Rogate Sunday Sermon
May 21, 2017
“In Jesus’ Name”
"And in that day you will ask Me nothing. 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. These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you 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. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father." His disciples said to Him, "See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God." John 16:23-30
Jesus is the Son of God. He comes from the Father. Christians are sons and daughters of God, but not in the same way that Jesus is the Son of God. We are children of the heavenly Father by adoption. There was a time when we were not children of God. When we were born into this world, we were born dead in sin. We were enemies of God. We became children of God when the Holy Spirit regenerated us by Holy Baptism. Jesus did not become the Son of God. He is eternally begotten of the Father.
There was a time when the Son of God was not a man. Before he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, he was not a man. There was not a time when the Son of God was not God. He was begotten of his Father before all worlds. Arius was a heretic who lived in the 4th century. He said of the Son of God, “There was a time when he was not.” Athanasius defended the truth taught in the Holy Scriptures: “There was not a time when he was not.” If there was a time when the Son of God did not exist that means he was created. If he was created, he is not God. Arius’s heresy overthrows the Christian religion. If Jesus is not God he cannot save us from our sins and we are lost.
Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father. He came from the Father and returned to the Father. We are sons and daughters of God by adoption. It is only through faith in Jesus that anyone is a child of God. Without Jesus and without faith in Jesus no one can call God Father or pray to him.
Jesus invites his disciples to pray. He says, “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.” He encourages us to pray to the Father in his name. He says:
Our relationship with Jesus determines our relationship to the Father. All Christ-less religions are essentially godless. The true God can be known only in Christ. Only he who came forth from God can open up for us the way to God. As we sing:
Jesus in thy cross are centered
All the marvels of thy grace;
Thou, my Savior, once hast entered
Through thy blood the holy place:
Thy sacrifice holy there wrought my redemption,
From Satan’s dominion I now have exemption;
The way is now free to the Father’s high throne,
Where I may approach him, in thy name alone.
Jesus invites those who believe in him to pray to the Father in heaven. He doesn’t invite those who don’t believe in him to pray. That’s because you cannot pray unless and until you believe in Jesus. That’s because, apart from Jesus, the way to the Father’s high throne is closed and you cannot get through. It is only by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, by his blood shed on the cross, by his life of obedience offered up to God as the ransom to free us that we have the right to pray. Jesus puts it very simply. He came from the Father and he goes to the Father. That’s what gives us the right to pray.
Some people teach that one becomes a Christian by praying a so called sinner’s prayer in which the sinner admits his sin and invites Jesus into his heart to be his personal Savior. The problem with this is that nobody but a Christian can pray. You don’t become a Christian by praying. God makes people into Christians by his word. St. Peter says we are born again by the word that endures forever. Jesus says we are born again by the water and the Spirit. St. Paul calls Baptism a washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Prayer doesn’t bring you to faith. Prayer is the exercise of faith.
The gospel is like the food we take into our body. Faith is eating the food. Prayer is exercising the body. The gospel is nothing we do. It is what Jesus does. He comes from the Father. But he does more than become one of us. He does what God requires of us. He obeys. He submits. He loves purely. He suffers patiently. He endures the anger of God against sinful humanity. He becomes the curse by which the curse is removed. In holiness and love he bore the world’s sin and died for it. His innocence overcame it. He rose from the dead and ascended to his Father.
He came from the Father and returned to the Father. This is the gospel truth. This gospel tells us that for Christ’s sake our sins are forgiven, we are at peace with God, we are righteous before God, and we have eternal life. The gospel doesn’t tell us what to do. It is pure gift. It is food for our soul.
Faith is eating the food. It takes the gospel in and inwardly digests it. The gospel transforms the one who eats it. Faith takes it in. Prayer is the exercise of that faith. Without the word of God, without the gospel, that is, without Christ, there is no faith, just superstition and delusion. Prayer is then the vain babbling of words. But God speaks and his speaking has inherent power. His gospel, the gospel of Christ crucified for us, creates faith, feeds faith, and nourishes faith. Prayer is how we exercise the faith God instils in us.
Prayer says back to God the promises God gave to faith. God tells us to pray. He promises to hear our prayer. We pray in Jesus’ name. We pray with confidence that God will answer us.
The Lord’s Prayer is a perfect example of how this works. Jesus taught us this prayer and told us to pray it. We pray what God promises. We pray in Jesus’ name. This is how we know that this prayer is solidly grounded.
We pray, “Our Father,” because God is our dear, loving Father who gave to us his only begotten Son.
We pray “Who art in heaven,” because he has almighty power in heaven and on earth to answer our prayers.
We pray, “Hallowed be thy name,” because God will sanctify his name in us and among us by the pure preaching of his gospel to us.
We pray, “Thy kingdom come,” in confidence that the Holy Spirit is not bound, but that he graciously sustains us in the true faith through the gospel he preaches to us.
We pray, “Thy will be done,” even when we don’t know what it is. We know it is good and gracious because God is good and gracious.
We pray for our daily bread. Rather than having the riches of this world we have him who owns the world and all its riches. He will take care of all our bodily needs.
We pray for forgiveness, promising to forgive those who do us wrong.
We pray that God would protect us from the temptations of the devil, the world, and our flesh and sustain us in the true faith and Christian life.
We pray that God deliver us from every evil of body and soul and take us to heaven when we die.
We say Amen because God is faithful. We don’t trust in the power of prayer. We trust in the power of him to whom we pray. Our strength before him is nothing. Our strength is in his word, his promises, his oath, his blood.
Jesus tells us to pray. Jesus promises that our Father in heaven will answer our prayers. Jesus gives us the right to pray. He says, “Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
Jesus teaches us how to pray. Knowing how to pray is critical. It’s not a matter of how you fold your hands, or what posture your body assumes, whether your eyes are opened or closed, or whether you say aymen or ahmen. There are four things you must keep in mind whenever you pray. First, you pray in Jesus’ name. Second, you pray because God has told you to. Third, you pray because God has promised to answer you. Fourth, you pray with confidence that God will answer you in the manner that is best for you.
You pray in Jesus’ name. This doesn’t mean you must say Jesus’ name every time you pray. Jesus’ name is not used in the Lord’s Prayer, but it is prayed in Jesus’ name. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray as a saint. You are righteous before God because God has reckoned to you the obedience and suffering of Jesus as your righteousness. Therefore, God is favorable to you and hears your prayers. You pray in Jesus’ name. That is, by his invitation, by his authority, and clothed in his righteousness. The Father cannot deny his Son’s prayer. Neither can he deny the one who prays in Jesus’ name.
You pray because God has told you to. We don’t pray to the saints because God didn’t tell us to. We do as God says because we are his children. He tells us to pray so we pray.
You pray because God has promised to answer you. You pray for what you need. And if you wonder what you need, study the Lord’s Prayer and see for yourself. You need what Jesus told you to pray for. God promises to answer this prayer. You need to have his name hallowed, you need his kingdom, you need his will done, you need your daily bread, you need forgiveness of sins and to forgive others, you need protection from temptation, and you need deliverance from evil. So you pray for these things and you have God’s promise that he will answer your prayers.
Finally, you pray with confidence that God will answer your prayers in the way that is best for you. He won’t deny you. He won’t ignore you. He will give you what you pray for. But he knows better than you how to do that. He sees what we can’t see. He understands what is above and beyond us. He sees everything in light of his eternal grace. Someday, when we are risen from the dead and living in glorified bodies at perfect peace with God, everything we couldn’t understand we will understand. All questions and doubts will be answered at last. Our joy will be full.
Rolf D. Preus