God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9–11)
What does it mean to pray “in Jesus’s name”?
Maybe you’re heard other Christians do it, and wondered about it. Or maybe you’ve been taught to do this yourself, but aren’t quite sure why we do things this way.
It’s not a magic spell or special tagline that unlocks the bounty of God in response to whatever requests we’ve put before this closing phrase.
When we pray in Jesus’s name, we’re making explicit what it is — who it is — that makes Christian prayer real and possible, and not just a figment of our own imagination, but a live opportunity to speak with the creator of the universe.
If It Weren’t for Jesus
If it weren’t for Jesus and his taking humanity as one of us, we would have no redeemer for our race. “It is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect” (Hebrews 2:16–17). But because he became human, and is our brother, we pray in his name.
If it weren’t for his suffering, we wouldn’t have a God able to empathize with us in our sufferings and the pain from which we often cry out to him in prayer. And “because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). But because he suffered, and knows the anguish we feel, we pray in his name.
If it weren’t for his sacrificial death and his substitution for us, we would still be in our sins and separated from God by our unrighteous (Ephesians 2:1–5). But because he died for us, and absorbed the wrath of God in our place, we pray in his name.
If it weren’t for his resurrection and ascension, then we would have no living salvation and no living connection to heaven and the very presence of God. But because he lives, and because he has pioneered our way to the right hand of God, we pray in his name.
If it weren’t for his present sitting at the Father’s right hand and his great high priesthood for us in heaven, our prayers would only fall flat and never reach the very throne of God. But because he is there, he is our mediator, we pray in his name.
No One Like Him
Jesus became man, he suffered alongside of us, he died for us, he rose and ascended and now sits in the Father’s presence and is our great advocate and high priest. Because of such achievements, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). And a day is coming, says the apostle Paul, when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10–11).
When we refer to Jesus’s name, and pray in Jesus’s name, what we’re pointing to is his whole person and work and what’s he known for in the gospel. And when we sing, “Your name is a strong and mighty tower . . . a shelter like no other [and] nothing has the power to save but your name,” it’s another way of saying Jesus is strong, he is the only true unique shelter for sinners, and he is able to save us now and eternally, like no other person can.