“All you gotta do is rub that lamp!” “Mr. Aladdin, sir, what will your pleasure be. Let me take your order, jot it down. You ain’t never had a friend like me!” So sue me, I’m in a “Aladdin” kind of mood today!
But seriously, isn’t it a wonderful fantasy to have your own personal “genie” to grant you wishes? To be able to “ask anything!” And yet, the old story of Aladdin, and other stories where wishes were granted always came with a warning, and invariably, the person who had the genie or was granted the wishes always went too far, always ended up the loser. The moral of the tail is granting wishes usually reveals the true character flaw inside the person!
So, how do we avoid this character flaw so that we ask for what’s best instead of what’s comfortable, or selfish? St. James really hits the nail on the head when he writes: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:1-3 “You ask amiss” Yep, that’s my problem.
And yet our Gospel Lesson today has our Lord Jesus say to His disciples “Ask anything…” Look at John 16:23-33:
The Lord said to his disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
“I have said this to you in figures; the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures but tell you plainly of the Father. In that day you will ask in my name; and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure! Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace.”
The key the Lord reveals to His disciples is found in the phrase “If you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name.” Did you catch that? “In my name.” That’s the key ingredient. Learning how to ask the Father in the name of the Son is a disciplined and character shaped maturity that presupposes love, relationship, humility, and courage. Asking the Father for “anything” in the Lord’s name means you love Christ more than your own ego, and that kind of love produces both insight and discernment that protects you from merely selfish desires. It isn’t love for Christ that reduces your relationship with God to some self-serving requests: “I want a new car” “I want a bigger house” or “more money” or whatever. Reducing God to your cosmic Sugar Daddy only reveals the deep character flaw of all the “genie” stories; selfishness always produces a life that is shipwrecked and only destroys confidence in God.
But love, relationship, humility, and courage means you will learn to “ask anything” that is selfless and focused only on what will further God’s will and God’s plan for your life. That kind of spiritual maturity has now been and continued to be developed in the lives of the disciples as the Lord was readying to send them out “into all the world” to build His Church. And this kind of spiritual maturity, this kind of authentic Christian character, this kind of loving God more than themselves, produced leaders who could be trusted with the Message of the Faith for humanity. And it still does today!
Today, are you wise enough to be told by God “ask anything?” Are you willing to become that Orthodox Christian who can “ask anything?” If you are, the path to that place of spiritual maturity and peace and joy is through the wise disciplines of the Faith laid out for us for centuries. You will never “grow up” past the easy temptation of selfish wish-making by reducing God to your own personal “genie.” If you’re going to be able to “ask anything” you’re going to have to be Orthodox on Purpose!