Sunday, May 9, 2010

Homily for Rogate (Easter 6)


John 16:23-33

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God the Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today the Holy Spirit would have us learn about the true promise and power of true prayer to God the Father in the Name of Jesus. Thus, the name of this Sunday in the Church’s Year of Grace is Rogate, a name that comes from the Latin word for to petition or to request, to ask, that is, to pray. “Ask,” our Lord teaches you, “and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

It all sounds so simple, doesn’t it, “Ask, and you will receive”? It sounds so simple, in fact, that we feel there must be a catch. After all, we often pray and do not receive what we ask for. So, just what is Jesus getting at here?

The key to all prayer, the key to all asking, is to ask in Jesus’ Name; but, now we have to consider what that means, and, more importantly, what that does not mean. To ask in Jesus’ Name is not to simply tack the name of Jesus on to the end of our prayer. Jesus’ Name is not some magical utterance that causes God the Father to answer our prayer. Neither is Jesus’ Name a golden ticket that gains you an audience with the Father. The Name of Jesus is, first and foremost, a gift of the Father: God the Father gave His son into death for the life of the world. To ask in Jesus’ Name is not to ask for simply anything we might want, but it is to ask for anything we want that is in Jesus’ Name, that is, that is in Jesus Himself.

Now, what kinds of things are in Jesus Himself, in Jesus’ Name? Well, things like the Father’s love, overflowing joy, peace of heart and soul, forgiveness of sins, eternal life, a family of faith that shares your joys and sorrows, the gift of the Holy Spirit and faith – oh, and not to mention, all that you need to support your pilgrimage through this world – and that’s just for starters! “Whatever you ask of the Father in my Name,” says your Jesus, “He will give it to you. … Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

And so, you see, true prayer is not “name it and claim it” prayer – pray for a new shiny Audi, believing God will give it to you, and you will have it; heck, you have it now, even as you’re driving down 22 in your 2002 Honda. True prayer is not believing that the cancer is gone simply because you asked for it, even in Jesus’ Name, while it still rages through your loved one’s body. In Jesus’ Name is not a promised release from temporal suffering and sorrow, but rather victory over these, even now, and especially in heaven. True prayer in the Name of Jesus is a conforming of your will to the will of God in Jesus Christ as the Catechism explains the Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Thy will be done: The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.

Ultimately, God doesn’t need your prayers, though He covets them; it is you, rather, who need so very much to pray. True prayer realigns you with your heavenly Father, the source of all blessings. For, He has sent every good and perfect gift to you from above in sending His Son Jesus, and so all that the Father would ever give you is in Jesus’ Name. The Father will only give you what you ask for in Jesus’ Name. And, whatever you ask in Jesus’ Name, the Father will give you.

Let’s face it: prayer is hard work. Often we don’t know what to pray for. We don’t know what words to use. We are filled with doubts that are prayers will be heard or that God will answer. And when we try to pray, we find ourselves plagued by distractions, both exterior and interior. Take heart, you are in good company, for Jesus’ disciples experienced this as well. They asked their Master, “Lord, teach us to pray,” and Jesus taught them the Lord’s Prayer. Now, contrary to popular sentiment, the Lord’s Prayer is not simply a model prayer, offered with the intent that it be used merely as a style or format for prayer, but not actually or often prayed itself. Rather, the Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect prayer consisting only of God’s own Words spoken from the mouth, heart, mind, and soul of God Himself. The Lord’s Prayer is a description of God and who He is in and of Himself: God is a holy Father, reigning in His coming heavenly kingdom with a holy and perfect will that will be done even were there no soul on earth to ask that it be done. He gives daily bread, all that we need to sustain our bodies and lives, without our asking, and He forgives ours sins by the atoning sacrifice and merits of Jesus Christ alone. He defends us from the temptations of the Evil One because He loves us and is jealous for our love of Him. And so, it’s all about God: Who He is. What He is like. What He does. And, what we are praying for in the Lord’s Prayer is that we would love Him, who He is, what He is like, and what He does. All this is in Jesus’ Name, and the Father will give to you all that you ask in Jesus’ Name.

Prayer is only hard work, then, when we insist that it is our work! True prayer is God’s work: He is the loving Father who desires to give good and perfect gifts to you His children. He is the storehouse of all good gifts in His Son Jesus, in whose Name we pray. And by the workings of His Holy Spirit He is both the inspiration and the content of our prayer. We truly pray when we stop trying so hard to pray, stop worrying so much about what to pray, how to pray, and when to pray. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is both the object and the content of true prayer, so we begin with God, who He is, what He is like, what He has done and is still doing. Ask for whatever you want that is in the storehouse of God’s good and perfect gifts, in Jesus’ Name, and He will give it to you. And, you’ll find that you’re not asking for new Audis, winning lottery tickets, or passing grades on Regents Exams. You’ll still pray for healing and restoration, comfort from grief and sorrow, but you will pray for these things in accordance with God’s good and perfect will. If the healing doesn’t come, if the sorrow doesn’t pass, if the death tragically occurs, Thy will be done, not mine, for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus isn’t kidding when He teaches you to address God as your Father, for you are His son and His daughter by Holy Baptism. Jesus even says that He won’t ask the Father for you on your behalf, for as a true son or daughter you can ask your heavenly Father with all confidence and boldness whatever you want in Jesus’ Name. And, as today happens to be Mothers’ Day, a day when we thank God for all those who have that incredible vocation to serve as mothers, we have presented before us a great example of the kind of love God the Father has for you. When you’re a kid, moms are great to ask things of. Oh, they may get impatient with you and tell you to be quiet, but they love you. And kids know that. That’s why they are so persistent in asking mom for this, that, and the other thing. The love of a mother for her child is not unlike that of God the Father for his children. His love is unending and He delights in His children coming to Him and asking Him for good things, especially the good things He’s promised them –in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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

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