Some new friends on Facebook chimed in with answers to this question, and I found it strange that no one seemed to know what I learned as a child… I guess there are a lot of Teachers out there who grasp the Core of the Gospel — but are missing out on much of the Bible because we now live in bite-size (140 characters at a time) increments… and the Bible is a daunting volume that few Believers of recent generations have fully consumed. What follows is my attempt to explain the answer as I know it — I’m sure I’m missing a few key points and have probably oversimplified things from a scholarly perspective — but I hope it made sense to those folks leaving comments on the original post. -Editor
In the Old Testament, the Israelites had an appointed and annointed priesthood, who were people trained and set aside to carry out the duties of bringing the prayers of the people to God. They were devoted to this task to the point that there were rituals of washing and purity that they had to carry out before they were ‘clean’ enough to approach God with their requests. They would sacrifice animals on an altar that were without flaw — because sin requires a penalty of blood, and this was the acceptable substitute — at the time — for the death of those people (everyone, really) who had sinned.
No one, other than the priesthood, were allowed to enter certain parts of the temple and speak directly to God.
When Jesus Christ was crucified, one of the events that happened simultaneously (but not at the same location as the Cross) was that the veil in the Temple — the place considered to be God’s ‘home’ among the Israelites — the veil which separated the most-sacred part of the Temple from the rest of the structure — the ‘Holy of Holies’ where ONLY the ‘head dude’ among the priesthood (the ‘High Priest’) was allowed to go — this large piece of fabric literally TORE FROM TOP TO BOTTOM … ALL BY ITSELF … as a sign that the people were no longer separated from their God. The human priests were ‘out of a job’.
Jesus lived (sinless) and paid the penalty for our sins with His death, and became the most perfect (unblemished and clean) sacrifice — replacing the former need for animal sacrifices (we don’t do that any more). He also replaced the High Priest’s role as the intercessor between us and God the Father. When we pray to the Father “in Jesus’ Name”, we are borrowing the authority of Jesus to approach the Father, as Jesus the Son of God recommended.
God the Father wants us to be sinless and live His Way (‘Good’ is defined simply as ‘Godlike’ or ‘as God would prefer’) and when we sin we become unworthy to approach Him. But Jesus, the sacrifice for our sins and the payment of the penalty for our sins — and only Jesus — can go to His Father and say, “Dad, I know what this frail human has been through, and understand his pain and struggle in life, and I’m bringing his request to you humbly and ask that You hear him out.” He is our Mediator. He is our Intercessor. He is our Advocate. He is our new High Priest. He, and only He, can bring us into an audience with God the Father.
LINK: “Holy of Holies” (Wikipedia.org)
LINK: “What does it mean that Jesus is our High Priest?” (GotQuestions.org)
LINK: “Why Pray in Jesus’ Name?” (JW.org)
LINK: “Why Do We Pray In Jesus’ Name?” (BibleAnswers.ie)