A sermon on John 14 v. 5 – 14, first published in the Baptist Times on May 28th 2010
When asking why Christians pray, we must dispel the myth that they are the only ones to do it. People in many religions pray, and people of no religion at all will often pray in a crisis. Even for Christians there are one or two myths we must dispel about prayer. Prayer is not incantation – where the right posture or form of words turns it into a powerful magic which guarantees a result. Prayer is not a form of verbal assault – where God is guaranteed to cave in and grant my request so long as I go on about it for long enough. Nor is prayer a form of self-delusion, where I convince myself so much that my prayer will be granted that it simply comes true as a result.
We pray, quite simply, because we can. In and through himself (v.6) Jesus has opened up a gateway to the father which will never be shut. Not to take such an offer would be folly of the worst kind. We pray, too, because it works. This is how Jesus’ outlandish promise in verse 12 is fulfilled. The only way in which we can ever be said to do greater things than Jesus – is because God grants the prayers of sinners like us to do the sort of amazing things Jesus himself did. Starting from so much further back, in our limited lives, these are indeed greater things.
- Thomas and Philip both show a limited grasp on the things Jesus has taught them, and yet Thomas is the one whom we remember. Why should this be?
- Is v.13 a blank cheque signed by God which can be exchanged for any request?
- Surveys amongst the general public often reveal that more people claim to pray than those who believe in God. What does this imply about the way we pray for the world beyond the church?
- Emergency prayer meetings at times of national and international crisis often bring people into churches in a way that no overtly evangelistic event would ever do. Can we make more out of this, without exploiting people’s vulnerability?
‘No longer is God hidden in terror and gloom as he had been in centuries gone by. No longer is he the God of secrets kept alive by the faithful few, as he had been between the Testaments. No longer is he the God whose presence lingered in the unspeakable holy of holies. Now, says Jesus, people like us have guaranteed access to a God like him.’