Sermon for Rogate, 2021

Text: John 16:23-33

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Latin names for each Sunday following Easter thus far have come from the first word (or words) of the Introit for today. Not today, though. Today, the name is Rogate. Rogate comes from the Latin word rogare, which means “to ask.” This name is given to today because the theme of prayer is woven throughout the propers for today. It comes out most explicitly in John 16 where Jesus says, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

When it comes to prayer, we often struggle. We struggle for multiple reasons with prayer. We struggle to find the words to pray. We struggle to know what it is that we should pray for. And we struggle with the idea of prayer in the first place. That is, we know that we have a God who knows all things. We have a God who knows what’s going to happen to us and to this world before it even happens. We also know that God’s will in always best. So the logical question that follows is this: why pray? What good will it do? God will do what God will do. Besides that, we have found in the past that God doesn’t answer prayer the way we want him to. He either doesn’t answer our prayer when we want him to or he doesn’t give us the answer that we want him to give us. This leads us to believe that God either isn’t listening or doesn’t care. I’m sure that most of us would not actually say that’s what we think about God, but our actions can certainly show that to be the case. Our prayers falter as we become discouraged by a perceived lack of action on the part of God.

There are three reasons, however, that we should pray. The first reason is rather obvious, but it is no small matter. God commands us to pray to him. This is what he tells us in the Second Commandment. God gives us his name for the expressed purpose of praying to him. The Lord wants us to pray to him. He wants us to ask him for things. He wants us to ask him for things because he wants to gives us good things. After all, we know that God gives us everything we need to support our bodies and lives. He gives us clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, land, animals, and all we have. He richly and daily provides us with all that we need to support our bodies and lives. Why does he give us these things? Is it because we deserve them? Certainly not! He gives all these things to us only out fatherly, divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness in us. This is the character of our God. We wants to give us all good things. And he earnestly desires that we ask him for these good things. This is the promise that Jesus makes in our Gospel reading: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” At first glance, one may come to the conclusion from this passage that God is some sort of vending machine. Just say the magic words “in Jesus’ name” and you’ll get whatever you want. But asking for things in the name of Jesus implies submission to God and his will. God’s will is always best. He desires that we be bold in our praying and promises to give us what is right.

The second reason that we should pray is that God promises to hear us. We can often be tempted to pray with timidity thinking that we are unworthy to approach the throne of God’s grace with our petitions. This is false humility, though. It fails to take into account the fact that as baptized children of God our sins are covered and we are enabled to approach our Father in heaven as dear children approach their dear children here on earth. We are no longer strangers and aliens to God. We are no longer at enmity with him. We have peace with God because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. God has no wrath left to pour out on us anymore. Instead, we come, covered by the blood of Jesus, and present our petitions to God in heaven with boldness and confidence that he hears us just as he hears his only-begotten Son.

The third reason that we are to pray is that God gives us the very words to pray. Often we struggle to find words to pray on our own, forgetting that God has already given us a whole slew of prayers in his Word. We suppose that perhaps we need to be more eloquent in our praying if we’re going to do it. What we really need, though, is to be more familiar with God’s Word. Look at the book of Psalms! It’s an entire book of prayers. There are prayers appropriate for any occasion in life in there. Have you sinned? There are prayers of repentance. Have you been sinned against? There are imprecatory Psalms. Do you have reason to give thanks? There are psalms of thanksgiving. The list goes on and on. Add to that the Lord’s Prayer which Jesus gave to his disciples when they asked him to teach them to pray, and you have more than enough words – given by God himself – to pray to him.

We need not wonder if God is listening if we pray. He promises that he is. We need not wonder if God answers prayer. He promises to answer us. We need not worry about needing words to pray. God gives those to us, too. Jesus tells us to ask that we may receive and our joy will be full. Our joy is, indeed, full. It is full because we know that Jesus has overcome the world in his death and resurrection. Even when we don’t get the answer that we desire in prayer, we have the assurance that God works through all things for the good of those who love him.

If you are one whose prayers have faltered, ask. Ask your heavenly Father knowing that he has promised to hear you and give all that is right.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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