Rogate (5th Sunday after Easter) + John 16:23b-30 + May 1, 2016

Order of Holy Communion - Pg 15
Hymn #201 Jesus Lives, the Victory’s Won
Hymn#458 Our Father, Who from heaven above
Hymn# 413 I walk in Danger All the Way

Readings
Jeremiah 29:11-14
James 1:22-27
John 16:23b-30

Collect for Rogate, the Fifth Sunday after Easter
O God, from Whom all good things do come, grant to us, Thy humble servants, that by Thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be right and by Thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel
 


Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         Today Jesus teaches us how to pray. He’s done this on several occasions already. In Luke 11 the disciples approach Jesus as He finishes praying, and “one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’” Jesus answered by giving His disciples the ‘Our Father.’ “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven” (Luke 11:2). Even the disciples, who sat at table with Christ and heard all of His teaching, still had ask, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The reason they had to ask is that humanity does not, by nature, know how to pray or even desire to pray. The natural man, that is, man without the Holy Ghost, without faith, without the Word of God, flees from God and does not seek Him. Even in those who have been baptized, and are thus saved “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5), have the sinful flesh, the Old Adam, as Luther calls it, hanging around their necks. The Old Adam in each us is reluctant to pray, even when we have heard the command of Christ. The sinful nature which clings to us throughout this life doesn’t want to pray, telling us instead that we don’t need to ask God for help, that we can accomplish things ourselves and provide every good thing by our own work. And when we do pray, the flesh continually tempts us to be discouraged at our prayers and disheartened if we are not answered immediately in the way we assume is best. The sinful flesh continually tempts us to doubt that our prayers are not heard. It also tempts us to believe that God will not answer our requests because of our own sinfulness and unworthiness. This is why it is necessary for Jesus to teach us to pray over and over again, just as He taught the disciples many times throughout their time in His school. Prayer is an exercise of faith so it must be taught often.

2)         On the other side of this we have the flesh’s proclivity to refashion the gifts of God into something else entirely, something else our nature understands and grasps better. So today we hear Christians of all different denominations and confessions talking about “the power of prayer,” though don’t ask what that phrase means because you’ll get a different answer from each person you ask. “The power of prayer” defies definition, which allows people to load down with whatever meaning and significance they wish. Some say “the power of prayer” means that prayer can change God’s mind, which means that if you pray hard enough or in the right manner, you can change the course of things by bending God to your will. I Googled What is the power of prayer? and got all sorts of answers. One summed most of the answers up perfectly. It read, “I believe that we experience the power of God when we sense God's assent to our seeking and even realize that God has been reaching out for us all along.” That author assumed that “the power of prayer” was gaining a sense of something, a feeling, a tug at the heart which we realize the love of God. What this does it turn prayer into a means of grace, a means by which God gives us grace and faith. It also makes it an emotional experience in which feelings are the ultimate sign of God’s favor. I point this out because this is the sort of thing the sinful flesh loves. The Old Adam loves the ambiguity of the phrase “the power of prayer” because he can fill it up with all his own ideas of what prayer should be, whether a conversation between God and man or a mystical power to bend God’s will to our own if we only do it correctly and master the art. But all this turns prayer into something it’s not. By doing that, it diminishes prayer from what it really is.

3)         St. Paul writes in Philippians 4:6 that you are to let your requests be made known to God.” So prayer is simply “making your requests be made known to God.” It’s asking God for something.  This is what Jesus teaches us today. He says, “Most assuredly I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” But Jesus isn’t giving us access to God the Father, the divine vending machine, who will automatically give whatever it is we desire. We can ask the father for “whatever,” which covers anything for which we might ask. But we are to ask the Father in the name of Jesus. This means that we pray to God the Father through God the Son. He is our mediator. He is our propitiation for sins. He is the one who as reconciled God to man through His atoning death upon the cross. St. Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-27, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Through faith in Christ, you become acceptable to God the Father, a son of God. Faith makes you “in Christ,” which means that you are a fellow heir of all the heavenly blessings of Christ. In Holy Baptism you are clothed with Christ, you “have put on Christ,” so you may approach God the Father just as His Only-Begotten Son would approach Him in prayer. Luther explains the introduction to the Lord’s prayer in this way when He writes about the words, “Our Father.” He writes, “God would thereby  tenderly urge us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father.” How does Christ approach the Father? In full confidence. All who believe the promise of the Gospel are to approach God the heavenly Father in the same way.

4)         So we see that prayer is dependent upon the promise of Christ. “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give to you.” Christ commands His Christians to pray and promises them that God the heavenly Father will not only hear their petitions, but grant them! Here is the promise of Christ. And what does the Christian do with the promises of Christ? He believes them by the power of the Holy Ghost working in their hearts through that very same promise. Faith in Christ is what makes us able to approach God the Father as OUR heavenly Father. This is what Jesus means in verse 26-27. “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” The Father wants to graciously answer the prayers of all who believe the gospel. He will not hear the prayers of the unbelievers since they do not believe God’s promises, nor do they believe that Jesus came forth from God.” But here you have the promise from the words of Christ Himself. The Father loves you because by faith you are in Christ, by baptism you are clothed with Christ, so you can approach Him as your heavenly Father.

5)         Jesus also teaches us faith in His promise when He teaches that God the Father will give you “whatever you ask the Father in My name.” Asking something of the Father in Jesus’ name means to ask as Jesus would ask, so in full faith and boundless confidence. To ask in Jesus’ name also means to ask for the things that Jesus would ask and to ask for the things which God promises in His Word. Jesus would never asked for anything selfish or flippant. Instead He prayed the the Father’s will would be done, even in the midst of great temptation and suffering. In Gethsemane He prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). We know what the will of God is, too! God the Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). So we pray that we remain steadfast in the knowledge of the truth, which is the Gospel of Christ Jesus. St. Paul also writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “This is the will of God, your sanctification,” that is, that you live a holy life according to God’s holy Word so that the Devil may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, or other great shame and vice. Everything else that falls outside of the revealed will of God in the Scripture we can still pray for, such as the recovery of a loved one, our own health, and all sorts of other things. But all our requests prayed must be done so in Jesus’ name, so they must be prayed with the caveat, of “Thy will be done.” But even then you can rejoice, for the Christian knows that God’s will for us is always good and gracious, no matter what it may seem to the eyes of flesh and our Old Adam, who can say, “My will be done.” The faith that Christ gives in His gospel does not imagine that God sometimes gives wicked and evil things to us. If that were the case, we could have no faith at all, for who would ever know if God wanted to have mercy on us in our petitions?

6)         When you pray, do not doubt that God hears you. When you pray, do not doubt whether God is gracious to you. When you pray, pray that God’s will would be done, just as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. When you pray, pray in Jesus’ name, praying for the things Jesus wants you to have and has promised to give you. You don’t need to lean upon hollow phrases such as “the power of prayer,” you have something much better and much more certain: the promise of Christ Himself. You don’t’ need prayer to have a mystical power. You have the promise of Christ that God the Father wants you to pray to Him, that God the Father wants to answer you graciously. You have the promise that by faith in Christ you are a son of God, which means that He is your true Father, and that you are His true child, so that you may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father. However He answers you petition is His good and gracious will, and you know that His will towards you is truly good and gracious. He says so in Jeremiah 29:11 when He says, “I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Whatever answer you receive, faith receives is as the Father intends it to be: a good and gracious gift from His loving hand. He will not give you an inedible stone when you ask for bread, nor will He give you a life-threatening serpent when you ask for a fish. He will give you whatever you ask for in Jesus name. Amen.

May the peace of God, which passes all human understanding, guard you hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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