NO ATHEISTS IN FOXHOLES
"'In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.'" John 16:23, 24 NIV.
People pray. God created human beings to be dependent on Him. Even those who repudiate Him and substitute gods of their own creation, pray.
There is an inborn need to connect with someone greater than ourselves whether it be our own possessions or achievements, or some figment of our imagination we call “god", we pray. Whether the saying "No atheists in foxholes" most often attributed to war correspondent Ernie Pyle during WW1, (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_are_no_atheists_in_foxholes) is true or not, even those who claim to be atheists use the title of a being they say does not exist, in a crisis!
But that is not true biblical prayer. Prayer is not prayer unless it happens in the context of a Father/son relationship with God, fostered by intimacy and worship. Many people treat God as some sort of celestial 911 emergency service. He's always around, but they do not need Him until a crisis arises.
Jesus was speaking to His disciples about a love relationship with the Father based on the reconciliation He would make possible by His sacrifice. We are sons, yes, but in the far country of rebellion and unbelief, living in the "pigsty" of worldly ways. Before we can treat God as our Father, we need to return home and be reconciled to Him in order to be restored as sons. We owe Him an unpayable debt which Jesus, our elder brother, paid on our behalf so that we can return and be restored to the family.
"In my name" is much more than a magic formula to tack on to the end of a prayer to ensure that we get the answers we want. In Biblical thought, a name is a prophetic utterance of character. Everything God is, is enshrined in His name and He has invested all of Himself in the name of Jesus.
"Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow..." Philippians 2:9, 10a NIV.
Therefore to ask in the name of Jesus is much more than a quick addition at the end of a prayer. It is a thoughtful evaluation of what I am asking against the character, will and mission of Jesus so that my request is in harmony with who He is and what His will and purpose is for my life and my circumstances in the bigger picture of His kingdom. Perhaps, if we were to view our prayers from His perspective rather than demanding what we want, there would be fewer disappointments and a greater understanding and participation in the affairs of His kingdom on earth.
The criterion for the joy that flows from answered prayer is found in His prescription in John 15. "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." John 15:7-8 NIV.
Jesus taught His disciples that prayer is much more than praying the "no-atheist-in-foxholes" kind of prayer. God, in His mercy, might answer that kind of prayer but He is not obliged to because prayer, first and foremost, is the expression of a love relationship between Father and sons. Those who are outside of Christ cannot experience true prayer. The best they can do is try to gain the attention of, or manipulate a non-existent god, leaving them empty and frustrated.
The joy that follows answered prayer is the joy that flows from relationship; from a loving Father who delights to share His provision and resources with His beloved sons and daughters as they partner with Him in the business of His kingdom.
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