Jesus said to his disciples, ‘On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
‘I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’
In his recently published book, A Comedian’s Prayer Book, Frank Skinner writes of prayer as: a long, ongoing conversation with thousands of tabs left open and no helpful ‘new readers start here’ summaries or simplifications. He also describes his personal narrative of prayer as being: like a text message sent between two intimates, devoid of context, devoid of tone or motivation, devoid of normal spelling, punctuation or vocabulary, and devoid of any clear response from the receiver. These two statements help us to engage with Jesus’ teaching in today’s reading. Jesus says to his disciples: Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
Many people turn to God in prayer. The pandemic of the last year has revealed a prayerful longing in the hearts of many, a prayerful longing that had previously been believed to have almost vanished. But, much of that need for prayer was rooted in human need and desire, and not in pursuing the will of God.
Many people turn to God in prayer when they find the circumstances of their daily lives challenging, threatening or tragic. But that sort of prayer demonstrates a lack of mutuality, a lack of communication. That sort of prayer makes no attempt to connect with how God wishes to see our lives play out.
Before pursuing this any further, please do not misunderstand what I am saying! I am not suggesting that God wants some people to live unhappy and unfulfilled lives that are marked out by bouts of sickness or tragedy. But, God does want us to listen as well as demand.
In the Lord’s Prayer, that great model of prayer that was given to us by Jesus himself, there is just one line of intercession: Give us today our daily bread. The rest of that prayer is about hope, and praise, and forgiveness, and deliverance. The majority of the Lord’s Prayer is about our coming into the closest and most intimate of relationships with God. Yes, there is that line which encourages us to lay our needs before him too, but that needs to be done in the context of all those other aspects of prayer.
Jesus says: Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. None of us understands the compete joy of an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. Jesus did understand and know such joy, and yet his earthly life was not without its challenges and difficulties. However, Jesus remained steadfast in his relationship with God in heaven. We are called to do the same.
Let us pray that we might open our hearts and minds to God in a way that allows him to come into our lives and fill it with the complete joy we cannot imagine or create for ourselves.
Let us pray that our dialogue of prayer may be constant and complete as we learn to enter into the parent/child intimacy that Jesus himself modelled for us.