October 9, 2016

When we pray we usually conclude with the phrase, "in Jesus' name".   In our Gospel reading (John 14:12-14) you heard how Jesus instructed his disciples to do so.  But what exactly does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus? 

First let's take a look at the name itself.  When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he said, "You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus".  (Luke 1:31).  Then an angel appeared to Joseph as well, as we read in Matthew 1:18-21, "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged in marriage to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with Child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband, a righteous man, was unwilling to disgrace her publicly, he resolved to divorce her quietly. But after he had pondered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the One conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you shall give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.'"  Obviously, if God sent an angel to both Mary and to Joseph, the naming of Jesus was of vital importance.  Ever wonder why?

The name "Jesus" in English has a complicated linguistic history that isn't apparent in modern Bibles.

"Jesus" is an Anglicized form of the Greek name Yesous (pronounced yey-soos) found in the New Testament, which represents the Hebrew Bible name Yeshua.   Yeshua, in turn, is a shortened form of the name Yehoshua ("Joshua" in English Bibles).

"Yehoshua" is a compound name consisting of two elements.  The prefix "Yeho“" is an abbreviation of the Tetragrammaton, God's Four-Letter Name: YHVH.  Modern scholars think the third letter was pronounced as "W." Thus: YHWH = Yahweh (pronounced yah-way). The second element of the name Yehoshua is a form of the Hebrew verb yasha which means to deliver, save, or rescue.

Thus, linguistically, the name Yehoshua/Yeshua/Jesus conveys the idea that God (YHVH) delivers or saves (his people), through his Son, the Messiah.

On a recent episode of Perry Stone's show, Manna Fest, Perry talked about how some people insist that only "Yeshua is effective when using the name of Jesus in prayer or praise.  However, I agree with him that God will honor the name in whatever language you are accustomed to using.  God understands, and responds to, every language of man and angels.  

So now that we have established the importance of the name itself, why did Jesus tell us to use it when praying?

I explained it to the children by using the example of a signed note from home.  Having the signature of their parent on that note, gives it the power to grant them the request contained within the note.  If the child writes a note, but it contains no signature of the parent, it has no authority behind it, and the teacher is under no obligation to honor it.  Using Jesus' name in prayer is like putting his signature on our note, or prayer, to God. 

It is much the same as the legal arrangement known as the power of attorney.  A power of attorney (POA) or letter of attorney is a written authorization to represent or act on another's behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal matter. The person authorizing the other to act is the principal, grantor, or donor (of the power).  Jesus has given every believer unlimited and general power of attorney, with the right to use his name here on earth.

Looking at two different translations of Colossians 3:17, this connection is quite apparent.  The New International Version translates it like this: "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."  And the New Living Translation translates it like this: "And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father."

But keep in mind that there are implied limitations on an agent's power.  In our legal system, a power of attorney grants the agent powers to perform acts in the absence of the grantor, but the POA cannot grant powers to the agent that conflict with rules and regulations governing people and companies that the agent deals with. For example, if a bank has regulations that require the grantor to be physically present in the bank to perform certain actions, the POA cannot grant the agent power to perform those actions in the absence of the grantor.

Likewise, the rules and regulations that govern our power granted by using Jesus' name are found in the Bible.  God will not give us the power to perform an act, or answer a prayer, that goes against His will.  You say, "but when we sin, we go against His will, do we not?".  Yes, in a sense, because we do have free will.  But if you have the audacity to sin 'in Jesus name' you do not have the legal written document to back it up.  You do not have the power of attorney behind you.  You might have someone or something behind you, but it certainly isn't Jesus or the Bible!

And if you are not a true believer in Christ, one who has given their life to Jesus, trusting in him alone for salvation through his atoning blood shed on the cross, and his resurrection that assures the promise of eternal life for all who belong to him, then you do not have this power of attorney.  You can shout the name of Jesus all you want, but to no avail - and possibly even with disastrous results!  The Bible tells us, in Acts 19:13-16, about some Jewish exorcists who did not have true faith in Jesus, but tried to use his name.  Listen to what happened...  "Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, 'In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out'. Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?' Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

So, using the name of Jesus is not something to be taken lightly or a privilege to be abused.  We have been given a sacred trust, and a responsibility to use that trust in accordance with the will of God.  But it is not something we should be afraid to use when we are clearly given directive by God's Word and the Holy Spirit to do so.  So let us go forth today, standing on the promises, listening every moment to the Spirit's call, and resting in our Savior as our all in all.  Amen.


What is missing from this note to the teacher?

The teacher's name - yes.   The name of the student - yes.  But even if you had these, the note would not be valid without what?  The parent's or guardian's signature!  

Jesus said we should pray in His name, which is like putting His signature on a note (prayer) to God.  It means God will honor it!