Thursday, September 17, 2015

Prayer: Asking Anything In Jesus' Name

Tree in Monroe
I was talking with someone about John 14:13-14 where Jesus says, "I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." My friend asked me: "How are we to understand these words? Surely it doesn't mean we can pray for just anything and God will comply!"

Here's my response to them. 

1) In context, Jesus says "I am in the Father and the Father is in me." This is Trinitarian stuff, the perichoretic union of mutual indwelling and interpenetrating and co-inhering. Peri-choresis means: to dance in a circle (from "peri'" [around], and "choresis" [dance; cf. Plato's use of this word as "cosmic dance" in the Timaeus]. In the Godhead we have the Big Dance of Everlasting Relationship. Jesus' words about "asking anything" are understood in this Trinitarian context. 

2) Jesus invites anyone who puts their faith in him to the Big Dance. This is huge! David Crump of Calvin College states its hugeness when he writes: “Divine union is at the heart of the Gospel of John. Jesus is the one sent from the Father to lead his people into a provocative, new terrain of perichoretic union with God” (slightly edited by me). The Father comes to make his home in us. Jesus is the Vine, the Father is the gardener, and we are the branches. What we say and what we do now comes from unity with the Godhead.

3) Understand points 1-2 above and you will understand praying as: talking with the Godhead about what we are thinking and doing together. Real Prayer comes out of the Big Dance. N. T. Wright, in his commentary on John, writes: "Praying 'in Jesus' name', then, means that, as we get to know who Jesus is, so we find ourselves drawn into his life and love and sense of purpose. We will then begin to see what needs doing, what we should be aiming at within our sphere of possibilities, and what resources we need to do it. When we then ask, it will be 'in Jesus' name', and to his glory; and, through that, to the glory of the father himself (verse 13). But, when all this is understood, we shouldn't go soft on that marvelous word anything. He said it, and he means it." (64)

When we are in spiritual sync with Jesus anything we ask in prayer will concern what he is thinking and doing. Within this context my understanding is that God, by his love and grace, is open to suggestions.