Sunday, May 25, 2014

To Pray in Jesus' Name

Sixth Sunday of Easter – Rogate – May 25th, Year of Our + Lord 2014
St. John and Trinity Lutheran Churches, Fairview and Sidney, Montana
To Pray in Jesus’ Name – John 16:23-24, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, Numbers 21:4-9

Today’s Sermon is framed by Luther’s catechetical hymn on the Lord’s Prayer, Our Father, Thou in Heav’n Above.  The public domain version is included below.  

1 Our Father, Thou in heav'n above,
Who biddest us to dwell in love,
As brethren of one family,
And cry for all we need to Thee;
Teach us to mean the words we say,
And from the inmost heart to pray.

2 All hallowed be Thy name, O Lord!
O let us firmly keep Thy Word,
And lead, according to Thy name,
A holy life, untouched by blame;
Let no false teachings do us hurt; 
All poor deluded souls convert.

3 Thy kingdom come! Thine let it be
In time and in eternity!
O let Thy Holy Spirit dwell
Wiht us, to rule and guide us well;
From Satan's mighty pow'r and rage
Preserve Thy Church from age to age.

Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.  Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

     To pray in Jesus’ Name is to pray as the Baptized.  For it was in and through the water that He put His Name on you, claiming you as His own, a child of His Father, even inviting you to pray to His Father as your Father.  And oh, the promises that Jesus makes concerning your prayers. 

     Today is Rogate Sunday, the only Sunday in Easter or Lent named not from the opening words of the Introit, but rather from the Gospel reading.  Rogate is Latin for “Ask”” as in Jesus’ words:  Ask, and you will receive. 

     But perhaps Jesus’ promises seem too good to believe.  Perhaps your prayer life leads you to doubt that Jesus really meant what He said about prayer in His Name.  Or worse, maybe your prayer life leads you to doubt your faith, your inclusion in the kingdom, since your prayers don’t seem to be answered.  So, even though Vicar, soon to be Pastor Jason Toombs preached on this very same theme on this same  Sunday last year, it seems good to go over the same ground.  For understanding prayer, especially as Jesus describes it, is hard. 

     On the subject of Vicar Toombs, last year on this Sunday he laid out the problem of unanswered prayer in these terms:  God has promised that He listens to our prayers and answers them.  Which raises a difficult question for us, since we ask God for many things which we don’t receive.  I asked God for a wife but I still don’t have one.  
        Well, as you may have heard me announce a couple of weeks ago, there is good news on this front.  Jason is engaged to be married to an Indiana school teacher named Samantha Zon.  And, he will be bringing her back to Montana, as he has also been called to serve as Associate Pastor at First Lutheran in Helena.  Lord willing, at some point we will get the opportunity to celebrate in person with him and his bride this answer to prayer.  And so we see that timing is part of our problem with understanding Jesus’ promises.  Sometimes God answers our prayers, but not right away. 

     God works through means.  He indeed in the One giving Jason and Samantha to each other, but not by zapping her to his side, mid-sermon last Rogate Sunday, (although that would have been really cool).  No, God waited till Jason headed back to Indiana, and he worked through friends and dates and conversation to bring these two together.  Patience is necessary on our part, faithful patience that trusts God will deliver.  But there’s more to our problem with prayer than just timing.  So let’s discuss a bit more.    

     To pray in Jesus’ Name is to pray as the baptized, pure and holy, reborn saints of God, with new hearts which desire everything that God desires.  So, if we are asking for something evil, we can say that prayer does not proceed from you as saint, but rather from you as sinner, and so is not truly in Jesus Name.  Or we can more simply say that God doesn’t answer our prayers if they are evil.  If my prayers are motivated by greed or selfishness or lust, then they are most certainly not in Jesus’ Name.  And so part of our prayers is always, as Luther wrote in our hymn, that our Father would teach us no thoughtless words to say.

4 Thy will be done on earth, O Lord,
As where in heav'n Thou art adored!
Patience in time of grief bestow,
Obedience true in weal and woe;
Our sinful flesh and blood control
That thwart Thy will within the soul.

     To pray in Jesus’ Name is to pray in unity with Christ.  You the Baptized have been crucified with Christ.  You have been clothed in Christ, and sealed with His Spirit.  And so, as Jesus prays, so also we pray.  And the quintessential prayer of Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He asked His Father to take away the Cup of Wrath, which was His coming suffering.  But Jesus’ prayer did not end there.  He continued, “And yet Father, not my will, but rather Your will be done.”  As much as Jesus dreaded suffering for the sins of the whole world, still He submitted His will to His Father’s will.  And so also, prayer in the Name of Jesus is always according to the will of God. 

     Prayer in the Name of Jesus is faithful prayer which knows the Father has given Jesus Christ into the Cross in order to rescue us from an eternity suffering in Hell.  Such a Father will never forsake us.  He will give us the best, even though, like the image of a serpent on a pole, or of Jesus on the Cross, it is often hard to see the good in the outward form of things.  But rest assured, just as the frightening image of the Cross is truly a picture of God’s love for all humanity, so also God’s will for you is even better than your own, far better, no matter what our individualistic world or the Devil try to get you to think.  God’s will may take us into unknown, scary places, but God’s will for you and me is good, the very best.

     Praying always “Thy will be done” is actually quite freeing.  It acknowledges we are sinner-saints who will not always ask for the best things, because we do not know what they are in every case.  But we are free to pray for whatever good things we desire, knowing that God loves to give good gifts, and will either give us what we ask, or something better.  After all, He’s already given us Jesus.  Prayer in the Name of Jesus is prayer that looks forward to our future in glory.  This enables us to pray and live confidently and joyfully now, whether we are in riches or poverty, whether in ease or suffering, because we already know how the story of Jesus, our story, ends.  

