Jesus said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John:16:23). Is this like “Open Sesame”? Obviously, to ask in Christ’s name must mean more than just speaking out His name like a magic password for getting what we want. The ambassador who represents the United States in a foreign country has the right to use America’s name and authority but not for his own ends. The business manager representing a multimillionaire has power of attorney that gives him the right to use his employer’s name, even to sign contracts and large checks. However, any use of the other’s name is to be in the interest and for the benefit of that one, not for the benefit of his subordinate agent.
It would be fraud for the employee to enrich himself through the use of his employer’s name. Yet would-be Christians by the millions imagine that they can use the name of Jesus to their own ends. To ask in the name of Jesus is to ask as Jesus would ask, in fulfillment of the Father’s will and to His glory. Who would want it otherwise, except an egomaniac so ignorant of his own selfishness and folly as to imagine that he could manage the universe better than God!
Of course, the God whom we petition cannot be a stranger (it would be folly to trust a stranger) or One from whom we are alienated. He must be One whom we know and with whom we have a right relationship. True faith, as Jesus taught it, comes from knowing God and trusting Him. Indeed, faith itself is a gift from God, which He bestows on those who desire to know and do His will. To seek an answer to prayer that is contrary to God’s will would be rank rebellion.
Still, the idea persists that faith is believing something strongly enough to make it happen. This delusion is usually found among those who imagine they hold to a scientific religion. Science works according to consistent laws. It is commonly taught, especially by those in the so-called faith movement, that there is a “law of faith” that works like gravity or thermodynamics, and if we obey that law, what we desire will be granted as automatically as the predictable reaction between chemicals in a test tube. “Faith” is thus seen as a force we can wield to get what we want rather than a trust in God to effect what is best according to His will. There is a great difference.
This self-centered belief has at least four problems: