If there’s one thing that encourages a Christian to pray, it’s Christ’s words to His disciples in today’s Gospel: Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Jesus makes a twofold oath with this encouragement. He’s not kidding. Whatever you ask the Father in Christ’s name, He will give it to you. Then comes another encouragement: Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. If it isn’t enough to have a promise that whatever you ask the Father in Jesus’ name He will give it to you, now you have an invitation to ask in order that your joy may be full.
So how come you don’t have everything you want, let alone everything you need? Where are the dream house, the dream car, and financial security? Where’s a lifetime of never being sick? Where’s the disappearance of cancer, especially among young children? Where are all the people you love who have died? Why haven’t they returned to life?
That’s what we might be thinking when Jesus encourages us to pray. Lost in the middle of all the things we’ve prayed for that never happened, or yet to happen, are these words from Jesus two chapters earlier in John’s Gospel: Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
The last clause is the heart of the matter. Does your desire of whatever earthly creature comforts you think are necessary glorify our heavenly Father in Jesus Christ? Raising someone from the dead certainly would, but we have no certain promise in Scripture that anyone will be raised from the dead before Judgment Day. Some types of cancer are treatable. Many cancer victims go into permanent remission. Yet other cancer sufferers die. It’s not as if the Father in heaven spins the roulette wheel of life to see who lives and who dies.
What, then, glorifies our heavenly Father in Jesus Christ? The epistle reading for today from James gives us a clue: Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. So how do you do the word? Better still, do you merely listen to the word, or do you do what the word says? What does the word say in the first place?
The word says believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Your salvation is not your own work. God works salvation in His grace, His undeserved love for you, for the sake of what Jesus Christ does for you in His perfect life, His perfect death, and His glorious resurrection from the dead. Christ is at the center of everything your heart desires. He alone is the doer of the word; at least the doing that avails before His Father. To do the word is to believe in Jesus. To hear the word creates the desire to do the word. Yet the word is never done perfectly among us. All the more to cling to the word of Jesus, Who tells you plainly about the Father. You abide in Him and He abides in you. His word of reconciliation covers your sin and delivers life.
The disciples think they “get it” when Jesus promises to tell them plainly about the Father. Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God. It was naive at best for them to assume this about Jesus. They were about to see something that would change their lives. After Christ’s ascension to His Father, the Holy Spirit would descend upon them. Jesus also opened their minds to the Scriptures so that they could, as it were, see the top of the puzzle box and how all the pieces fit together. The word and the Spirit go together in the Christian Church, opening minds and hearts to hear salvation in Jesus Christ.
The joy that we have in Jesus is amplified in believing that whatever we ask the Father in Jesus’ name, specifically when we ask for matters pertaining to our life in Jesus Christ, He will give it to us. There are times when our trust in Jesus for eternal life wavers. Our sinful nature takes our eyes off Jesus and puts them on what we must do or have not done. The words of Jesus today come as a refreshing reminder that you shouldn’t be bashful to ask for stronger faith, a merry conscience, or renewed joy in believing that eternity is yours for Christ’s sake.
It’s a hard sell for a person who is both sinner and saint at the same time. Remember, you’re not so much asking for a five percent reduction in being sinner or a five percent increase in being a saint. You’re asking for a stronger confidence in Christ; a confidence that places all hope against hope in the Eternal Word born in the flesh as a carpenter’s Son from Nazareth Who gives His holiness and His righteousness to you as a gift.
If the twofold oath isn’t enough to convince you, then consider the simple request to Ask. Our ears hear this as a command, as if we had better do it or the boss will come along and scold us for not asking. The thrust of the request, though, is more like a reminder. Now that the Father is well-pleased with you because He is well-pleased with the aroma of His Son’s all-availing sacrifice on the cross, you get to ask Him in Christ’s name for those things that glorify His Son.
Maybe your earthly father hated it when you asked questions or made a request. Perhaps that makes you gun-shy to ask your heavenly Father for something. That’s why Jesus bids you to Ask…that your joy may be full. This Father cannot wait to hear your petitions. Don’t say no. Open up your treasure chest of questions and requests. He’s all ears. He has all the time in the world for you. In fact, He loves it when you ask Him. He’ll never get annoyed with all your pestering because you are not pestering Him. His joy is full because of Jesus.
The Ferrari, the mansion, or the windfall may not be yours, but so much more awaits you when you ask the Father in Jesus’ name. Salvation is yours. Eternity is yours. Ask in Jesus’ name. You will receive it or even something better. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.