In Jesus’ Name (Part 2)

Presidential pray-ers whose faith is Christian have a tendency to pray “in Jesus name,” by closing their prayers with the some variation of “in Jesus’ name, Amen.” That is, I suppose, due to the words of the fourth Gospel “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:13)

The context of this verse was a series of conversations in the hours before Jesus was betrayed and arrested. He is engaged in a dialogue with both Thomas and Philip, each of whom is expressing some doubt that their return to Jerusalem and confrontation with the authorities was going to turn out well. He is trying to emphasize that he has total confidence that God will work things out for them, and that, even if he is killed, he is only completing another step along his journey towards full union with God. It is a passage full of pathos, poignant in hope, and pregnant with possibility. But it is not about prayer. John was trying to relate to a generation seventy years later that Jesus’ work did not end with his death, but was to be carried on by those who would “do even greater things.” 

It’s not hard to see what he meant. Jesus ended his life with his disciples scattered and terrified, but by the time John wrote his version of the Jesus story, Christianity was a force to be reckoned with throughout the Roman world. His followers had done what he could not do: build an alternative vision of community, where people would be bound together not by their tribal origins, but by their common devotion to building that community where people of all backgrounds could unite. It was a universal vision of equality, freedom and peace. 

Only someone who wants to use Jesus as a sort of cosmic PIN to access the ATM of heaven would believe that saying “In Jesus’ Name” at the end of a prayer would unlock God’s power. That’s just an incantation, a magic spell which purports to get God under its power, in order to force God to bend to human will. 

Praying in Jesus’ name means praying for the same things Jesus prayed for: God’s will to be worked out on earth, God’s universal reign to break out, in which people are reconciled in forgiveness, where people have enough to eat each day, and where the trials of human life are no longer destructive to that very life. That’s a prayer in Jesus name. 

And it is quite similar to the prayer that the Rev. Joseph Lowery prayed at the Inauguration:

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little, angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.

Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — when yellow will be mellow — when the red man can get ahead, man — and when white will embrace what is right.

Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen. 

2 thoughts on “In Jesus’ Name (Part 2)

  1. Asalamu Alaykom,During the inaguration, I sat in a room of Muslim first graders. When it came time for the prayer, I told them to cup our hands in front of us, as when do when we make, “du’a,” or supplication to God. Yes, we prayed with everyone else. We wish the same as everyone else. We wish for peace, prosperity, and safety; not just for ourselves, but for our nation. And it is OURS as well.We prayed to God. If some prayers went to Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) then that isn’t our business. We revere Jesus/Isa. We do not pray to him or to any prophet–nope, not even to Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him).There was a gasp when the reverend said, “Our Father,” but I told the kids it was ok. We can think figuratively in these terms. Our Creator is known by many names as His greatness is unfathomable. By praying together we will still never be able to fully understand The Power, but perhaps we will be able to understand more our weaknesses, which every prophet taught us. Peace be upon them all.


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