Rev. Donavon Riley
If only God had a limp, he'd be easier to chase down. It always seems like he's ten feet away, just out of reach, and backing away. So you begin to edge near him, arms out, hands held palms up, ready to clutch at him. You're going to get what you want from him, even if you have to chase him out of the county. You want what you've asked for and you're going to have it even if you have to chase him out of the state. You can see it now. Walking through the front door, an overstuffed bag on each arm. "Where'd you get all that stuff," they'll ask. "I asked God for it," you say. "It took some convincing, but he finally made good. I had to tear after him straight out into the open for half an acre. I lost him in some woods, but when he darted out again I went after him. I ripped my shirt and the sleeves going under a fence, and my face and arms got all scratched up," you say. But nobody is listening, because you're standing in the doorway with two overstuffed bags of answered prayers.
For you, I've got a good nights sleep. For you two, no more arguing. For you, early release from prison. For you, I've got a pantry full of food. For you, no more guilt about the abortions. For your family, the truth about his drinking. For you, the confession we've been waiting for for forty years. For you, the leukemia's gone. For you, your little boy raised from death. And for all of us, no more chasing after God. I caught him. God. Good Father, good God. Our Father who art in heaven, take that sucker.
And we'll have a good laugh. All that chasing amounted to something. Then we'll go play pool, and smoke cigarettes behind the church, and sneak in after twelve-thirty on Saturday nights, but we can do that now. We asked God and he answered our prayers. He had to give us his blessing. He can't fight us anymore. We've got him. He's ours and he's going to love us no matter what. No more talk about sin and Satan, and walking in his tracks. No more weeping. Real men don't weep anyway. No more grinding your teeth or making an ugly face.
You want to drink? Get stinky drunk. It's okay, I asked God. Want to steal from your neighbors? We can do that. I prayed for it. God can't stick anything in our face anymore that we didn't ask for, and he's not going to make us chase after stuff all afternoon anymore either. Just grip your hands, bend your knees, and say, "Good Lord, Jesus God, give us this day our daily sign. Send us a preacher to tell us Sunday's are optional. Thank you that things aren't as bad as they used to be." And don't worry, if things go bad again, just ask God. He'll turn something up for you.
"That's some God," people will say. "How do I get a God like that, who'll give me whatever I ask for in his name?" "You can't," you'll say. "I captured him, and he's one of a kind. If you want something you've got to run it through me. I'll ask him for you, if I have time. But I have to go now, I'm in a hurry."
And when you look back you see that they're following you. "God, you're so wonderful," you think. "Look at all those people who want to ask me to ask you for something. I'm so thankful that you answer me, I want to do something for you. I wish there was somebody begging right now. I'd give him all the change in my pocket." So you pray, "Please, Lord, send me a beggar." And you know for a fact God will send you one. You asked him for one. "Maybe I'll ask for a whole bunch of money," you think, "then I can take care of all the beggars." "I'll build houses for all of the beggars, and buy food for them, and give each of them a new car. That'd be good," you say. "But why stop there? Why stop there, when I can stop death? I can ask God to stop death, then we'll never have to worry about anything bad ever again."
Then the crowd catches up with you. They tell you they don't need your prayers anymore. They hunted up God on their own and captured him. Now he's got to give them what they want. They don't need to wait for you to pray for them anymore. In fact, they may just ask God to punish you for ignoring them, and making them wait.
So you cry out to God, "Why are you doing this to me? This isn't the way it's supposed to go. You said ask for whatever I want. You have to give me whatever I ask for." But instead of an answer God sends Jesus, who says, "Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you." "Well, what does that mean," you ask. "It means you pray in my name the prayer I prayed to my Father." "And what's that," you ask. "Father, take this cup from me... But not my will, but your will be done." "Thy will be done," is what it means to pray in my name. "Not your will, but his." "And what is his will," you ask. "That you pass with me through suffering and death into new life. For in this new life you will be shown that all things are given to you as gift from his fatherly hand. Before you asked, everything was already given to you on account of what I've done for you." All Jesus. All gift. Heavenly joy.
Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:23-24)
Pastor Donavon L. Riley is pastor at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Webster MN. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
Created: May 11th, 2015