Rogate, The Fifth Sunday after Easter
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time
The Hymn # 202 Welcome Happy Morning 4:28
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #458 Our Father 4:50
Origin of Prayer
The Communion Hymn # 207 Like the Golden Sun 4:76
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #657 Beautiful Savior 4:24
KJV James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
KJV John 16:23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. 25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. 28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. 29 His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. 30 Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.
Fifth Sunday After Easter
Lord God, heavenly Father, who through Thy Son didst promise us that whatsoever we ask in His name Thou wilt give us: We beseech Thee, keep us in Thy word, and grant us Thy Holy Spirit, that He may govern us according to Thy will; protect us from the power of the devil, from false doctrine and worship; also defend our lives against all danger; grant us Thy blessing and peace, that we may in all things perceive Thy merciful help, and both now and forever praise and glorify Thee as our gracious Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
Origin of Prayer
The Biblical concept of prayer should be clear, but it is one of the lines of division in Protestantism.
One of great Ohio Lutherans explained it well. Loy served a parish just north of Columbus, and his hymns or translations are used in The Lutheran Hymnal:
"The Christian's faith trusts in the ordinary means. Prayer is not a means of grace. Means of grace are divine appointments through which God uniformly offers blessings to all who use them. Faith is the means by which the blessings are received and appropriated. God gives us bread, when we ask it, not through the channel of prayer, but through the ordinary channels of His providence. He gives us grace when we ask it, not through prayer, but through the ordinary means appointed for this end, namely the Word and Sacraments. He who despises these will as little have grace as he who refuses to accept bread produced in the ordinary way of nature. Faith asks with confidence, and trusts in the ordinary means of God's appointment for the blessings asked." Matthias Loy, Sermons on the Gospels, p. 387.
Prayer is the result of faith, and faith is created by the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel.
No one can pray to Christ without faith, yet people are commonly told to pray to Jesus to come into their hearts. This command causes the confusion which mixes up so many people.
Throughout the Bible, the passages on prayer are based upon the Gospel Promises, which we see in this passage of John.
John 16:23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
This is one of many Promises of God.
The verse also shows why we pray in the Name of Christ. Whenever people try to establish a generic religion, they leave out praying in the Name of Christ. One Masonic Lodge member was disciplined for such prayers – he was the chaplain. The lodge wanted to make the point that they considered all religion equal, so they could not single out one religion. They have many established poems and speeches about this concept, too.
Jesus showed Himself as an example of prayer, and in this parting sermon, told His disciples that their prayers would be exactly like the Only-Begotten Son praying for them.
That is Gospel motivation rather than the Law. The second Promise provides more motivation:
24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
Strangely, people ignore what the Word of God says and substitute their own slogans. Man is always eager to substitute something inferior to replace the clear, plain meaning of the Word.
For example, people sometimes think “prayer changes things” is from the Bible, when it is a slogan and lacking the power of God’s Word. What exactly are things and how are they changed? That is terribly vague and yet it appears in gift shops everywhere.
The two Promises of Jesus are specific and clear:
1 Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
2 Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
The two Promises follow the Old Testament style of making the same statement a second time in different words. One explains the other:
The Lord is My Shepherd, I lack nothing. [literal] Psalm 23:1
The opening of the 23rd Psalm is far more expressive by having the dual statements. In addition, the words are poetic and suited for singing. Thus the Psalms are called the hymnal of the Old Testament. Many hymns are based upon the Psalms.
The sermons of Jesus in John’s Gospel have often been compared to Hebrew poetry. They repeat meanings in the same way, using different words, or adding explanations to those words (drawing water, John 4, bread of life, John 6, the Word in John 1, and the I AM sermons).
Short, simple, repetitive phrases are easy to memorize.
Throughout history there have been people who could memorize vast amounts of material and repeat them. FDR mentioned a poem to Churchill, and Winston began reciting the entire poem from memory.
“"Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag," she said.
