To get what you want,
Want what God wants.
I must have been seven when I refused to talk to Santa Claus, when Mom took my younger brother and me to the Ben Franklin Five and Dime.
For the 1960’s the setup was both high-tech and low-rent. Kids were to approach what looked like a shortwave radio, with its exposed tubes supplemented by cheerful bubble lights and pictures of Santa at a similar contraption.
My brother sat to await his audience, giving me time to inspect the apparatus. A brown cable ran up to the ceiling. I stumbled along tracing it downward into a lower level of the store. It disappeared at a door.
As I considered this, a man came up. He said, “Hello, young friend, may I get by?”
He went into the closet and closed the door. I returned to the front, just as my brother was greeted by a crackle and, “Hello, young friend. This is Santa!”
I resolved to participate no more in Santa Claus chicanery.
Yet I got new respect for adults who spoke of Santa Claus. The adults who wrote “From Santa” on sparkly tags not only generously gave presents; they also gave up a claim for attention. I found this… intriguing.
Many people treat God as a better version of Santa Claus, a source of gifts who is not restricted to December and department stores. The procedure to ask God for stuff is to close your eyes, make your requests, and conclude with “in Jesus’ name, amen.”
The idea of ending prayers by saying some form of, “In the name of Jesus, amen,” comes from Jesus’ own words in each of the gospels, for example:
“If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it for you so that the Father’s glory will be shown through the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.”
People develop extreme ideas from this promise, notably: I can get anything as long as I say, “in Jesus’ name”. Or this: if I neglect to say, “in Jesus’ name”, my prayer is junk mail to God. Such presumption to manipulate God by just spoken incantation fails, unless maybe you’re Harry Potter.
The non-prayer purpose of speaking “in the name of” is to give notice that you are acting under direction of an authority or at least with full confidence of that authority’s approval.
In the Bible, people also baptized “in the name of Jesus”, people healed “in the name of Jesus”, and people taught "in the name of Jesus". Jesus' name is not just a prayer thing. It's a credentials thing.
Just saying “in the name of Jesus” does not mean Jesus is on your side.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. In that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ "
Telling God what I wish for, is something God wants. Telling God what God wants by tagging my request "in Jesus’ name," can be presumptuous. Might I sometimes be wrong about what God wants? Is it really what Jesus would approve?
It gets worse. “Amen,” in the Bible means emphatically, “it’s a fact!” Today some people say, "Damn!" for emphasis. Most people today use "amen" only to signal, “I agree,” or “I’m done praying.” Thus, Amen could underscore what I want. However, Amen strikes me as dangerous when attached to, “in Jesus’ name”. The combination means that what I just prayed is what God really, really wants. Really? Even Jesus qualified his request: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Why don’t we end our prayers like Jesus did? Or how about ending, “thank you, that’s all for now.”
I suspect I have several goofy and selfish ideas of what God wants that are not what God wants. But I want to learn. There’s no better knowledge than to know what God wants. There’s no better desire than to desire what God wants. There’s no better action than to do what God wants.
What does God want? You don’t have to guess. The Bible specifies, “God wants …” in simple terms, in a dozen or so spots, using as few as three words. Here is an example that can reduce to nine words:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice,
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
- Micah 6:8
We also learn what God wants by the record of what God does. Not that I can create worlds, roll back the sea, heal the sick, or feed five thousand people. But I can admire creation. I can want to free those who are enslaved. I can want to heal the sick. I can want to feed the hungry. Often with such alignment, I can then be privileged to help God do what God wants.
“Have this mind in you that was also in Christ Jesus…” Having more of God’s attitude in me helps me better intuit what God wants for specific situations. That’s why, instead of writing letters to Santa Claus, I want to be quietly generous like Saint Nicholas—and like God. I want to want what God wants. That is why I remind myself,
To get what you want,
Want what God wants.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.