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Easter 6 – Rogate

by pastorjuhl ~ April 26th, 2008

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

For those who do not know Christ, there is no greater step than the one taken into a church building. For those who know Christ and trust in Him as their Savior from sin, death, and hell, there is no greater privilege outside of hearing the preaching of the Gospel than prayer. Yet the greatest step a Christian can take is one many either forget to take or won’t take.

All it takes is folding hands and a few silent moments to speak to our heavenly Father. Yet it seems rocket science is easier than prayer. We have so many wants and needs that paper and pencil aren’t sufficient. But when it comes time to talk with our heavenly Father about our problems and joys, we don’t know where to begin.

Maybe we are afraid to begin. Jesus promises that He will pray for us and with us on our behalf. Our Lord Christ is omniscient. He knows our every need before we ask it. If Jesus is all-knowing and our heavenly Father is all-knowing, why bother talking to them?

We pray because Jesus asks us to pray. Jesus says 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. Saint Paul echoes our Lord’s Words when he writes, rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Because of these promises we start to pray. We get bold in what we ask. But after asking time and again, nothing seems to happen. We ask for financial peace, and we’re still at war with our checkbook. We ask for our children to grow healthy, wise, and steadfast in the faith. Instead, they give us sorrow as they fall away from the faith while growing wise in the ways of the world and fleshly allures. We ask for healing on our behalf and our friends’ behalf. Yet we hear about more cancer and illness every day. The more we pray about it, the more sickness creeps toward our doorstep.

Left out in the cold is God’s kingdom among us, God’s will for us, daily bread, forgiveness for us and others, protection from temptation, and deliverance from the evil foe. Though we pray the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday, and perhaps many times every day, we mouth the words while not really understanding what we ask. Prayer is like that sometimes. We go to the Father through Jesus in prayer, yet it’s as if we’ve read an entire paragraph in a book and never understood a word of it.

Saint James knows all about it. He writes, be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Another way of saying it is, do not merely listen to the word, do what it says. When God’s Word says, PRAY, we are supposed to pray with boldness and confidence. Instead, we mouth words and act like we’ve sent up a trial balloon, hoping to gather information from heaven to figure out whether or not our prayers will be answered.

That’s not being a doer of the word. That’s a lack of trust in God above all things. The Israelites had that lack of trust too. They grew tired of receiving good things from God. Manna wasn’t doing the job. They wanted more, but they wanted it on their terms, not God’s terms. So God taught them what it meant to be doers of the word and not merely listeners. He sent them trouble to see where they would put their trust. When serpents start biting and people start dying, the prayers of men and women made righteous by God’s promise start rising. We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against [Moses]; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us. Not only did God take away the serpents, He provided those who were bitten a way out of their affliction. One glance at a bronze snake on a pole would heal them. Behind that glance was trust in the Lord God as a Savior from certain death.

James continues, but he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. All of us are forgetful hearers and doers. We might look into the perfect law of liberty and continue in it for a while. But a time comes when we fall short of the Law. So we look to Another Who does not fall short in anything.

Jesus doesn’t fall short when He prays on our behalf. We might mumble a quick “Our Father” under our breath or sigh a short prayer from the heart when something good or bad happens. Jesus never stops praying for us. When He was nailed to the cross, He prays for His enemies: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. When the disciples ask to learn how to pray, Jesus provides a prayer that covers every angle of our life in the Lord. When He give the Twelve their final instructions before His death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus encourages them, and us, to ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.

There it is! We know for certain the Father hears our prayers because He loves us and we love Him and the One Whom He sent into the world. There is no magic word of instant prayer success. There is no one right method of prayer. We ask the Father, trusting that Jesus prays for us and with us.

Remember, when we pray for spiritual things, we pray with the confidence that our heavenly Father has to give to us what we ask. When we pray for earthly things, we pray that God’s will be done. After all, this is our Father’s world. What is good for Him is good for us. When we pray for someone’s health and that someone dies, God be praised! If that someone believes Jesus died and rose again for them, they will live with Him forever. Heaven is a far better place to be than where we are right now.

Consider the Divine Service one long prayer. We make the sign of the cross upon ourselves to mark us as ones redeemed by Christ the crucified. It’s not superstition, it’s a reminder Whose we are. It’s a prayer of thanksgiving with no words necessary except His name. We ask and receive forgiveness. We return thanks and praise to God using the Words He gives us to speak. We listen to His Word believing that where we fall short of God’s glory, Jesus always lives our God’s glory. We pray for our needs and the needs of others, even our enemies. We pray the Holy Spirit to show for us that bread and wine are Christ’s True Body and Blood. We pray the prayer He taught us as our family table prayer. We thank the Lord for His Supper. We leave with His Name upon us, just as it was put on us through Baptism. We pray that prayer of no words but one action as we go: the sign of the cross.

We receive precious gifts in God’s Service. The greatest gift is yet to come. Jesus ascends to heaven this week to prepare that gift for you. You have it now, but not yet in its fullness. The gift He prepares for you is eternal life with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven. We can’t help but pray with the words of Psalm 66: 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. Blessèd be God, because He has not rejected my prayer or removed His steadfast love from me! The Lord is listening. He will answer me. What more is there to say than Amen.

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

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