Thursday, December 1, 2016

Carte Blanche

Over the past month, I have been giving the idea of prayer a lot of thought. I guess it began when I was preaching from Mark 9 when the disciples could not heal the demon-possessed boy. The story concludes with Jesus stating that prayer was needed to drive out that kind. The implication being, the nine disciples not with Jesus on the mountain had not prayed.

As I began to reflect on this statement further, I decided I would have our Community Groups work through a study entitled, Praying with Jesus. The study has been helpful so far, and has prompted further thoughts for me. This past week, I preached through the portion of Mark 10 which includes James and John making a request of Jesus (Matthew records this instance as the mother asking, but the important part is what is requested.)

A few keys to this passage are in the request before the request and in Jesus’ response to the request. First, before James and John ask the question, they preface their request with a statement, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” After they make their request (to sit at Jesus right and left), Jesus does not say, “No.” Instead, he says it is not His place to grant their request. (For more specifics on the passage, click here for the notes from my sermon.)

What James and John did was incredulous. They asked for a blank check from Jesus. “Do whatever we want you to do!” Wow! How bold. How often are we willing to make that request to another human being? Yet, here, the Brothers of Thunder show their brashness by making the request of the God-man.

As I have reflected on these verses, I realize that my prayers do something similar, even if the wording may be a bit more veiled. And my requests may be for others, but asking for a blank check is asking for a blank check, regardless of who you intend the beneficiary to be. Of course, this does not mean that we should not make our requests to God, but improving our understanding of prayer will also make us realize the importance of praying “in Jesus’ name” being far more than a tag-line to sign off from our communication, but rather to pray as He would pray (John 14.13-14).

As one thought has led to another, I keep coming back to one simple thought. While we may often request a blank check from God, the reality is that He is the one asking us for a blank check. Furthermore, only He is worthy of receiving a blank check. I cannot be trusted with such a responsibility, but He can. He knows me better than I know myself. He created me. He cares for me. He provides for me. He gave Himself for me. He loves me. At the very best, those statements are only partially true when reversed, and some might be absurd (e.g. I did not create God).

If that is true, then why am I unwilling to give God a blank check. I am not saying that I haven’t, but I tend to ask Him to hold it for awhile. Or perhaps I take it back from Him for “safekeeping” until I am ready. Really, like my hands are safer than His? So, it comes down to this. If I am not willing to give God a blank check, then I do not trust God. And trust is the basis for faith. So, as logic would dictate, not giving God a blank check means I do not have, or at a minimum am not living by, faith in God.

The reality is that I have experienced far too much of God’s grace and goodness to hold back. I may have given a few blank checks before, but now I give Him the whole checkbook with a simple prayer attached: Let my faith in You always be more than my trust in me.

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