Pray a new mind; a response to love – Br. Sean Glenn

John 14:7-14

If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

To my mind, the final line of this morning’s gospel is at once an indescribable consolation and a never-ending source of perplexity. Perhaps even frustration. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. How many of us have been caught off guard or even startled by this phrase? Did he really just say what I think he said?

During the so-called “Farewell Discourses” of John’s gospel (chapters 14—17), we greet a host of similarly enigmatic phrases such as:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” “I do not give to you as the world gives.” “As the Father has loved me so have I loved you; abide in my love.”[1]

These dense discourses clearly deserve much more than a superficial listening. There is an infinity in these words, fertile and receptive to the whole texture of human experience. John’s Jesus therefore speaks to each of us in the voice of that wind as he says If in my name you ask for anything, I will do it. There is an infinity in his words.

Yet this infinity is lost to us if we simply hear what we would like to hear. Because of this, I believe there is wisdom in praying with a sensitivity to what a text is decidedly not saying. Yes, he really did just say something remarkable, but whereas I would like to hear Jesus say to me, “if you ask me for anything, I will do it,” this is not what Jesus says. We have to reckon with those three little words: in my name.

To pray in Jesus’ name: this is the often dark and hidden work of conversion. Let my joy be in you that your joy may be complete,[2] says John’s Jesus a chapter later, and Paul echoes this distantly when he writes let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.[3] This is the life-long invitation of repentance. When Jesus bursts onto the scene in Mark’s gospel, the word on his lips is metanoiete! Change your mind—that is, put on a higher mind.

The Spirit teaches us to pray in Jesus’ name, training us to love what Jesus loves and desire what Jesus desires—sometimes to the detriment of our own private desires, ambitions, or assumptions. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray with the hopes that God will refine our desires. We find this expressed as the psalmist writes, “I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me night after night.”[4] We find this echoed in the spirituality of our prayer book: Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen[5]

It follows, then, that Jesus’ vexing consolation— If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it—, while infinite in its address to each of us, cannot mean a simple satisfaction of our private desire. It means a life-long, engaged response to God’s actions in our lives. Our late Brother Robert Greenfield gave this verbal expression in the “Outline of the Faith commonly called the Catechism.” Answering the question, “What is prayer?” Greenfield replies, “Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words”.[6] Prayer is responding to God.

And so, O Lord of promise, teach us to ask in your name; grant us grace to respond to your love, “make [our] words more than words, and give [us] the Spirit of Jesus.”[7]


[1] John 14:6b, John 14:10, 14:27b, 15:9

[2] John 15:11

[3] Philippians 2:5

[4] Psalm 16:7

[5] The Book of Common Prayer, 461

[6] The Book of Common Prayer, 856

[7] Adapted phrase from a prayer “In the Morning,” The Book of Common Prayer, 461.

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  1. Carol Carlson on June 8, 2021 at 18:15

    This reminds me of Augustine’s dictum: ‘Love God and do whatever you want’. Loving and doing are one. And Ted Ferris’s remarkable prayer to make our words more than words says that saying and doing are one. Prayer comes out of that daily doing and saying, revealing what we really believe in a language anyone (not just God) can understand.

  2. Carol Yakish on June 8, 2021 at 10:59

    If I pray to the Lord am I also praying to Jesus at the same time?

    • margo on February 8, 2022 at 13:32

      This takes us to the heart of ‘who is the Christian God is”. We understand this as the Trinity, three indivisible persons in one. ‘Indivisible’ means you never have one without the others being present, an endless dance. It is often formulated as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit described as the Lord the giver of life’ is the creedal statement. They are all male all known as Lord. This form of address is supposed to get you directly to
      God in a patriarchal tradition such as ours.

  3. Randy LaRosa on June 8, 2021 at 10:44

    Thank you for your message . When I am in a dark mood or troubled ,I look to the opening statements from John.

  4. Pat Ziegler on June 8, 2021 at 07:50

    Thank you for this explanation. It has been on my mind for many years. I can grasp this.

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