Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
To be a Christian is, by definition, to be a hearer of His Word about Himself. It is to receive it and believe it. For it is not only information. It is the power by which He slays your sinful, wicked soul and raises you to a new hope, a new life, a new faith in Him who has saved you. But being a Christian is also to do His Word, that is, to pray His Word. For as soon as the Word of God gets into you, you can’t help but pray. Prayer is not required for salvation, but it is always found in the one who trusts in the Word of salvation.
For the crushed soul which hears of salvation in Jesus Christ can not help but respond in groans and sighs of relief, in thanksgiving for the new hope and life found in Him. In fact, those wordless groans are the Holy Spirit praying within you. You can not hear of the Father’s love for you, by which He gives you the right to come into His presence and pour out your heart to Him—nay, in love for you He demands it of you—and not instantly start talking to Him. He has granted all those baptized into Christ Jesus the rights of His own beloved Son. Full access to His throne room. The right to be near Him, to speak to Him, to be heard in joy by Him and not be blasted for your presumption. He wants to hear from you. He has taken care of death and hell so that He can listen to and assure you in the little things of life.
To be a Christian is to be a hearer AND a doer of the Word of God. God’s Word is living and active. It works in you what it says. It creates a trust in you that you simply act on. So that you stand on the promises God makes to you. You boldly come to Him with all your needs and wants. All your joys and sorrows. For He cares for you. He, in fact, sends His Spirit into your heart to teach you to pray to Him. To groan in solidarity with you in your sin and brokeness when you don’t even know what to pray. To declare and lay bare your heart’s need to Him.
So stand on His Word. Live like He is God. Trust that He has all things in control and pray like He can do more than what you need. More over, pray like you trust Him to have your best interests at heart. “Not my will Lord, but yours. Thy will be done.” Pray that He set you free from the fear of your enemies, be that the fear of not enough money, of being alone, unloved or lonely and forgotten, of being insignificant, unimportant, or living a life without meaning. All these fears are false for you who are in the Lord. You can never be forgotten, alone, unloved, unimportant, insignificant, or meaningless to your God who purchased you with His precious blood of His Son. He provides for His own. Pray to be released from whatever fears you harbour, for when you are free from fear, you are free to live. You are free to give both your money to Him and yourself to others.
Pray boldly. Pray offensively, by which I mean, do not pray anaemicly, powerlessly, as if your God can not do anything. Pray instead with your blood brimming with confidence in Him whom you pray to! Trusting in Him pray for everything and all things. Bring big needs and requests with you. Ask the world of God. Demand it of Him. For prayer is not about overcoming God’s reluctance to give to us, it is about laying hold of His willingness to give to us all we need and more.
When you doubt that, that is your sin talking. Your sin undermines your prayers in two ways. First, it convinces you not to pray because God does not have the power to do what you ask and need or He does not love you enough to do it and is punishing you for that big sin you did, you know, the one you are trying to ignore. Secondarily, your sin convinces you to pray like a pagan, that is, like someone who is not baptized. The person who knows not God’s mercy in Christ Jesus is always tempted to manipulate God. Thinking, “Surely God will do as I wish if only I can show how sincere I am, how committed I am, how emotionally invested I am. If only I fast more, have more faith, or get more people praying the same thing God will be forced to do what I ask. This is pagan for it treats God like a play thing, a foolish toddler or pet to be tricked by your craft and cunning. God is not a lucky rabbits foot to be rubbed , or a genie in a bottle. Both ways of thinking about prayer deny who God is. Repent.
Prayer is about God. There is no power in prayer. There is simply coming to God in prayer. God gives you access to Himself through His Son’s blood shed for you. He promised you in His forgiveness to you that He listens to you, that He loves you, that He hears you, that He delights in you for you are His child. Repent of your false notions of your power in prayer and believe aright that prayer is His gift to you. Prayer is putting His Word into action.
So cling to God in prayer. Cling to His promises. If He seems to not be holding true to His promises remind Him of His own promises. Pray on the basis of those promises and from those promises. Pray as though you are actually His child whom He wants to hear from. That is why Jesus taught us to pray to “OUR FATHER,” for He Himself calls us His children, through His Son.
Jesus speaking of His death, resurrection and ascension says that in that day when He has ascended into His Father’s presence you will ask nothing of Him. Because in that day you will demand things of His Father in Jesus’ name. He uses two different words here to differentiate what we do before He ascends and what we must do after He ascends. Before He ascends we ask uncertainly as if looking for information. But after He ascends we must now plead or demand what He promises for you now have the right to speak to the Father. You are no mere servant in the house, no foreigner visitor to God’s home, but His beloved child! Through your Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection you have the right to speak, the right to ask of your Father the good things He already wishes for you. In fact, He commands you to pray, to demand of Him the good that He promises you. You must ask/demand so that your joy should be made complete. This is prayer’s purpose, to perfect your joy in Him.
You see, prayer is about putting His Word, His promises, to the test. It is about being a doer of His Word who stands on His Word as though it actually is true. If He commands you to do or not do something listen to Him, do it, even if it puts you in direct opposition to this world. Even if it threatens your life here on earth or your livelihood. If that is the case, all the more reason to pray to Him. Pray for the courage to do what He says and the strength to live through the consequences of those who will oppose you. Pray for His blessing in being faithful to Him. Pray that your righteous example would inspire others and allow you to witness to your Saviour so that other might hear and be saved!
Being a follower of His Word, both His commands and His promises, puts you in direct opposition to this world and its wicked desires. Pray knowing that. Pray about that. For He has told us all of this so that when the world attacks you and your faith you might have peace with His Father. For the world doesn’t like people who are different. It especially hates the God who created this world to be different and calls people in it to die to the world, die to themselves, to be different. Thus the world will bring you tribulation, distress, anguish, persecution, even oppression. Your own kids will not want to hear about your God. Your spouse will grumble and not approve of your time and devotion that you give to Christ’s Church. Talking about Him will bring you into difficulty with those who abandon Him. But do not worry about that. You have been told to expect it. And He has overcome all that. He sits at His Father’s right hand. He who came from the Father, who has the Father’s love, who has access to the Father’s ear prays for you to His Father. That is, He makes demands of His Father that His Father listens to, so that the very difficulties that come with trusting in Him He uses to save others. He uses them to overcome their disbelief. The Father loves you because you have loved His Son. Just as you love your children and family members and are willing to suffer in order to give them what is best for them, so suffer too their disdain, their unbelief, their rolling of their eyes, and continue to pray for them. Continue to be who you are. Do not stop being a Christian in their presence because of it. For what can this unbelieving world take from you that will not be restored many times over to you in heaven?
Can they take your goods, money, children or spouse? Yes. But so what? We still have the Word of God which gives us salvation. Stand on it. Pray from it. It is yours. It can not be taken from you. You are eternally secure in Him who commands you to pray to Him all so that He can be gracious to you! He has overcome the world and its unbelief. Pray that He overcomes yours and that of those you love.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON