Rogate Sunday Sermon| Rev. Rolf Preus| May 17, 2020| John 16:23b-24
“Amen, amen, 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.” John 16:23b-24
In Jesus’ name our work must all be done
If it shall compass our true good and aim,
And not end in shame alone;
For every deed which in it doth proceed,
Success and blessing gains till it the goal attains.
Thus we honor God on high
And ourselves are blessed thereby;
Wherein our true good remains.
In Jesus’ name we live and we will die;
If then we live, His love we will proclaim;
If we die, we gain thereby.
In Jesus’ name, who from heav’n to us came,
We shall again arise to meet Him in the skies,
When at last, saved by His grace,
We shall see Him face to face,
Live with Him in Paradise. (ELH, Hymn #4)
Prayer is life. The prayer we pray is the life we live. When Jesus tells us to ask the Father in his name, he is not just talking about prayer. He is talking about life. St. Paul writes in Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” He is talking about eternal life. St. John writes in 1 John 5:13,
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
The name of Jesus is not a magical incantation that opens up doors of opportunity. Praying in Jesus’ name is not how to get God to do what he otherwise would not be inclined to do. To pray in Jesus’ name is pray to our Father in heaven while trusting in Jesus our Savior. There is no prayer without true faith. There is no true faith without Jesus. Without Jesus there is no grace, no redemption, no forgiveness, and no salvation. Without Jesus God is not our Father. We are God’s children only through faith in Jesus Christ. St. Paul writes, “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.” (Galatians 3:26-27)
God the Father makes us his children in time. He begat the Son in eternity. God could not be our Father if he weren’t the Father of our Lord Jesus. We sing of Jesus, “Of the Father’s love begotten e’er the worlds began to be.” Were he not begotten of the Father before all worlds, were he not God of God, light of light, very God of very God, then we could never have known God as our Father. We could not pray to him. We could not trust in him. We could not commit our ways to him in confidence that he will take care of our every need of body and soul if he were not the eternal Father of the eternal Son and if this eternal Word of the Father had not become incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and made man. We can know God as our Father only through faith in his only begotten Son. Jesus explains. He says: “The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” Jesus makes this crystal clear. Earlier in St. John’s Gospel he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
We pray to our Father in Jesus’ name because our Father will do anything for his beloved Son, Jesus. He has loved him from eternity. When the Son became incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man, the Father delighted in him. He saw Jesus’ humble submission to his holy will. He declared him to be his beloved Son in whom he was well pleased. The Father rejoiced to see the Son he loved display this perfect divine love with every deed he did. Then, when his Son sacrificed himself on the cross, the Father regarded that offering, as written in Ephesians 5:2, as “a sweet-smelling aroma.” As Jesus completed his work of redeeming the world with his own blood shed on the cross, he cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Our Father will do anything for us for Christ’s sake. Whatever we ask in Jesus’ name, he will give us. Faith in Jesus informs our prayer. Our prayer is the pattern of our life. The way we pray is the way we live. We pray, we live, in Jesus’ name.
What’s in a name? My name is Rolf David Preus. I was named after my father. His name was Robert David Preus. Not only did he give me his name, he was for me the model of what a father should be. I know what a father should do because I had a God-fearing father who did it. I thank God for giving me a Christian father. He taught me God’s word, good hymns, how to pray, and how to confess. My father taught me how to be a father.
This does not mean that we know God as Father by looking at our earthly fathers and attributing to God what they say and do. Our earthly fathers are erring, sinful, and mortal men. They are sinners in need of a Savior. They make mistakes. They must live under the grace of God.
When we think of God our Father we should not begin by thinking of our earthly fathers. God our Father is the true Father. When we call God Father we are not using a human metaphor, as if we could just as well call him mother. Our mother is the church. She is not God. God is our Father because he is the Father of the Son from all eternity. We use figures of speech when we talk about God. We speak of God’s right hand. We call him a shepherd or a rock. God has no literal right hand, and he isn’t a literal shepherd or rock. We use figurative language to describe him. When we call God Father we are speaking literally.
God’s name is who he is. God’s name is what he does. The name Jesus means Savior. When we pray to the Father in Jesus’ name we pray in the name by which we are saved. Jesus was named Jesus because he would save his people from their sins. When we pray in Jesus’ name we are confessing that he is our Savior. He has rescued us from our enemies: sin, death, and the devil. Jesus’ name says it all. Jesus saves.
God’s name is who he is. It is his identity. When Moses asked him his name he said, “I am that I am.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus identifies himself as “I am” at least twenty times. God identifies as “I am” and Jesus identifies as “I am.” God’s name is who he is.
God’s name is what he does. In Numbers 6 we read:
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.’ So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
This benediction has been spoken over God’s people for thousands of years. God identifies himself as Triune. The Father blesses and keeps us. The Son makes his face shine upon us and is gracious to us. The Holy Spirit places God’s favor upon us and gives us peace. God joins his name to our name. We are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
“Whatever you ask in my name” Jesus says, “the Father will give you.” We pray and we don’t receive. James explains why. He writes: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3) Where is true joy to be found? Jesus says, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” True joy is not found in pleasuring the body or petting our ego. True joy does not come from following the selfish desires of our sinful flesh. That’s not joy. Temporary pleasure is not joy. As the hymnist writes, “They prove to be burdens that vex us and chafe us and true lasting happiness never vouchsafe us.”
True joy is found only in Jesus. For Jesus’ sake, God forgives us our sins. It is Christ’s righteousness with which God clothes us when we are baptized. In our baptism we are joined to Christ’s death and resurrection. We die to sin and live for righteousness. This is not just a onetime event when we are baptized. Baptism lasts for life. It is for life. It is for life lived in Jesus’ name. On Pentecost, Peter preached a powerful sermon that cut his hearers to the heart. He exposed their sin. They had crucified the Lord Christ. They said to Peter and the apostles, “What shall we do?” Peter replied,
Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
To be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We use the words that Jesus gave us: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This is how we are baptized in Jesus’ name. We’re talking here about authority. Jesus has the authority on earth to forgive us our sins. This has everything to do with prayer.
We fail in prayer because we fail in life. We sin against God. We don’t want to let go of the sin. We don’t want to confess it and forsake it. We hold onto it. We cannot pray. Our guilt silences our prayers. We confront our sin, that besetting sin, that sin that robs us of joy, that sin that defines our lives. We confront it but cannot defeat it. It defeats us. Our prayers suffer. Our prayers are stymied by our guilt. Then with David we cry out,
“I said I would confessions my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
We pray this in Jesus’ name. We pray not only for the forgiveness of our sins, we pray for every blessing that comes to us from the forgiveness of sins: health, wellbeing, life, joy, and the confidence that our Father in heaven hears and answers every prayer we pray in Jesus’ name.
Pray for peace with your enemies. Pray for your wayward son or daughter. Pray for the brother to whom you are estranged. Pray for your marriage, your children, your government, your church, and your own personal faith. Your Father in heaven will hear you and answer you for Jesus’ sake. He withholds no good thing from his dear, beloved Son. He withholds no good thing from those who pray in his name.
When afflictions sore oppress you,
Low with grief and anguish bowed,
Then to earnest prayer address you;
Prayer will help you through the cloud,
Still to see your Savior near,
Under every cross you bear;
By the light His Word doth lend you,
Prayer will joy and comfort send you. Amen.