Questions From Readers
Is it proper to approach God in prayer without saying something like “in Jesus’ name”?
The Bible shows that Christians desiring to approach Jehovah in prayer ought to do so in Jesus’ name. Jesus told his disciples: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” He added: “Whatever it is that you ask in my name, I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”—John 14:6, 13, 14.
Referring to Jesus’ unique position, the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature says: “The object of prayer is God alone, through Jesus Christ as the Mediator. All supplications, therefore, to saints or angels are not only useless, but blasphemous. All worship of the creature, however exalted that creature is, is idolatry, and is strictly prohibited in the sacred law of God.”
What if someone, after a very rewarding experience, says, “Thank you Jehovah” without adding “in Jesus’ name”? Would this be improper? Not necessarily. Suppose a Christian meets a sudden danger and cries out: “Help me, Jehovah!” God would hardly refuse to help because his servant did not say “in Jesus’ name.”
It should be noted, however, that simply speaking out loud even to God does not in itself constitute a prayer. For example, after he was judged by Jehovah for killing his brother Abel, Cain said: “My punishment for error is too great to carry. Here you are actually driving me this day from off the surface of the ground, and from your face I shall be concealed; and I must become a wanderer and fugitive on the earth, and it is certain that anyone finding me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:13, 14) Though Cain addressed his comments to Jehovah, his emotional outburst was a complaint about the bitter fruitage of sin.
The Bible tells us: “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” Casually addressing the Most High as if he were a mere human would definitely show a lack of humility. (James 4:6; Psalm 47:2; Revelation 14:7) It would also be disrespectful to know what God’s Word says about Jesus’ role and yet intentionally pray without recognition of Jesus Christ.—Luke 1:32, 33.
This is not to say that Jehovah expects a particular style or set formula when we pray. A key factor is a person’s heart condition. (1 Samuel 16:7) In the first century C.E., a Roman army officer named Cornelius “made supplication to God continually.” Cornelius, an uncircumcised Gentile, was not dedicated to Jehovah. Though it is unlikely that he offered his prayers in Jesus’ name, they “ascended as a remembrance before God.” Why? Because “the examiner of hearts,” saw that Cornelius was “a devout man and one fearing God.” (Acts 10:2, 4; Proverbs 17:3) Upon gaining knowledge of “Jesus who was from Nazareth,” Cornelius received holy spirit and became a baptized disciple of Jesus.—Acts 10:30-48.
In the final analysis, it is not for humans to decide which prayers God hears. If a Christian on occasion made an utterance to God and overlooked using such an expression as “in Jesus’ name,” there would be no need for him to burden himself with guilt. Jehovah is fully aware of our limitations and wants to help us. (Psalm 103:12-14) We can rest assured that if we exercise faith in “the Son of God . . . , no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:13, 14) Especially when representing others in public prayer, however, true Christians acknowledge the Scripturally outlined role that Jesus occupies in Jehovah’s purpose. And they obediently endeavor to honor Jesus by directing prayers to God through him.