Ask Away in Jesus’ Name – Br. Curtis Almquist

John 14:7-14

Br. Curtis Almquist

I well remember in my early adolescence discovering these words from the Gospel: Jesus telling us when we pray, “I will do whatever you ask in my name.”[i]That really got my attention! I began asking away, and for a great many things: that I would get an “A” on my geography test. That I would win the prize at camp. That Martha, my classmate with whom I was smitten, would like me. That Butch Hendricks wouldn’t beat me up after school. That my Aunt Ingeborg would get over her cancer. That I would make the cut on the basketball team, and get a uniform. I prayed almost without ceasing. I asked for everything and anything on my mind. It didn’t work most times. And so I got up early to pray. I stayed up late to pray. I clasped my hands when I prayed. I opened my hands when I prayed. I closed my eyes; I opened my eyes. I knelt beside my bed. I secretly carried my Bible to school in my backpack. I memorized Bible verses. I avoided cracks on the sidewalk.  I avoided odd numbers. I promised to eat all my vegetables.  I ate all my vegetables. I didn’t chew gum at school. I promised never to cheat.  –It was like trying to open a safe which I knew was full of treasure. If I could only get the combination right, I knew I could make this verse work: that I could ask Jesus for anything, and I would get it. It didn’t work. Not often. It sure wasn’t anything to depend on, and I remember “dropping” this Bible verse, like dropping a fad.  

It was the context of Jesus’ invitation that I only later discovered. The weight of what Jesus promises is not on the word “ask” but on two other words: the pronoun ‘you’ and the word ‘name,’ Jesus’ name. What about the name?

There is an extraordinary amount of power in knowing someone’s name and then using it. To know someone’s name gives you a clear access to them and a claim on your relationship. To use someone’s name gives you the power of identification. And I suspect we all know when that power is misused. It’s when someone “name drops.” When someone feigns to know another person – who they are, what they believe, how they can be accessed. If someone invokes the name of a person with power, but without the license to use that name, it will backfire, eventually… because other people will always know better… that this person whose name is invoked would not say that or could not have said that. It’s inconsistent or incongruous… and the pretender will be exposed.  

Which is the key in claiming this invitation that Jesus gives us: that Jesus will give us whatever we ask in his name. We must know Jesus to invoke his name. We must know the mind of Jesus, the heart of Jesus, the words of Jesus to speak in his name. The purpose, the goal, the reason in invoking Jesus’ name is for one reason, one reason only: it’s for the sake of love, so that we may love Jesus, and be loved by Jesus and then love others in Jesus’ name, that is, as Jesus loves them.  If we’re to take Jesus’ invitation and ask for whatever it may be, our asking cannot be just on behalf of our own private self, but on behalf of all whom Jesus claims.

And then, when Jesus says ‘you’ – “whatever you ask” – this is not a ‘you-singular’ but ‘you-plural’: “you all.”  This isn’t about me; this is about us, what wecollectively need. The founder of our own community, Richard Meux Benson, calls this “the relative life.” Father Benson says, “Your life must be a relative life. The moment you are imprisoned in your own self-consciousness, in your own separate individuality, in the selfishness of your own separate existence, you commit a worse suicide than taking the life of your body. You destroy the very life of your person.” Father Benson says that we are a relative being, and we have no existence except when we live, ask, and act on behalf of another, in Jesus’ name.[ii]   

We should take Jesus at his word, to ask away. Jesus assures us, “I will give you whatever you ask in my name….” In my adolescence, the problem wasn’t that I was asking for too much; I was actually asking for too little. We need to know a great deal about Jesus and the enormity of his love – what Jesus would want for those for whom we pray – and then pray our hearts out. And in our praying, we should presume that Jesus will very likely reciprocate, in asking us, asking you, to be a part of the answer to that prayer. 

[i]To make a strong point, Jesus is here repeating what he has said in the previous chapter of the Gospel according to John (14:6-14).

[ii]Quoted from Further Letters of Richard Meux Benson, pp. 36-37; 297.

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  1. Elizabeth Hardy on January 1, 2023 at 19:59

    So much there in so few words. The best homily I have heard on this passage – and such a tonic. I feel like I have just had a polar bear dip of the mind. Thank you Br Curtis for the right start to my new year, and another year of striving in the faith. Elizabeth Hardy+

  2. Bobbi on January 1, 2023 at 07:30

    Thank you, Br. Curtis, for his comforting and hopeful message that greeted us this morning as we awoke to a new year.

  3. Harriet on January 1, 2023 at 05:38

    This is a fine start for a new year! I too have often been confused about getting things I prayed for. Maybe praying is like banging a rock with a hammer. It doesn’t always break the rock, but it will eventually? I don’t mean for “silly” self centered wants, but for the heart of Jesus. Thanks for your inspirational messages. I look forward to reading and hearing them. Happy New Year!

  4. SusanMarie on May 26, 2020 at 07:39

    Thank you for helping me understand this verse. I have long struggled with its meaning, and thus have been unable to claim it with any degree of sincerity or certainty. Basically I have stayed away from it. I will read and inwardly digest your words for further understanding and confidence in the promise of Jesus’ words.

    • Susan Kuhn on May 26, 2020 at 08:30

      Thank you for such clarity. I too will reflect on it, especially in the context of our slowdown for coronavirus. I pray we don’t simply go back to the way we were without a change of heart about what actually matters.

  5. Margo Fletcher on May 23, 2019 at 20:22

    I have been praying for many years that we of the Western world would wake up to what our extravagant demands for the resources that are needed for our life style come at the expense of the diminishment of many other lives. Over the more recent years I have added a concern for ceasing to do things that destroy this earth our island home. The Jesus I speak to agrees wih me and weeps for what we do with our freedom. My church not so much. It seems to me I have the combination Fr. Benson lays out but it has grown rather worse not better! Does our comfort lie in “Emmanuel” as we slowly perish “not with a bang but a whimper?”

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