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Why do Protestants oftentimes seem to say: "In Jesus' name. Amen.", whereas Catholics generally begin and end prayers saying: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."?

Do Protestants object to praying "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.", or, conversely, do Catholics object to praying only "In Jesus' name."?

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    What evidence do you have that Protestants do pray in Jesus' name and don't pray in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? I've been a Protestant all my life and have never run across this dichotomy. – Joe Oct 27 '14 at 21:06
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    I feel like this is a poor question because it puts what may well be typical in too strong terms. You say Catholics generally use the name of all three persons, do you know how often they'll say something else? – curiousdannii Oct 27 '14 at 22:21
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    My personal sense, being a Protestant, is that this is largely a superficial difference between the cultures of the two denominations. Unless perhaps if you're dealing with Presbyterianism or something, Protestants just usually aren't as formal with church as Catholics. Either side probably wouldn't have any problem at all praying like the other; it's just more to do with tradition and with which one is more "liturgical" than the other. – Panzercrisis Oct 28 '14 at 2:44
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    Now that being said, it's also said that "there's power in the name 'Jesus'", or alternatively, "there's power in Jesus's name". Each Person of the Trinity stands out, and that includes Jesus; but at least Protestants can have a tendency to focus specifically on Jesus. – Panzercrisis Oct 28 '14 at 2:47
  • When I was raised as protestant, normally the prayer ended with what would be translated as "in the name of the Lord", which I always assumed was God. Do english-speaking protestants really refer to Jesus? – Amber Oct 28 '14 at 16:00
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Protestants do not see that Christ ever instructed his followers to pray (only to baptize) "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". On the other hand, Christians are repeatedly called to invoke the name of the Lord:

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ ...

(1 Corinthians 1:2a, New International Version)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you ... so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

(John 15:16, New International Version)

"Let everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord avoid evil."

(2 Timothy 2:19, New International Version)

Thus, there is solid Scriptural evidence that the early Christians directly invoked, and were instructed (directly or indirectly) to directly invoke, the name of the Lord, rather than speaking the names of the Trinity; the only occurrence of the phrase "the name of the Father" refers to the "Great Commission" passage in Matthew:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, ..."

(Matthew 28:19, New International Version)

Jesus, furthermore, is the only one to whom humans need turn in order to approach God. This is pounded into the heads of Christians especially in the Letter to the Hebrews:

... Jesus the mediator of a new covenant ... (Hebrews 12:24)

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)

And most famously

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. (1 Timothy 2:5–6a)

He is not only mediator, but mediator in the sense that the Jewish high priests were mediators between God and the nation of Israel:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:19–20)

(All quotations from the New International Version)

Thus many Protestants, following the example of Scripture, feel that it is far more appropriate to invoke the assistance of God by calling upon the name of Jesus.


I should note that not all Protestants follow this example all the time, or perhaps even much of the time. For example, the website of the United States Conference of Seventh Day Baptists contains a prayer for the sick and shut-in which ends "These things we pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." Thus, perhaps the question should be phrased "Why do some Protestants say ..."


Catholics, on the other hand, use "in the name of the Father ..." as part of "the Sign of the Cross"—a sacramental (that is, a sacred activity which resembles a sacrament; see Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1667–1668). In this sacramental, the Catholic makes the outline of a cross on his body: he touches his forehead as he says "In the name of the Father...", then his chest or stomach, saying "... and of the Son, ...", then each shoulder in turn, saying "... and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

The Catechism explains:

The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father.

This is not done as a Biblical command, but as a reminder of the One who saved us by his death.

  • +1: However, you say "... to directly invoke, the name of the Lord, rather than speaking the names of the Trinity...". Technically, the names of the Trinity are invoked, but only Jesus's name is actually spoken in this invocation. – RBarryYoung Oct 28 '14 at 14:49
  • @RBarryYoung In which invocation? – Matt Gutting Oct 28 '14 at 14:51
  • Heh, right, I mixed them up. Jesus's name is both invoked and spoken in "In the Name of Jesus...", however, for "In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...", all three names are invoked, but not actually spoken. – RBarryYoung Oct 28 '14 at 15:00
  • This doesn't actually answer the Catholic half of the question. It reads like "The Bible says (this), and Protestants follow (this), so by implication what the Catholics do is wrong." – Almo Oct 30 '14 at 19:33
  • @Almo Good point, I need to address that. – Matt Gutting Oct 30 '14 at 19:42
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First, it is valuable in this answer to distinguish between the pious practice of individuals, and small groups of believers, on the one hand, and the official formularies of the larger group, on the other. It may be that among Roman Catholics, there are those who use the full Trinitarian formula to begin and end an individual prayer, and perhaps every prayer they utter. However, in official Roman Catholic usage, the Trinitarian Formula cited is an invocation which begins a larger service, and not the beginning of individual prayers. Individual prayers seem most always to begin with "O God..." (in Latin, Deus) alone or with amplification. By Amplification, I refer to phrases such as "Lord God..." (Dominus Deus), "Lord God Almighty..." (Dominus Deus Omnipotens...). Individual prayers end with "Through Our Lord, Jesus Christ" (*Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum", again, alone or with amplification. Amplification might be (among others), "who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, World without end (in Latin per qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum). I have available a copy of the Latin service book of the Roman Catholic Church issued in the early 1960's, before Vatican II. I surveyed a sample of the prayers in that book, taking special care to include in the sample prayers where I would expect to see a full Trinitarian salutation or conclusion, and did not find a single example of a prayer starting or ending in that way.

