The Mission of Asking Prayer
Jesus’ theology of asking prayer seems alluring at first, even exciting. Christ woos His hearers in with grand promises of rewarding their deepest desires. This is a promise He intends to keep provided that certain criteria are in play. Then without warning, once we are hooked on visions of our grandeur, success, or personal happiness, comes the sucker punch. If you are not familiar with that term, it is a phrase associated with fighting. It means throwing an unexpected punch, usually to the gut, that your opponent never sees coming and that buckles the opponent’s knees.
If you don’t want to be caught off guard by Jesus, then you need to understand what He said in its original language and context. Like English, the ancient Greek language has words with multiple meanings. One of these words is thelo. It is a word used 213 times in the New Testament in its various forms. Thelo is a word that can be translated as “wishes” or “desires,” and in some translations of the Bible it has been. But a more expansive understanding of the word is “willing” or perhaps “willingness.”
Jesus expands the boundaries of asking prayer. He is daring you to ask beyond your wants. Imagine how frail this immense teaching would be if we were promised answers only to the things we could conjure up within our own desires. What you want has limitations. On the other hand, having a willingness to pray boldly for anything has no boundaries and might include a prayer such as “Jesus, what do You want from me?”
Jesus did not just ask for what you want; He said ask for anything you are willing to ask for. It’s much more difficult to get infatuated with this statement by Jesus when we see it in full context.