Why Do We Pray In Jesus Name, Amen?

In Jesus NameI grew up in church, so I learned that when you end a prayer, you say, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” It didn’t matter what we were praying for – health, security, God’s presence, others’ prosperity, traveling mercies and hedges of protection* – at the end of the prayer, you had to say “in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

No one ever explicitly taught me I had to end my prayer with “in Jesus’ name, Amen” – that’s not a week in Prayer 101 or anything. I learned it by listening to everyone pray. My parents, my Sunday School teachers, all the pastors. When I visited my grandparents’ churches, everyone did it there, too.

It didn’t occur to me until I was much older to wonder why we end our prayers with “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

The straightforward answer is that Jesus tells us to. In John 14, he says,

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! – John 14:13-14 (NLT)

Ending our prayers with “in Jesus’ name” is our way of taking Jesus’ words seriously: we want to ask in his name. But that still begs the question:

RIP, Touchdown Jesus!What did Jesus mean when he told us to pray in his name?

The language comes to us from the ancient preliterate world, where official transactions were conducted  verbally. In a world without legal documents, a person’s reputation was social capital. This reputation was referred to as a person’s name. Wealthy and powerful persons – particularly kings – who conducted trade and made treaties through functionaries, sent those servants to speak “in their name”.

To speak “in the name” of the king meant that the messengers words should be considered the very words of the king himself.

To pray “in Jesus’ name” means to pray the way Jesus, our king, would pray.

AmenThat understanding should radically reshape our approach to prayer. As we approach prayer, we should consider not only our own needs and desires, but also whether those desires are aligned with Jesus’ way.

Mark Roberts describes what this looks like over at Patheos:

If we are to pray in Jesus’ name, then this means our prayers should reflect Jesus’ own values and purposes. Our prayers should be imbued with the kingdom agenda of Jesus.

How often do my prayers reflect Jesus’ agenda? Not nearly as often as they reflect my own. Stopping to consider if my prayers really are “in Jesus’ name” is a helpful exercise. (And of course if we want to know how Jesus would pray, he told us!)

But what about “Amen”? Why stick that on the end?

Amen 1“Amen” is a Greek word that means “truth”. To say “Amen” is to say “That’s true.” or “I agree.” It’s meant to be something said in response to a prayer, by those listening. A way to say, “I agree with that prayer.”

Over the past several years, I’ve made a habit out of not ending my public prayers with “Amen”. The lack of the traditional ending creates a slightly awkward space that encourages those listening to respond.

YOUR TURN: Do you pray “in Jesus’ name”? Does this understanding of those words change the nature of your prayers?

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  • Mike Goetz

    In light of your excellent interpretation of “in Jesus’ name”, I think this also gives stronger meaning to the commandment “do not take the Lord’s name in vain”. When I was a young Christian, I was taught that this commandment had to do with swearing (ie. cussing). But upon a better understanding of this phrase I think its meaning is so much more encompassing than that. I’ve come to understand that it relates more to holding oneself to a high standard when we call ourselves Christ followers. We are called to not invoke Jesus’ reputation foolishly or recklessly.

  • @mrgoetz:disqus I had never made that connection! That’s great!! And you’re right: that adds much more weight to our lived faith. Am I attatching God’s name to that which God wouldn’t approve of? Thanks Mike!

  • David Rosenthal

    Yeah. I was just gonna say that…yeah. 😉

  • Good post. In conjunction with this, I also wonder/think/worry about praying for things that will glorify God. Any answered prayer will in a way glorify him, but only to me, who knows he answered my prayer. So I worry that I’m praying for “not worthy” things if I can’t think of a way that they will publicly bring glory to God.

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