Is it essential for a believer to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus when praying to God?
While the reply could be given in a single word, the issues involved are far reaching and demand some detailed consideration. For who can estimate the importance of communication with God?
The entrance of sin into the world put man at a distance from God but did not close the door of communication entirely. God still spoke to man, and He even spoke through man (prophecy). Thus, Abimelech was told by God in a dream regarding Abraham “And now, restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and will pray for thee, that thou mayest live” (Gen. 20: 7). Furthermore, man through prayer could speak directly to God. Thus throughout the OT history we find prayer being made by such as Moses, Manoah, Samson, Hannah, (see Num. 11: 2; Jud. 13: 8; 16: 28; 1 Sam. 1: 10) and many others. When we come to the NT, we find that the twelve disciples are given the Lord’s Prayer (not a term Scripture uses), in which God was to be addressed as Father (see Matt. 6: 9; Luke 11: 2). However, all this of was before the Lord Jesus died, rose and ascended to heaven.
The Lord is now in a position there that He never occupied before—He is at the right hand of God in heaven as the glorified Man. Consequent on that, the Holy Spirit has come (see John 7: 39) as sent by the Father in Christ’s name (see John 14: 26) in order to carry out a service that He had not carried out before. These are the two great hallmarks of the present day: Christ as Man in the glory of God and the Holy Spirit permanently indwelling the saints on earth. God has now put Christ at “his right hand in the heavenlies, above every principality, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name named … and has put all things under his feet (Eph. 1: 20–22). Again: “Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and granted him a name, that which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly and earthly and infernal [beings], and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord to God [the] Father’s glory” (Phil. 2: 9–11). It is because of this that Paul instructs the Corinthians “But I wish you to know that the Christ is the head of every man, but woman’s head [is] the man, and the Christ’s head God” (1 Cor. 11: 3). This is now the divine order of authority: God, then Christ, then man, and then woman. This order must be recognised in all divine communication whether in prayer (man speaking to God) or prophecy (God speaking to man). God will not have Christ bypassed, and so the believer must now go to God through Christ. Thus, Paul speaks of believers “giving thanks at all times for all things to him [who is] God and [the] Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5: 20, my emphasis). Indeed the owning of the authority of the Lord Jesus is now all–embracing for we read “And everything whatever ye may do in word or in deed, [do] all things in [the] name of [the] Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father by him” (Col. 3: 17, my emphasis).
Sadly, the majority in Christendom—that which claims the name of Christ—ignore the order that God has laid down. Thus, the distinction between man and woman that was to be expressed before the angels (see 1 Cor. 11: 10) is not observed, and the male hierarchy pray in mitres and skull-caps, and women pray with their heads uncovered. However, many of those who err in this way also take pleasure in chanting the Lord’s prayer, even though it is not offered in the name of the Lord Jesus, and, indeed, His name is entirely absent from it! This prayer is set in the midst of the so–called Sermon on the Mount and was given in connection with the Kingdom (not the Church). It is for Jewish disciples still under the law (see Matt. 5: 17–19)—hence forgiveness was made dependant on forgiving (see Matt. 6: 12)—and was in view of the time when the setting up of the Kingdom was in prospect. But the King was rejected (see Matt. 12: 24) and thus the form of the Kingdom changed (see Matt. 13: 1–52), and prayer with it. Consider what John records on the matter of prayer in his Gospel (see John 14–16). This takes place in the upper room and on the way to the Mount of Olives (see Mark 14: 15, 26) after the close of the Lord’s public ministry. There are no quotations from the Sermon on the Mount here or anywhere else in John and the Lord’s Prayer is also absent—indeed the words pray and prayer similarly do not appear. However, six times the Lord tells the disciples to ask the Father, an action which, necessarily, involves prayer. On every single occasion it is to be “in my name” (John 14: 13, 14; 15: 16; 16: 23, 24, 26). Thus, in Christianity, prayer is to be offered to God in Christ’s name. The single word answer to the question ‘Is it wrong for a believer not to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus when praying to God?’ is YES.