The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


In Jesus' name

I am a seeker after God. I have been since I was young. I wonder, question, and ponder my faith and beliefs.

In my childhood home, attending church on Sunday was a given. We invited God into our daily life through table prayers, mealtime devotions, bedtime prayers and Sunday worship.

My dad believed with his whole heart. But his life in God centered around right belief, right prayer, right action and avoiding sin.

When I was quite young, my dad and my pastor taught me to pray in Jesus' name. To my young self, it seemed that God wanted to hear that phrase — "in Jesus' name" — at the end of every prayer.

As an adult, I retained the habit of ending every prayer "in Jesus' name." My ideas about prayer matured and grew, but the phrase remained. I started to wonder why. As I examined the words closely, I began to see.

I knew that the name "Jesus" is derived from a Hebrew word for "savior." Mary named her son Jesus because he was to be a "savior." In Jesus' time, a person's name pointed to the nature and soul of the person. Jesus' name was intricately woven into his nature. He saved, healed, forgave, helped the underdogs of society and founded the way — the walk of eternal life. When I pray "in Jesus' name" it means I pray in the nature of Jesus — believing in him, through him, participating in his nature through my prayer and with my whole heart.

When I say "in Jesus' name" as I pray gratefully for the blessings of the earth —   the squirrels in my backyard, the wind whooshing through the pines, the green grass in spring – I am praying in the nature of Jesus who loved the lilies of the field. When I pray for healing and good health for friends and family, I am praying in the nature of Jesus who healed the blind man, Bartimaeus; raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead; and healed the soldier's ear. When I pray for love, joy, peace, patience — the fruits of the Spirit — I pray in the nature of Jesus because it is those fruits that save in this life. When I pray in Jesus' name, I pray in the nature of Jesus, not in my own sometimes-selfish, sometimes-self-righteous, egotistic nature.

"In Jesus' name" means more to me now since I understand what's in the name is also in the soul. And that's the birthplace of a heartfelt prayer — the saving nature of Jesus, the Christ, alive in us, a prayer from the little Christ inside-out. 


Ronald Marshall

Ronald Marshall

Posted at 1:15 pm (U.S. Eastern) 4/24/2012

Thanks to Karin Johnson for raising this most important matter of why we pray in Jesus' name (John 16:23). Her answer to that question echoes Douglas John Hall's argument that we pray in Jesus' name in order "to participate in his transformation of creation" (When You Pray, 1987, p. 34). While that is true, it still misses the deeper reason for praying in Jesus' name that Martin Luther gives: "Christ ... is our Mediator, through whom all things are given to us .... It is praying aright in Christ's name, when we thus trust in him that we will be received and heard for his sake, and not for our own sake. Those, however, who ... presume that God will hear or regard them, because they say ... such godly prayers, will merit and obtain nothing but wrath and disgrace; for they wish to be people whom God should regard without a mediator" (Sermons of Martin Luther, ed. trans. John N. Lenker, 3:171).

And so if we are going to draw "nigh to God" in prayer, as Luther puts it in one of his hymns, we will have to employ his saving Atonement by ending our prayers in Jesus' name. A stanza from this hymn of Luther's goes on to explain why:

To avert from us God's wrath,

Jesus suffered in our stead;

by an ignominious death

he a full atonement made;

and by his most precious blood

brought us, sinners, nigh to God.

(Moravian Book of Worship, 1995, Hymn 416).

So if Karin Johnson had added to her answer the link between praying in Jesus' name in John 16:23 and the overcoming of God's wrath by way of Jesus' blood in Romans 5:9, then she would have been ready to fill out her answer with Luther's insights. (I have tried to do just that in my article, "Praying in Jesus' Name," The Bride of Christ, XII.2, March 1998.)

Note: Ronald Marshall edited this post at 1:19 pm on 4/24/2012.

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