ramblings from the noisedoctor

March 15, 2007

who do you pray to? (and in whose name?)

Filed under: Bible study, Christianity, soapbox — noisedoctor @ 7:31 am

(apologies to the grammatical purists if the title should start with “To Whom do you pray”)

I have two things that mildly bother me about the way some Christians (including several pastors and other church leaders while leading their church congregations) pray.

  1. Praying to Jesus, or mixing the recipient through the prayer: Jesus, God, Father, etc.
  2. Ending the prayer “in your name we pray.”

Let me describe my gripe with #2 before #1. I always pray to the Father and close my prayer with “in Jesus name I (or we) pray.” My understanding of the term “in Jesus name we pray” is essentially equivalent to “I am saying all of what I just said because Jesus told/taught me to do it.” It’s similar to saying “I bring you this message in the name of the President of The United States,” it carries a whole lot more weight than if it was just you speaking on your own instead of delivering a message you were asked/ordered to deliver.

To me, I think it’s a matter of invoking Jesus authority and credibility. And, why do I do that? Because that’s what Jesus told me (us) to do. You can check my Scriptural references below for why that’s what I believe.

I think that saying “in your name I (we) pray” is utterly meaningless and a watering-down of the truth. Here’s an illustration, albeit a little weak. Would you say, “Dad, can I please borrow the car? I ask because Mom told me to ask you.” or “Dad, can I please borrow the car? I ask because you’re Dad.”

I think at best, you’re really adding nothing to the prayer and at worst, you’re lying to God the Father, speaking/praying “in His name” when it was actually Jesus that taught us to pray in His name.

So, now to gripe #1. It seems to me a lot people I talk about this with don’t draw much distinction between the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. To them, it’s fine to mix and match them in conversation, since they’re all God. I believe that’s why people interchange God/Jesus/Father in their prayers–they don’t see much of a difference in the terms. I just don’t get that from reading the Bible. Jesus always prayed to His Father. He taught us to pray to the Father. He never suggested we pray to Himself–praise Him and honor Him, absolutely, but not pray to Him.

I like to describe the Trinity in terms of our federal government. We have the President (and the rest of the executive branch), Congress, and the judicial system (though in the past 30 years they’ve taken over the role of the legislature, but I digress). So, it’s all “the government” but yet there are distinct roles and characteristics. If you want to get a new law passed, you need to go to someone in the House or Senate. Going to the President won’t do you a lot of good. If you’ve been convicted of a crime and try to appeal to Congress, you’re not going to accomplish much–you need to appeal to the Supreme Court. If you are meeting with a member of Congress and then start calling him “Mr. President” and/or “Chief Justice” you aren’t being very accurate or sensible. I view the three components of the Trinity in a similar way. Each has distinct characteristics and responsibilities and each should be treated and respected as such.

Below are three scripture passages that I believe show how Jesus taught us to pray: both to whom and in whose name we should pray.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit β€” fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.”
John 15:12-17 NIV (emphasis mine)

“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”
John 16:25-28 NIV (emphasis mine)

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you… This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…'”
Matt 6:6,9 NIV (emphasis mine)

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4 Comments »

  1. I agree with you about praying to Jesus, we are to pray to God, and Jesus and HS are our mediators in this endeavor.
    The ‘in Jesus name’ is kinda redundant and maybe used more for show in corporate prayer (just my opinion)
    Good post!
    Kristina

    Comment by krislinatin — March 15, 2007 @ 10:40 am

  2. Most praying that’s not exclusively to the Father is probably out of ignorance, apathy, or mental laziness. Many people place too much emphasis on the oneness of the Trinity, and do not observe when there are clear-cut lines that are laid out in Scripture.

    However, I do think there is room to be theologically correct and still address the Son in prayer. Case in point: “Thank you, Father, for sending your Son to die for us. Thank you, Jesus, for being obedient unto death.”

    But, yeah, most of the time, such is not the case.

    BTW, thankfully for you, I am not God. If I were, I think I’d send anyone to h*ll who compared Me to the government. πŸ˜‰

    Comment by Brendt — March 16, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

  3. Yeah, I guess that was risky of me πŸ™‚ . God established our government (Romans 3:1-2 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.), but that doesn’t mean He’s anything like it.

    Comment by noisedoctor — March 16, 2007 @ 4:30 pm

  4. It’s very helpful to read this blog entry. I’ve long been troubled by people who (unthinkingly) end their prayer iuth ‘in your name’. Our payers should all be addessed to God and then offered through/in the name of Jesus.
    Thank you.

    Comment by Paul — November 16, 2011 @ 4:49 am


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