Pillar Journal

Pray in Christ’s Name

No wonder Scripture lovingly commands us to pray in the name of Christ.

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
—JOHN 16:24

Though we frequently end our prayers with “for Jesus’ sake,” we often pray for our own sake. Although we condemn the doctrine of salvation by our own good works and believe in salvation by grace based upon Christ’s merits, this truth is often missing in a practical way in our daily prayer life.

We tend to think that when we have warm feelings, a lively sense of deep reverence, a feeling of heart humility, a close sense of God’s presence, or real earnestness for the Lord, that God will then hear our prayer. If we reason this way, on what foundation are we basing our judgment? Do we truly believe that God will hear our prayer for Jesus’ sake, or for ours? Do we think that God will be pleased, on the basis of our feelings, to give us what we have asked for? Do we believe that our prayers themselves deserve to be heard, answered, and rewarded by a perfect God, who can only be pleased by perfect righteousness? If so, we are denigrating the perfections of God—His divine attributes—to our own level and thereby insulting His holy, infinite Being.

Praying in the name of Christ is to not base my hope and expectation of being heard upon the merits of my “good” prayers. Rather, it is to pray putting all my trust in Jesus Christ’s merits and His intercession. Sometimes we feel that our prayers are so poor and lacking so much that we despair of an audience with the Lord. There can be so little persevering, thanking, and felt need in our prayers that we conclude that God will never hear them. Reasoning like this displays a lack of praying “for Jesus’ sake.” It testifies of unbelief in God’s grace and love for undeserving sinners.

Jesus taught us, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name” (John 16:24). To pray in Christ’s name is to take refuge in Him as God’s beloved Son—the One whom the Father delights to hear and to honor. Praying in Jesus’ name includes confessing who is truly God and Master in my life. While we condemn praying to idols as being foolish, how many times do we not pray to the idol of self? We often bow our knees to our god of self. Satan tempted Jesus by saying, “Bow down and worship me.” Think of what a degrading insult this was to God! Our prayers can testify that we are looking to the god of self with the attitude that we are lord and master. We even dare to tell God to do our bidding. We act as though we are Lord and God is our servant. Have you ever felt guilty of this in your prayers and been arrested in prayer of your self-centered idolatry?

One of the reasons why we can ask and not receive is because we ask in our own name. This would be similar to a child who asks his parent for something, but his asking is not based on need or the parent’s judgment and willingness to give. Instead, his asking is based selfishly upon one or two things he did to help around the house. Because of this, he now thinks he has the right to tell his parents exactly what he wants them to do, even how and when they should do it. If his parents truly love this child, will they respond to his selfish demands in the way and at the time that he wants it?

One clear evidence of this problem in Christians’ prayer lives is when we spend more time preparing to come to Christ than in actually coming to Him. Parents, what would you think of your child who had a need, but spent hours getting himself ready, thinking of how to say things in a perfect way, working up all the right feelings, showing all the right mannerisms, and then hoping, maybe, that you will be willing to hear him? Would this honor or insult you and your love for your child?

Praying in Christ’s name requires repudiating praying in our own name. It not only testifies of our status as sinners but also of Christ’s status as Savior—of our sin, and His grace! No wonder Scripture lovingly commands us to pray in the name of Christ.

Excerpt From
Developing a Healthy Prayer Life
James W. Beeke & Joel Beeke