What incredible authority we have been given in prayer. How, exactly, do we use this authority? Through Christ's own name. You see, when we placed our faith in Jesus, he gave us his name. His sacrifice enables us to say, "I am Christ's, I am in him. I'm one with him." Then, amazingly, Jesus took on our name. As our high priest, he wrote it on the palm of his hand. And so our name is registered in heaven, under his glorious name.
You can see why the phrase "in Christ's name" isn't just some impersonal formula. Rather, it's a literal position we have with Jesus. And that position is recognized by the Father. Jesus tells us, "At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God" (John 16:26–27).
Here is why Jesus commands us to pray in his name. He's saying, "Whenever you ask in my name, your request has the same power and effect with the Father as if it were me asking him." In other words, it's as if our prayer is being uttered by Jesus himself before the Father's throne. Likewise, when we lay hands on the sick and pray, God sees us as if Jesus is laying hands on the sick to bring healing.
This is also why we're to come boldly to the throne of grace: to receive. We are to pray with confidence, "Father, I stand before you, chosen in Christ to go forth and bear fruit. Now I make my request largely, that my joy may be full."
I hear many Christians say, "I asked in Jesus' name, but my prayers weren't answered." These believers state, "I tried to claim the power in Jesus' name. But it just didn't work for me." There are many reasons why we don't receive answers to our prayers. We may have allowed some sin in our lives, something that defiles our union with Christ. These become roadblocks that dam up the flow of blessing from him. And he won't answer our prayers until we've forsaken our sin.
Or, perhaps the blockage is due to lukewarmness, or halfheartedness toward the things of God. Perhaps we're being stifled by doubt, which cuts us off from the power in Christ. James warns, "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord" (James 1:6–7).
James makes it clear: "He who wavers won't receive anything of God." The word James uses for waver means "to be undecided." The truth is, when these people made their requests, they put God on trial. In their hearts, they said, "Lord, if you answer me, I'll serve you. I'll give you everything, if you'll just answer this prayer. But if you don't, I'll live my life my way."
Yet God won't be bribed. He knows our hearts, and he knows when we're undecided in our commitment to his Son. He reserves the power that's in Christ for those who surrender to him wholly.