Mark D. Roberts

Part 3 of series: Rick Warren, the Obama Inauguration, and Praying in Jesus’ Name
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In my last post I showed that Jesus himself taught his followers to pray in his name. But he did not mean that they should say “in Jesus’ name” at the end of their prayers. Rather, to pray in Jesus’ name meant to pray in his authority or as his representative. Christians pray in the name of Jesus in that we come before God, not in our own righteousness, not because we have any claim upon God, but rather in the righteousness of Jesus, who opened up access for us to God.
When we pray in Jesus’ name as his representative, we pray that which reflects his values and vision. In order to do this well, we need to know Jesus intimately through Scripture and through the Spirit. We need to internalize his concerns and passions. None of us prays perfectly as Jesus’ representative, but the better we know him, the more we are able to pray in his name in this sense.
mark d. roberts howard buttAgain, an example might help. In my position as Senior Director of Laity Lodge, I often represent Laity Lodge and our founder, Howard E. Butt, Jr. For example, Howard had been slated to give a message at a Laity Lodge retreat in November, but he got a cold and couldn’t speak. He asked me to fill in for him. I did speak on the topic that Howard would have addressed, and I spoke in my own voice. But I thought about what Howard would say and how we would say it. I tried hard to represent his graciousness and enthusiasm, his love for God and for people. To use the biblical language, I was speaking “in Howard’s name,” both because I was speaking under his authority and because I was representing him. (Photo: Howard Butt and me at Laity Lodge)
The idea of acting in Jesus’ name is found in the New Testament, not only in the Gospels, but also in the letters of Paul. There we read, for example,

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:17)

When Paul wants to emphasize the authority of his command to the Thessalonians, he uses speaks in the name of Jesus:

Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. (2 Thes 3:6)

Similarly, in the Book of Acts, when Peter seeks to heal a man who was lame from birth, he says,

“I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)

Peter had not authority to heal in his own name. But as he functioned in the name, which is to say, under the authority of Jesus, he could do miracles.
The early Christian writings not only show the true meaning of praying in the name of Jesus, but also contain no prayer that ends with the phrase “in Jesus’ name” or something similar. The first Christians, including many who had known Jesus in the flesh, did not believe that Jesus wanted them to mention his name at the end of their prayers.
What I’m claiming in this blog post is nothing new. One of my commenters, RevK, pointed me to a couple of passages in the Westminster catechisms. The Larger Catechism includes two questions that have to do with praying in the name of Christ:

180. What is it to pray in the name of Christ?
To pray in the name of Christ is, in obedience to his command, and in confidence on his promises, to ask mercy for his sake; not by bare mentioning of his name, but by drawing our encouragement to pray, and our boldness, strength, and hope of acceptance in prayer, from Christ and his mediation.
181. Why are we to pray in the name of Christ?
The sinfulness of man, and his distance from God by reason thereof, being so great, as that we can have no access into his presence without a mediator; and there being none in heaven or earth appointed to, or fit for, that glorious work but Christ alone, we are to pray in no other name but his only.

The language might be a bit more careful and archaic than mine, but the point is very much like what I’ve been trying to make here.
So, if praying in Jesus’ name is not a matter of mentioning him specifically at the end of our prayers, should we actually say “in Jesus’ name” at the conclusion of our prayers, or does this somehow create confusion? I’ll address this question in my next post, before I move to the related issue of how Rick Warren should pray in the inauguration.

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