Jesus makes bold and audacious promises about the power and effectiveness of prayer. If we ask, we will receive. But in the process of making claims Jesus also connects specific conditions to these promises. Here’s one final dangerous “if/then.”
Special access: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you ask whatever you wish and it will be given you” John 15:7. Here is a controversy. Christian prayer is discriminatory. When Christians pray they do so wielding a special password: the name of Jesus, who they believe to be the Son of God.
This narrow, and narrowing condition has cost Christians dearly. Down through history many cultures of reacted vehemently to the explicit exclusiveness this condition claims. That is, those who pray in Jesus’ name have access, and those who pray without Jesus’ name do not. The Romans of the first and second centuries would not mind an additional deity added to their pantheon. But when Christians insisted their path was the only true course, all hell broke loose, literally. Followers of Jesus in India today suffer under similar persecution. Some Hindus who worship many gods do not object to anyone adding Jesus to the list. What they do not tolerate his soul allegiance to Jesus alone. Hundreds of Christians in recent years have lost their lives because of such allegiance.
Pluralism is a simpler course. But like it or not Christian prayer is narrow. Jesus said, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” John 14:14. That tag line “in my name” means through my access. Having Jesus’ name prefacing a prayer guarantees an audience with God. The right to leverage Jesus’ name in prayer is literally the power of attorney to assign his identity to our intercession. And this, Christians believe is the key to the release of restorative spiritual power into this broken world. “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 13:6. As hard as it is for pluralists to swallow, Christian prayer is not generic.
This is not to say that God only answers Christians’ prayers. There are many examples of God acting in response to non-Christians’ requests. It is a claim that a Christian’s prayer is given special access because of the relationship Christians have with God through Jesus. Family matters. I will listen and respond when my neighbor’s child asks me to untangle his kite from my tree. I will listen and respond with a higher level of commitment if my son makes the same request. Family matters and Jesus is family. When I use his name I get special insider treatment.
What do you think? Does God grant Christians special access because of their association with Jesus?