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. (Acts 19:13-17 ESV)
When we pray the words “in the name of Jesus,” they are not meant to be used as a magical chant. We often hear and say those words at the end of our prayers because we cling to the promise that he would grant anything that we ask in his name. The heart of our prayers should not just be about our requests. They are to be rooted in the One who can actually answer them. Do we have faith and believe, or are we praying in a manner that is rote and formulaic?
The Jewish exorcists prayed in a way that tested the Lord’s name against an evil spirit. However, their hearts still lingered in unbelief when they said, “I adjure you by the name of Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” They did not fully believe in the gospel, but wanted the power associated with it. What happened to them after that was a tough lesson and hopefully moved them into truly believing in Jesus. The story of the evil spirit subduing the men illustrates the seriousness of unbelief and empty prayer, and highlights the greatness of Jesus’s name.
Prayer is also not a name-it-and-claim-it ritual. It’s an intimate conversation between you and God, much like how we speak with friends and families. The greatest difference is that we enter prayer with a deep reverence and humility, acknowledging Jesus as King and Lord. Any hint of callousness makes the prayer meaningless and empty.
So the next time we pray in his name, let’s not rush into speaking. Let us first set ourselves up by focusing and aligning our hearts and minds on the Lord, letting him know how much we love and appreciate him. Let’s eliminate distractions and share our thoughts with him, even if just for a few minutes. Remember, prayer is about authenticity and genuineness. Do we truly treasure God and do we really want to be in his presence?