A personal relationship with God is the great benefit of the believer. To actually be able to communicate in a continual dialog with the Most High is a great privilege and the joy of my life. This, of course, is made possible by Jesus fulfilling the old covenant, tearing the curtain, making the Levitical Priesthood and the Ceremonial Mosaic Law obsolete by dying on a cross as our sacrificial substitutionary offering. He nailed up the Law and our sins on the cross, and He became our sins so that we might become His righteousness. He then conquered death, hell, and the grave, as He arose from the dead on the third day, and He ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God where He makes continual intercession on our behalf. Oh, what a Savior!
Jesus made some remarkable statements about prayer as He taught His disciples while He ministered here on the earth 2,000 years ago. He promised that if we pray in His name, that God would answer our prayers.
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. John 14:13-14
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. John 15:16
And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:23-24
But Christian’s pray every day “in the Name of Jesus Christ,” and their prayers go unanswered. We know that it is impossible for God to lie, so there must be a gap in our understanding of how to pray. Most believers pray every day, so it is hard to convince them that they may not know how to pray. But I am convinced that there is a misunderstanding about this matter of praying in the name of Jesus that is keeping many believers frustrated because they don’t walk in the joy of answered prayers.
I recently heard a story of a man who came to his pastor and said, “I have been a Christian for over 30 years. I have taught Sunday School, I have served as a deacon, I have hosted a small group in my home for the past seven years, and God never answers my prayers.” The wise pastor quickly saw the situation and told the man, "It is because you are praying in your name instead of the Name of Jesus. The man replied, “No sir, I end all of my prayers with “in the Name of Jesus.” The pastor replied, “You may tag the Name of Jesus on the end of your prayers, but you are coming to God in your name. It is obvious that you think because of your good works that God is obligated to answer your prayers, and therein lies the problem.”
This scenario is eye opening, to say the least, because I think I have been guilty of the same kind of thinking for most of my Christian life. If we know Jesus as our Savior, and we spend a great portion of our life serving Him, then for whatever reason, we tend to think we are good and because we are good, God will hear and answer our prayers. When the truth is that no matter how good of a life we may live, we are never good compared to God. The Bible clearly teaches us that if we break the law in one point, we are guilty of breaking it all. No matter how squeaky clean we may live our lives, when we compare ourselves to God, we are filthy.
So when we approach God in prayer, if our thinking is from a mindset that we are God’s servant, minister, or obedient child, therefore God will hear and answer our prayers based upon our obedience, then we are praying in our name, instead of in the Name of Jesus, no matter what we may tag the end of our prayers with. God is not obligated to answer our prayers when we pray in our own name. In fact, when we pray in our own name, our prayers go no higher than the ceiling of the building.
To pray in the Name of Jesus Christ is to come to God with an understanding that I am not worthy for God to hear me, and I am unworthy of a personal relationship with God based on my behavior, so I come in the Name of the One who is worthy. I pray to God based upon the merits and the good works of Jesus Christ instead of my own. I pray in His Name, covered in His righteousness, the righteousness that He imputed to me when I first believed.
I pray to God out of my new identity that God gave me when He put me in Christ. I am a Saint, because Jesus made me a Saint, not because I have been a good man. I am holy because He put His holiness upon me when I believed. I come to my heavenly Father as a child of God because of what Jesus did for me 2,000 years ago upon an old rugged cross, not because of my good works or favor that I have obtained or merited by good, clean living. Since I am “in Christ,” then what is true of Jesus is true of me. Jesus as the Son of God has perfect access of an obedient child to the heavenly Father, so now, I do too, since I am “in Christ.” Since the Father always hears His Son, then He always hears those who are His sons, “in Christ.” When we pray in Jesus' Name, we do so with great confidence and yet humble dependence on the unmerited grace of God.
We must give up any thought that we have any claims upon God…. But Jesus Christ has great claims on God, and we should go to God in our prayers not on the ground of any goodness in ourselves, but on the ground of Jesus Christ’s claims. R.A. Torrey
In his brilliant book on prayer, Timothy Keller writes these words:
To pray in Jesus name means to come to God in prayer consciously trusting in Christ for our salvation and acceptance and not relying on our own credibility or record. It is, essentially, to reground our relationship with God in the saving work of Jesus over and over again. It also means to recognize your status as a child of God, regardless of your inner state. God our Father is committed to his children’s good, as any good father would be.
Our prayer must be in full, grateful awareness that our access to God as Father is a free gift won by the costly sacrifice of Jesus, the True Son, and then enacted in us by the Holy Spirit, who helps us know inwardly that we are His children. To pray in Jesus' Name is not meant to be a magic formula as if the pronunciation of the words coerces God’s power or mechanically taps into supernatural forces. Jesus’ Name is shorthand for His Divine Person and saving work. To come to the Father in Jesus’ Name, not our own is to come fully cognizant that we are being heard because of the costly grace in which we stand. This is the one principle of prayer that makes it possible to be heard by God even though no one can follow all the other guidelines and rules as we should.
