In the Gospel Reading, Christ suggests a remedy for any problem we have. The Father will give you anything you ask for, he says, if you will just ask for it in Christ’s name.
But what is it to ask for something in Christ’s name? It can’t be a matter of simply tacking the name of Christ on to any prayer. “I would like a Porsche, please, in the name of Christ.” Prayer isn’t magic. It isn’t a matter of using the right magical formulas in order to make God do what you want him to do.
It helps here to consider the homely cases in which one person asks something in the name of another. A secretary can ask for the mail in her boss’s name: “I’m just here to pick up the mail for my boss!” A child can ask a neighbor for a cup of sugar in his mother’s name: “Mrs. Murphy, my mother wants to know if you could lend her a cup of sugar.”
In these cases, the person asking can ask in the name of another because he somehow identifies himself as in relationship with that other: my boss, my mother. Something–a connection of shared work, a family relation–binds the two of them together.
To ask in Christ’s name is like this, too. You ask in the name of Christ when you are in the kind of relation to him that lets you say ‘my’ with respect to him. And what would bind the two of you together in this way? What should follow that ‘my’? It shouldn’t be ‘my servant’, as the magician in effect says in his heart of hearts. No, not ‘my servant’, but ‘my Lord’.
Take him as Lord, and you have to recognize that, as Lord, he loves and cares for his own. He knows what to give to those who are his in answer to their prayers. So if you ask the Father for something in the name of Christ, then you are doing the opposite of what the magician does: you ask being prepared to accept what your Lord wants you to do. What you are given will be a good gift if it is in accord with his will, even if it isn’t in accord with yours.
To ask the Father in Christ’s name, then, is to trust Christ with your life as you ask.