Praying, living, and going in the authority of Christ.
We say it at the end of every prayer, often with little reflection on its meaning — like saying “goodbye” at the end of a conversation. But what if these were the four most powerful words we speak? Would it change the way we pray? Would it change the way we live? In Jesus’ name, amen.
Can I get an amen?
It’s a remarkable word and one of the most universally spoken words on earth. Amen originated millennia ago in the Hebrew language. Very similar to the Hebrew word for believe or faithful, it carries two different, but related, meanings. When beginning a sentence (as Jesus often did), amen means something is true and faithful, trustworthy and believable. When used at the end (as is often the case in prayer), it is a response of trusting expectation. It means “I believe,” “so be it,” or “let it be done.”
Such a word was bound to follow God’s people from the old to the new covenant. The Jews who penned the New Testament wrote almost entirely in Greek, but this word carried over from Hebrew. When the Bible was translated into Latin, amen was retained. In time, it appeared in English, Spanish, and dozens of other translations. When said after the reading of Scripture or the words of a preacher that ring true, amen is an act of agreeing and taking ownership of those powerful words. When said at the end of prayer, amen is a confession of faith that God is listening and will answer.
Praying in Jesus’ name
So what does it mean to say “Amen” after saying “In Jesus’ name”? An experience from high school comes to mind when I ponder this. One summer I had the opportunity to do a few projects for Dr. Albert Carlin at his home in the small town of Stanberry, Missouri. Doc Carlin was known as a faithful member of the General Conference. He was even better known as a faithful member of the Stanberry community, having delivered many of the children born there over several decades and having provided medical care to most of its inhabitants.
While working at his home, I needed to purchase supplies on several occasions. Doc Carlin’s instructions were simple: “Go find whatever you need, and when you check out, tell them to put it on my account.”
I was a bit anxious. A sixteen-year-old driving a borrowed car in a new town, walking into a variety of businesses, armed only with Dr. Carlin’s name! But the scene played out just as he expected. I would gather the supplies I needed, go through the checkout process, and instead of paying would say, “Put it on Doc Carlin’s account.”
Every employee of each store I visited gladly did so without hesitation. His name was that powerful in that little town. I had only to speak it in accordance with his will, and I had all the authority I needed to fulfill his assignment.
That’s the essence of what it means to pray in Jesus’ name. When we speak His name in accordance with His will, we have all the authority we need to fulfill His assignment. About ten years later, I had the privilege of being Doc Carlin’s pastor when he passed from this life. As winter winds blew across the faces of his family and friends, I stood at his graveside and prayed for God to accept this man’s spirit and resurrect his body in the last day. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Living in Jesus’ name
Jesus’ final earthly words were words of authority. Having just won the decisive victory over sin and death by rising from the dead, and ready to ascend to heaven, Jesus said:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Jesus’ Great Commission is grounded in His great authority. Jesus sends His disciples into the world to join God’s mission of evangelism and discipleship with all the authority in heaven and earth. Jesus’ promise to His followers is that He — having supreme authority — will accompany them to the end of this age and usher in the next. If they would go with Him on mission into the world, they would go with His full authority. His followers had only to speak His name in accordance with His will, and they had all the authority they needed to fulfill His assignment.
Jesus’ final words were also packed with power. Luke records Jesus telling His disciples not to concern themselves with the timing of the establishment of His physical kingdom on earth, but instead to wait in Jerusalem, trusting that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Matthew’s account focuses on Jesus’ authority (Greek: exousia), the fact that He is the ruler of all things — King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But Luke’s account keys in on the power (Greek: dunamis) Jesus gives His followers so they will be His witnesses. This is miracle-working power that identifies Jesus’ followers with the great Miracle Worker himself. His followers would do “greater works” than He did because Jesus was returning to the Father and sending the Holy Spirit to reside within them (John 14:12).
The same power displayed in Jesus’ life and resurrection would live within His disciples and empower them for witness on Christ’s behalf in the world. Armed with the power of Jesus’ Spirit and the authority of Jesus’ name, nothing in God’s will would be impossible for Jesus’ followers. They were fully equipped to join God’s mission.
Witnessing in Jesus’ name
We see this combination of authority and power throughout the book of Acts as Jesus’ followers went out into the world relying on Jesus’ authoritative name and miracle-working power. The goal was not to glorify themselves but to glorify God. The gifts and fruit of the Spirit were not given to puff up believers with pride but to point beyond them to the God at work within them.
Ultimately, the purpose of Jesus’ followers being endued with authority and power from on high was not their personal advancement but the advancement of God’s kingdom. And that’s just what happened. God’s kingdom grew everywhere His followers went in the power and authority of Jesus’ name. That’s what Jesus was consumed with as He devoted His earthly ministry to preaching and practicing the inbreaking of God’s kingdom.
Of course, much to the surprise of Jesus’ earthly contemporaries, God did not establish His kingdom in its fullness (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Hebrews 2:5-18). Rather, He inaugurated His kingdom in the seemingly small and insignificant work of Jesus and His disciples. But this kingdom spread like yeast through dough, growing like a tiny seed into a great bush (Matthew 13:31-34).
A friend of mine has compared God’s kingdom to a train entering a station. As the engine pulls in, the train has already arrived. But until all the train cars have passed and the caboose has stopped, the train has not yet fully arrived. So it is with the kingdom of God. The engine arrived with Christ’s first coming, but the caboose will not arrive until His return. In the meantime, the cars are pulling into the station. And Christ’s followers are called to pull the cars into the station, following His first coming and hastening the day of His second. This is why we’re here — to proclaim and practice the kingdom of God in the authority and power of Jesus Christ.
To put it another way, we’re called to live in accordance with the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:
“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13).
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This is the first request Jesus told us to make — more important than our daily bread or even the forgiveness of our sins. God’s kingdom coming to earth in its fullness; God’s will accomplished on earth as it is in heaven: This is God’s mission and ours. Every day we are called to pray and live and witness in Jesus’ name. We need only to speak His name in accordance with His will, and we have all the authority we need to fulfill His assignment.
May the authority of Jesus’ name and the power of His Spirit be evident in all we do. In Jesus’ name, amen.