Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.John 14:13-14
It’s not just this one verse, either. The same promise is repeated in Matthew 18:19-20, Mark 16:17-18, John 15:16 and John 16:23-24.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? It looks like a blank check: I can have anything I want, as long as I ask in Jesus’ name. We far too often behave like that, tacking “in Jesus’ name” onto the end of our prayers as if those words are the key to a vending machine: Stick in a prayer, get back a quick and easy answer. It doesn’t really work like that.
The rest of the New Testament often refers to Jesus’ name. People are baptized in His name in Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48 and Acts 19:5; a man is healed in His name in Acts 3:6-16; a demon is exorcised in His name in Acts 16:18; Christians are instructed in His name in 1 Corinthians 1:10 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6. Colossians 3:17 says “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus“. And, most prominently, Philippians 2:9-11 says:
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11
What is it about the name “Jesus” that is so special?
It’s not the name itself. That name was actually rather common at the time. “Jesus” is from the Greek “Iēsous“, a translation of Hebrew “Yehoshua“, meaning “Jehovah is salvation”. “Joshua” is another name from the same root.
No, the significance is in this one particular God/Man, who was named Jesus. Anything done in His name is meaningful.
So, what is special about asking or doing something in His name?
In normal daily business, there are occasions where one person speaks for another. Think of a press secretary conducting a press conference on behalf of an elected official, or a defense attorney entering a plea on behalf of a client. The secretary or attorney are not speaking their own words; they are acting as the “voice” of the official or the client. If they were to say something contrary to what their official/client really wanted, they would be failing as representatives.
It’s the same with Jesus. If we ask in His name, it had better be what He wants asked; if we do something in His name, it must be something that He wants done.
We’ve all heard someone “name-dropping”, using their relationship with someone else as a way to increase their own prestige. Being associated with someone respected or powerful can add weight to whatever I’m asserting…or at least I can hope so. But that would be a false and deceptive thing to do if the person whose name I’m dropping would disagree with me.
Again, it’s the same with Jesus. I can’t just say “I’m a Christian. I follow Jesus so you have to believe everything I say.” My relationship with Him adds weight only in proportion to how close that relationship is, and how well I’m representing Him. Jesus warned about that:
And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.Matthew 24:4-5
This warning is repeated in Mark 13:5-6 and Luke 21:8.
So, how do I ask what He would ask, or do what He would do?
I’ve known my husband for almost fifty years. I can do a pretty good job of predicting how he would feel about most topics, what he would say or do in most situations. I could generally speak for him, and he would agree that I had done the right thing. The reverse is also true: He knows me well, and could speak for me most of the time. But, still, we both occasionally surprise one another, and behave differently than expected.
In order to speak for Jesus, I need to know Him as well or better than I know my husband. I need to spend so much time with Him that I absorb His character as if by osmosis. The closer I approach to that goal, the greater the likelihood that I can truly ask or act in His name, without any contamination by my own preferences.
There’s the catch to that “blank check”: It can only be cashed for something that Jesus Himself would buy. Very often, what I’m sure must be a good thing — healing someone who is very sick, for instance — is not the best thing according to God’s plan. That plan is bigger than I can grasp. It encompasses all of history, and every person ever born. There will always be the tension, the possibility that I am not completely in sync with God and able to ask in Jesus’ name accurately.
Relationship = Results
Like all of the Christian life, this is ultimately about our relationship with God through Jesus. The goal is to love and honor Him, to spend time with Him, to get to know Him, to become like Him, to want what He wants and care about the things that matter to Him. Then I’ll be able to ask and act in His name, and whatever I ask, He will do.