You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:16, NIV)Several teachers and friends have drilled into me this truth: Satan knows Scripture, too. And every once in a while, I get proof of it.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26, NIV)
Thursday night. Long day; lots of challenges. A good evening, free of work, dinner with friends. But as I came home, and opened my copy of a devotional book to search for a text for my devotion, I came upon John 15:16. As I read it, this is what I heard, in the back of my head:
I, Jesus, chose you, and appointed you, Steve, to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And when you've done THAT, then (and only then) will the Father give you whatever you ask in my name. (But until you DO that, forget it.) So if you're not getting "whatever you ask in my name," evidently you haven't borne any fruit that will last. Have a nice day.(Believe it or not, I've heard that preached. And yes, to the unspoken question, even in Lutheran congregations.)
Now, trust me - I know better than this. I really, really do. I believe with all my heart that a God who would come to earth, live WITH us and die FOR us would never ask for those kinds of quid quo pro's.
But there are days when my petulant, self-centered heart looks at my prayer list, and how few of those requests appear to have been responded to, and I can start to buy into this kind of trash thinking. Like today. Days when my heart can twist a scripturally based plea like "How long, O Lord?" into, "All righty, GOD - can I buy You a new battery for Your hearing aid? Because You're clearly not hearing me!"
Thankfully, whatever portion of my soul was still Spirit-connected skimmed forward in my devotional, and was led to these blessed words from Romans 8:26: "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."
Well, dear Lord, I am definitely weak. And there are days like today when I truly should not even be in charge of my own devotional life - because I would probably be able to complicate a screwdriver and mess up a free lunch, all in the same prayer.
I can trust that on nights like tonight, I can simply ask the Holy Spirit to intercede for me - to ask God for what I cannot name, to confess to God what I cannot speak, and to ask a blessing from God that I know I'll never deserve.
To me, dear Lord, thhis is the definition of "Amazing Grace"...the grace I cannot earn, the love I can't describe or measure, and the hope that works best for the hopeless.
Thank you, God - for all of it.