You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father – John 14:13
I’ve been teaching the book of John at our weekly Bible study, so I thought I’d be a good teacher and read ahead. I was doing great until John 14:13 stopped me. It was one of those times when I’m thinking, I’ve read this passage a hundred times. I’ve even got it underlined in my Bible. So why does it jump off the page now?
Like most people, I’ve often read this passage and thought, Jesus is telling us to pray in His name and He’ll give us whatever we want. How cool is that? But the other morning something else reached out and squeezed my theology. Instead of focusing on what we can get from our prayers, Jesus is teaching us to pray so the answers allow the Son to give glory to the Father. In other words, how many prayers would never leave our lips if we filtered our every word through this idea: How can the Son bring glory to the Father by answering this prayer? Far fewer, I’m sure.
I wonder how often I pray in the “name of Jesus” but to the glory of Jim? Let’s say I pray a good, religious prayer like this before I preach this Sunday: “Lord, bless Your Word this morning. Anoint me so that Your Word is glorified and people hear and are changed. Bless me to be a vessel of your goodness. Amen.”
That’s a nice prayer. However, I also know that in the back of my mind I’m praying like this because I don’t want to appear like I’m a failure in the eyes of the congregation. I want to appear successful, sincere and spiritual. To be honest, a prayer like that is equal parts a true desire to give all glory to God and a hope that I don’t look too foolish in the eyes of everyone watching. Did I say “equal parts?” How about 75% not looking foolish and 25% wanting God to show up and get some praise?
How many things would we stop asking for because we know our prayers are really seeking our convenience, not God’s glory? Perhaps we pray for more money, but we don’t tithe on the income we have now. We have a new car with new car payments, satellite TV with three hundred channels and Smartphone, but we can’t invest in God’s work. And now we have the audacity to ask Him for more money. If God isn’t getting the glory for the money you have now, why should He give you more?
We ask for peace in the home. But the husband treats his wife with disrespect and bullies her into doing things his way, while the wife goes behind his back to get the things she’s sure she needs, and by example she teaches her daughter to do the same. We don’t really want peace; we want everything our way.
We pray for a house because we’re tired of renting. But we haven’t taken care of the home we’re renting. The grass is two feet high, the dog ruined the carpet and the stove hasn’t been cleaned in three years. But we want God to bless us with a new home. Why? So we can mess it up, too?
God is a good of a manager; too good to throw nice blessings at bad investors. I think many of our prayers are never answered because God knows we’d use His resources to glorify ourselves while giving lip service to Him. So I ask once again, for whose benefit are we praying?
Perhaps so few of our prayers are answered is because God knows His glory is not in the answer. This idea is making me examine the motivations of my heart and rearranging the way I present my requests to God. I still know I can ask for anything in Jesus name and He will do it, but only if it brings glory to the Father.
Where does a prayer asking for a blind person to have their eyesight restored fit in? How about someone who is blind, has a speech impediment, is mentally and physically impaired? I have no doubt no situation is too big for God, but I question whether using the “Ask and you shall receive” I want it NOW approach may somehow by contrary with the timing of God’s perfect plan (for my three children). Surely such a miracle would bring glory to God, and possibly even convert some sinners to Christianity. But in Isaiah 35:5-6 it is written: “THEN will the eyes of the blind be opened… the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.” referring to a time during the Millennium. I have faith and believe it a matter of God’s timing. I ask the question because we have been to churches where people prayed for my children’s healing, but without results. Then they treat us as though it is somehow our fault they were not healed. Feeling unwelcome, we leave the church. This has caused us to become hesitant about trying to attend any church. When the children were young, I also begged God to heal them for years, then He showed me the Isaiah verse and gave me a sense of peace. It is a promise and I know a day will come when He will heal them according to His perfect plan. Can you offer any insight? Thank you and God Bless.
This dovetails nicely with the teaching I received on the 3rd commandment. The commandment is against attaching God’s name to causes that are not God’s priority or initiative. In other words, don’t do your will in God’s name and then invoke his power/authority to accomplish this. That would be the same as witchcraft, basically – an attempt to manipulate God’s order for your own purposes.
That understanding actually makes both passages work better for me.
Thanks, Don. I hesitated publishing this one, because I thought a few people might get offended. But then I though, “Hey, I’ve been offending people for years. Just publish it.” I appreciate your taking the time to comment.
The question of why God chooses to heal some and not others is as ancient as mankind. I’m not a scholar, just a man who has been pursuing God for almost 40 years, and I don’t want any answer I give you to seem trite or flippant. All I know is that God, in His sovereignty, sacrifice and unconditional love for us, sees a bigger picture. I know it seems that He would receive a tremendous amount of glory if your children were healed, and even “convert some sinners to Christianity.” But I also think we underestimate, or simply estimate wrongly, what would truly glorify God. In our eyes we say, “I know God would like this,” but in His infinite eyes, He sees things from a different perspective.
Many times our skeptical minds look at a situation like yours and want to ask the question “Why?” Why doesn’t God heal? Why isn’t He hearing my prayers? Why doesn’t God glorify Himself and make my children whole? Skeptics and scientists ask the question “Why?” And to some extent, we’re all skeptics. However, as we mature in our faith, I believe we start to ask the question, “Who?” Who is God revealing Himself to be in this situation? Who am I understanding Him to be in His nature and His love? Jesus asked the question of His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Jesus asked that question of those who were following Him, and it remains a valid question for every one of us today. There are times when we simply will not know the mind of our Sovereign Master, but must trust that whatever He decides to do that, like a good Father, it is for our benefit in the end.
As a pastor, I must say how sorry I am that some churches have treated you so poorly. I don’t understand the attitude that makes you feel like you don’t have enough faith, or it is your fault, if a healing doesn’t occur. I know every church is not like that, and I also know there are churches that specifically reach out to families with special needs children. I pray that God leads you to a fellowship that can be nurturing to you and your family.