Prayer is such an integral part of the Christian life that I rarely stop and think about how it works. Even in studies on how and why to pray, I haven’t focused much on what (and who) makes prayers possible.
Of course, it’s obvious that God Himself makes prayer possible. If He wasn’t listening we’d have no reason to pray. He also gives instructions about how we’re to approach Him, which is why most people I know end their prayers with some variation on the phrase “In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Jesus said, “ask in my name,” and so that is what we do. His instruction to pray in His name would be enough of a reason to do so, but I also think this aspect of prayer can teach us important things about how the God-family operates and how They relate to us. So today, I want to take a closer look at why we pray in Jesus’ name.
Ask in His Name
The passages where Jesus instructed His disciples to pray in His name are found in John’s gospel. Before sharing these instructions, though, Jesus makes an important foundational statement.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7, all scriptures from WEB translation)
As the Word, Jesus was always the member of the God-family that human beings had the most direct access to. Before Jesus came as a human being, people knew there were two Lords but they didn’t have access to the Father directly (the scriptures to back this point up would double the size of today’s post, so I’ll direct to my post “Who Was ‘God’ in the Old Testament?”).
Jesus continues on in John 14-16 to further clarify that our access to the Father is inseparable from our relationship with the Son.
“Whatever you will ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)
“You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16)
Talking with the Word
At this point, you might be thinking, “What about before this?” People in the Old Testament prayed all the time without going through Jesus. They didn’t even know Him by that name yet. This is true, and Jesus acknowledged it:
“In that day you will ask me no questions. Most certainly I tell you, whatever you may ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.” (John 16:23-24)
Praying to the Father in Jesus’ name represented a shift in how we approach prayer and God. Before Christ’s sacrifice no one prayed in His name. But now instead of asking Him questions, we get to go directly to the Father through Jesus. We only get this sort of direct access to the Father because we believe in His Son (as we see in John 16:26-27).
People in the Old Testament knew there were two God-beings who worked as one. They would have prayed to both when praying to God (which is the plural noun Elohim in Hebrew). But the Lord they interacted with most directly was the Word who become Christ (again, see my post “Who Was ‘God’ in the Old Testament?” for more on this topic). Before Jesus’ work on the cross, humans didn’t get to enter the Father’s presence.
The Way to the Holiest
He set the gatekeepers at the gates of Yahweh’s house, that no one who was unclean in anything should enter in. (2 Chr. 23:19)
Unclean things don’t get access to God, especially the Father. Even to enter the physical temple you had to wash and offer sacrifice. And you still couldn’t get into the holiest part of the temple where God’s presence appeared unless you were the high priest, and then only once a year. We do have record of times when the pre-incarnate Word of God appeared to human beings, but no one ever saw the Father (John 1:18; 6:46).
Now these things having been thus prepared, the priests go in continually into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the services, but into the second the high priest alone, once in the year, not without blood, which he offers for himself, and for the errors of the people. The Holy Spirit is indicating this, that the way into the Holy Place wasn’t yet revealed while the first tabernacle was still standing. (Heb. 9:6-8)
This changed with Christ’s sacrifice. The temple veil was torn open (Matt. 27:51) and our High Priest used His own blood to obtain eternal redemption and “cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:11-14, 24-26). We are now clean, washed by our Savior, and made holy (John 15:3; Eph. 5:25-27; Col. 1:20-22). We can enter the presence of God because of what Jesus did and is continuing to do in our lives.
Love the Lord Your God
It’s impossible to overemphasize how important Jesus Christ is to our access to God. He Himself revealed that if we love Him, we’ll be loved by the Father (John 14:21, 23). But if we don’t love Christ we don’t have the Father either, because “He who hates me, hates my Father also” (John 15:23). You can’t have a relationship with one without the other.
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son doesn’t have the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:22-23)
In Mark’s gospel, when Jesus identified the greatest commandment He said, “Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29-30). Keeping the greatest commandment requires a recognition of the oneness and unity of God, the Father and Son (John 10:30). We can’t fully love God without loving both of Them.
There’s so much more to this topic. We haven’t even touched on Christ’s roles at intercessor and mediator yet, but I think that will have to wait for a later post considering how long this one already is. Even just this small look into how Jesus makes it possible for us to come before His and Our Father amazes me. How incredible is it that you and I get to talk with the ultimate power in the universe, the Father of our Lord and Savior! And not only that, but to realize He loves us so much that He calls us His children and wants to listen to us. It’s amazing.
Featured image credit: Jantanee via Lightstock