If you’ve been following this blog from the beginning (and if there is anybody who's actually done that, then God bless you), then you might recognize some of this from our discussion about Jesus back the 1st year of my writings. I spent almost two weeks talking about the nature and work of Christ, and one of my entries was about Jesus’ work as our High Priest and Advocate. I’ve also talked before about what it means to use Jesus’ name at the end of our prayers. So for any material that’s already familiar to you, I apologize for repeating myself. But I can’t do a series on prayer without talking about the means by which we do so.
What am I talking about with “means”? I’m not talking about the means as in the mouth and brain you’re using. No, I’m talking about how we have access to the Father. I’m a sinner. God is holy. He can't abide the presence of sin. He utterly hates it, and because of who he is, he can't ignore it, wink at it, condone it, or allow anyone into his presence without punishing it according to what it deserves—destruction in Hell. So we have a problem, or maybe it’s more accurate to say I have a problem. How can I approach a holy God?
That’s where this passage comes in, one of my favorites in all the Bible. A priest is needed to be the “go between,” to stand in the gap between sinful people and a holy God. He represents the people before the Almighty, pleading their case before him. To a lesser degree, he also represents the Lord before the people, having the responsibility of teaching them his ways and providing an example for them to follow.
The closest equivalent in our society (although it’s a bit of a rough one) is that of defense attorney. It’s an attorney’s job to represent his client before the Judge. He has his client’s interests at heart. He pleads his client’s case before the Bar. He tries every legal and ethical means (yes, I’m taking an idealistic view of lawyers) to get his client acquitted or to get him the least possible sentence. But he has to be recognized by the Court (you can’t just volunteer to be an attorney, you have to have a license), and he has to faithfully have his client’s best interests at heart. He represents his client before the court, and he represents the court to his client ("This is what the judge meant when he said. . .").
That’s what Jesus is for us. He’s our Defense Attorney. He pleads my case before the Father. And what’s his plea? That I didn’t really “do it”? Um, no. No, his plea for me basically is that of “double jeopardy.” You know, the principle that under our system you can’t be tried for the same crime twice? All of my sins have been paid for in full. He holds up his hands and shows the scars. That’s enough.
So why do we pray “in Jesus’ name”? Why do we tack on “in Jesus’ name” or some permutation thereof at the end of our prayer? What does that mean? It means a lot of things.
First, here’s what it does not mean. It's not a magic incantation. It’s not a magic word that you tack onto the end of a prayer to make an unacceptable prayer acceptable. Prayer is talking to a person, not manipulating impersonal forces.
It does mean you’re officially invoking the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ in your petition. Wow. Yes, that's what it means. You’re asking for Jesus to take your prayer and make it acceptable before the Father. If it isn’t something that he wants, then that’s fine. Going back to the example of an attorney, you make a request of the Judge through your attorney, not by approaching the bench by yourself.
But there’s a huge responsibility here. This also means that you pray for things with Jesus’ interests in mind. In the passage where Jesus says he will do whatever we ask in his name, he specifically says he will do this “so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Not for indulging your selfish pleasures.
But it’s an awesome thing to approach the Father through Jesus. Think about it the next time you end a prayer in the name of our Savior, our Advocate before the Father.
Lord Jesus, there’s so much meaning just in the few words of invoking your name at the end of my prayers. Wow. Thank you for what that means.