When It Doesn’t Work To Say “In Jesus’ Name”
Did you ever see a great manifestation of God’s power or authority in Christ, and then try to imitate what you saw but end up disappointed with the results? Or have you read scriptural promises and tried to act on them, but it seemed like they “didn’t work?” Why?
Promises For Those Who Ask In Jesus’ Name
Scripture has incredible promises for those who ask in Jesus’ name:
John 14:12-14 (NIV) Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
John 16:23-24 (NIV) In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
1 John 5:14-15 (NIV) This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
I think that Christians often read these promises and try to hold on to them, but when it seems like it “didn’t work,” unbelief settles in our hearts. Of course, we continue to mentally acknowledge that scripture is true. But we don’t act like it is. And when we read such incredible passages of scripture our hearts are hardened to them because they make us feel pain. They remind us of disappointment.
What if these promises really are true, but there’s something we aren’t understanding? What if these scriptures can actually become our experience?
When It Doesn’t Work To Just Say “In Jesus’ Name”
Lately I’ve been referring a lot to the story of the seven sons of Sceva. This passage gives us some insight into what it really means to pray in Jesus’ name. It hints that praying in Jesus’ name is more than just saying “In Jesus’ Name.” Let’s look at this story again:
Acts 19:11-20 (ESV) And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.
These seven brothers invoked Jesus’ name, but it didn’t work. Paul didn’t necessarily speak Jesus’ name in every case, but he identified strongly and personally with Christ. And even things that had touched his skin drove out demons and diseases. He was speaking and acting in Jesus’ name. What a difference!
Years ago, a friend told me that when he was involved in witchcraft they sometimes used Jesus’ name to expel demons. Since then I’ve read about exorcism practices in other religions. I learned that several religions use Jesus’ name in their exorcism practices. And it seems like they sometimes have limited or apparent success when they do so.
The seven sons of Sceva may have had some limited success with using Jesus name. When it says they “were doing this,” it makes me think they may have been doing it for some time before this particular story. And if they kept doing it, it was probably because it seemed to be helping. But obviously, they soon found out that it wasn’t enough to use Jesus’ name like a magic word without personally identifying with Jesus.
I don’t think saying “In Jesus’ name” is a bad thing. But this must be more than a ritualistic incantation. We must know what it means and mean what we’re saying! Next week we’ll look more at what it means to pray “in Jesus’ name” by identifying with Jesus.
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