[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
More than once in A Course in Miracles, Jesus urges us to ask for something in his name. For instance, we find this in Chapter 4 in the Text: “Let us ask the Father in my name to keep you mindful of His Love for you and yours for Him. (T-4.III.6:3). The Course also refers approvingly to the Bible’s injunctions “to accomplish all things in my name” (T-8.IX.7:1) and to “Ask in the name of Jesus Christ” (M-23.1:4).
This obviously sounds very traditional. It’s the sort of language we would expect to find in any Christian church. It can easily sound as if by adding Jesus’ name to our prayers, we are invoking a magic power, a kind of prayer booster. It’s as if God doesn’t really listen to us mere mortals, but does listen to His only begotten Son, so that if we attach Jesus’ name to our prayers, we’re more likely get God’s attention. It almost sounds like a sort of cosmic name-dropping.
Clearly, that can’t be the real meaning of asking in Jesus’ name. So what does it really mean? To answer this, we need to understand the phrase, “in the name of.” This phrase, of course, is not limited to religious speech. It is part of the English language. We can see the non-religious usage in a number of Course passages. Please read the following passages carefully, noting how “in the name of” functions in each one:
In the name of my freedom I choose your release, because I recognize that we will be released together. (T-15.XI.10:7)
In the name of your completion you do not want this. (T-16.V.13:2)
You may attempt to keep the bargain in the name of “fairness,” sometimes demanding payment of yourself, perhaps more often of the other. (T-21.III.1:4)
Remind yourself that you are making a declaration of independence in the name of your own freedom. (W-pI.31.4:2)
Healing might thus be called a counter-dream, which cancels out the dream of sickness in the name of truth, but not in truth itself. (W-pI.137.5:1)
For threat brings anger, anger makes attack seem reasonable, honestly provoked, and righteous in the name of self-defense. (W-pI.153.2:2)
All that he did before in the name of safety no longer interests him. (M-16.7:2)
In these passages, “in the name of” carries its typical meaning of “by the authority of” (“which cancels out the dream of sickness in the name of truth”), “for the sake of” (“you are making a declaration of independence in the name of your own freedom”) or “on behalf of” (“righteous in the name of self-defense”). If you look at these and other instances of “in the name of,” you will see that running through all of them is the same basic idea: you are acting as a representative of someone (or something) else, as an expression of their wishes, request, authority, interests, or character. In some way, then, that other person (or thing) is the basis for your action.
For this reason, you can usually replace “in the name of” with “on behalf of” or “as a representative of.” Thus, when you say, “In the name of my freedom I choose your release,” you are really saying, “On behalf of my freedom I choose your release,” or “As a representative of my freedom I choose your release.” You can also use the bulkier “as an expression of the wishes of”: “As an expression of the wishes of my freedom, I choose your release.”
This unlocks for us the meaning of asking in the name of Jesus. If we ask for something in Jesus’ name, we are simply saying “This request expresses not only my wishes, but Jesus’ wishes, too. It reflects his will, his interests, his character, and his authority. I am not just asking for this myself; I am asking on behalf of Jesus.”
As a result, “Let us ask the Father in my name to keep you mindful of His Love for you and yours for Him” (T-4.III.6:3) means “Let us ask the Father as an expression of my wishes to keep you mindful of His Love for you and yours for Him.”
Another example: “You and your brother will yet come together in my name, and your sanity will be restored” (T-4.IV.11:6) means “You and your brother will yet come together on my behalf, as an expression of my wishes, and your sanity will be restored.”
We can also turn this around. “I am here to represent Him Who sent me” (T-2.V.A.18:3) can be rephrased as “I have come here in His Name.”
In asking in the name of Jesus, then, we are joining our will with his. Our request becomes the expression of our joint will. Our own will, of course, is subject to error and to egotism. To ask in Jesus’ name means that it’s not just our tiny, egotistical will that is asking; it’s our will joined with a will that is beyond error and egotism. Clearly, these two wills together are guaranteed to make a much truer, more authoritative request than our will alone.
Imagine, for instance, that you hear a loud pounding on your front door, and as you approach it, someone shouts, “I want you to open up!” Now imagine that what is shouted instead is “Open up, in the name of the law!” The second shout, of course, carries more weight; there is more behind it. In the same way, to pray in the name of Jesus—if our prayer really is on his behalf—is to pray a prayer with more behind it. It is not the prayer of one will but of two, and one of those wills is beyond error and beyond ego. One of those wills asks only for what is true. It’s not that God will listen more; it’s that the request itself is more compelling, being more true.
This idea of the request itself being more powerful is reflected in two important passages in the Course. The first says that asking in Jesus’ name is really asking in the name of the Identity we share:
The Bible enjoins you to be perfect, to heal all errors, to take no thought of the body as separate and to accomplish all things in my name. This is not my name alone, for ours is a shared identification. (T-8.IX.7:1-2)
To ask in Jesus’ name, then, is to call on the Christ, the Self of the Sonship. To join our will with Jesus is to unite our will with the true will of all living things, the Will of the Self we all share.
Finally, section 23 of the Manual asks the very questions we are asking here:
The Bible says, “Ask in the name of Jesus Christ.” Is this merely an appeal to magic? A name does not heal, nor does an invocation call forth any special power. What does it mean to call on Jesus Christ? What does calling on his name confer? Why is the appeal to him part of healing? (M-23.1:4-9)
This section’s answer to this question can be seen as two-fold. First, to call upon Jesus’ name is to call on far more than Jesus himself, but rather to call on everything he represents:
…In remembering Jesus you are remembering God. The whole relationship of the Son to the Father lies in him. (M-23.3:2-3)
[Jesus’ name] becomes the shining symbol for the Word of God, so close to what it stands for that the little space between the two is lost, the moment that the name is called to mind. Remembering the name of Jesus Christ is to give thanks for all the gifts that God has given you. (M-23.4:4-5)
These passages are similar to the earlier one in saying that Jesus’ name represents far more than Jesus. When you call to mind his name, you simultaneously call to mind God, the Word of God, the gifts of God, and the relationship of the Son to the Father.
The second answer this section gives is that asking in Jesus’ name actually calls on Jesus himself. We can see that in the quote I included above from the first paragraph, which slides easily from “Ask in the name of Jesus,” to “calling on his name,” to “appeal to him.” The implication is obvious: To ask in his name is to call on his name is to appeal to him. And the section assures us that such an appeal is not in vain, since he is available to help us. It reminds us that he promised he would be with us, and then asks if someone who is at one with God would renege on his promises (3:8-9).
In conclusion, what we have seen is a very different picture than we may have begun with. Asking in Jesus’ name is not about dropping names with God to get His attention. Rather, it’s about making a request with more than just our solitary will. It’s about joining our will with Jesus and thus with everything he represents, so that we are joining with God, the Son of God, and the Word of God. Finally, this joining with the will of Jesus is not a mere poetic abstraction, for asking in his name is simultaneously calling on him, so that he then actually joins us in our prayer (much as he promises to join us in our meditations in the Workbook—see W-pII.221.2).
Asking in his name, then, means making a request from a larger, truer, more unified and encompassing place. It’s also an act of calling Jesus in to actually join us in our asking. It’s the difference between standing before a closed door in our lives and saying, “Open in the name of my solitary will,” or standing before that same door with Jesus and saying together, “Open in the Name of God, the Son of God, and the Word of God!” Who of us would want to do the first when we could do the second?