When I was a little girl, the best part of my birthday celebration was always blowing out the candles on the cake. Why? Because my parents always said “Make a wish!” and I believed that whatever I asked for in that moment would be mine.
But I attached a series of foolish superstitions to that belief. First, I had to make the wish silently – any wish spoken aloud would be null and void.
Second, it had to be the first wish that entered my mind after the magic words were spoken. I had to focus on a clear thought of what I actually wanted, and make sure that no extraneous idea entered my mind.
(It was like someone asking you not to think of a pink elephant – what is the first image your brain envisions, no matter how hard you try to stop it? Or like the scene in Ghostbusters where the monster who will destroy civilization takes on the form of the first thought that pops into the main character’s head – the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man).
Third, no one could speak between the invitation to “Make a wish!” and the completion of the entire ritual, meaning blowing out all the candles.
Fourth, every single candle had to be completely extinguished. Woe to the prankster who put candles that would relight on my cake! Their well-intentioned idea of a joke would result in my missing that year’s opportunity to wish for the single most important thing I wanted.
But, thankfully, decades later, I was saved by placing my faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). In Him, I have all I need (Philippians 4:19), and the unspeakable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15) of eternal, abundant life (John 3:16; 10:10). I no longer need superstition, ritual or wishful thinking, for I am saved by grace, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9) I have the sure hope to be found only in our Saviour (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3).
Still, thinking about making a wish while blowing out birthday candles reminded me of times in the Bible where God granted a wish for one of His children – a limited-time opportunity of unlimited potential.
Jacob literally took matters into his hands and wrestled with God (in human form) all night, until He promised Jacob a blessing. That blessing led to God changing his name from Jacob (meaning supplanter) to Israel (meaning “of God”), for he became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, God’s chosen people (Genesis 32:24-32).
God offered Solomon a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ask for whatever he wished, and He promised to grant His request. Solomon could have asked for power, victory, or wealth, but instead he chose wisdom, so that he could be a good and just ruler of God’s chosen people. God answered Solomon’s prayer exceeding abundantly beyond what he could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20), making him not only the wisest man ever, but blessing him with riches and honor in addition (1 Kings 3:3-14).
God clearly values wisdom (Proverbs 4:5,7; 16:16) and is pleased when His children pray for it, so much so that He has promised to give it liberally to any of us who asks Him, without scolding us for needing it (James 1:5). He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5), so when we realize our own insufficiency apart from Him, He delights in giving us wisdom.
He has already given us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5) through His indwelling Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14), so if we yield to Him by dying to our sin nature (1 Corinthians 15:31; Romans 7:23-25), He will lead, guide and instruct us (John 14:16-17).
What a blessing to know that He will always answer “Yes!” to our prayer for wisdom, no matter how often we ask, and without requiring any rituals or conditions from us. Another prayer He will always answer “Yes!” is the prayer of a sinner asking to be saved (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). How amazing that His unconditional gift of mercy, love and grace is free to all who ask!
And that brings me to the verse that has become part of my daily prayer, because I believe it is one of His most powerful promises. Jesus said:
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7)
Really? We can ask for anything and we will receive it? Yes, but this is a conditional, not an unconditional, promise. We must abide in Christ, meaning that we are saved and that our heart is right with Him, free of unconfessed sin. We must be as closely intertwined with Him as the branches are with the true Vine (v. 1). If we abide in Him and He abides in us, we will bear much fruit, but without Him, we can do nothing (v. 5).
The second condition attached to this amazing promise is that His words must abide in us. Clearly we cannot abide in Him, and His words in us, unless we are daily, devotedly, faithfully spending time in His Word and in prayer (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Hiding His Word in our heart keeps us from sin (Psalm 119:11), for we are cleansed by the washing of the Word (Ephesians 5:26). His Word delights us (Psalm 119:16), guides us as a Light to our path, and shows us His plan for our life (Psalm 119:105).
In other words, if we delight in God and His Word, He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4), because He is what we desire. So, claiming John 15:7, what should we wish for?
If we abide in Him and His words in us, we will value heavenly things above material things, and we will not be tempted to ask for riches, power, success or other worldly rewards (Matthew 6:20-21). If we abide in Him and His words in us, we will have faith that He will work all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28); joy in the Lord (Romans 5:11); and the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
These will keep us from the sins of unbelief (Mark 9:24) and discontentment (Philippians 4:10-13), so we will not be tempted to spend this promise foolishly in worrying over what He has already promised to provide (Matthew 6:8; 25-34). So what should born-again believers (John 3:3-8) in and on Christ who are internalizing His Word ask him for?
Lord, let me be in the center of your perfect will, which is the best blessing I could possibly have.
I believe this prayer acknowledges His infinite love (1 John 4:8), wisdom (Psalm 139:1-6) and power (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17,27)), wanting to do and able to do what is best for and with us, for only He has access to and control over all pieces of the puzzle. It recognizes that He is Lord of our life (Luke 1:38), and that He knows best how to bless us. Even Jesus yielded to the will of the Father, not only for His own life (Luke 22:42) but for the lives of all of us who have trusted Him (John 17).
Praise God that we don’t have to make a wish, follow childish superstitions, and hope in vain to have our deepest desires satisfied. God can and will grant the gift of salvation to every sinner who realizes he is lost and in need of a Saviour! He can and will grant His child the blessing of being in the center of His perfect plan for our life if we abide in Him, and His words in us, and if we ask Him!
© 2015 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives
Here in the UK we ought to show curtsy to the single magpie (but why not to any other bird?) to avoid bad luck. Also at Sunday lunchtime, two people take hold of a chicken wishbone and the one with the longer arm of the bone broken receives his wish.
For us Christians, indeed these are foolish superstitions. As you say, Jesus is fully able to provide us with everything we need, and more. As the Scripture says,
"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will grant the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4).
But at this side of the grave, I have found that superstition can have a strong hold, and it might take time for the believer to be fully free. That's why I believe in the doctrine of sanctification, which follows salvation. Learning to trust in the Lord in all things will be an ongoing process until he calls us home.
An excellent thought-provoking post, God bless.
As you say, it is sometimes hard to break the habit of superstition, and some are so bound by it that it reflects a mental disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Praise God that in Christ we have liberty from all these and in Him, we can be free indeed! But as you say, sanctification is a gradual process that continues from the moment we are saved until the moment He calls us home.
Thanks as always for sharing your Bible-based insights, and God bless,
Far too many tdon't realize that praying in Jesus name is not about using the words, but the attitude of abiding in Christ, letting everything be under his direction and authority. How wonderful when we finally understand.
Amen, Donald! So many Christians keep a tally of how many they have had recite the sinner's prayer, but never disciple the new convert on the Lordship of Christ. Without complete trust in Him, our good words and even deeds are meaningless. Thanks as always for your comment and God bless,
yes, abiding in Christ is what 'believing' in Him means. It is not just believing that He existed it is living according to that Word spoken to us as we grow in Him. That is why it says that many shall fall away in the end times. As we grow in Him we shall 'be in Him' as being part of His body with His mind being the source of our thinking. The more we act on that Word spoken the more we become like Him. If we are not 'doers' of the Word spoken to us as we grow in Him, but only 'hearers' of that Word, then we will deter growth in the Spirit.
Amen, Brenda! May we follow His Word as doers of the Word and become molded into His image more and more each day.
Thank you as always for your Scripture-based comment, and God bless,
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