When we pray, we are instructed to pray in Jesus’ name. That changes the entire make-up of our prayers. Praying “in Jesus’ name” means we are praying in His authority, on the basis of His character, and in the value of all He has done.
When I was a kid, I loved the old police shows: Starsky and Hutch and CHiPs. I would go around imitating them all the time. I think every young boy dreams of being a police officer at one time during their life. The popular phrase they always used was, “stop in the name of the law.” After hunting down the criminal, Starsky and Hutch would bang on the door of the house, and say, “Open up in the name of the law.” If they did not open the doors, they would kick it down, and arrest the criminal inside. Of themselves they were simply men and women with a badge. They had no authority of their own. Their authority depended on the law.
When we pray our authority rests, not in what we have done, but on who Jesus is and what He has done; on His union with God the Father.We go to God recognizing our lack, our inadequacy, and rest on Jesus’ work as Messiah and Son of God.
This verse offers us a promise of tremendous possibility, and links it with a statement of limiting or qualifying condition. Ray C. Stedman says, “Frequently as we read these great passages of the Scripture, we are either so dazzled by the promise that we fail to heed the condition, or we are so frightened by the condition that we pay little heed to the promise.”
That tremendous promise is, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” But praying “in Jesus’ name” is certainly more than a magical formula tacked on to the end of our prayers. Immediately we sense there must be limits. This promise cannot be unconditional. We read, “Whatever, anything, I will do it,” but there has got to be a condition—some sort of boundary to this passage!
If we take this absolutely, God is made into nothing more than a magical genie waiting to serve our every whim. If this is limitless, we can see the problems coming. Many have read this passage, “I will do whatever you ask in my name,” and believed they could ask for anything. Believing themselves obedient, they simply add, “in Jesus name we pray, Amen” to the end of their prayers, and expect what they ask for to happen.
What if one Christian family on vacation asks God for a sunny day, and a Christian farmer asks God for rain? Who wins?
The limit to this promise lies in the person of Jesus Christ. When we ask for something “in Jesus’ name” we are limited by the scope of His work and character. What Jesus is interested in accomplishing on earth then we, as His instruments, are involved in accomplishing it. “Whatever you need,” He says, “ask for it and it shall be done.”