With this understanding, we can know assuredly that God will hear and answer our prayers as promised in the Holy Scriptures.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
I believe many Christians walk in defeat and unbelief because they have no joy of answered prayers in their lives. They have been taught to pray, but have never learned how to pray in the Name of Jesus, instead of their own name. If we come to God on our own merits, or based upon our record of good works or clean living, then we are deceived into thinking that we are such a good person that God must answer our prayers. This is bad thinking even though I think that the majority of Christians around the world today think this way.
Let me use an imperfect analogy, but one that might help us to understand. President Trump is arguably the most powerful man in the world right now. I am sure that millions of people all over the world would love a chance to speak directly to him on the phone. But if I called or if you called, I think it is safe to say that neither of us would be able to get him to take our call. But if his son or his daughter called him, I bet he would take their call immediately. His son could get him on the phone because of their father/son relationship.
So let us now think of our perfect heavenly Father; if Jesus wants to talk to Him, the Father would immediately hear Him and answer Him, because His Son is in perfect communion or perfect relationship with the Father. But if a sinner tries to speak to the heavenly Father, there is a wall between them or a gulf or divide that will not allow a sinner to communicate directly with the Father. The only way any sinner will ever be able to communicate with the Father is through the Son of God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.”
Only as a sinner repents, asking Jesus into his heart to save him, can he can he ever have a hope to speak directly to God. Now that the sinner is forgiven, then by faith Jesus will impute His righteousness onto the sinner and make Him a Saint. The Spirit of God comes into his heart and regenerates His spirit and gives him a born again experience. He now becomes a new man with a new identity as God puts him “in Christ”. God can now accept him in the beloved Son as he becomes a new man in Christ. All of this is the work of God’s amazing grace, and now the man’s life is hid with Christ in God. The man that was a sinner has been changed into a Saint as God places him in Christ. So if this man will continue to understand he is who God says he is, then he can pray in the Name of Jesus Christ, and God the Father will hear and answer his prayers.
It is important not to revert back to your old identity and try to come to God based upon your years of service, or good moral works, because if you do, then you are praying in your own name. No matter how long we have been a Christian, we should always pray in the name of Jesus Christ and come to God based upon His merits, His good works, His good name, and His saving grace. To pray in the Name of Jesus is a great blessing that none of us deserve. Jesus took what we deserved and He gave us what He deserved. Oh what a Savior!
On the flip side is a Christian attempting to come to God that does not see himself “in Christ” so he thinks he is a very bad person. He sees himself through the lenses of his old nature, before he was saved. He feels bad, guilty, and condemned for his sins; therefore, he tries to pray to God with self-pity, and he beats himself up enough hoping to earn God’s favor or forgiveness. This type of repentance is a type of self-flagellation or self-crucifixion. The human logic is this: the more you hurt yourself or the more penitence you pay, the more you think God might be merciful to you and forgive you. You are trying to earn God’s favor. This is another way to pray in your own name.
Grace is pure unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor of God. If you have to do something to earn grace, then it is no more grace, but works. When we forget the nature of the freedom of grace, then the purpose of our repentance becomes the appeasement of God. When we are not sure that God accepts us or loves us, then confession and repentance become a way to try to stay on God’s good side. With our expressions of sorrow and sincerity, we hope to move God to take pity upon us. This type of behavior is really just another form of self-righteousness that will not lead us to forgiveness or a connection with God. This type of prayer is legalistic repentance because it is essentially an attempt to atone for our own sin. We are trying to earn God’s mercy through our own inner suffering of conscience.
The Gospel teaches us that Jesus has suffered for our sin. We do not have to make ourselves suffer to merit God’s forgiveness; instead, we simply receive the forgiveness earned by Jesus Christ. When a believer sins, he needs to have enough faith to confess his sins to God, realizing that God is faithful and just and will forgive his sins. (I John 1:9) God is a just and holy God and because He is just, He will forgive sins based upon the fact that Jesus Christ earned our acceptance with God. Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross. The Bible says that if we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (I John 2:1-2) So all those who are saved and are “in Christ” will be forgiven because of what Jesus has done on the cross. He paid the debt, so it would be unjust of God, and unfaithful to His covenant for Him not to forgive us. God will not receive two payments for the same debt. This profound blessed assurance transforms repentance from being a means of atoning for our own sin, into a way of honoring God and realigning our lives with Him.
Legalistic or self-righteous repentance is praying in your own name, and it dishonors the Son of God by trying to say to Him that you can atone for your own sins without His help. When you come to God in Jesus' Name, you are confessing and repenting (changing your mind), as you put your trust in Jesus Christ. The Gospel says that we are saved by grace, through faith, unto good works. It is what Jesus did 2,000 years ago that allows you forgiveness and atonement of sins, and not your feelings of guilt or remorse about your sins as you try to earn the mercy and forgiveness of God.
It is good to shed tears while confessing and repenting of sins, but our tears should be tears of gratitude and joy for what Jesus has done for us, and never tears of self-pity, self-flagellation or self-crucifixion, as we try to earn God’s mercy and forgiveness. Pray in the Name of Jesus, and not in your own name, and be prepared for God to hear and answer all of your prayers. This will change your life as you live with and experience the joy of answered prayers.