5 Give us this day our daily bread,
Let us be duly clothed and fed;
And keep Thou from our homes afar
Famine and pestilence and war,
That we may live in godly peace
Unvexed by cares and avarice.

6 Forgive our sins, that they no more
May grieve and haunt us as before,
As we forgive their trespasses
Who unto us have done amiss;
Thus let us dwell in charity
And serve each other willingly.

     To pray in Jesus’ Name is to pray in truth, honestly.  Which is why right there in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray “Forgive us our trespasses, our sins, our debts.”  Forgive us Lord, for we are still sinners.  To pray in the Name of Jesus as a sinner-saint is always to pray in repentance.  Prayer in Jesus’ Name is therefore humble prayer, never proud, never self-promoting, but always includes the prayer of the tax-collector: Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner. 

     And He does!  We must always pray repentantly, and we can pray repentantly, yet with confidence and joy, for God has taken away all our sins, in Jesus. 

7 Into temptation lead us not.
And when the foe doth war and plot
Against our souls on ev'ry hand,
Then armed with faith, O may we stand
Against him as a valiant host
Through comfort of the Holy Ghost.

     To pray in Jesus’ Name is to pray in faith, trusting the Word of God, like Jesus always did.  And most especially we can pray because of the promises God has made, because of what He has revealed about Himself through Jesus.  We pray, trusting in Paul’s Word to Timothy that we heard this morning, God our Savior … desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 

     Now, to be honest, sometimes we hate that passage, like when we don’t want to see it applied to our enemies.  And we all have enemies, sometimes real enemies, people who truly are against us, but more often imagined enemies, or people we consider enemies because of our prejudices.  Sometimes in our sinfulness, we don’t want to see them be saved.  But there it is, plainly stated in 1st Timothy.  Whether we want everyone to be saved is not important; God our Savior does.  And so prayer in the Name of Jesus is prayer for the whole world, for the salvation of all, even our enemies, salvation that comes through repentance for sin and faith in Jesus.  Sometimes our prayers must include repentance for our own small hearts, a prayer that God would shape our desires, and enlarge our hearts, so that we desire and seek the salvation of all, like He does. 

     Sometimes we love the promise of God’s desire to save all, but still it confuses us, or even frightens us.  For our minds cannot sort out that Almighty God desires to save all, and yet the Bible clearly bears witness that not all will be saved.  If God is all-powerful and desires all to be saved, and if salvation is solely God’s work, then why aren’t all people saved? Scripture says both things, that God wills all to be saved, and that not all will be saved, many times.  We can’t reconcile these two truths in our limited minds.  Scripture does not provide an answer.  And so also for this reason our prayers may falter.  If we think too long and hard on this question, we might even think God is lying or being fickle or something.  The promise of Jesus can become an accusation.  When we begin to doubt God’s desire to save, we will soon begin to doubt our own salvation, and so we may end up hardly able to pray. 

     And so we thank God for the Lord’s Prayer, and for the other prayers that He gives to us like the Psalms, the very Word of God, given you to pray.  And thank God also for the liturgies of the Church, and the Collects of the Church, faithful prayers drawn from the Word and crafted over centuries for us.  Thank God for your brothers and sisters in Christ, who join their voices to your faltering prayers.  And thank God for the promise that the Spirit and Christ Himself add their prayers to ours.  Thank God our Father for all His helps to prayer.  When we are confused or tired or angry or afraid to pray, we can fall back on all of these prayers, and eventually God and His Word will break through our confusion and fear and doubt, to remind us that we pray as the Baptized. 

     Because there are questions we can’t answer, and because we are still sinners, perceiving and trusting God’s sure promises can be hard.  But God’s Word is clear; we have a promise – as God’s children through the Water and the Word, all our prayers are heard.  When we pray in Jesus’ Name, if we say something in error, the Holy Spirit for Jesus’ sake corrects our prayer, and so in all our prayers the Father rejoices.  Because when He hears you, He hears Jesus, the One who has put His Holy Name on you. 

     To pray in Jesus' Name is to pray in faith, trusting in Him as the one Mediator between God and men, the Go-Between for sinners, who does not negotiate some reduced sentence for us, but rather who gave Himself as a ransom for all the sins of all people. Like Moses in the wilderness, asking God to deliver Israel from the fiery serpents, even more Jesus is our Go-Between and Intercessor before the throne of heaven.  In and through Him, we are free, free from our sins, and free to access His Father.  For Jesus Himself was lifted up for us on the cross that we might be saved and restored to fellowship with the Father.

     Look to Jesus, lifted up for you, and pray with boldness and confidence as dear children of God, Amen.  Yes, yes, it shall be so, Amen. 

8 Deliv'rance from all evil give,
And yet in evil days we live.
Redeem us from eternal death,
And, when we yield our dying breath,
Console us, grant us calm release,
And take our souls to Thee in peace.

9 Amen! That is, so shall it be!
Strengthen our faith and trust in Thee
That we may doubt not, but believe
That what we ask we shall receive.
Thus in Thy name and at Thy word
We say: "Amen. Now hear us, Lord."

1 comment:


    What Jesus said, Mark 16:16 "He who who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.(NKJV)

    What Jesus did not say. Jesus did not say who has believed and already been saved should be baptized as a testimony of their faith. To believe what Jesus did not say requires at least one of the following. Willful ignorance, dishonesty, or lack of prayer for the truth of God.

    What the apostle Peter said, Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, "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, (NKJV)

    What the apostle Peter did not say. Repent because your sins were forgiven the minute you believed in Jesus and now be baptized because Jesus commanded it so you can join the Baptist church or any other church. Peter and the apostle never said water baptism was not essential to have sins forgiven.

    Men have only two choices, believe what Jesus and the apostle said or believe what men have declared as the truth.