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God versus the genie

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Sermon for the Sunday in the Octave of the Ascension


There are people who say that, if you pray hard enough, God will give you what you want. After all, we hear Our Lord specifically say, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” These people pray for fast cars, huge houses and more money than you could possibly want and expect their prayers to be answered.


What are we to do then? Pray for a fast car? Huge house? Lots of money?


How would we see God if He were to grant these wishes?


That’s the way to see it! God granting wishes!


If we pray like this then we have turned God into a genie. How does a fast car glorify God in Our Lord? He ceases to be glorified in the Son but rather taken for granted in His generosity. Our Lord Jesus cannot mean that He will always answer every prayer we send Him with a “yes!”


[PAUSE]


Our Lord says, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” That phrase “in my name” is crucial here. We need to think of it along the same lines as, “in the name of the Law.”


If a policeman says, “open up in the name of the Law!” you do it. How would you answer, “give me a candy bar in the name of the Law!” Would you feel obliged?


Of course, the context is important, too. We wouldn’t open up in the name of the law if the person demanding it was dressed in a stripy jumper, wearing a mask and carrying a bag marked “SWAG” nor would we object to a petulant shop-owner being told by a policeman to hand over a bar of chocolate for a diabetic who is in danger of falling into a coma.


Only a policeman on duty acting in accordance with the Law can demand things be done in the name of the Law. It’s true also that we can make a citizen’s arrest in the name of the Law but again, this has to be done in accordance with what the Law really says.


And so it is with Christ.


[PAUSE]


As Christians, we can only expect an answer to our prayers to be given when we are acting as emissaries of Our Lord Jesus Christ. To pray in His name is to accept His authority as our King and so we should pray to Him accordingly. Our goal is to glorify God in Our Lord Jesus Christ and that should be our focus.


But what about praying for the things we really want and need? Does not Our Lord tell us to pray, “give us this day our daily bread”?


[PAUSE]


Our first duty as a Christian is to pray. The act of prayer is an establishment of our relationship with God. Right at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer we say “Our Father”. This not only establishes our relationship with God but also reinforces the relationship we have with our fellow human beings. God is Our Father. He is not just Your Father. All true prayer is about recognising where we stand with God. We ask Him to provide our needs and the act of asking Him reinforces Him as Our Father in our lives. He knows what we need to live life before we even ask and the fact that we ask Him means that we are given something we often forget – a relationship with God as Our Father.


We can always ask for a fast car, huge house and lots of money but we must do so for the express reason of glorifying God in Our Lord Jesus Christ and not because we think our life would be better with it. There is only one way that our life will truly be better: Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life and it is only through Him that we will find true, meaningful and Eternal happiness and the answers to all our prayers.


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