I have been thinking about names lately.
Working at one of the largest public universities in the country, I have learned a lot of names since starting my job. In any given week, there are likely to be 400-500 students whose name I am paid to know walking through the halls of the building I work in. One of my favorite parts of my day is walking around, passing students in the hall, and saying hello- calling them by name; asking how they are. I do it primarily because I know how striking it is to me when I hear someone say my name.
“Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”― Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
I read this book when I was a sophomore in college. A “classic” in the business world. The title always felt a little off-putting to me. Shallow? Manipulative? In reality, the book is full of small, important, and useful notes about humans, similar to the idea above.
Names are powerful. Whenever I am talking to a customer service agent who I am hoping is going to go out of their way to help me, you better believe I am listening for their name at the start of the call. When I am trying to build rapport with a class I am teaching, I am going to say the name of the student I call on. When I am trying to establish trust and encourage vulnerability when advising my students, it always starts with knowing and speaking their name.
“And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.“John 14:13-14
For as long as I can remember, I have been starting every prayer with “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” and ending it with something in the neighborhood of “In Your Son’s name I pray.”
Up to this point, I have never taken conscious notice of how often the name of Jesus is invoked in prayer, similar to the way I invoke the names of individuals when I am trying to get them to pay special attention to what I am saying. At times, the familiar phrases listed above have felt habitual and non-descript, like God’s and my version of “Hi, how are you? and “See you later.”
Until recently, I have failed to notice how Jesus and the apostles leveraged the power of Jesus’ name to work wonders in the movements of the early Church and throughout the Gospels.
In the first five chapters of the Act of the Apostles, “the name” of Jesus is referenced no less than 14 times* regarding conversions, repentance, baptisms, teaching, and healings. When the Sadducees are most threatened by the movement growing amongst the followers of Jesus, their warning to the apostles is to “stop teaching in that name.” Acts 5:28
If using the name of my students, my friends, my neighbors, and my cashier at the grocery store has power, how much more power is held in the name of the God of the Universe, the Word made Flesh, the Beloved Son of God?
As I have reflected on this idea, I have begun to hyper-intentionally state “in the name of Jesus” at the start of every request I place before God. In doing this, I have gained an important insight: my prayer seems to grow more pure, more earnest and more honest when I pray it “in the name of Jesus.”
“In the name of Jesus, give me the ability to see every person with your eyes of love” seems to fit significantly better than “In the name of Jesus please do not let any annoying people cross paths with me today.” Starting my prayer with this simple phrase over and over again orients my heart to the Almighty. Using the phrase “In the name of Jesus” reminds me of the gentleness of the one I am speaking to, the power of the one I am speaking to, and the intimacy of the relationship we share. I know His name. He knows mine.
If you have a few minutes, I encourage you to listen to the song included below, What a Beautiful Name. Jesus has given us access to the power and beauty of His name. Let us call upon it with confidence, knowing He hears us and in His unconditional love, answers us.
I invite you to come along with me on an experiment of faith. Join with me using your own petitions, praying specifically and purposefully “in the name of Jesus,” and let us wait with expectant hope to see the power of His name move in our lives and our world.
*“Jesus’ name” referenced in Acts:
Ch. 3:6, 16
Ch. 4:7, 10, 12, 17, 18, 30
Ch. 5:28, 40, 41