Sometimes I find that Jesus says things that don’t make sense to me.
Maybe they are going to pull my “pastor card” for writing that, but it’s true. Perhaps I could phrase it a bit differently. Maybe it would be more agreeable to say that “Sometimes I find that Jesus says things that are very difficult to understand.” Or maybe I could soften it by writing that “Sometimes I find that Jesus says things that really challenge me to grapple with exactly what Jesus means.”
Whatever. The point is the same. Jesus made some really provocative and problematic statements. We studied one of those troubling statements together on Sunday morning as we continued in our “Let Us Pray” Sermon Series and congregational ExperiLent. In John 14:13-14 Jesus says,
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Author Megan Hill writes that she was talking with her young son about prayer and they were looking at this verse together and her son declared, “That’s not true!” Jesus doesn’t do whatever I ask. And that little boy was right. It is not true that Jesus does whatever we ask.
But as we saw in the sermon on Sunday (which you can listen to here) Jesus did not promise to be our personal Genie and do whatever we ask when we rub, rub, rub the magic lamp of prayer; Jesus promised to do whatever we ask in his name.
To come to God in Jesus’ name means several things. The first thing it means is that you are a Christian. It means that Jesus’ name is on you. One prevalent metaphor in the New Testament for what happens when someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ is that he or she is adopted into God’s family (John 1:12-13 is a great example).
When you are adopted, you legally come under the care of your mother and father and you have rights. Prayer is something wherein God agrees to give you access to Him, because you have his name, you have been born into his family. So to come to God in prayer in Jesus’ name, begins by taking the name of Jesus, by receiving Jesus through faith and becoming a part of God’s family.
To pray in Jesus’ name also has something to do with our motives for prayer. As we talked about in depth on Sunday morning, Jesus’ prayer life had God’s glory at the center of it. Prayer is given to the disciples as a powerful resource to empower them to live as Christ’s agents in the world and to seek the glory of the Father. Just as Jesus prayed that God’s will would be done, God’s purposes accomplished in the world, and glory brought to the Father through Jesus’ life, we pray in Jesus’ name whenever we subordinate our worldly desires to the will and desires of the Father.
Jesus never rebukes his followers for praying for things in their lives; in fact he repeatedly and explicitly encourages them to do so. But there are two ways to pray every prayer. One way is to pray with myself and my desires at the center, the other is to pray with God’s glory at the center.
This week as you pray with your prayer partner, let me encourage you to submit not only your prayers to your loving Heavenly Father, but to submit your very prayer agenda itself to God, asking him to help you to know what to pray so that His Kingdom would come, His power be revealed, and His glory be made known.
Grateful to be alongside you in discovering how Jesus desires to use us as his agents in the world,