Rogate Sunday| John 16:23-33| Pastor James Preus| Trinity Lutheran Church| May 9, 2021
This Sunday is named Rogate from the Latin word for pray. In our Gospel lesson, Jesus teaches us how to pray, specifically, how to ask God for what we need. Jesus tells his disciples to pray directly to God the Father and that whatever they ask the Father in his name, he will give them. But what does it mean to ask the Father in Jesus’ name? It means to ask the Father according to your faith in Jesus Christ his Son. Jesus says, “The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but 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 will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” The disciples are able to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name after Jesus speaks plainly to them about the Father. Well, what does Jesus tell them plainly about the Father? He tells them that God the Father sent him into the world to bear the sins of the world on the cross. “That hour” is when Jesus is betrayed into the hands of sinful men, is flogged, beaten, mocked, spit upon, and lifted up on the cross to bear the punishment for our sins. This is not figurative language. This is plain speech. God sent Jesus to die for our sake.
So, what does this tell us about the Father? Well, it tells us that he loves us. St. Paul articulates it well in the eight chapter of Romans, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.” (Romans 8:31-32) Jesus tells his disciples plainly about the Father by speaking plainly about his crucifixion, death, and burial. Earlier on this same evening in which Jesus said these words, he said to his disciple Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) This is the case for a couple of reasons. First, the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. They share the same divine essence. It is impossible to see the Son without the Father. Secondly, because Jesus does the will of his Father. He has come to die on the cross for our sins. Why? Because it was the Father’s will to crush him, having laid our iniquities upon him. When we see Jesus on the cross, we see our heavenly Father. Not that the Father suffered for us. He didn’t. Only the Son did. But on the cross, we see how much our heavenly Father loves us. He has done this out of love for us. So, we know he is willing to give us all things.
Jesus said, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” This certainly is the case for most of us. We do not ask God as we ought. Either we take for granted that he gives us all that we need, so we forget to recognize that all good gifts come from God and to ask him for them with thanksgiving; or we are afraid to ask the Father for anything. We are embarrassed, because we sinned against him and have not lived as we ought. A guilty conscience delays our prayers until we can feel worthy enough to pray. Yet, Jesus does not tell us to become worthy to pray. Rather, he tells us plainly about the Father, that he loves us and prepared our salvation and forgiveness for us through Christ. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray despite our guilt and shame, but rather on account of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus.
Now that we know that to pray in Jesus’ name means to pray to God in faith, we now must know what we ought to pray for. Jesus says, “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give you.” So, what ought we pray for? Everything. Jesus promises that God will give us everything we ask for. Now, obviously this everything does not include evil. We cannot ask God to commit evil or allow us to do evil. To ask in Jesus’ name means to ask in faith, and our faith draws us to ask for those good things that God desires to give us. Yet, although God generously promises to give us everything we ask for, we still find it difficult to know what to ask from him. So, Jesus has taught us a simple prayer, which you all know by heart, by which we ask our heavenly Father for absolutely everything we need.
Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” We have the confidence to call God our Father, because Jesus, God’s Son, is our brother, who has joined himself to us through faith. Father’s love their children and gladly give them what they need. So, being invited by Christ to call God our Father should bring great joy and confidence that we will receive what we ask for.
“Hallowed be Thy name.” With this petition we ask that God’s word would be taught to us in its truth and purity. We are asking that God’s word be preached to us. This makes sense, because it is after Jesus speaks to the disciples plainly about the Father that they are able to pray in Jesus’ name. Gospel preaching creates faith. You must have faith in order to pray in Jesus’ name. So, it makes sense that the first thing we ask for is that we would continue to hear plainly about the Father, that is, that we would hear pure Christian preaching, so that we continue to have confidence to pray to God the Father and to believe that he will give us all that we ask for.
