“American as Mother, apple pie and the flag” used to be an expression of things that united us in this country. Maybe that’s why life in these United States has been a little too interesting for me: my mother and I didn’t see eye to eye on many things, and when we were in the family business together it could get intense.
That state of affairs spilled over into personal matters, too. One evening my mother, wife and I were out and about and stopped at the grocery store. I was gathering a quick list of things to buy for her while she sat in the car. Her confidence in me was at a nadir at that moment, and she was belligerently insistent: “I want the greenest bananas in the place!”
I was dutiful: I went into the store (she had, after all, taught me how to shop) and found some very green bananas. I bought them, checked out, and she took them home, satisfied.
Satisfied, that is, until she realised they wouldn’t ripen. They just sat in the bowl, green as when I had bought them. Her hope for ripe but unrotten bananas vanished, and she was eventually forced to pitch them out as green as when they came home.
Today we live in a Christian world where “God on demand” is the norm. We’re supposed to pray “the prayer of faith” (note the definite article) and get the result we ask for. When it doesn’t go our way, the blame game begins: on God, on our alleged lack of faith, on an incorrect form of prayer, on whatever. It never occurs to us that God is sovereign, that he has the power to say no, and that our first task isn’t to just get what we want but for our will to be synchronised with his.
Sometimes the way he reminds us of this is when he allows us to have our way, only for us to wish we hadn’t. We end up with a result like the green bananas: it’s what we wanted, but not what was best for our life.
The Lord’s Prayer puts it this way: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done–on earth, as in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10, TCNT.) Ultimately it’s his will that counts. He’s not only mindful of our needs, but knows them in advance: “When praying, do not repeat the same words over and over again, as is done by the Gentiles, who think that by using many words they will obtain a hearing. Do not imitate them; for God, your Father, knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7, 8, TCNT.)
When his desires are ours, we can experience this:
Here, therefore, is the greatest miracle of Jesus Christ. Not only is he all-powerful, but here he renders them all-powerful and, if possible, more power than he himself is, constantly performing greater miracles, and all through faith and through prayer: “and all things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” Faith, therefore, and prayer are all-powerful, and they clothe man with the omnipotence of God. “If you can believe,” said the Saviour, “all is possible to him who believes” .
The performance of miracles, therefore, is not the difficulty. Rather, the difficulty is to believe. “If you can believe.” That is the miracle of miracles; to believe absolutely and without hesitation. “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief”…
Thus the great miracle of Jesus Christ is not to make us all-powerful men. Rather, it is to make us courageous and faithful believers who dare to hope all from God, when it is a question of his glory…
Let us dare all things, and no matter how slight our faith may be, let us fear nothing. A small grain of faith, the size of a mustard seed, enables us to undertake anything. Grandeur has not part in it, said the Saviour. I ask only for truth and sincerity; if it becomes necessary that this small grain grow, God who has given it, will make it grow. Act then with the little you possess, and much will be given to you: “And this grain of mustard seed” and this budding faith “will become a great tree, and the birds of the air will dwell in the branches thereof.” The most sublime virtues will not only come there, but will make their abode therein. (Jaques Bénigue Bossuet, Meditations on the Gospel.