Several years ago, it became incredibly fashionable (literally) to wear t-shirts, necklaces, and especially bracelets with the four letters, WWJD– which stood for “What Would Jesus Do?” This was supposed to serve as a reminder that the wearer was an ambassador of the Kingdom of God, and was supposed to be a follower of Jesus, and thus should act in accordance with what Jesus would do in any given situation. Stuck in traffic–What would Jesus do? Presumably, we would not lose his temper, honk and scream obscenities, or rudely try to cut or push others off the road. Tempted by the scantily clad actors and actresses in a new R-rated movie– What would Jesus do? Presumably, he would not attend R-rated movies filled with sexual situations in the first place, or, finding himself tempted, he would leave the movie.
I think the intention was good in the beginning– even scriptural in a sense. The Children of Israel were commanded, in Deuteronomy 6: 8 to “tie them (God’s commandments, laws, and decrees) as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” Throughout the Bible, the patriarchs, prophets, Jesus, and the apostles, often spoke of keeping God’s Word in our hearts and on our minds as we go through our daily routines. This short reminder should help us do just that– redirect our thoughts to the One we are to follow. As far as it achieved that goal, it was a good thing.
The problem is that it didn’t work that way for most people. The jewelry or the t-shirt didn’t serve as a reminder to the wearer, but as a symbol to everyone else. “Hey, look at me! I’m wearing a fashionable accessory with a cryptic message that lets you know that my thoughts and actions represent Jesus here on earth!” Ironically, Jesus would have been the last person to wear such an item– not only because he wouldn’t have to ask the question (BEING Jesus, and all), but because his focus was on others–Jesus didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, or his wrist, and he didn’t call attention to his own righteousness. Instead, he spoke to outcasts, and touched lepers. He acted in accordance with God’s wishes, not because he had decided what he thought God would want him to do, but because he knew who God wanted him to become.
One of the worst casualties of the WWJD craze is that many people substituted their own wisdom for a study of God’s word– in other words, they imagined what Jesus would (or might) have done, instead of learning and following what he DID. Of course, Jesus was never stuck in a traffic jam. But he did face demands on his time, and stressful situations. He was never tempted by movies or internet porn, but he was surrounded by a culture that had “religious” “temple” prostitutes, along with sexual immorality not that different from what we see today. The Bible doesn’t give us a picture of Jesus planning and executing a strategy for specific temptations– it DOES give us specific examples of people over a long period of time who failed or triumphed over temptations, big and small, and of people who turned to God for strength to overcome temptation and grace when they had fallen. It also gives us a picture of Jesus living a life that was perfectly pleasing to God– including a life of prayer.
What would Jesus pray? Look at John 17. Look at Luke 11:1-4 or Luke 22: 39-48. Look at Mark 14: 32-42. There are many examples of Jesus’ prayers– prayers that pour out his heart to his Father– in faith, in pain, in grief, and in hope. In fact, it would be appropriate to say in answer to the question, “What would Jesus do?”– Jesus would take it to God in Prayer!
Jesus didn’t come to earth and live his life to make us great, or successful, powerful or popular by the world’s standards. He came to seek and to save those who were lost. He asks us to do the same– not in our own strength or success, but in the overflow of the grace and power he has poured into us. T-shirts and jewelry are nice, but Jesus used his life–his time, his love, his talents, his words and his actions in accordance with God’s will and God’s wise commands to bring people to himself. Then he did what none of us could do– he fulfilled God’s law, becoming the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and conquering Sin and death. What would Jesus do? He DID IT! It is FINISHED! Our part is not to do what only God can do, but to what he has asked of us and trust him to do the rest.
This is also true in our pursuit of prayer. I often get side-tracked in wondering if my prayers match up to what Jesus might have prayed in the same situation– and that shouldn’t be my immediate focus. Prayer is, as I have to keep reminding myself, a pursuit. It is a process and a journey, and an ongoing, deepening conversation with the one who loves me best. And it is not a one-sided conversation– God answers my prayers, not just by meeting immediate needs or changing circumstances. He speaks through his law, through the Psalms and prophets, through the Gospels and the Epistles, and through the godly wisdom of friends and counselors and ministers of his Grace. And in doing so, he teaches me to pray.
May I stop worrying so much about the length or the style or the “worthiness” of my prayers. May I instead listen, and learn, and continue the pursuit.