“Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits saying, ‘I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.’…But the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?’ And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered them and overpowered them.” Acts 19:13-16
The name of Jesus isn’t a magic word that ensures fulfillment of our wishes. The Jews in this passage didn’t believe in Jesus, but they saw the effect His name had on the sick and possessed when Paul prayed over them. So they decided to use it for their purposes. But that’s not the point of His name.
His name is glorious. It is exalted above all other names. When we pray in His name, it means that we are submitting ourselves to His will. Recognizing His divine authority and His surpassing wisdom. We present our requests, pour out our hearts to God, and then trust Him with the results. Whether or not they are what we prefer.
What I’m seeing here is that God is much more concerned with the state of our heart, where our faith and trust are found, than in specific words that come out of our mouth. If all it takes is a phrase to get God to do what we want—to save us, to forgive us, to give us wisdom, to bring healing and peace—then we lose the beauty of a relationship. Our communication with God becomes less about knowing Him personally and more about manipulating circumstances. That may seem harsh, and I don’t mean for it to come across that way. I’m just trying to get to the root of the issue so I can grasp truth here.
Our Lord is wonderfully personal. We can look at His power, recognizing His supremacy over all things, knowing that His purposes will be fulfilled and nothing can alter that, and wonder what prayer is for. What good it does to lay our requests before Him, when He might say no. Perhaps prayer is more about strengthening our relationship with Him. That may not sound like much on the surface, but it’s the root of our satisfaction and joy. Prayer is about abiding in the Vine—dwelling with God, coming before Him, drawing close and seeing Him reveal His glory. It is through prayer and the reading of God’s Word that God shows Himself to us. He opens our hearts and helps us to understand who He is. How He is working in our lives. It is in these moments that He builds our faith.
We need not fear whether or not we’re saying the right words when we pray. I think as humans we get so concerned with doing everything we can to control things around us that it affects our prayers. I know at least this happens to me. I find myself thinking I need to be careful to express myself in certain ways and clarify exactly what I mean, and then I get lost in the complexity of it. I forget that God knows me better than I know myself. He sees my heart. He knows my thoughts, hopes, fears, and doubts before I voice them. So I don’t need to be anxious about whether or not He’ll understand. Or whether or not He’ll condescend to hear me. He’s my Father. He loves me with a depth I can’t fathom. He understands everything, and He always hears when I call.
Lord, help us to know in the depths of our heart that You love us. Strengthen our faith in You. Draw us close and show us Your glory, that we would know the God that You are and be transformed to our core. We want to know You, not just know of You. When we present our requests, help us to not get lost in what we want, but to rather rejoice in the greatness of Your purposes and the faithfulness that You promise us. You are great, and Your name holds power and glory that far surpass anything in creation. Thank You for the hope we have in You, that You can do all things. May our trust in You grow continually and our faith and joy be rooted firmly in Christ, so that Your glory would be displayed for all to see.