“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).
“…that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you” (John 15:16).
“Pastor, would you lead our city council in prayer for our opening session next Tuesday? We would really appreciate it. Oh, and, I hope you won’t mind–but please keep it inclusive. Thank you.”
Ever get one of those invitations?
What to do.
Marilou is a friend of my cousin in another state, and she was facing a difficult situation. So, cousin Mary Elizabeth invited her to run this one by cousin Joe. .
“I’ve been invited to bring the invocation at this public gathering and I know they would rather I not mention Jesus’ name in my prayer.” She is a serious believer and wants to be faithful to the Lord.
She assured me that no one had actually warned her off the Lord’s name by using that little joke they call “making your prayer inclusive.”
She was free to do whatever she pleased. The thing she was trying to settle in her mind was “what exactly did she please?” Are Christians duty-bound to pray always in Jesus’ name? Or, is it all right not to use the actual words?
If she chose not to pray in Jesus’ name, was she being a coward? If she used His name, was she being unnecessarily offensive?
We swapped notes back and forth on the subject. Eventually, a couple of days before the event, she sent the short prayer she had written out and asked for my thoughts. I typed in a few suggestions while emphasizing that she should feel free to ignore them. I never did hear how her prayer went, and that’s fine.
In this pluralistic society when the (ahem) powers-that-be want to keep everyone happy and offend no one, many other disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ face the same issue as Marilou. Some group invites you to pray at the parent-teachers meeting, before a high school football game, or at the opening of the county commission. They suggest you leave Jesus out of it, if you don’t mind.
What to do?
Here are some of the points I made to Marilou. Perhaps you will find them helpful….
1) If I am instructed to leave Jesus out of it, that’s the end of it for me. No discussion, no questions asked. “No thank you, I will not do it.”
2) However, if I am left to do as I feel led, that’s another matter altogether. Consider that….
–Nothing in the Bible says Christians always have to pray in Jesus’ name.
–Most of the prayers in the New Testament do not contain the words “in Jesus’ name.”
–The Lord’s Prayer does not contain those words.
So why do we make such an issue of it? For two reasons, I expect.
First, because, like the religious leaders of Jerusalem in the early days of the church, today’s cultural gurus insist that we “speak no more to any man in this name” (Acts 4:17). So it becomes a matter of bedrock principle to us.
Second, the response of Christians to that kind of opposition is often to react strongly in the other direction. Tell me I should not pray in Jesus’ name and I will always pray in His name. It becomes a matter of choosing between caving in to opposition or standing strong.
3) To pray “in Jesus’ name” does not necessarily mean we absolutely must include those three words. The Lord is asking us to align our lives with Him, to bring our will in submission to His will, and to want His purposes done above all.
So, when I make a prayer “in Jesus’ name,” I’m saying something like: I’m yours, my Lord; I want Thy will above all else; I make this request for Thy glory; and I will give Thee thanks.
Just my opinion. It’s perfectly fine to disagree. Just don’t sit in judgment on your fellow believers who make a different choice from you.
(That is, you go to the council meeting and someone from your church leads the invocation and ends with something innocuous like “In Your name we pray.” You don’t care for that because it feels like a cop-out. My suggestion is: Keep it to yourself. Be true to your convictions, but don’t require someone else to be true to them. Smiley-face goes here.)