Churchill did the same with Shakespeare’s plays, mumbling them from the audience as the actors recited the lines, growling when lines were skipped in the editing of the staged version. (R. Burton told the Shakespeare story.)
Literature has always been spoken aloud first and read in books later. Many books were written in modern times with the expectation that they would be read to people in schoolrooms and in factories.
The books of the Bible are primarily works to be read aloud, so we can appreciate how the Holy Spirit inspired them to be simple, clear, and poetic in so many passages.
One version of the Promise today is three-fold:
KJV Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
Prayer can be turned into Law, mistakenly, and it often is. Since the non-Lutheran Protestants teach prayer as the only Means of Grace (inviting Jesus into the heart), they also teach that more prayer (and more ardent prayer) leads to more grace. Rather than directing people to the Word and Sacraments, which the Reformed say are not effective, they tell people to trust in the volume and sometimes the agony of their prayers. Thus prayer becomes a work of man that earns God’s favor. If it is not done properly or often enough, they think God punishes.
Roman Catholic prayer is not much different, because devotion is taught as the way out of Purgatory, for the individual and for friends and relatives. We still have “The Suffrages” in the hymnal, but the name came from devotions given on behalf of those suffering in Purgatory, a mini-Hell for the semi-saved. Like the law demands of the Reformed, Roman Catholic demands are never satisfied. No one is told, “Prayer will earn release from Purgatory,” because no one is sure, and the uncertainty builds cathedrals and endows religious orders.
In contrast, the Bible teaches prayer as energized by the Holy Spirit, moving us to pray with the Gospel Promises, and helping us as we pray. Prayer is a work of God in man, not man’s work to please God.
How God Answers
There are no qualifications in God answering prayers. His timing and fulfillment are not the same as ours, as Is. 55:8-11 reveals. Just as we pray in faith, so also we wait in faith for God to answer.
Some people only want material blessings from their prayers, and God allows that, sometimes in great abundance. But since these are not worthwhile prayers, the abundance often becomes a curse because the cares the world separate the individual from the Word of God (Mark 4, Matthew 13, Parable of the Sower).
Some prayers are simply blasphemous, such as ordering God “to give us 10% growth in each of the next three years.” As Luther said, when God is told exactly what to do, He does the opposite.
For example, I stumbled onto one video sermon where the minister began with the I AM of Exodus, the Burning Bush. “What is your name?”
“Tell them I AM sent you.”
The minister said a few words about the power of God and began describing the Almighty as a personal man-servant, Who will do whatever we want. Of course, this wolf-preacher wore the grin of a man who found the key to Fort Knox next to his winning lottery ticket.
The real answer is far more mysterious than that. God may answer prayers in 10 or 20 years. When we look back, we can see how God worked according to His wisdom, in giving us more than we could hope or imagine.
KJV Ephesians 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
So, when prayer is taught contrary to the Word, we find people making it into a work of man and one that benefits the individual in superficial, material ways. Many have combined their errors with the spiritual error of Eastern religions, as if one could tap into the powers of the universe for miraculous and surprisingly self-centered answers to problems.
On the Roman Catholic side, prayer is used to emphasize doctrine against the Gospel of salvation. Since God already justifies through faith in His Son, why would someone pray for release from Purgatory, as if the Atonement were incomplete without man’s work?
Jesus’ example is clear. He prayed for others, as He made clear in this passage.
When He prayed for Himself, He said,
KJV Matthew 26:39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
Often mothers and fathers teach their children how to pray, naming relatives and people in need.
Paul L. Holmer was considered one of the great philosophers on the Yale Divinity and graduate school faculty. He was a layman rather than a pastor, and he was a conservative Lutheran.
When people asked him why he believed in Christ, they expected a profound philosophical answer, one to satisfy their intellectual rigor. Instead, he said,
“Because my mother taught me.”
If they took a census on how children were nurtured in the Gospel, most would probably say the same thing – Because my mother taught me.