I have been very grateful to people over the years who have told me about a service or product that would help me and then said: “make sure to tell them that I sent you and they will give you a discount.” There have also been times when someone I knew was looking for employment and I referred them to someone else I knew and said: “please feel welcome to use my name.” This courtesy that we offer one another frequently opens doors which might have otherwise been closed to us. You may be surprised to learn that Jesus tells us to use his name. While it is unlikely to get you a discount or a job - in many places in the world it will get you tortured and killed - it will draw our heavenly Father’s ear to your prayers.
In his biography of Jesus, John quotes Jesus when he said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” (John 16:23b). At first glance, it sounds like Jesus is saying that God will do whatever we want as long as we ask in Jesus’ name. Because we are sinners and really want a genie from a lamp to grant our every wish, most of the attention that has been given to this verse has been spent explaining that God answers prayer according to His Will - not ours. There are some important lessons to be learned by following that line of thought. However, our preoccupation with this can cause us to miss something very important that Jesus is also teaching - Jesus’ name is the route through which we must approach our heavenly Father. Jesus promises that the Father will hear us when we pray in his name. Incidentally, there are no guarantees that the Father will give attention to our prayers if we are not praying in Jesus’ name.
This may sound kind of harsh - mostly because we so often downplay how our sins affect our standing before God. When I look at my life - the things I have done, thought, and said - I recognize that the only place I have before God is as one who stands condemned. Can you imagine a convicted felon standing before the judge and saying “hey judge, can you do me a favor?” The court would erupt in uncontrollable laughter. And so it is with me when I stand on my own before God. But when I approach God in the name of Jesus, everything changes. Jesus carried out every command of the Father perfectly, and in our baptisms, God has placed Jesus’ perfectly obedient life over our messed-up sinful ones. Consequently, you and I can stand before God and speak to Him because we are standing under the credentials of our Lord Jesus.
I don’t want us to leave this discussion before reminding you that the Father’s love for us is such that He sent Jesus to do all of it - every bit of it. If we don’t remind ourselves of this, we begin thinking of the Father and Son as “good cop - bad cop.” For a lot of people, this is how they think of the Trinity - the Father is an angry judge and Jesus is really nice and softens Him up for us. Nothing could be further from the truth! When you see the loving and wonderful things Jesus says and does - you are glimpsing the very heart of the Father.
Jesus lays on us an amazing gift - to use his name - let us use it often, to the place where we realize that we are on a first-name basis with the Father Who loves us.