If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. Most assuredly I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. (John 14:14; 16:23)
Sitting by the old Monk, Maple continued, “I guess my question is this: does prayer work?”
The old Monk thought for a moment. “I suppose that all depends on what you want it to do.”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you praying to get God to change his mind? Then no, prayer doesn’t work.”
“You’ll have to explain that.” And then she added, “Please.”
The Monk took a deep breath. “You want something. Anything. You believe God is the one who can get it for you. You pray for it. Nothing happens. Next you pray really, really, extra-hard in order to get God to change his mind. Still, nothing happens. Foolishness, right? That’s why my answer is no, prayer doesn’t work. It never has. Not in that sense.”
“But what if what I want is good? You know, not selfish in any way, but good in a noble sense?”
“Hmmm. If what you want is that good, go make it happen yourself.”
“But what if what I want is truly good, but it’s beyond my abilities?”
The Monk looked over at her with the most deeply understanding smile, but still remained silent.
“OK, suppose my mom is sick. Dying even. And I want her healed. It’s beyond my power to heal whatever disease she has. Can’t I ask God for her to be healed?”
“Ask away, my Child. God may say yes, he may say no. Either way, it’s not going to change his mind.”
“What about when Jesus said, Ask anything in my name, and it will be yours? Doesn’t that mean something?”
“It means something alright. Just not what most people think it means. Or want it to mean.” The Monk paused before continuing. “Many people think it means to tack on the phrase In Jesus’ name I pray to the end of prayers – then you get what you want.”
“Isn’t that what it means?”
Maple waited quite a while for a longer answer, but got none. “Can you help me out more than that?”
“What do you do for work?”
“I’m an administrative assistant for an importing business. Mostly decorative things. Art, rugs, stained glass, carved wood. Always handmade. Things from Asia and Africa. Some from Europe. None of that cheap Chinese plastic stuff either – our stuff from China is fantastic. It’s actually pretty enjoyable work most of the time. And my boss, she’s fabulous. Knows her stuff. And we get to see a lot of interesting things come through.”
“Has she ever had you write a letter for her?”
“Of course. An administrative assistant does a lot of that.”
“Has she ever had you sign her name at the bottom of a letter?”
“All the time.”
“And she’s OK with that?”
“She’s the one that tells me to do it.”
“Do you determine the content of the letter?”
“Of course not.”
“Why not?” he pushed.
“If I’m going to sign her name, then she tells me what the letter should say. I mean, it’s going to have her signature. She’s got to determine the content.”
“So if you were to type a letter with what you wanted, but sign her name at the bottom, how would that work out?”
“I’d likely be fired,” Maple admitted.
“So you can’t just type your own letter with what you want and tack your boss’ name to the end?”
“That would be unethical.”
“But it would be in your boss’ name,” the old Monk countered.
“I see what you’re doing. And no, it wouldn’t be in her name. To be in her name, the content has to be what she wants it to be.”
The Monk was silent.
Maple thought and then continued, “So if I pray in Jesus’ name, then the content has to be what he wants, not what I want. The signature is a formality. The content is what matters,” Maple concluded.
She eventually continued, “So to pray in Jesus’ name means to pray for what he already wants. And so asking something in his name isn’t going to change his mind, because unless you were praying for what he already wanted, then you’re not praying in his name in the first place.”
She paused before continuing, “And I suppose tacking on his name to something he doesn’t want is unethical. And I bet that’s why most of my prayers never went the way I wanted them to – that’s why my prayers felt so empty. At least I hope he’s nice enough not to fire me.”
The Monk chuckled.
“But then what’s the point of praying at all?”
And then Maple arrived at the destination: “Is it to understand what God wants? If praying isn’t to change God’s mind, then what’s left? Obviously praying is to change our minds to what God wants.”
“My Child, praying for what God wants is where the real power starts to happen. Sometimes world-changing power – oh, yes. Sometimes life-changing power. Most often just day-changing power, and that’s quite enough for the day. But when you pray for what God wants, there is always power.”
© 2018 Christopher Martin Wojcik. Used by permission.