An excerpt from the sermon preached today at Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church.
Our Lord’s invitation to ask anything in His name leaves the field wide open. And so we are tempted to believe that we can pray for whatever we want. And when we believe this, then we are tempted to focus on our earthly desires—things or events that we’re sure will make our life smoother, easier, better.
However, to ask anything does not mean that we can ask whatever we like. St. Augustine reminds us “that nothing is to be asked of the Father in the Name of the Savior which is against the work of our salvation.” In other words, all our asking should focus not on things earthly, but things heavenly; not on meeting our selfish desires, but on meeting the needs of another; not on things that bring fleeting gratification, but on things that bring lasting, full joy; and not on things that lead to smug satisfaction, but on things that lead to humility, contrition, patience, kindness—and, above all, mercy.
Prayer, then, is true and well-pleasing when we look beyond our will, beyond the food and staples we desire, beyond the ways we’ve been hurt and the evils we endure, and instead center our heart and mind on living within the Lord’s hallowed Name, striving for His kingdom, consonant with His will, hungering for the bread He deigns to provide, forgiving with the same quickness and liberality as He has forgiven us, and avoiding all temptations while enduring patiently every evil.
So Whatsoever ye shall ask is whatsoever will help you retain the victory Our Lord has won for you, and remain in the mercy He has given you, and also attain the fullness of salvation that He has laid up for you.