“A Praying Teacher” — Part 3
Jesus makes an impossible promise.
“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14).
Anything? And all we have to do is include his name?
If only the promise were this simple. Many of us have prayed for anything: physical restoration, emotional healing, spiritual renewal — and found nothing.
Is Jesus a liar? Or are we missing a crucial piece of the promise?
Pajamas, In the Name of Jesus
Paul Miller grew up in a cramped 2 bedroom cottage. In the winter, the only place he could fit to sleep was inside the house’s crawlspace. In his words, “pajamas were critical.”
But he didn’t have any.
When he told his mother his dilemma, she made an awkward suggestion: pray for some.
We have to stop right here. Isn’t something criminal happening? Shouldn’t this mother be jailed for neglect? How could a mother tell her little boy to pray for something that he desperately needed to ward of spiders and vermin?
Either Paul’s mother is completely insane, or completely in faith. When we are tempted to believe as boldly as Paul’s mother, we probably feel one of the two.
Avoiding the Insanity = Avoiding the Father
Sometimes we remove prayer from our list of options. We’ll do anything, work any plan, to avoid that humiliating conversation between ourselves and the wall. We logic ourselves out of it to feel better.
He’s probably too busy for my silly needs, anyway.
And so we carve a chasm between ourselves and the Lord. The divide is as wide as our disbelief. And our disbelief is the curse.
In our wisdom, God cannot do it. He is unable. The Creator of the universe simply can’t do it.
Or, in our wisdom, God will not do it. He is unwilling. The Savior of all mankind has a grudge against you for a sin or mistake that you simply cannot let go.
We may call ourselves Christians and live this way, but we are fooling ourselves. We don’t believe in anything more than our own pitiful ability.
When We Do Ask
Or we go all-in. We bring our prayers to God, clinging to the hope that Jesus’ promise might not be a lie.
“Lord, please change my students – I can’t work like this.”
“Jesus, I need this bonus. I can’t pay the bills without it.”
“In the name of Jesus, give me a spouse.”
But so many of these prayers come burdened with conditions and ultimatums. We have an agenda, a plan, that we try to keep hidden in our back pocket. We are asking selfishly.
The Heart of a Giving God
How, then, can we pray? If we’re silent, we deny God the chance to provide. If we’re obnoxiously self-centered, we invite God to smash our egos. Are we hopeless?
God’s word is filled with instructions on how to pray. Jesus gives his disciples a sample, filled with humility and dependence on the Provider. David writes, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” And the Apostle Paul gives us even more honest advice, writing: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know what to pray for as we ought.”
Like so many other spiritual disciples, prayer is a skill that we have been bamboozled into believing we should be automatically good at. But that’s not true. Prayer is hard. Prayer takes practice. Are today’s Olympians are just winging it out there? No. Each has been working and practicing his and her craft for years.
Prayer is an Olympic Sport. And the Games are just beginning.
“Start asking. Don’t just ask for spiritual things or ‘good’ things. Tell God what you want. Before you can abide, the real you has to meet the real God. Ask anything.”
I love the story of Jacob wrestling with God. Jacob led a life of rascality and trickery until God chased him down and zapped him in the hip. It wasn’t a beautiful ballet dance — it was a UFC brawl that lasted all night long. God is a father who invites his children in, even if we come swinging. Before you can bow, you probably to punch – at least to get it out of your broken system.
So pray like a mess. “‘Asking in Jesus’ name’ isn’t another thing we have to get right so our prayers are perfect. It is one more gift of God because our prayers are so imperfect.”
The only way to bridge the gap of unbelief is to ask like a little child who wants a pair of pajamas. The only way to destroy our arrogance is to watch God act as Lord over our lives. Our God yearns to be near to us. And like any loving parent, he longs to give us the things that are good for us.
Like pajamas. Which Paul prayed for.
And he got.