It can be difficult to contact some people on the phone. Companies use automated computer programs to answer calls, and high-powered executives are often shielded behind an assistant (or several!) who must grant access to interested callers. Even as third-party websites spell out the button sequences that allow someone (when calling a big company) to reach a human being, they still can’t make your kid pick up the phone when he or she is out with friends.
One time, I remember choosing the Spanish language option by mistake in a phone tree, and had a delightful conversation with an operator who also spoke excellent English (as expected).
The good news is that the most important Person that we can talk with doesn’t have anyone screening His calls. God, the Creator of the universe, hears all who wish to talk to Him. There’s no phone tree, no “secret codes”, and no voice mail.
Jesus offered this great promise to His disciples:
In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
John 16:23-24 NASB
This verse can be taken out of context, and used to say what it was probably not meant to say. I don’t think that Jesus expected His disciples to randomly ask God the Father for arbitrary, selfish gifts and blessings, just so that they could live a life of comfort and ease (see James 4:3).
Instead, I understand this message as Jesus promising a direct line to God, for those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus. As a result of following Jesus as Lord, their wills follow His will, and their requests honor and glorify God. When that is the case, it makes sense that a loving and personal God would answer those prayers.
However, note the only command in the verses above: “Ask”. Just because followers of Jesus have the ability to speak with God the Father (in Jesus’ name), this line of communication isn’t very useful if we don’t actually use it. God knows our hearts, and has a plan, but has chosen to have us be an active part of that plan.
Later, in that same chapter, Jesus also said the following:
In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.
John 16:26-27 NASB
We are sinful human beings, and through our own bad choices, our ability to communicate directly with a holy God was broken. Only through the restoration that Jesus offered to us – by covering the penalty of our sins – are we able to be brought back into the whole relationship with God. In a way, He is that “direct line” to God. As we think of a phone line (for those who still might have “land lines”) connecting two people, the book of Hebrews uses the image of Jesus as a high priest – someone who can connect the requests of the people to God Himself. See Hebrews 4:14-15 for some examples.
While God is all-knowing, and therefore knows our thoughts and speech, note that the disciples are called to ask God in Jesus’ name. Through this name (representing the person of Jesus, and – I think – the righteousness that He provided for us) we can have conversations with our Creator, as redeemed human beings.
Given the blessings of having a direct line to God the Father, we would do well to use that opportunity frequently. Here on earth, a direct line to a president or CEO (or even just a customer service representative) may be a privilege, but it doesn’t lend us any benefit (except maybe the chance to brag about our status, which doesn’t generally help anyone) if we don’t actually use it.
May every follower of Jesus celebrate the privilege of our ability to talk with God, thanks to the bridge that Jesus provided. And, if you haven’t taken Jesus up on His offer, know that God still knows your heart, and is willing to connect with you on that direct line!