Prayers in official sources (e.g., the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer, and the 1928 US Book of Common Prayer, the Lutheran Book of Worship of the mid-1970's, and the services of the Methodist Hymnal of 1933) showed the same salutations and closings on individual prayers in the services, and showed the use of the full Trinitarian formula quoted in the question only as an invocation, at least in the prayers I sampled.

I would note further, that for most protestants, ending a prayer with "In the Name of Jesus" is exactly the same as using the full "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit", because there is One God, comprised of the three persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so that whether one uses the short form ("In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ") or the long form, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" are both saying the same thing, as either is calling on God.

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Protestants believe that Jesus wants them to pray "in Jesus' name" and they would cite the following verses to warrant their belief:

John 14:13-14 ESV Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

John 14:26 ESV But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

It's also never stated in the bible to pray "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" which is probably why most Protestants don't pray that way--but with Protestantism you can never speak on everyone's behalf.

This passage ↓ says to baptize others in the name of the FS&HS (and that is how most Protestants baptize).

Matthew 28:18-20 ESV And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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Although it may be that most Protestants are unaware of the actual reason and do it for silly reasons such as are cited in the other answers ("Protestants just like to say Jesus a lot, etc.") the original reason is obviously John 16:23

And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.

Jesus instructs that we pray to the Father in his name. To do otherwise would be like if I told you to go to a particular store and tell them David sent you. And instead you showed up at my house saying "Hi David, you sent me." Uh...no, I didn't. That's what its like praying to the Father in the name of the Father. It makes little sense. Praying in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is like you aren't actually praying at all, but just reciting a little speech to the congregation.

  • Ah, but if you pray in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, you are praying in Jesus' name. And given that Jesus' Hebrew name contains YHWH, or at least YH, and we aren't given a name for the Holy Spirit, praying in Jesus' name is praying in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But aye, many who do this are probably reciting a formula. – Wlerin Oct 28 '14 at 16:19
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Lutherans do pray:

Pastor: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost

Congregation: Amen

during a typical service

just as it says in the online hymnal here: http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/online/page5.html

Or see an older 1912 source:

¶ The Congregation shall rise, and the Minister, standing at the Altar, shall say:

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

¶ The Congregation shall sing or say:

Amen.

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In protestant theology, it is only through Jesus' atoning sacrifice that we may enter into the presence of a holy God who is utterly incompatible with sin. We, as sinners, are allowed to pray only because Jesus died for our sins. So to say "in Jesus name" actually means "I know that I can only enter your presence because of Jesus". But of course most Protestants are pretty unaware of the theological connection and use these words out of tradition.

  • Not a bad answer; but is this your personal opinion, or is it the official doctrine of a certain group of Christians? We're looking for the latter type of answer only. I've downvoted for now, but if you can support your answer by providing references, I'll upvote, since this is a thoughtful answer. – Matt Gutting Oct 29 '14 at 14:30
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Mostly because we like to say Jesus a lot. In the good way of course, but obviously the main reason would be that we are only connected to the Father by Jesus and therefore need to pray in His name TO the Father. The Holy Spirit is as we see it empowering us to pray in the first place and again we wouldn't pray in the name of the Holy Spirit. But also we see ourselves as connected to Jesus as the church body.

  • So, Protestants do not pray directly to any other Person of the Trinity than the 2nd Person, Jesus? – Geremia Oct 27 '14 at 19:20
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    @Geremia No, we typically pray TO the Father (like the Lord's Prayer) in the NAME of Jesus. – Narnian Oct 27 '14 at 19:21
  • @Narnian: You pray the Lord's Prayer, though, right? Do you ever pray something like: "Holy Spirit, I love thee and adore thee…"? – Geremia Oct 27 '14 at 19:23
  • That sounds like it would be a really weird prayer for a Protestant. They just don't think of the Holy Spirit in those terms. – Matt Gutting Oct 27 '14 at 19:24
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    @Geremia I personally seldom repeat the Lord's prayer, as I believe it is to be a pattern, not a repetition. I most often pray directly to the Father. I rarely, if ever, address the Holy Spirit directly, except in songs. I do address Jesus personally, but less frequently than the Father. – Narnian Oct 27 '14 at 19:42
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I grew up being raised Catholic, not Roman Catholic... Simply Catholic. When Catholics say "In the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit (or "Holy Ghost"), Amen", it's a reference to the Holy Trinity. The Father IS God himself. The Son IS Jesus, who was the embodiment of God. The Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost, depending on which you prefer to say) is seen as the spirit of God that resides within each of us. IE: All three are God, and God is all three. I hope that makes sense. I know it's a bit weird to say there is one God, yet split him up like that, but the way I understand it, it's a way of saying "God is in all things, God is all, etc". It also goes along with the "Sign of The Trinity" which is the symbol of the cross that is made with the hand as you speak.

As a side note, usually you only SAY all of this for certain prayers or particular services IN THE CHURCH. In my experience it isn't all that common for catholics to say this in personal prayers. Usually a simple "amen" will suffice. Though you will see catholics use the symbol of the Holy Trinity more often. Especially if they are the type to pray at dinner, if they observe the rosary, or observe Christmas with an Advent Wreath.

I grew up with my grandparents, who where both very devout Catholics, and my grandfather was an usher for the church, so I learned a few things. Hopefully some of what I wrote was helpful to you.

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Well, as a protestant (Baptist to be specific, although I consider myself a Christian first, and the particular denomination is just a formality) we pray in Jesus' name because

1 Timothy 2:5-6 NIV For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

So we pray to God the Father in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, because He is the reason we have a relationship with God the Father in the first place. The pastor does end his sermons with a benediction, which is a long prayer, and says "In the name of the Father, the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Ghost", I don't know why that is, I think I'll research it now that you mention it.

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