“And this is the boldness we have in [Christ], that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.” – 1 John 6:14,15
This week the precocious ladies in Clairmont Presbyterian’s weekly Bible study were asking our questions again. We couldn’t quite wrap our minds around the above verse. Its logic was about as confusing to follow as I have to imagine driving through a roundabout would be when all the signs are in Arabic. But if I’m correct in tracing the logic, it goes something like this: we have obtained our requests when we know that God hears us in whatever we ask, and we know that God hears us in whatever we ask when we pray according to God’s will.
Which had me wondering if God just puts on headphones when we’re asking for the luxury sedan or a second home in Barbados. Or, if God like a snooty DJ only plays the techno requests, plugging his ears when I ask for “Dancing Queen.” Another mother in the study probably had a more accurate intuition: maybe God, a bit like a parent who wants the best for us, just tunes out when we begin to ask for those things that really aren’t good for us or in accordance with what God wants.
“But how could praying for God’s will be bold?,” another mother had wondered.
Her question gave voice to what a number of us were struggling to understand. “Boldness” in our books was more like “approaching the throne of grace with boldness” as the writer of Hebrews puts it: it meant going to God with the conviction that God out of God’s love for us, wants to give us our heart’s desires; it meant presenting our requests in the form of our own hopes and wants, and asking God to act in accordance with them. (God after all could always decide whether these requests were really in accordance with His will.)
Yet I suspect that when Jesus tells us to pray daily for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done, He really is asking us to be awfully bold, only in a way counter to what we’re typically attuned to understand as boldness. Because if truth be told, I want nothing more than my own will to be done. God in Jesus overturns my order of things, an order in which I and those I love come first. But this doesn’t stop me from on most days waking up with an agenda- my own agenda.
There is something terrifying about letting God take the reigns on our lives, isn’t there? It is hard to imagine that God could have something better planned than what we have planned for ourselves. Maybe “boldness” according to God’s definition, then, looks a whole lot different from what you and I would usually describe as “boldness.” “Boldness in Christ” consists in going to God with a blank slate and asking God to write on it, trusting that God is far more than a capricious politician with an Etch A Sketch, but rather has our very best in mind. All the time. In every circumstance.
Maybe the hardest part is relinquishing our will with the knowledge that our very best- God’s very best for us- will take us down a path of suffering. “Whoever follows me must take up his cross,” Jesus says. No wonder most of us our timid in our prayers.