I often cringe at the strange things we Christians say and do in the name of Jesus. You’ve probably seen a bumper sticker that says, “Honk if you love Jesus.” That’s the kind of thing that makes me roll my eyes. Last week on my commute I passed a car with this message stuck to the bumper, “Any fool can honk. If you love Jesus, do justice.” This second sticker made me so happy I almost honked!
There’s something new that has been bothering me lately. Everywhere I go these days I hear believers praying the word just. With this word I’d expect insignificant requests. The word just makes me think of a young child whining to his parents, “It’s just an ice cream cone” or, “I just want my toy back.”
But it seems that everywhere I go I hear Christians praying like this —
“God, would you just fill us with your Spirit so we can…”
“God, will you just heal my mother’s cancer…”
“God, I just ask that you would fix this marriage…”
“God, I just need you lead me toward the right job…”
Only worshippers of a powerful, attentive and personal God pray for big things like God’s presence, miraculous healing, and rescue from untenable circumstances. So why do so many of us litter our prayers with a word that, in this context, means only, merely or simply? Why are we praying for mighty acts using limp language?
Now, if we were to say – “Lord, be just and topple the drug lords” or “God, pour out just acts for those who cannot protect themselves,” – I’d not protest. Unfortunately, our just prayers minimize and contradict the content of our requests.
Imagine being granted a private audience with the President to request funds that would alleviate a major problem in our city. Knowing this is a significant opportunity, you prepare your pitch carefully. Would you go before the President and say, “Sir, we don’t need much to fix our city, just one hundred million dollars”? I imagine not.
So why do we go before the God who has promised to provide for us in our need, the Almighty God, and ask him to just do this or that?
Why do we go before God with our hands stretched out to receive but our language tentative?
Ephesians 3:10-12 says, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (NIV, emphasis mine)
What we’ve translated as freedom is a Greek word that is a freedom of speech. It means to speak openly and frankly, without ambiguity. It can also be well translated as “boldness” or “assurance.”
Jesus said to his disciples, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15, emphasis mine) When he ascended to heaven Jesus left his friends in charge of spreading the good news he had shown them. He gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide, convict and inspire them along the way. These friends had no need for a Moses to speak for them or a high priest to be their intermediary. These friends were the beloved children of God with direct access to their Father.
We are they who are charged to take the gospel to the world.
We are they who have direct access to the God who can heal every disease with a word.
We are the heirs of the God of creation and redemption, the God of miracles.
Our prayer should flow out of our identity. There is no need for us to just ask for anything. Friends of Jesus should pray boldly, not weakly. Beloved children of God should pray intimately, with assurance, not with lazy language.
If you are a friend of Jesus, a child of God, then don’t just pray.