Why Must We Pray 'In Jesus' Name'?
- Denise Larson Cooper www.deniselarsoncooper.com
- 2016 11 Feb
When it comes to prayer, many of us, undoubtedly, fall to our knees, uttering the words of the disciples, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).
In Scripture, Jesus teaches us to pray as He prayed: in solitude. "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). In so doing, He instructs His disciples to avoid the pitfalls of hypocrisy that the Pharisees exhibited by praying publically, where men could see them and be impressed by their piety. Instead He encourages His disciples to pray in solitude. He says to, "go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:5).
Many of us try to follow Christ's example of prayer in solitude and to live by His instructions so we shut ourselves into a quiet room, listening for God and looking for a sign that He is present and responding to our requests. Yet, in a short time, as the room remains silent and still we question God’s hearing and doubt our prayers have reached even as high as the ceiling above us. Often, instead of communion with God, we fell futility and frustration, and we leave the room sullen and even angry at God’s perceived silence. We question the power of prayer, not realizing that when we question prayer we are really doubting the existence of God.
What is the cause of our problem with prayer? Our failure to pursue God in prayer and our lack of desire to know Him are the stumbling blocks that prevent us from finding the answers to our prayers. Often we pray because we want something from God. Most of our prayers constitute a list of wants that we call on God to satisfy according to our will and purpose. Our prayers are grounded in our fallen human nature, which, perhaps unknown to us, brazenly trumpets give me, give me, and give me in the ears of God. Plugged into the material world, all we can think to ask for is physical healing, or a certain job, house, career and the like. But we don’t pray according to Christ’s nature and ask for a more forgiving heart, to be filled with the love of God or to spread the Gospel. This is why we rise from our knees leaving our time of prayer emptier than we started.
We fail to understand that prayer allows us to transcend the material world so we can glimpse God in His eternal kingdom. Prayer is the pursuit of God, His will and His purpose: . The very example Christ sets before us as He models prayer to His Father. While incarnate, He sought out the Father in prayer and asked for His will and work to be accomplished in the world; He did not catalog a list of material desires that He wanted His Father to fulfill.
On the night before His crucifixion, Christ publically unveils His private prayers to God when He implores, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). And again He affirms God’s will, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42). Through this model of prayer Jesus reveals His heart’s desires to move ever closer to God’s purpose and design. Christ graciously gives to His people not a prayer of doubt but one of confidence in God’s wisdom and His knowledge of what we need, so we will know how to pray according to the divine nature and will of God.
So how can we pray like Christ did? How can ours be like Christ’s rich prayer life? We must pray in the name of Jesus. According to Matthew's Gospel, Jesus says, "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (18:20 NIV).
I finally came to understand this verse when I discovered that in Hebrew the word name means nature, character or essence. My prayers should be aligned with the divine, perfect nature of God in Christ. This verse was not about gathering with two or three other people, (though many profit from prayer groups) but Jesus is talking about being gathered into the bosom of the Godhead to pray with the Three Persons of the Trinity. And when I pray according to the nature of Christ those prayers receive their fulfillment in the Godhead. The Three Persons of the Trinity pray with me when I am seeking the Son.
This understanding reshaped my prayer life. I realized that the Spirit would teach me to pray the way Christ prayed. And Christ would pray on my behalf so my prayers would be as fruitful as the prayers He offered to the Father. Just as the Father answered the Son, He now answers me through the Spirit.
Prayer is no longer my reciting a list of wishes or desires, but a means to connect with the Father, through the Son according to the Spirit. As I began to learn to pray I also studied the doctrine of prayer, learning from the great men of prayer: Charles Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, E. M. Bounds and many others. In my pursuit of the knowledge of prayer I encountered John C. Bowman who wrote that prayer "serves as no other agency can serve, to bring and keep the soul of man in touch with God, as the source and support of his spiritual life, and as a strong rock and tower of defense in the midst of life’s perils" ("Prayer in the Name of Jesus" in Treasury of the World’s Great Sermons, ed. Wiersbe 62).
As I continue to learn from these masters I have also learned through the Spirit how to pray the Scriptures. As the Spirit reveals more of Christ to me, I learn to pray to have Christ’s life formed in me according to the revelation of Scripture, so that my will become one with His will. I ask for a heart filled with forgiveness, love and peace and all the things Christ embodied when He walked among us. I pray with Christ and He with me because He “always lives to intercede” for us. (Hebrews 7:25).
When we pray in Jesus' name we unite with Christ according to the will and purpose of God through the Spirit. And God the Father makes certain that His answers to our prayers bring Him glory and honor the Son. Therefore, when we pray "we lift ourselves up into correspondence with the purposes and methods of God. It is the harmonizing of our will with the will of God" (Bowman in Wiersbe 63).
Denise Larson Cooper has a passion for Christ and sharing His Word. She is an avid walker and spends many hours in the great outdoors admiring God’s creation. She also enjoys photography, leads small group Bible studies and invests the Gospel in all she does. Denise graduated with a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and worked ten years of inner-city ministry in Rochester, New York. A wife and mother of two daughters, Denise currently works as a gymnastic coach. For Daily Devotionals from Denise, follow her on Facebook.
Publication date: December 7, 2015