We are forgiven in the name of jesus.
- We were washed in the name of Jesus.
- We were sanctified in the name of Jesus.
- We were justified in the name of Jesus.
- We are saved by the name of Jesus…and there is salvation in no other name.
- We do everything in the name of Jesus.
I do realize a few of the bullets in my list were tenuous based on the references…but don't forget the "punch-line" Scripture that clearly says we do everything in the name of Jesus. So, for instance, you can pull "we love in the name of Jesus" out because it may be pushing 1 John 3:23 a little…but I don't know about you…but I love in the name of Jesus anyway. 🙂
Now, if just praying in the name of Jesus offends some…you can imagine how much more aggravating that larger list will be. However, it does not compare to the howling we will hear when we share this final bit in their future:
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).
- We Christians do everything in Jesus' name.
- We Christians have anything worth having in Jesus' name.
But everyone…EVERYONE will at some point bow at the name of Jesus…and confess He is Lord. Not because Jesus uses some kind of Darth Vader mind trick to force them to their knees…but because when the veil is lifted they, like the demons already do, will see the truth…the fact…that Jesus is Lord…and will have no choice but admit what they spent their entire earthly existence denying in word and in action:
Jesus is Lord and his name is above every other name.
The only name…
I can't pray just in the name of Jesus?!
I don't want to offend anyone…and next time (assuming there is one) I plan on doing a quick preamble to explain that my faith requires my prayer to take a certain form…and that by praying in Jesus' name I am truly praying for…praying with…them instead of uttering words of mere formality.
I can't pray just in the name of Jesus?
The fact is…
There is absolutely no other name in heaven and on earth and under earth that can be prayed in if we want our words to be more than the transient sounds of mortals.
And I say all these things in Jesus name!