Volume 11, No. 5 (May 2016)
She was a small, unassuming woman, librarian of the Presbyterian seminary sponsoring the conference I was speaking at in Nigeria. At the end of one of the sessions, the moderator asked this woman to close the time in prayer. I will never forget how she started her prayer: she said, “In Jesus Name,” and then went on with her prayer to the Father.
I was struck at what a profound theological insight that simple practice (her regular practice, as I got to hear later) demonstrated. We habitually tack on “in Jesus’ Name” at the end of our prayers, all too often in a rote manner and without reflection on what we are really saying (at least that’s true for me). They are often perfunctory words that punctuate our prayer, though we hope they help it to be effective somehow.
But prayer in Jesus’ Name (and worship in Jesus’ Name too) is based on the conviction that it is only in, through, and by Christ that we enter into the Father’s presence with our prayers and our praises. We can come confidently and boldly and with assurance precisely because He has opened and shown us the way to the Father (Hebrews 10:19-22), and not only that, but in fact takes us with Him. Jesus represents us before the Father and presents our prayers and our worship to Him on the basis of His redeeming work on our behalf. We can be sure that our petitions and praises are always accepted because we come in Christ.
A. B. Simpson speaks powerfully on this subject in Streams in the Desert:
OUR HELPER IN PRAYER
“Seeing then that we have a great high Priest, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14,16).
Our great Helper in prayer is the Lord Jesus Christ, our Advocate with the Father, our Great High Priest, whose chief ministry for us these centuries has been intercession and prayer. He it is who takes our imperfect petitions from our hands, cleanses them from their defects, corrects their faults, and then claims their answer from His Father on His own account and through His all-atoning merits and righteousness.
Brother, are you fainting in prayer? Look up. Your blessed Advocate has already claimed your answer, and you would grieve and disappoint Him if you were to give up the conflict in the very moment when victory is on its way to meet you. He has gone in for you into the inner chamber, and already holds up your name upon the palms of His hands; and the messenger, which is to bring you your blessing, is now on his way, and the Spirit is only waiting your trust to whisper in your heart the echo of the answer from the throne, “It is done.”
What a bold way to acknowledge these amazing truths, by beginning prayer “in Jesus’ Name.” I may need to adjust my practice!
(For more on Christ’s mediation and leading of our worship, see Worship Notes 1.8 and my book Proclamation and Praise: Hebrews 2:12 and the Christology of Worship [Wipf & Stock, 2007].)