John 16: 23-24, 32-33 (MsgB)
“This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in My name, according to My will, and He’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!”
“I’ve told you all this so that trusting Me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”
Over the years, I’ve battled, both externally and internally, with the ‘name it-claim it’ crowd.
Without a doubt, I refuse those questionable teachings out there that suggest that you and I can go to God in prayer and secure just about anything and everything we want. Like me, you’ve probably cringed at the preachers who shout from the housetops that if we need or want a new car or a nice home with a swimming pool, all we need to do is go before God in prayer, and name it and then claim it in faith.
But while I can easily reject these faulty ‘name-it-claim-it’ teachings coming primarily from preachers who are obviously off-the-wall when it comes to being biblically accurate, it’s been harder for me to wrestle with Jesus of Nazareth, who in fact, has clearly stated here to His friends that we, as His disciples, are told to go directly to God with our needs and clearly believe in our heart that He will provide them as we ask.
I truly appreciate the way Eugene Peterson transliterates this John 16 passage in The Message Bible. I sense that Peterson here has captured the heart of our Master when he has Jesus stating it this way:
“Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in My name, according to My will, and He’ll most certainly give it to you.”
Since this blog series is all about ‘leadership’ vs. ‘followership’, let’s bring Jesus’ words into play here on the subject. As I see it, for those in the church who insist that ‘leaders’ must play the part of being strong, aggressive go-getters, I’m guessing that particular way of looking at ourselves might truly get in the way of how I interpret Jesus’ words found here in John 16. If I see myself primarily as a ‘dynamic leader’, for example, won’t I tend to come before God with my own good ideas and intentions, lay them before God with passion and drive, and then walk away claiming them to be fulfilled, for His Name’s sake and His glory?
But if I go to God, believing, first and foremost, that I’m simply a ‘follower’ of Christ, my good ideas and intentions must always be laid at the feet of Jesus before any ‘deal’ can be cut with God about answering my prayers.
In other words, if I have a consistent view of always submitting myself and deferring my desires and requests before Jesus prior to my prayers being brought to God, I’m guessing the Almighty can receive them in ways Jesus speaks of here. Otherwise, without that act of submission and deferring, I’m boldly going in front of God and basically treating Him like a holy vending machine! And if that’s my attitude (i.e. that I will get anything I put my mind to), I think I need another think coming. Don’t you?
As I see it, Jesus makes it very clear in this passage that we are not in the driver’s seat when it comes to our working relationship with God. But as God’s child, sitting in the front seat (right beside Jesus, the driver), I can come before God, in an attitude of simple faith combined with a true willingness to defer to the will of the Father, and my prayers will be both heard and received. And, as a beloved son or daughter of God, I can walk away from my time of prayer, knowing that the answer I get will be a good one. Not because my request was necessarily good, but because I know, like Jesus did, that any request submitted to my Good Father, consistent with the will of that same Good Father, can only result in good answers for me.
It seems to me that as I choose to live and pray in this place of ‘defer & ask’, that unshakable assurance and deep peace Jesus speaks of in verses 32-33 will be there, just as He promises.
My prayer: Lord, thank You for these amazing promises You offer us, as Your disciples. Thank You for the understanding that my prayers are important to You. Thank You, as well, for the clarifying the way in which I’m to bring my prayers and requests to God. As I defer to Your Lordship, may my prayers more and more be consistent with Your Kingdom desires and interests, knowing that this approach to prayer will become a blessing of great grace and peace to me as well. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How have I allowed my prayer requests to become ‘self-centered’ or driven only by my personal interests? What might my prayer life look like if I learned the fine art of ‘defer & ask’ rather than utilizing the ‘name & claim’ format found in so many Christian circles today?
So what is God speaking to you today as we follow Jesus the Nazarene, the Leader of the Church?
Between now and the end of 2015, we will be sharing with you a blog series we first developed in 2013. We call it Follow The Leader: Re-defining Successful Leadership from the Gospel of John. In order to keep all 46 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Follow The Leader home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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