“Thy kingdom come.” With this petition, we ask that God would give us faith by his Holy Spirit, so that we can believe the preaching and live in Jesus’ kingdom here and now and also in eternity. We live in Christ’s kingdom in Jesus’ name, that is, through faith in Christ guided by the Holy Spirit we live in service to God and our neighbor. If we are to live in Christ’s kingdom in eternity, we must live in his kingdom now through faith. For this reason, Jesus teaches us to pray for God’s kingdom to come by giving us his Holy Spirit.
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” With this petition we ask that God would hinder the evil wills of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh, so that God’s good and gracious will can be done among us. With this prayer, we ask both for things we know and do not know. We know it is God’s will that we believe his holy word and live godly lives according to it. That is why he sent his Son to die for us and why he sent his Holy Spirit to create faith in our hearts and forgive our sins. Yet, we do not know what we must suffer on this earth, when and for how long. There is much that God simply does not reveal in his word. Yet, through faith in Christ, we believe that all things work out for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. So, we boldly pray not that our will be done, but that God’s will be done, with sure hope that it will lead to our salvation.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” In this petition we ask for everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body. Rogate Sunday always falls around planting time. That makes a lot of sense. It takes a lot of faith to put seeds in the ground. And farmers ought to pray that God will cause their seeds to sprout and grow and bear a bountiful harvest. They know that this is beyond their control, but not beyond God’s. With this petition we ask for all that we think we need and for all the things that we need, but don’t know it yet. This teaches us to receive all that we have with thanksgiving.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Without forgiveness of sins, we are unworthy to pray. Yet, Jesus has won an inexhaustible source of forgiveness for us. Whenever we pray, we should ask for forgiveness, so that our prayers are not hindered by doubt or unbelief. This is the only petition we pray where we in turn make a promise. We promise to forgive others. This is a fruit of saving faith. You can only forgive others if you believe that you have been forgiven by your heavenly Father. So, as we pray to our heavenly Father in Jesus’ name in response to hearing the preaching of Jesus, so we also forgive in response to being forgiven.
“Lead us not into temptation.” Temptation leads to sin, which leads to unbelief. We know that the devil and the world are against us, because they are against Christ. And we know too well that our own sinful flesh betrays us, which is why the devil tempts us according to our own sinful desires. For this reason, we should constantly pray to be led out of temptation. When we are overwhelmed with sinful lusts, we should run to God in prayer, listen to his word, and not stop praying until the hour of temptation passes. Satan tempts us in order to stifle our prayers, but Jesus tells us to pray all the more when tempted. God knows our weakness and will gladly send aid in such affliction.
“Deliver us from evil.” With this petition we pray that God would grant us a Christian death. We certainly pray that God would defend us against all evils of body and soul, which may attack us in this life. Yet, there is no evil so great as to die in unbelief. We pray that we would never outlive our love for Christ, but that we will escape this world of sin in Jesus’ name.
We close every prayer with the Hebrew word, “Amen,” which means, “Yes, yes, it shall be so.” This is because we pray in Jesus’ name and Jesus never lies. We are confident that our heavenly Father will give us what we pray for, because he loves us through Christ Jesus.
Now that we know how we should pray: in Jesus’ name, that is, through faith in God’s love for us through Jesus; and we know what we should pray for; all things that we need for body and soul here and now as well as in eternity; now we must know when we should pray. Always. At all times. St. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5, “Pray without ceasing.” This is the life of the Christian. We hear God’s Word in church, and we pray in response to it. We meditate on God’s Word at home, and we pray in accordance with it. This is why we often recite the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed before we pray the Lord’s Prayer. It is after Jesus has spoken plainly to us about the Father that we have confidence to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name. Sometimes our prayers are very formal, as they are in church or in the Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes our prayers are said at a certain time, such as before and after we eat and when we go to bed. And sometimes our prayers are informal, even inaudible, and said at any and every hour of the day. And at all these times our heavenly Father hears us and answers us in his good time. When you are tempted, when you have sinned, when you are in anguish, when you are joyful, in the morning and at night, in church and at home, when you are with your family and alone, pray. Make known your needs to God in Jesus’ name. Ask, seek, knock, and you will receive. Amen.