The last two lines of this week’s standard Gospel reading appear to contain an untruth.
“I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” said Jesus. “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
Then why do so many prayers go unanswered? Why do rifts between loved ones not get healed, even if we ask in Jesus’ name for the healing to occur? Why do people continue to suffer when we ask in Jesus’ name that their suffering be ameliorated? Why do our own fortunes continue to be star-crossed?
This is quite a promise Jesus made, and it is a promise that is outlandish because it seems so easy to be found wanting. He sounds like a politician promising what cannot be delivered.
What does He mean by it? What can He possibly mean?
Don’t ask me. I don’t know.
I bet you too don’t know.
Does anybody out there have a good answer? Please supply it in the “Comments” section below this article.
I’m serious. I don’t have a clue.
I also don’t know why this claim shows up where it does, because it doesn’t really mesh well, thematically, with what precedes or follows it. It also doesn’t really mesh with the other readings most churches assign for today: Saint Stephen being stoned to death, God as a rock of refuge, Jesus as a cornerstone for something good yet a stone that makes men stumble and a rock that makes them fall.
The only clue, and the only potential solace, comes a full 13 verses after the promise is made, again apparently somewhat out of context. After promising His peace to His believers, Jesus in John 14:27 says: “I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
So Jesus promises to give us that for which we ask, but tells us that He does not give as the world gives.
So is He saying that He actually does give us that for which we ask, but that we don’t recognize it?
If so, that’s quite a sleight of hand. If I ask you for a cookie and you give me a leaf to chew on and then tell me you gave me what I asked for… well, I wouldn’t believe you, and I wouldn’t be satisfied.
The only thing I can figure is that Jesus is telling us that ultimately — in His time, not in ours — He will give us all we can possibly ask for, and that His sweet peace is indeed what we are really asking for, even though we know it not.
That’s not much solace in the here and now, though.
Right now I just want my cookie.
And I want to believe.
Quin Hillyer is a veteran conservative columnist with a degree in theology. His faith-themed satirical novel, Mad Jones: Heretic, is due for publication this summer by Liberty Island Media.