ne of the first prayers I remember praying happened shortly after I watched the movie Superman. My imagination soared as I saw the “man of steel” flying over the clouds and lifting trains without breaking a sweat. I wanted to be just like him!
I had learned in Sunday school that if we prayed in Jesus’ name, we could ask God for anything and expect to receive it. I decided to put that lesson to the test, so I went into our backyard and climbed onto a big rock that was around 3 feet high. After looking around to make sure nobody was watching, I closed my eyes and offered the most passionate prayer I had ever said:
Lord, it’s me, Dave. You said in Your Bible that I could ask for anything in Jesus’ name and You would do it. Now, I’ve never asked for much, but this is really, really important. God, I’m going to jump off this rock, and I’m asking You to make me fly like Superman—just like in the movie. I know You can do it! Please. Oh yeah—in Jesus’ name.
I held my hands out like a superhero and took a literal leap of faith off that rock, and then . . . I flew!
Just kidding. I came crashing down to the ground. My pride and my faith were wounded, so I figured that maybe I had prayed wrong. I climbed back onto the rock and tried praying a variation of my original prayer, but the results were the same. It was disappointing, but I figured that regular people weren’t meant to be superheroes . . . even if they prayed for it “in Jesus’ name”!
As I got a little older and became more serious about learning God’s Word, I stumbled across a line in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that stopped me in my tracks. It seemed to contradict everything I thought I knew about human limitations, and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Jesus said, “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
My first thought was, What! I was completely confused. It seemed like Jesus was saying that we were supposed to overcome all of our human limitations and shortcomings and be real-life superheroes. I pictured churches becoming places where everyone showed up dressed in tights and capes with perfect hair, bodies, minds, and superpowers. Maybe I really could fly off that rock in my backyard!
I later learned that when Jesus called us to be “perfect,” He wasn’t actually calling us to be superheroes; He was, and is, commanding us to something even better. In the original Greek of the text, Jesus is speaking in a verb tense called the “aorist imperative,” which ties the past and present together in a way we can’t fully translate in our modern English. Jesus is basically saying, “In light of what God has already done for you, you’ve already been made perfect, so be what you already are. Give expression to God’s presence and perfection within you.”
The call to perfection is an impossible task in our own strength, but I believe this is precisely the point. The call to be perfect is another reminder that we can’t possibly achieve God’s plan for our lives apart from a complete dependence on Christ and His presence and power living in us and through us. On this side of heaven, God might never give us the strength to fly off a rock like Superman, but He has already empowered us to find strength for daily living through the Son of Man.
On those days you’re feeling far from perfect, remember that your strength is limited, but Christ’s perfect power within you is limitless! In faith declare, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13 NKJV).