Of late I have been invited to a few churches and when I can, I generally say yes and go along. Now some things can always feel a little strange when visiting another church because they each have their own unique little quirks and ways of doing things. One thing that seems to be almost universal though is to hear people signing off their prayers with the words “in Jesus name, amen” or the slightly more formal, “this we pray in the name of Jesus, amen”. This is probably normal for you too but I always notice it because it is a habit our own little assembly fell out of a few years ago and so I don’t hear it as much anymore.
I think that when most people pray this way, it’s simply an unconscious habit that has been formed over the years and I am not against having some sort of ‘sign off’ when praying publicly either. We have all sat through those moments during corporate prayer with our eyes closed wondering, are we done yet? Discreetly opened our eyes to see 4 people still deep in prayer, one scratching his nose and 2 others staring at their phones. Once when one of my kids were still small they ended a prayer by saying, “the end”. I found it quite amusing but that didn’t quite sound right either so a hearty “amen” is both good and helpful in moments like those and if you still prefer the “in Jesus’ name, amen” then by all means continue as you were (but know that it means more as we will get too).
Beyond sign offs and habit though, I suspect that many people use the, “in Jesus’ name” mantra almost like it’s a magic formula used to make our prayers extra powerful and force God to sit up, take notice and honor our requests. The proof text for this would be John 16:23 where Jesus said, “If you ask the Father for anything He will give it to you in my name”. To share a little bit of my background, I attended mostly charismatic churches growing up where “in Jesus’ name” was a phrase that was probably repeated after every second or third sentence that was prayed, mixed in with some ‘binding the devils’ and ‘pleading the bloods’ for good measure. This kind of prayer taught me to ‘pray hard’ and try to stir up enough faith within myself that my words would break through to God and come to fruition.
I’d like to suggest that one can pray in Jesus name without actually muttering the words at all. Rather than repeating a phrase, I believe that to pray in Jesus’ name means to pray a prayer that Jesus Himself would have prayed. Think for a moment about how people used to send messages to one another, maybe a king had a decree to share with his people or with another kingdom. To do so he would send out a man under his authority who would speak on his behalf. Ambassadors do the same thing today when, they do not speak for themselves but on behalf of the countries or organizations that they represent. Another example might be one who has been granted power of attorney to handle another person’s estate. In all of these examples the person represents someone else or something else speaking and acting on their behalf. The goal is never to use the authority given to them for selfish gain but to accurately represent another’s interests. If someone handling another’s affairs makes a decision, it is as if the person they represent themselves had made the decision and the outcome should honor and reflect that persons wishes. If a person speaks on behalf of a king, it is received as if the king himself had uttered the words in line with his will.
In other words, to pray in Jesus’ name means to pray a prayer that you could imagine Jesus Himself praying to the Father. It is more than just willy-nilly supplications made in prayer or a prayer you might have repeated before every meal for the past thirty years. It is to approach prayer thoughtfully, considering Jesus’ heart first. Does my prayer line up with how Jesus lived? Does it reflect His kingdom focused agenda? Does it bless others and exalt God? To pray fruitfully is similar to been a good ambassador or a good power of attorney. One needs to know the mind and heart of the one that they represent in order to do a good job of it. This is why John said in 1 John 5:14:
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
This then is the key to developing a meaningful prayer life. Let it be more than a one way line of communication. Spend time with God, think about what matters to Jesus, let the things that move His heart move yours and provoke you to actions beyond words, try this and your prayer life will be transformed.