It's a very familiar verse:
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.- John 14:13
There are many who use this verse to justify making demands of God. If you want something from God, ask it in His name and you will get it. If you need a better job, car, house, more money, etc, ask and it shall be given to you is a common message preached from pulpits today across America and in other parts of the world as well. However, is this what Jesus really meant?
I fear that many Christians are guilty of using the precious name of Jesus Christ like an incantation or magic spell. We use it as a means to try to make demands of and direct God as to what He should and should not do. We are told that if we speak the words "in Jesus' name", it will happen.
Folks, that is an incantation. If you don't believe me, look at the definition of incantation:
: a use of spells or verbal charms spoken or sung as a part of a ritual of magic; also : a written or recited formula of words designed to produce a particular effect1 (emphasis mine)
Many Christians will tell others to say a formula of particular words during a prayer in order so that it will produce the desired effect. They will tell people to say the name Jesus over and over again or tell them to add "in Jesus' name" to all of their petitions, over and over again so that it will be answered. They do this in their own prayers as well.
Is this not "a written or recited formula of words designed to produce a particular effect"?
You might be thinking to yourself at this moment, "But the Word of God says to do this so it is okay." Does really say that or is that just how people are interpreting it?
There is clear evidence in the Bible that the enemy uses the Word of God. The enemy will take it and attempt to twist it to his own purpose. If you don't believe me, take a look at the account of the temptation of Jesus. The enemy was quoting the Word of God! Don't be fooled into thinking the enemy does not know the Word or that he does not attempt to twist and manipulate it in order to cause you to stumble. He did it in the Garden and he is doing it today. If he attempted to do it to Jesus Christ, don't be foolish enough to think he will not try to do so with you! This is why it is important to look at the entire Word of God, not just a tiny piece of it. This is why it is critical for us to combine reading the Word of God with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to teach us.
So, what exactly does Jesus mean when he says, "in my name". I am no Greek scholar but I started out by looking up the phrase. I discovered that the word used here is onama which means:
"a name, authority, cause 2"
Helps Word-studies says:
name; (figuratively) the manifestation or revelation of someone's character, i.e. as distinguishing them from all others. Thus "praying in the name of Christ" means to pray as directed (authorized) by Him, bringing revelation that flows out of being in His presence. "Praying in Jesus' name" therefore is not a "religious formula" just to end prayers (or get what we want)! 3
So it seems that in John 14:13 Jesus is not saying that we will get anything we ask for if we say the words, "in Jesus' name." Rather, it appears that He is saying that when we ask in His name meaning we pray as authorized/approved of by Him and directed by the Holy Spirit, then He will do it. We are in essence, acting as his agent in this world. In ourselves, we have no authority but He has given us authority to do as He directs. Pay attention here. He has given us authority to do as He directs, not as we direct. There is a big difference!
When I was an elementary school teacher, sometimes I would give some authority to a student. I might assign a group of them to a certain task but I would select a student to "be in charge" while I was off doing something else. Did this mean this student had the right to tell the other students what to do and they had to do it. Well, not exactly. There were certain parameters. It had to be within my will. Why? Because I was the person who gave the student the authority to direct others. I was allowing them to act as my representative but their authority didn't lay in themselves, I gave it to them and... I could take it away. You can be certain that if I became aware of someone who was abusing that authority, they were warned and if they continued to abuse the charge I gave to them, they were stripped of all authority.
God has given us a solemn task. He has assigned us to act as the representatives of Jesus Christ is this world. This is not something to be taken lightly nor treated flippantly. This is very serious! Nothing we do is for our honor or glory. It is for His!
It is the same old story, folks. The enemy takes the Word of God and attempts to manipulate us. He tells us, "See, whatever you say, God will do. That's what His Word says, right?" failing to remind us that we are merely agents acting under God's authority. We fall for it hook, line and sinker for when we do, he often "rewards" us by giving us some of the treasures of this world and we, in our foolishness believe that is the blessing of God! Does this sound familiar? If it doesn't, re-read the account of the temptation of Jesus and I think you will see what I mean. Let's wake up!
The enemy has failed in getting us to come to Christ so instead he seeks to contaminate our walk with God. Rather than seeking God's will and direction, we seek our own and attempt to justify it by quoting God's own Word! Do you see what is going on here? The enemy starts the cycle, we jump into it and then sooner or later, we find ourselves working for the enemy doing to others exactly what he did to us.
We must constantly be on our guard, reminding ourselves of who we are. Yes, we are a child of God but we are not God. We must not forget that. Not my will but Thine must be our constant cry. We must be careful.
I want to make it clear that it is not the purpose of this blog to say that one should never pray in Jesus' name. I not only believe we should, I believe we must!
My concern is the growing trend of people using the name of Jesus like they would say something like "abracadabra". I just looked up that word to make sure I was spelling it right and learned something rather interesting. Apparently the phrase is thought to have it's origin from Aramaic. According to Wikipedia it is believed to come from "ibra" which means "I have created" and "k'dibra" which means "through my speech". In other words, the translation would be, "I have created through my speech".
I am staring at what I wrote just now when I put those two words together and my heart is pounding a bit. I am recalling the One who DID create all things with the spoken Word; The Lord God Almighty. I find this is rather sobering.
When we come before God in prayer, let us do so with a right spirit; always remembering that we are not the Father... He is.