Sixth Sunday of Easter – Rogate
“In Jesus’ Name We Pray”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
St. John 16.23-30
17 May 2020
+ In the Name of Jesus +
Today is Rogate Sunday. Rogate comes from the Latin for “ask.” In the middle ages, at least, the Church used these days from today to Ascension Day coming up on Thursday to ask the Lord for his blessing on all the recently planted fields and their crops – Rogation Days – Prayer Days – and at the time of Luther, it was even called “Cross Days” as there was a custom to process out with the Cross from the churches to the fields to bless them and pray.
The invitation to pray is clear. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” Again He says, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
Jesus invites you to pray. He invites you to ask His Father for whatever you need. Note that He invites you to pray in His name.
What does praying in Jesus’ name mean? Is it a sort of magical incantation to tack onto all of our requests to God – pray for a number of things and dutifully add the words “in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!” And then sit as if we’ve rubbed the genie’s bottle and wait for our wishes and desires to come true? It could be easy to be disappointed, and very easy not to understand our Lord’s words rightly.
Jesus makes this task of praying sound so incredibly simple. Jesus also seems to be quite certain of what He is promising. “Truly, truly, I say unto you…” Amen, Amen, yea, yea, it shall be so. But if the task of praying in Jesus’ name is so simple, and Jesus gives it such certainty, why do we not always get everything we ask for in prayer as well? Where do we mess up?
Many Christians today would answer that receiving an answer to prayer depends upon one’s level of faith and holiness of living. Some Christians teach that if your prayers go unanswered, there must be something wrong with the faith or life of the one praying. If you’ve asked and didn’t receive, maybe it was because you didn’t believe hard enough. Maybe it’s because you are hiding some sin. Books are sold in large quantities by people who teach just that. If you name it and claim it and don’t get it, the fault is with your faith, or lack thereof, or your lack of holy living. You didn’t believe hard enough, you didn’t follow the right method, you didn’t do something – it all depends on you.
It is easy to hear this text as Jesus promising to give you any and everything under the sun that you want, so long as you add the six syllables: “In Jesus’ name. Amen.” But Jesus’ name is not a magical tag. Jesus promises you whatever is in His name. All that’s in His name, He says the Father will give you.
The prayer of God’s children differs from all other prayer because we pray to God the Father, together with Jesus and by His Holy Spirit. Prayer is a Trinitarian action, it is our participation in the life and activity of the Triune God. That’s why Luther urges us in the Catechism to begin our daily prayers by remembering our Baptism: “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” followed by the three articles of the Creed and the Our Father with its three-fold doxological ending – the kingdom, the power, the glory forever and ever. Amen. Prayer is to and in the Name of the Triune God.
Baptized and given the Triune Name of God, God the Father hears your prayers as if they came from the mouth of Jesus. Our Father in heaven regards and treats you, loves and hears you, just as He loves and hears His own Beloved Son. For He has also placed His Holy Spirit upon you.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name He will give it to you.”
What’s in the name of Jesus? The things eternal. First, God’s holy name itself, the teaching of God’s Holy Word in its truth and purity. The power of God to lead holy lives according to that Word. Protection from those who would profane God’s name among us.
Second, the things that belong to God’s kingdom. The gift of His Holy Spirit: the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and life everlasting. Saving faith in God’s saving Word, and holy lives given us here in time, and there in eternity.
In Jesus’ name you find 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, and all you need to support your pilgrimage through this world.
These eternal blessings wrapped up in Jesus’ name are for everyone who loves Jesus and who believes that He is the one sent from God to be the Savior the world. And it is the Father himself who invites us, urges us, commands us to come and ask for any and every blessing that His Son won for us, for all the blessings and benefits that are “in His name.” The Father Himself loves us and wants us to have them all. He sent His Son for no other reason than that we might be given these priceless gifts.
Ask for God’s holy name to shape your life, for His kingdom to invade you, for his holy will to be done to you and by you and in all the world, for daily bread and the grace to receive all the goods of this world in thanksgiving, for forgiveness of sins and the grace to forgive others, for help in times of trouble, and for a final rescue from the Evil One. Those are some powerful big gifts to ask of God. Who would ever have the nerve to ask Him for them if Jesus himself hadn’t taught us to pray like that, and to trust in the Father’s love?
You know to ask for these things because the Spirit has been speaking through the Holy Scriptures, helping you to discern how God is at work, His planning, saying, and doing. From that, you know what to pray for, and how. The Our Father is the premiere and foremost work of the Holy Spirit for you in knowing what the eternal things are to pray for in Jesus’ name.
Now, we receive at this altar one more gracious answer to our prayers as Baptized children in the Name of Jesus – to be fed Jesus’ body and blood, the eternal bread from heaven, for the forgiveness of every sin. The Father feeds you so bountifully out of His hand, so that you would find your joy and comfort in Christ alone, learning to believe that Christ, out of great love for you, died for your sin, and also learning from Him to love God and your neighbor.
God the Father’s love for His children is the perfect love of the perfect father. He gave His dearest treasure in His Son to pay for you, body and soul, to ransom you from eternal death. He freely gives you His Son’s righteousness, and accounts you one with His Son through faith in Him. He sends His Holy Spirit to preach the truth of the Gospel to you, to strengthen your faith in Christ, to give you the words to pray in Jesus’ name. His love for you is unending and He delights in His children coming to Him and asking Him for good things, especially the good things He’s promised you – in the Name of Jesus.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +
[Note: Portions of this sermon were influenced by a section on prayer in Dr. John Kleinig’s book, “Grace Upon Grace, Spirituality for Today”, pp. 168-172…]