Sermon for Rogate based on John 16:23-33
Dear children of God who pray to God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you.” He tells us that we can pray directly to God the Father because He Himself loves us. God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father. He has promised to hear the prayers of His children and to answer our prayers.
For what do children normally ask from their fathers? Candy? A treat? A toy? Yes, children tend to ask their fathers for frivolous things. We really are no different. As God’s children, we tend to pray for frivolous things, too. We pray for prosperity, for mammon, for little trifles for this life. We might pray for a bigger house, a newer car, more prestige in the community.
Saint James writes, “You ask and you do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (4:3) Like little children, we don’t know what we should be asking for. We ask for things out of jealousy or greed. We pray for selfish things that aren’t good for us.
Our Father in heaven knows how to give good gifts to His children. While we tend to pray for earthly blessings, His desire is to give us heavenly blessings. While we tend to desire earthly pleasures, He desires to give us eternal pleasures, eternal joy. Our eternal life is what He always has in mind in what He gives and doesn’t give in answer to our prayers.
To be sure, God does also give us earthly blessings and pleasures. We can certainly pray for them. Like the child who is told “No” when asking for more candy, we may also be told “No,” but God has given and continues to give us very much more than we need for this body and life.
The thing about earthly joys is that they don’t last. A fun moment, a pleasurable dinner, a nice vacation – they all end, and then all you have left are the memories. Every earthly possession will one day break down, rust, or be destroyed. Even our bodies will one day give up our spirit and decay in the ground.
Why would we not pray for spiritual blessings? As opposed to earthly blessings, spiritual blessings are promised to us by God. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
There is true joy in having your sins forgiven and having peace with God. There is true joy in knowing that God is not angry with you over your sin, and that He will not punish you for your sin.
When you pray for forgiveness of sins, you don’t have to wonder if God will grant you forgiveness or not. The context of Jesus telling the disciples that they can pray directly to the Father in His name is Jesus speaking about His upcoming suffering and death on the cross. It is because of Jesus’ death that you know God will forgive your sins when you ask in Jesus’ name. It is because of Jesus’ suffering and death that you know that God will forgive you your sins for Jesus’ sake.
To pray in Jesus’ name means to pray with faith. It means to pray that God would give you what you ask for Jesus’ sake, relying on Jesus’ death in your place. Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, which means that He has satisfied the demands of God’s Law for us through His perfect obedience and His perfect payment for sin. Praying in Jesus’ name is relying on Jesus having satisfied the wrath of God over our sin.
Praying in Jesus’ name also means trusting that God knows what you need and will give it to you. So, pray for prosperity. Pray for mammon. Pray for little trifles for this life. Pray for a bigger house, a newer car, more prestige in the community, but pray for it all asking that God’s will be done. That is what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus taught us. We don’t pray, “My will be done,” but “Thy will be done.”
We pray that God’s will, which is good and perfect, would be done in everything for which we pray and in everything in our lives. We pray that if in our lack of wisdom we pray for something that is harmful for our spiritual well-being, God would not give it to us. If we pray for something that would lead us away from God, that would cause us to sin, that would lead us into temptation, we pray that God would not give it to us. We pray that God’s will would be done rather than our will.
God does want what is best for you. That you can know and trust. Since He has given His only Son to death for you, you know He will withhold nothing from you, but will graciously give you all good things. He who claimed you as His child in the waters of Holy Baptism, forgives your sins through Absolution, and strengthens your faith through Christ’s body and blood will give you everything you need and more.
Even sinful earthly fathers know how to give good gifts to their children. How much more does your heavenly Father know how to give you good gifts. He Himself loves you, so you can pray directly to the Father in Jesus’ name, knowing that He will answer your prayers and your joy will be full. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.