“In The Name Of Jesus”

Over the years, I have spent time in a wide variety of denominations.  I was raised in an Episcopal church, came to believe Jesus was a real person in an offshoot of the Assemblies of God, was first saved in a charismatic church, and married in a Baptist church.  Some believe and preach about gifts of the spirit happening today, others treat them as something that only happened long ago.  One thing that does seem to be common, however, is the more charismatic a church is, the more likely prayers will end with, “in the name of Jesus.”

There is certainly a biblical basis for using that phrase. John 14:13, 14:14, 15:16, and 16:23-28 all clearly state that if we ask for things in His name, he will do them.  We are to be baptized in the name of Jesus, and are to ask for things in the name of Jesus.  With reciting that phrase so often, it can start to turn into a type of invocation.  Something we say as part of a ritual that has no real meaning.  This is dangerous.

Consider what happened to these unfortunate fellows in Acts 19:13-16 (NASB)

But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”
Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.
And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”
And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

These were people who believed firmly in God, but not in Jesus.  It was there job to cast out demons.  They had clearly observed early Christians (especially Paul) casting out demons and using that phrase.  If God kicks a demon out, it’s kicked out.  This was probably a much faster process than what they normally did, so they would have wanted to speed things up.  It backfired.

It is my belief that, while we are in a different circumstance, we need to take heed of this warning.  “In the name of Jesus” is not some sort of incantation that we are to append to our prayers to force God to honor them!  It was not Jesus’ intention to give us a way to twist God’s arm and turn Him into our servant.  We know this isn’t the case.  First, even when we pray that way, our prayers aren’t always answered.  Second, in 2 Cor 12:7-9, Paul asked God to remove a thorn from his flesh three times, and God instead gave him grace.  Don’t you think that by the third time, Paul would have used “in the name of Jesus” to finish off his request if it was some sort of incantation or arm-twisting?

So what is this really about?  To ask for something “in the name of Jesus” meant something much bigger than what we think of today.  Today, if you want to do something, you just call a person up and say “I’d like to do …”, and you get it done.  The only exception is when a company needs something done.  I regularly have to communicate with customers on behalf of my company.  Sometimes it’s face-to-face, but usually, it’s by phone or email.  Every time I do that, I’m acting on behalf of my employer.  I have to act in a way that preserves the interests of my company, my company’s reputation, etc.  I cannot give away “freebies” to customers, for example.  Sure, it’s not hard, and it takes little time, but it doesn’t protect my company’s interests.  If we give away little “freebies”, it sets a precedent for larger ones, and the company loses money.

When I act as an employee of my company, I am acting “in the name of [company].”  I have been given certain authority to act as its representative, and as long as I act within the bounds set by it, I am a good and faithful employee.  I have to make judgment calls sometimes, but I can never just do what I want.  When you pray “in the name of Jesus,” you are doing the same thing!  You are asserting that you are acting as a representative of Jesus, do what he wants you to do and has authorized you to do.  The difference is, you always can get direction from Jesus, and have far less need of relying on your own judgment.

If you pray for something you were told not to pray for, or that doesn’t serve His purposes, you are not praying in His name, whether you claim to be or not.

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One Response to ““In The Name Of Jesus””

  1. Sentinel Says:

    The distinction between Paul and the Jewish exorcists may also have been that Paul had a relationship with Jesus. He knew the person whose name he was invoking, and he said “in the name of Jesus” to highlight in whose authority he was commanding the demons.

    The words by themselves don’t do anything – if an ordinary citizen issues a parking ticket “in the name of the local government”, the recipient is right to ignore it. The issuer does not have authority to do give out tickets, as he has no connection with the local government.

    When we pray “in the name of Jesus” we are referring to a person: if we don’t have a real relationship to back up our claim, our words are meaningless.

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