Asking aright in Prayer: Meditation for the twenty second sunday after trinity
The petition of the Collect for the day is revealing. In praying that God’s merciful ears be open to the prayers of His people, God is petitioned to make them (His people) ask such things as will please Him, so “that they may obtain their petitions.” It indicates the relationship between asking “such things as will please him” and “obtain(ing) their petitions”. It is one thing to ask, and another thing to ask aright in prayer.
It is to be pointed out that when we are urged to ask for “anything”, the “anything” is generally qualified. For instance, when in John 14:13-14, 15:16; 16:23-26; Jesus promised that whatever we ask in His name would be granted, the “whatever” is qualified by “in His name.” Asking in His name does not mean adding the phrase: “In Jesus Name” to our prayers, but making requests that are in keeping or in tune with the mind or will of the Lord (I John 5:14). Asking aright in prayer requires knowing what God wants, and that is through studying His Word, the Bible. Our confidence in prayer is based on our asking according to the will of God, which is revealed in the Bible. Asking in Jesus’ Name is parallel to abiding in Him (John 15:7). It connotes obeying and pleasing Him (I John 3:22) and not seeking for self-pleasure (James 4:3). These are to reflect in our requests, otherwise, we will be asking amiss (not aright in prayer).
The Readings for the Holy Communion service of the day/week (1Kgs 3:3-14; 1Jn 5:13-15; John 16:21-24) illustrate asking aright in prayer and indicate the benefit, namely, our confidence in prayer.
In the OT passage, King Solomon was given a kind of “blank cheque to withdraw whatever he wanted.” But he understood God well enough to know that he should not ask what would offend God. Instead of asking for the things of this life that would gratify his selfish desires, he rather asked for a special endowment to accomplish God’s assignment or fulfil the purposes of God in his life. He asked for a discerning heart to govern the people of God and to distinguish between right and wrong. The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this, and He not only granted his request but also further gave him other things of life, which he did not even ask for, including riches and honour. It was just as the Lord Jesus said: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33).
The Epistle makes the point of confidence in prayer. Asking according to the will of God gives us the confidence that he will hear us and grant us whatever we ask of him.
The Gospel continues with the theme of confidence in prayer. By the reason of Christ’s vicarious death, resurrection and glorious ascension, his name has become a ticket to receiving whatever we ask. We should trust the providence of the Lord such that even when there is a time of grief, we will be assured of the eternal time of joy.
The Ven. Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.