Friday, November 7, 2008

The nature of Christ

The other day, I read a quote by George Buttrick: "Jesus laid a constant stress on the act of faith: 'All things, whatever ye ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.'  In the silence of prayer we say to ourselves that whatever we ask 'in the nature of Christ' is ours, granted only our earnestness in prayer and life." (Emphasis mine.)

For most of my Christian life, I've tooled my prayer with the Name of Jesus.  I've taken seriously His call to pray all things in His Name.  But it's also true that not all of my prayers have resulted in the outcome I was praying for.  As a teen and college student, in my most private prayer times, I prayed for a particular boy to return my feelings.  In college, I stormed heaven on this subject, and for a while, it looked as if my prayers reaped the result I wanted.  But eventually, after giving me a Saul (the king the people wanted because he looked right), God took Him away, thankfully, and replaced him with a David (the unexpected but bent-on-God king).  I don't admit all this easily now, but it's part of my history so there it is.  I was emotional, earnest and honest with God.  And He did not give me what I wanted, no matter how often I 'claimed' my desire in Jesus' Name. But there have also been other things I've prayed for, other more mundane things.  Other more far-reaching ones.  I prayed for Beve's mom to be healed of cancer, for my dad's life not to bleed away inexplicably.  And when God said no to these requests, I said, "Your will be done," through my tears, believing that healing sometimes comes on the other side of earthly mortality.  I do believe this, because I believe fully that life doesn't end with our last breath in these bodies.  And I've prayed for my own healing as well, given up that request, and taken it back again, depending on pain level and ability to cope.

I don't think I'm the only one who has struggled with the idea of praying in His Name.  In fact, I think many of us pepper our prayers with, 'in Jesus' Name' like we're putting our money in a God-sized slot machine, hoping to win a jack-pot with the coinage of the proper phrase. But perhaps we miss what Buttrick means by this evocative 'in the nature of Christ.'

But this phrase opened something up  that I need in my prayers.  In Old Testament times, even in the time of Jesus, a person's name was thought to reveal something about one's character--one's nature. Abram, which means 'exalted father' became Abraham, 'Father of many.' David, 'Beloved of God,' and Jonathan, 'friend,' are a few examples that come to mind.  Those names tell us who those people are, what they are to God. 
So Jesus' name also says something about His Nature.  Praying through Christ's name actually equals, in some profound sense, praying according to the Messiah's character, the Son of God's way.  How powerful this is to consider.  Really.

What if we carefully meditated on what HE wants in a particular situation, what is True of Him in all our desires, and prayed accordingly? What if His nature is the deciding factor of our prayer, our one aim to please that Nature? The Beve often says, when I'm on about one thing or another, "I don't think God cares about that."  It draws me up short, it really does.  In one sense, of course, Beve is entirely wrong, because there is nothing about us that He doesn't care about.  Nothing is too small for His interest in our lives.  But, in some essential way, Beve is completely right.  A friend of ours told me a year or so ago, that he believed that God had called him to a particular profession--teaching and preaching--but not specifically to the university in which he practiced that calling.  This was provoking to me at the time.  I couldn't quite imagine that this successful professor wasn't geographically where God wants him as well.  But I've come to understand it a little better with this idea of Buttrick's.  It's the doing of our call that He cares about, it's the dwelling with Him, wherever we land that He's interested in.  Time and place mean something different to God than they do to us.  All is relative in eternity.

If we pray for a person to come to the call of Christ--the essential call to salvation--we can be certain we are praying in His Name/Nature.  For He wants all to be saved, He tells us.  If we are praying for eyes to be enlightened spiritually, for those we love to grow up in Christ, we are smack dab in the middle of His desire for us.  But outcomes of games, money for a particular vacation, toy, whatever--we must ask ourselves how such things or events, etc--further the Kingdom.  How we can participate in the Kingdom in our praying.

The nature of Christ, first, last and in between, means surrender to the Will of the Father.  And it's there we also must land. His very nature, His very name finally, fully realized by the cross.  In our lives as well.
Amen.

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