Did Jesus give us a blank check?
May 1, 2016
Rev. Michael A. Trask
In today’s gospel Lesson, Jesus makes what appears to be a rash promise. To his disciples he actual says: “I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” Whatever? This sounds like the proverbial blank check.
That’s how it appears. And that’s exactly how some take it. “Name it and claim it!” they say “You want to be rich? You want to be popular? You want to have power? All you got to do ask the father in Jesus’ name!”
Now perhaps there was a time when you did what others have done. You prayed for something; you prayed really hard for something. You prayed for a miracle and a a miracle wasn’t given and that soured you a little bit. It seemed like this promise was not true. And during your life, you have become something of a prayer skeptic. Not a hostile skepticism. You don’t want to feel this way, but you do. But there is help out of this rabbit hole with the closer examination of the text.
“Whatever you ask of the father in my name he will give you” What does it mean to speak to God in Jesus name? That’s the part of this promise that is often overlooked. We grab hold of the “Whatever” and “he will give it to you” and run with it, but we skip the all important middle part where Jesus says “In My Name”. What does that mean? It’s a lot bigger than you might expect.
To pray in Jesus name… is to approach God on the basis of what Christ has done for you. Because we are Americans we like to think that we have a rights… and because we’re so used to demanding our rights, we imagine that this American way of thinking translates into our relationship with God. I have a right to talk to God! Everybody should have equal access.
But God is not an American. He doesn’t salute our flag nor does he consult the constitution of the United States when deciding how he’s going to regard us. He has his own law. And if you compare how we have lived to that law, you will quickly discover that we are in violation of the Law of God. We are in violation of God’s law by our thoughts, words, and deeds. In ourselves, we have no right to even look at God, much less ask him for anything in prayer.
This is why Jesus is so central to prayer… he has made a way for us to approach. Hebrews chapter 10: 19“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” Jesus opened a way into the presence of God for sinners like you and me…by his blood shed. The righteous accusations of the law that stand against us are covered by Christ’s blood shed for us. It is this thing that Jesus did, that made God our Father. It’s is this thing that Jesus did that opens a a way for us to approach God and ask him for things.
Now think of the lightness that this can bring to how you think about your prayers. People often feel so much guilt when they pray. They often preface their prayer with “God I haven’t asked you for much” or “God if you do this, I will do that.” and attempt at a bargain. But there should be no guilt and no bargaining. You do not come before the lord on the basis of your record, but Christ’s record. When Gods sees you, who are in Jesus, he sees not your sins, but his Son. You don’t have to be so apologetic. He’s not going to be stingy with his answers and help because of some grudge that he bears against you for something you did and confessed long ago. In Christ’s name you can simply speak to your loving father in prayer. There is a lightness to prayer in Christ.
To pray in Jesus name is to approach God on the basis of what Jesus has done for you. The same is true for all worship. It is only on the basis of Jesus that we can approach God at all.
So far, I haven’t answered the original question have I? How does “In my name” inform the meaning of this text which says “Whatever you ask of the Father he will give it to you.” How does “in my name affect that.” It’s pretty simple actually. Let’s suppose you have been appointed to be the spokesman for your employer. You would be speaking in the name of your employer. You would not represent your own views and desires, but those of your employer. Same goes for medical situations. Each of us, will at one time find ourselves in the position of acting in the name of another when it comes to medical issues. And when we do that, we do our best and are conscience bound decides as the person we are speaking for would decide. We understand that when we are acting in the name of another that it would be wrong to act outside of their will.
When we pray “in Jesus name” we are speaking under his authority. This means that when we pray we seek to do in the way that he would do it. To pray for evil can therefore not be done in Jesus’ name. He will not be party to our curses. Nor would he encourage envy or greed or arrogance, or hatred, or rage, revenge, or any of that kind of stuff. Therefore to pray in Jesus name is to pray according to the will of God. For that’s how Jesus would pray it. So the
“Whatever you ask” in this promise is not a blank check. It is tempered by “in my Name.” And this is not truly limiting, remains a gazililion things you can pray for. If prayer is limited it is limited in that it prevents us for bringing evil or hurtful things upon ourselves and others… and I for one am quite pleased for this fail-safe. This is a great blessing.
Another thing we have to be aware of is that Jesus never promised us that he would make us super happy and super successful with trouble-free lives. If you go to the full context of this promise; in the same conversation, jesus says to his disciples, “You will be scattered” and “In this world you have tribulation.” Even the disciples, the future apostles would not have lives full of bliss. Sometimes, it is the will of our Lord that we endure suffering. Jesus said “Whoever would come after me must take up his cross and follow.” So there will be times when God will say “no” to our prayers, but only when he’s got something better in mind for us.
You see the Lord’s focus is broad and long term, in comparison, ours is kind of narrow. All of us can remember various times in our lives when we had to slog through difficulties. In the midst of these difficulties we thought we were about to lose our minds, but looking back, we can see that it is often the difficult times that make us stronger and better. If you never had to work hard, if you never had to sweat, If you never were confused, never had trouble, never had sorrow, you would be rather shallow I think.
The beauty of prayer is that as you go through all of this, you go through it in conversation with your heavenly father…who loves you to pieces. AMEN