Easter 6 Rogate 2021
1 Timothy 2:1-6; John 16:23-32
May 9, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Last Sunday we heard a little about singing. This Sunday is called “Rogate” Sunday and is about prayer. So we hear in the Gospel reading how Jesus invites us to pray.
Jesus says, “Truly I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.” These words appear to be a blank check from God. Whatever you ask, God will give it. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be any limit. We ask, God gives. As simple as that, right?
We quickly find in our Christian life that the Father does not always give exactly what we ask. He doesn’t work like a vending machine. Insert prayer into this slot, and whatever you order comes out. No, sometimes we pray and the answer is to wait for a while. Sometimes we pray, and the answer is a flat out “no”. Should we conclude that Christ was lying when He gave the promise in our Holy Gospel? Of course not. Our Lord is faithful and cannot break His promises.
So if the problem isn’t in God, then maybe the problem is in us. Some false teachers will encourage us to think this way. The reason why God didn’t give you what you want is because you were not obedient enough, so God did not reward you with a “Yes” answer. Or you did not have enough faith, so He punished you by saying “No.”
But you need to realize that you are NEVER obedient enough to deserve anything. All that the Lord gives is from His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He give them all to us by grace. Likewise, the amount of our faith is not an issue in prayer, unless we are talking about someone that has no faith at all.
And so the problem remains. We do not receive each and everything for which we pray.
How do we resolve this? First of all, Jesus says that we “ask the Father.” We are invited to believe that God is our Father through adoption by grace in Christ. We are God’s children. The way of genetics and upbringing is that children share the nature and manner of their father and mother. As sinners, we don’t share His nature. However, the image of God is being restored in us by Baptism as we are formed into the image of Christ. We are daily being renewed by the work of the Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit works in us new and holy impulses that are like those of our heavenly Father.
Although we have a new heart in us from the Spirit, we also have the old heart that creates ideas and desires that are contrary to God’s will. Sometimes our prayers are guided by these. Sometimes we pray for things that are idols in our hearts. Even when we are trying to pray good prayers to our Father, we nevertheless do not always know or understand what is good for us. Things that appear right and good may sometimes be destructive in some way that we do not perceive.
Therefore, we must confess that our heavenly Father knows better than we do. If I ask any one of you whether you are wiser than God, you will surely answer that He is far wiser. Yet if we carefully examine our prayer life, we will find that we sometimes pray to Him as if we know better. We are sometimes like children who like to argue. We may grumble when God does not jump to it the way we want. Or we may give up altogether and simply stop asking for anything. But God would not be our loving Father if He gave us everything we wanted. God’s answers to our prayers are limited by His love. He must say no sometimes, which can be a loving answer.
Second of all, Jesus says that we ask the Father in Jesus’ own name. This is really just the positive side of the 2nd Commandment, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” Rather, we use God’s name in faith calling upon Him in prayer, praise, and giving thanks. Praying “in the name of Jesus” means our prayers are offered in faith in Christ. This is how St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” God the Father hears our prayers because of God the Son. He listens to all prayers, even those that are tainted by our inclinations to sin, when they are offered in faith in Christ.
Faith in Christ means that you trust in His sufferings, death, and resurrection as the source of your life and salvation. It is the fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, that He has overcome our sin, death, and the devil because He is both fully God and fully man. But it is not just the Father and the Son that are involved in our prayers nor part of our faith. Christian faith and prayer is active by means of the Holy Spirit. You, as a person with faith, are constantly being formed into the image of Christ. As younger brothers and sisters, we try to be like our elder Brother. This includes prayer. Like Jesus, we turn to Scripture to find examples of prayer, and we imitate them. As we come to know Him better and are drawn closer to Him through His Word, our prayers take on more of His spirit and character.
Part of the character of Christ was that He prayed with patience and submission to His Father’s will. He never dictated to His Father what He must receive. He never laid ultimatums before the heavenly throne, as if He would reject the Father if He did not grant Him a certain request.
We must learn such patient submission in prayer. This is hard. We must fight against the impulse to think that we know best, and that surely God must say yes, and send the gift immediately, or pretty close to it. The prayer of faith is not to manipulate, coerce, or intimidate God into doing our will. These kinds of selfish, childish behaviors lurk within each of us. Sometimes we are not even aware that we are acting on sinful impulses. For our miserable failures at prayer, Christ prayed this prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Even when He was being crucified, Christ didn’t whine at the Father. He did not blame the Father. He didn’t pray for vengeance on those who did Him evil. He prayed for the benefit of others, even when it meant the greatest of all sacrifices on His part. We look to Him, not as One who is merely an example. By His patient endurance as revealed in His faithful prayer, He was earning the salvation of our souls. He didn’t only pray for forgiveness, but He won it for you.
In the midst of this prayer, Christ destroyed the barrier between man and God and He turns you to face Him in holy conversation. Now that He has torn apart that curtain of division, you are able to enter the Holy of holies. You can speak to God the Father through God the Son in the power of God the Holy Spirit, since all your sins are washed away by the Blood shed on Calvary. You, a miserable sinner, are now welcome, invited to speak and ask Him anything. For He will never forsake or reject you.
Portions of this sermon are modified from a sermon by Pastor Jason Shockman