The Fine Print: The Three Words that Should Change the Way We Pray

Jesus dares us to pray confidently, directly, even aggressively. He says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” (John 14:12-14).

Think about it for a minute. Jesus says anyone who believes in him can do what he’s done up to this point in the story, and more. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the amazing things his listeners witnessed:

He turns water in wine at Cana.
He feeds 5000 people with food that doesn’t technically exist.
He gives sight to a man who was born blind.
He makes a lame man walk.
And his most recent display of power? He brings Lazarus back from the dead. 
And Jesus doesn’t stop short of saying we can participate in this kind of work: proclaiming a Kingdom of life, mercy, power and wholeness to an often dreary, critical and fractured world.

I like to lean into the part of the verse where he says “Ask me for anything and I will do it!” But there are three words Jesus tucks into his challenge “in my name.” I grew up on prayers, especially meal time blessings that ended with the phrase “in Jesus’s name, Amen.” In many ways, it was an afterthought. I didn’t give much time or energy to thinking about what it means to pray in Jesus’s name.

Now I think I have a better idea. To pray in the name of Jesus to align our intentions, desires, aims and aspirations with Christ himself. To ask in Jesus’s name looks to invoke the authority of Jesus for something we believe Jesus wants to see happen.

So no, I don’t think I can pray, in the name of Jesus, to win the lottery. Jesus himself says that foxes have holes and birds have nests, but he had nowhere to lay his head. If the spirit of Jesus is contentedness, gratitude and simplicity, I cannot (in good conscience) ask for that which runs counter to it.

To be sure, Jesus did the impossible. But why? For his comfort and convenience? To pad his stats? To increase his fan base? To sell more merchandise or tickets to his tour? No, every one of the aforementioned signs points to Christ’s kingdom and his mission: to rescue people who had lost their way.

Maybe our prayer falls flat because we are only praying them in our own name.
But if we ask with the vision and the heartbeat, the passion and the DNA of Jesus, maybe we really can ask for anything and watch Him do it.

Craig Custance