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Sixth Sunday of Easter – John 16:23-30

by pastorjuhl ~ May 26th, 2011

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

“What a privilege to carry/Everything to God in prayer”. So goes part of the first stanza of the beloved hymn, “What A Friend We Have in Jesus”. Perhaps we have longed for an audience with someone famous whom we respect. If we could only have five minutes with Oprah, Ozzie Guillen, Ernie Banks, JFK, or a deceased relative! What would we say? Could we get our questions and comments out without stammering or being awed to silence?

We Christians have an audience with the King of Kings every time we fold our hands, bow our heads, and speak to God in prayer. It’s a privilege we often forget to use. We work under the assumption that God knows everything, so there’s no need to take the time to pray. Marriage counselors always harp about how important good communication is between spouses. The same can be said for prayer. Assuming an omnipotent God doesn’t want to hear what we have to say is foolish. Our Father in heaven is all ears.

This is why Jesus tells His disciples in John chapter 16, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. This is not a promise that every material possession we ask for will fall in our laps. This is a promise that means asking the Father for spiritual matters will be heard and will be answered. When we pray for spiritual matters, God has to give it to us. No wonder Jesus bids us to ask that our joy may be full!

Nevertheless, we don’t ask. Perhaps it’s better to say we won’t ask. Consider the last stanza of the Chief Hymn, Luther’s catechetical hymn on the Lord’s Prayer. It’s on the front of the bulletin. When we end prayer with “amen”, we are saying that what we ask for will happen. We sang, “Make strong our faith in you, that we may doubt not but with trust believe that what we ask we shall receive. Thus in Your name and at Your Word we say, ‘Amen, O hear us, Lord.'”

Sometimes when we pray it’s as if we throw up a trial balloon. We go to God in prayer hoping first of all He’s listening. There may be times when we have prayed for something and it seems as if God is too busy to hear us or indifferent to our cares. That’s when we stop praying and start assuming God knows what we want because He is all-powerful or because He deals with us by osmosis. God reads brain waves, so we think about what we want God to know and let Him figure it out.

We have this tremendous privilege given to us by our gracious heavenly Father, yet either we scarcely use it or perhaps don’t use it unless there’s an immediate need. What’s more, we sometimes think that the more people we get to pray about something, the more God is awed by our strength in numbers. Forty people praying for the same thing means that our petition moves up the list of most requested petitions in heaven. It’s as if God is like Casey Kasem, counting down the top requested prayers around the world, and He won’t stop until He’s reached the top.

Repent of this foolishness. Repent of treating prayer so flippantly. Psalm 66 says, I cried to Him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. But truly God has listened; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because He has not rejected my prayer or removed His steadfast love from me. We are guaranteed an audience with the King. That’s what is behind Christ’s words to His disciples in today’s Holy Gospel. Jesus speaks plainly with them about asking God the Father for all our needs of body and soul. When we pray, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, these things are already true without our praying it. Nevertheless, we pray these words because they are true. We pray these words so that they may be true among us.

It’s not as if God gets an ego stroke hearing us honor Him. He loves to hear us honor Him because we are His people of His pasture and the sheep of His Hand. It’s like a parent hearing a child say, “I love you.” There’s nothing better for a parent than to hear a child say those words. We love to hear it, and so do our children. The same can be said for God and God’s children. We love to honor Him. He loves to hear us honor Him.

Jesus says our joy is full when we both ask and receive. We do not receive everything for which we ask. If it were so, then there would not be enough storage units on earth to hold all the material blessings we might receive. So we pray, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We often associate God’s will with material blessings, like daily bread and healings illnesses. God’s will includes so much more. God’s will includes our salvation.

The Israelites sinned in Numbers chapter 21 by speaking anger against God. So God sent fiery serpents in their midst. The people repented and Moses prayed to God on behalf of the penitents. God’s will was to save them. So He told Moses to make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live. As God said, so it was.

The serpent on the pole foreshadows Christ’s death for our sins. Jesus became prey to the serpent’s bite in order to crush the serpent’s head. Jesus’ death delivers life to all those who look to Him in faith for forgiveness and life. As it was then in the wilderness, so it is now in this wilderness. We look to Christ our Savior for eternal life. We are bold to pray in His Name, asking for all things to support our body and life.

We pray not only because Jesus bids us to pray, but also because God is the giver of all that is good. He gives His only-begotten Son as our Redeemer. What more could He give to us because of His boundless love? God’s goodness gives us everything we need, which is not necessarily everything we want. Think about it for a moment. We have everything we need from a loving and gracious God. Who could ask for anything more? Yet we do ask for more, because that is the only way our Father gives: in the way of more. More forgiveness. More life. More salvation. More joy. More Jesus. More love for Him and for our neighbor.

“What a privilege to carry/Everything to God in prayer.” Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

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

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