In Jesus’ Name, Amen
When I was in college, I worked in Indiana Wesleyan’s Admissions. Part of our job was to call prospective students and remind them of forms they still needed. I had called a student and was leaving a message. “This is Josh Hilty calling from Indiana Wesleyan. Hope you’re doing well. It looks like you need to turn in ______ and then we can process your application.” All was going fine until it was time to hang up. That’s when it happened.
“In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
That’s what I said. And then I hung up and belly laughed with my boss.
It is an understatement to say that Christians in my tradition have been taught to end their prayers with this phrase. The biblical teaching underlying this is found in Jesus’ words in John 14:13-14 and 15:16 and 16:23-24.
- John 14:13-14 “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
- John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
- John 16:23-24 “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
We have obviously taken Jesus’ commands literally. About these verses in John, Eugene Peterson comments,
“Was Jesus giving us a magical ‘Open sesame’ that would get us anything we wanted? Hardly. He was inviting us into his entire life, a life of intimate personal relationships in which his words ‘became flesh’—not in general, but in a local and present and particular way in all the various circumstances that make up everyday living.”
To pray in Jesus’ “name” means that we are drawing on and entering into the entire life and world of Jesus. So we pray in Jesus’ name anytime we are praying for something that we know Jesus would pray for if He were on earth. We are praying out of the relationship with have with Christ when His concerns and passions for our world overflow in our longings and words and actions.
What this means is that tagging that little phrase onto the end of our prayers means nothing if the content and attitude of our prayers is not aligned with the life of Christ. It also means that if you forget to say those words at the end of your prayer, your prayer is not any less effective or any less Christ-like than if you had remembered to say it. You are still praying “in the name of” Jesus.
Richard Foster also reminds us that to pray in Jesus’ name means that we have full assurance of His completed work on our behalf. Our prayers don’t matter if He had not died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sat down with the Father.
So keep praying, and watch how you end your voicemails!