The movie “Catch Me If You Can,” stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a young man who becomes a world-class forger, and who is chased by Tom Hanks as a FBI agent specializing in bank fraud and forgery. You see, way before identity theft there was forgery. In the old days (before the creation of the World Wide Web), it was normal practice for crooks to forge someone’s name off of a stolen check out of a mailbox, for example, then sign and cash it.
Nowadays, a shady web site operator, store clerk, or even someone you know could get your credit card number, social security or other secure information and do all sorts of crazy things to mess up your finances, identity, and life. But old time forgery is still around. The United States Treasury states that every year more than a million fraudulent checks are passed. A few years ago U.S. banks lost almost three quarters of a billion dollars, and more than 4 billion in attempted check fraud. www.ustreas.gov/
If you ever became a victim of identity theft, how would you feel? Read John 16:22-28. Do you ever feel like you commit prayer fraud? Do any of your prayers resemble forgery?
Jesus taught his followers to pray in His name. That means we can approach God with confidence of better understanding and appropriating Jesus’ purpose, mission, and authority. It does not mean that we can sign Jesus’ name to any and all of our wishes, hopes, prayers, and cries…especially if we expect God to meet our selfish needs. That would be forgery.
The key to praying in Jesus’ name is to be sure our prayers confirm to His desires for us. The wrong way to proceed is to think we can simply cut and paste the name of God onto our prayers. We assume if we just say, “in Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer that His agenda is now ours. We also assume (mistakenly) that he agrees to provide for our needs and wants, sort of like the magic genie found in a bottle who grants three wishes. But the key is to discover what God’s agenda is and desire that for our selves (see Luke 11:1-4). When we get to that sort of posture, our prayers will not be about what we want. We will be ready to seek what He wants for us.
Keep in mind that prayer is not approaching God like He is a cosmic vending machine. When we are seeking God’s agenda in humility, it will affect the likelihood that our prayers will be answered. If we ask God for greater discipline to walk in integrity in our relationships, work, homework, and handling our time and finances, we will find more strength and blessing than if we pray for the newest Apple product coming on the market.
Seeking God’s will in prayer and Scripture reading will help you pray in Jesus’ name. For example, read through the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John this week. Take note of what Jesus said about prayer and how he modeled prayer. Then start to imitate Him. Do not be surprised when promises like Mark 11:24 become more potent in your experience: “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
I hope you would never even think about stealing the checkbook (or credit card) of your parents, best friend (or someone you have a grudge with), roommate, teammate, or classmate, and start paying (or charging) your way to affluence. Grow devotionally. The desire of God if that our prayers reflect His desires. Do not forge the Savior’s name either. It never pays off.
Love is a verb,