In Jesus' Name
It's more familiar to us than you might think. We are actually quite accustomed to people doing things in the name of others. It happens all the time. Insurance company representatives come in the name of the insurance company to take pictures of your house. Inspectors come in the name of the local government to inspect whatever. Lawyers serve papers in the name of their clients. A contractor hires and oversees subcontractors in the name of the person who hired them. Ambassadors serve in the name of their country's government. Our military personnel do just about everything they do in the name of their superior officer, and ultimately fight wars and engage in military operations in the name of the President of the United States. We could go on and on, but you get the idea.
To serve or do work in someone's name is to represent the interests of “the name” (the person of that name). To do something in their authority is to serve as an extension of their will, seeking to accomplish what they want accomplished. It's no different with our Lord.
Jesus says that the works he does are done by the authority of the Father. It is the Father's work in Jesus that indicates that the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father. Jesus does everything according to the will of the Father, or to put it in the biblical idiom – he does everything in the Father's name.
In John 14:12-14, Jesus says that his followers that believe in him will do greater works than he did because he is going to the Father. That's amazing. Jesus intercedes for us with the Father. And quite remarkably, Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it.” That's a stunning declaration. It sounds like we can ask Jesus for whatever we want, and if we pray in his name he will answer our prayer.
But asking (or praying) “in my name” doesn't mean what we often think it means. It doesn't mean that we simply close our prayers with “in Jesus' name,” attempting thereby to adhere in some strictly literal way to what Jesus said. Yes, Jesus prayed to his Father, and yes, the Father did what Jesus prayed almost all the time. A notable exception might be when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that if there was some way other than the cross for redemption to be accomplished, that the Father might let that cup of suffering pass from him. But the Son was intent on doing the Father's will, and the will of God was that Jesus accomplish salvation through what he suffered.
So as Jesus stressed in his relationship with the Father, to ask in the Father's name was to ask that the will of the Father would be done, that the Son might glorify the Father, that the works of the Father might be manifest in the Son. It should follow then, that for us to ask something in the name of Jesus is for us to ask that the will of Jesus be done, that Jesus might be glorified in us, that the works of Jesus might be manifest to the world in us. Jesus was telling his disciples that the Father was seen and known in him as he kept his Father' commandments and thereby showed his love for his Father. In similar fashion, Jesus is seen and known in us who love him and keep his commandments. To pray in Jesus' name is to be seeking to accomplish his will and not our own, to desire for him to be glorified in us.
But remember – Jesus told us that we would do greater works than he did because he has gone to the Father. The Father delights that the Son be glorified, and when we undertake to do what Jesus told us to do, then we should earnestly expect God to answer our prayers offered in Jesus' name.