Christianity 201

January 15, 2014

Just Ask It

When Jesus told his disciples, “Ask anything in my name and it will be done…” scholars might wonder what type of blanket prayer requesting he was authorizing. Can I ask God for a new car? The one we have is getting old, and I think it’s a fairly valid request.

If you believe that repetition solidifies and establishes doctrine, then you’re in good shape here because the offer of an answered prayer appears three times in Jesus’ Olivet discourse:

  1. John 14:13 & 14

    And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

    Other Translations

  2. John 16:23
    In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

    Other Translations

  3. John 16:24
    Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

    Other Translations

Couple this with other faith-building verses like “With God nothing will be impossible,” and my new car is practically driving up my driveway on its own.

Despite this, there is another passage entirely that theologians refer to sometimes as “the prayer God will always answer” and that is found in James 1:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

In a way, asking God for wisdom is a form of surrender. It’s saying that he is greater than I. It’s saying that I don’t know everything I need to know. It acknowledges that we are utterly lost in certain arenas of life.

Years ago, a popular worship chorus was the “Cares Chorus.” In our church, we sang it a little different from the lyrics in the video that follows.

I cast all my cares upon you
I lay all my burdens down at your feet
And anytime I don’t know what I should do
I will cast all my cares upon you.

I pointed out to our congregation that the melody in the line “I don’t know what to do” goes up really high musically. I just picture a little kid throwing up their hands in utter helplessness, and it’s not surprising that the song was also popular in Children’s ministry.

What got me thinking about this is the current #AskIt series of sermons running at North Point Community Church. (As messages are posted, you can view them at justaskit.org) The theme of the series is this prayer:

Ask It

Across the North Point viewing audience, people are making their own graphics of the prayer, and you might see these on Facebook or blogs:

In light of my past experiences, current circumstances and future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do?

I believe that just as the Lost Son’s father came running down the road to meet him, so also does our heavenly father want to run to us with the wisdom we’re requesting.

I’m not saying the other prayers, prayed in sincerity, in faith and in right motives won’t get answered, but I believe that the best place to learn to exercise the John 14 and John 16 kind of faith is with a James 1 kind of request.

July 14, 2010

Love Unknown: This Isn’t The Answer to Prayer I Wanted

From yesterday’s modern worship song, we flash back more than a hundred years for the song “Love Unknown” (the tune name, which I chose as the blog post tile) better known as “Oft When of God We Ask.”  And yet, there’s something very contemporary about these soul-searching lyrics, and approach to its theme: Trusting God in trials.   It’s almost out-of-sync with other hymns from the same era.  (Or perhaps, with the hymns that have survived with which we are now familiar.)    The writer is Thomas Toke Lynch (1818-1871).   I tried to find a video for this, but as you can imagine, this is a very obscure hymn.

Oft when of God we ask
For fuller, happier life,
He sets us some new task
Involving care and strife ;
Is this the boon for which we sought?
Has prayer new trouble on us brought?

This is indeed the boon,
Though strange to us it seems :
We pierce the rock, and soon
The blessing on us streams ;
For when we are the most athirst,
Then the clear waters on us burst.

We toil as in a field,
Wherein, to us unknown,
A treasure lies concealed,
Which may be all our own:
And shall we of the toil complain
That speedily will bring such gain ?

We dig the wells of life,
And God the water gives ;
We win our way by strife,
Then He within us lives ;
And only war could make us meet
For peace so sacred and so sweet.