9-7-17 - Pre-Blessed Prayers

Some promises are dangerous, offering more than can seemingly be delivered. This statement of Jesus’ strikes me that way: “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” Anything? If even just two of us agree?

Is this a promise with a back-door clause – is it so unlikely that two people on earth would ever fully agree about any request, God has an automatic out? No, let’s assume Jesus was being straightforward. That might leave us doubting God, knowing that we have prayed for outcomes with many people in whole-hearted agreement as to their desirability, without seeing them come to pass. Exhibit A are prayers for healing that are not visibly answered.

This is one of those bible verses that cannot be separated from the one that follows. It only accords with both faith and experience when seen in tandem with this: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (This Sunday's gospel is here.)

Ah, now we’re not only talking about human agreement. We’re talking about being gathered as the Body of Christ, in his very presence. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray as Christ; to pray from inside, as it were; to invoke the power that his very name makes known. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray in agreement with him, and thus to pray with perfect faith. Our own is far from perfect, but Jesus’ is 100%. When we pray with Jesus, not only to Jesus, we have all the faith we need.

So why are some of our prayers not answered as we desire? Perhaps we weren’t quite praying in Christ. Maybe we were bringing forward our desires and seeking God's blessing upon them, like a pie at the county fair. “Here, isn’t this one pretty?” Sometimes that yields answers we recognize. But our prayers feel more effective when we pray what Jesus is already praying for; his prayers come pre-blessed.

What are some of those “unanswered prayers” in your life? I think most of us have some, and they often put distance between us and God. Call one to mind today.
Have you ever asked God what God thinks about that prayer? Ever discussed it with Jesus? Ever paid attention to the Spirit in you when you pray about that?

We might even try asking God: "What is your desire for me in this area?" We might be surprised at how God answers us. We might have to stay still for a time, and attend to what words or images or songs arise in us, now or later.

Prayer isn’t about getting what we want; it’s about deepening a relationship, one that will last forever. We need to speak our desires - that's just good communicating, being real. But the more we cultivate intimacy with Jesus, the more we’ll find ourselves truly praying in his name, his will, his mind, his heart.

And sometimes, as Garth Brooks reminds us, there are reasons we only discover later for what feel like Unanswered Prayers.

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