I have heard several definitions of what it means to pray “in the name of Jesus.” I have heard even more of what it means to baptize in the name of Jesus.
I want to suggest that we don’t need Greek lexicon or English dictionary definitions to know what “in the name of” means. We don’t need deep historical study to know what “in the name of” means. We all already know exactly what it means if we just stop to think about it.
Say I go to a bank in Dallas to get a loan. I need it to keep my business afloat, and I’m sure my business can pay it off. To the loan officer, my opinion of what my business can afford is meaningless. He wants proof, and collateral in addition, before he will loan me money.
But if I were to walk into that same bank and tell the banker that Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is going to guarantee my loan, suddenly I will need neither collateral nor proof of the credit-worthiness of my business. I will get the loan because I appealed to Mark Cuban’s name and permission.
I would get even more attention if I came in with a corporate resolution from the Dallas Mavericks to arrange a bank loan for the Mavericks themselves as an authorized representative of the business. Then I would truly be asking for a loan “in the name of” the Dallas Mavericks.
If I were the Maverick’s main liaison with the bank, I would soon become known there. “Hi, Paul. What can we do for you today?” With the proper authorizations in place, I could borrow money or move money around “in the name of” the Dallas Mavericks.
We see an example of that in Scripture. The seven sons of Sceva tried to cast out a demon, not only in Jesus’ name, but also in the apostle Paul’s name (Acts 19:14-17). The demon’s answer is telling:
“Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” (v. 15)
The demons not only knew Jesus, who could cast out demons on his own authority, but they knew Paul as well. He had been plundering their kingdom as one of Jesus’ representatives on earth long enough that his name was known like Jesus’ was.
When an officer or representative of a corporation makes a loan or withdrawal from the bank, he needs certification in place authorizing him (or her) to act on behalf of the corporation.
Obviously, as the sons of Sceva found out, there is also certification needed to act on behalf of the greatest kingdom on earth, the kingdom from heaven, ruled by King Jesus, Lord of everything.
That certification is the Holy Spirit.
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walks through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, “I will return to the house from which I came out.” And when he arrives, he finds it empty, swept out, and decorated. Then he goes, and he gets seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and live there. (Matt. 12:43-45)
We must not have empty houses. Our body should be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Paul, who was very successful acting “in the name of” Jesus, twice tells us how we can qualify ourselves as representatives of his kingdom and of his household:
If anyone does not have the Spirit of the King, he does not belong to him. (Rom. 8:9)
As many as are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Rom. 8:14)
Jesus, through his apostles, gave us some other qualifications if we are going to act in his name.
- We must remain in him, and his words must remain in us. (Jn. 15:7)
- We must ask according to his will. (1 Jn. 5:14)
- We must ask in faith, without doubting. (Mark 11:23-24; Jam. 1:6-7)
- We must not be trying to fulfill our lusts. (Jam. 4:3)
What Authority Have We Been Given?
As obvious examples, we have not been given the authority to kill in Jesus’ name, to steal in Jesus’ name, nor to envy, slander, or insult in Jesus’ name. We have not been given the authority to undo creation in Jesus’ name.
Those are all obvious limits, but what other limits has God set on our authority to act on his behalf, using the name of Jesus? More importantly, what specifically has he given us the authority to do in his name?
That question has many answers because anything Jesus has commanded us to do, he has, as an inherent consequence, authorized us to do.
Some specific things that may matter to us are:
- Ask for and receive the Holy Spirit! (Luke 11:13).
- “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and receive so that your joy may be full” (Jn. 16:24).
- Cast out demons (Mark 16:17).
- Requests peace for our anxieties (Php. 4:6-7).
- Cast all our cares on God (1 Pet. 5:7).
- Have all our needs met (Php. 4:19).
- Suffer with him! (Php. 1:29; cf. Php. 3:10; Acts 14:21; Jam. 1:2-5).
It would be good to know your King’s commands so that you can ask of God in the name of the King and according to his will.
A Practical Thought
Personally, I am thinking about driving this teaching home to myself by changing the way I ask God for things in Jesus’ name. I think from now on, at least for a while, I’m going to pray, “Father, I ask this because Jesus told me to.”
If a friend wanted to borrow something from my house while I wasn’t home, he would tell my kids, “Your dad told me I could borrow this.” He wouldn’t say, “I need to pick up the lawnmower in your dad’s name.”
Just a thought.