Easter 6, 2013 (Rogate)
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Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
May 5, 2013
Central Passage
John 16:23-30
Description

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

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you … Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

Prayer is probably the most widely known and accepted form of religious practice there is. It is probably also the most widely misunderstood and abused form of religious practice there is. Everyone prays. That is, everyone petitions God. But not everyone is heard by Him.

It’s not mean to say that the prayers of the unbeliever go unheard by God. It’s not being arrogant to say that He only hears the prayers of His children any more than it is arrogant to say that an earthly father only hears the requests of his children. Dads don’t go around answering the requests and petitions of other men’s children. And your heavenly Father doesn’t hear and answer the prayers and petitions of the unbeliever. He hears and answers the prayers of His children.

You love the Son and believe that He came from God. And on this, on the reputation of the Son, you petition the Father. And He hears you.

He hears you when you pray for frivolous things, things to spend on yourself like more money or a better body or a nicer house. And He hears you when you pray for important things like the faith of your child or the protection of the innocent. Your heavenly Father knows what you need, and what you want. And He adds these things to you, you who seek first the kingdom of heaven.

But it doesn’t always seem so. It often seems that either He hears and doesn’t care to answer or else He does not hear at all. It sometimes seems that the prayers of the unbelievers are answered more than the prayers of the saints. How many people do we know – even close friends and relatives – that don’t go to church, that don’t attend the Lord’s gathering, yet they don’t seem to have near the troubles we have? They’re richer, they’ve better jobs, better homes; more fun than we have. They seem to skate through life happily and without regret, seemingly throwing it in our face that even without God they are joyful and without troubles.

Well, they have received their reward. Their reward will burn. It will all come to not, like the rich man who built bigger barns and stored his wealth, but whose soul was required of him, whom the Lord called a fool. For where your treasure is, there your heart is also.

And here is the Lord’s treasure: you. You are His treasure, His bounty. You are the pearl of great price for which He sold all He had to buy with His own blood, His very life. You are the lost lamb, the lost coin for which He searched diligently until He found you and now rejoices over you. It was for you that He endured the cross, scorning its shame.  You are the treasure of the Lord, His heart; you are His joy.

The Lord prays for you. Just as you ask the Father on behalf of others, praying for your children, your spouse, your friends, and all you know, even yourself, so the Lord prays to the Father for you also. Indeed, you pray by the same Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. For we share in His Spirit who dwells in us and teaches us what we ought to pray for. You do not have a spirit of weakness but the Spirit of God, by whom you cry out to God.

But still we wonder that so many of our prayers seem to go unanswered. So many seem to fall on deaf ears and we wonder, does God hear me at all? And we begin to wonder if we are praying rightly, using the right words and the right posture. We begin to wonder if we need a special prayer or a special person to pray for us. We begin to wonder if prayer has a key so we pick up books and turn on the television to see how the professional Christians pray, how those televangelists pray. And we’re tempted and sometimes succumb to putting our hand on the screen, praying by their formulas and methods, hoping that maybe the sincerity of our prayer, the earnestness with which we pray, and our desperation will transcend the void between us and God and He might hear our prayer.

But it’s not the sincerity of our voice or the strength of our desire by which we are heard. It is by the promise: ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

But we often forget something when we pray. We forget that prayer, like all things of God, is intricately and eternally bound to the cross of Jesus. It is the cross of Christ that transcends the void between God and man, that He might hear our prayers. Yet we often treat prayer as if it has little or nothing to do with the cross of Christ. But it is only because of the cross that we are heard by the Father. And it is only by the cross that we learn to pray to the Father. And it is by the cross of Jesus that we learn to hear the answers to our prayers so that often we want and desire one thing, but what is good for us and for the kingdom is something else. We don’t know what is best for us, we are children. Our heavenly Father knows what is best and gives us what we need for the day, both in terms of this life and in terms of the life to come.

Jesus is risen from the dead. He is ascended on high, at the right hand of Power. Time and eternity are His. Salvation has been won; His victory is decisive and complete. Your sins are forgiven you. Yet we are not yet where we shall be. We are not yet what we shall be. We are still in this life, waiting for the full measure of God’s elect to come into His fold so that He would return and make His glory and His saints known to all people of all times. This is the context in which we pray: waiting for the coming of the Lord.

And while we wait, we gather, we eat and drink the Lord’s provisions, and we watch and pray. We pray for all manner of things. None of our prayers, prayed because we love the Son, go unheard or are unimportant to our Father in heaven. But because we love the Son, the Father hears us and because He loves the Son, He is well pleased with us. And we are full of joy because we know the Father and that He hears us. When all seems well and we pray for frivolous things, and also when we are bearing our crosses and the weakness of our flesh is it’s most obvious, we confidently know that the Father hears us and that the Son is praying with and for us, and that in Him is fullness of joy.

+ In Nomine Iesu +