The Jesus Prayer – What it is: Power

December 29, 2007


4. What it is: Power

“The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power”, says Saint Paul (1 Cor 4:20). The reason this prayer is so powerful is that the name of Jesus is not just a set of letters or sounds. It is not a passive word but a creative word, like the word by which God created the universe. (He is the Word by which God created the universe!) Every time we receive Christ in the Eucharist, we are instructed by the liturgy to pray, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” All our energy and effort is not strong enough to heal our own souls, but God’s word of power is. That word is so powerful that by it God made the universe out of nothing, and by it he is doing the even greater deed of making saints out of sinners. That word is Jesus Christ.

In most ancient societies, a person’s name was treated, not as a mere artificial label for pragmatic purposes of human communication, but as a truth, a sign of the person’s unique identity. Revealing your name was thus an act of intimate personal trust, like a handshake. A handshake originally meant: “See? I bear no weapon. You can trust me.” It is a little like your P.I.N. today.

In all of human history, God revealed his own true name, his eternal name, only to one man—Moses—and only to one people—the Hebrews, his own “chosen people”—and only at one time—at the burning bush (Ex 3). This name was the secret no philosopher or mystic had ever attained, the very essence of God, the nature of ultimate reality: “I AM.”

But then, many centuries later, God did an even greater thing; he revealed a new name in Jesus (“Saviour”). This is now the most precious name in the world.

It is a golden key. It opens all doors, transforms all corners of our lives. But we do not use this golden key, and doors remain locked. In fact, our society is dying because it has turned the most precious name in the world, the name of its Saviour, into a casual curse word.

Even Muslims respect the holy name of Jesus more than Christians do, in practice: they commonly add “blessed be he” every time they pronounce it.

In the Acts of the Apostles (3:1-10), Peter and John heal a man lame from birth when they say, “In the name of Jesus Christ, walk.” Throughout the history of the Church and the lives of the saints, many such miracles of healing have been done “in his name”. Exorcisms are performed “in his name”. The name of Jesus is so powerful that it can knock the devil out of a soul!

The name of Jesus is our salvation. John ends his Gospel with this summary: “These [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:31, emphasis added). “The name of Jesus Christ” is not only the key to power-filled prayer but the key to our salvation. So we had better understand it! What does the phrase “in the name of Jesus Christ” mean?

Suppose you are poor, but your father is rich. When you try to cash a check for half a million dollars in your own name, you will get only a laugh from the bank. But if the check is in your father’s name, you will get the money. Our Father in Heaven gave us unlimited grace in the “account” of Jesus Christ and then put us “into Christ”, inserted us into his family, so that we can use the family name, so to speak, to cash checks on the account of divine grace. Saint Paul tells us that our account is unlimited: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19). Jesus himself first assured us of this wonderful truth, which we find hard to believe because it seems too good to be true, and then he explained why it is true:

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mt 7:7-I I).

If even we love our children so much that we do not settle for anything less than the very best for them, why do we think God loves his children less?