Easter 6c, 2013 (May 5, 2013, revised from 2008) 

Holy Cross Lutheran Church 

Rocklin, California

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn 

John 16:23-33

TITLE: “Whatever You Ask in My Name”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is from the Gospel just read, with focus on Jesus’ words, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you (John 16:23b).

Our Father who art in heaven.

What does this mean?

With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true father and that we are his true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask him as dear children ask their dear father.

In our household, as I expect it is in most of yours, a part of the nightly ritual is talking about the day. “What happened at school today?” “Who did you play with?” “What kind of trouble did so-and-so get into?” That sort of thing. Now on most days Kathryn and I can pretty much predict what many of the answers are going to be. The days don’t really change all that much. But that isn’t really the point. The point isn’t that we don’t know what’s going on. The point is that we love to hear about our children’s lives. Why? Because that’s what parents do.

Now if this is true for earthly fathers and mothers, how much more is this true for our heavenly Father! Our heavenly Father, who knows all things, wants to hear from you. He doesn’t want to hear from you because He doesn’t know what’s going on in your life. Far from it. He wants to hear from you because He loves you. He wants to hear from you, and answer your prayers, because you are His child, baptized into His name. Jesus put it this way:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23-24 ESV)

If this is true, if God gives you all things in Christ, and if God wants your joy to be full, why don’t we pray? We quickly make prayer into an obligation, a task to get done, or even something we do to please our parents or grandparents. We treat prayer like it is a fire alarm. Break the glass and pop out a prayer, but only when things become really bad.

But it is not so. Luther once commented that next to preaching, prayer is the greatest devotion the Christian can render to God (Luther, House Postils, 2:104). The right to speak to God in prayer is a high honor, and it is one that does not come lightly. You have the ear of the king! You are in holy conversation with God in Jesus Christ, our Lord. There is no greater benefit to you and your needs than prayer. When you pray, God hears. When God hears, he answers. When He answers, it is only in blessing for you.

This is why Satan wants to drag you away from prayer. He knows how powerful it is. The Israelites prayed to God that he would take away the fiery serpents, and He did. Abraham prayed to God that He would save Lot and his family. David prayed to God for forgiveness, and God granted it. The Canaanite woman. The centurion. Jairus’ father. The blind, the sick, the sinners. God heals them all. That is who He is. That is what He did for them, and that is what He does for you even now. Satan knows this all too well. He doesn’t want your sins forgiven. He doesn’t want you receiving God’s peace. He wants you feeling tired, alone, angry with God and man alike. He knows this, and so He does everything He can to drag you away from our Lord in prayer. Luther put it this way:

The devil is a scoundrel who furtively sneaks up behind us to see if he can somehow divert us from prayer. So, we must prepare ourselves to oppose him and allow nothing to deter us. When he prompts you to think, there’s something else I must do first, then you must say, No, not so; as soon as the need arises, I shall pray; for when I have need to call upon God, that is the right time to do it. If I am not fit or worthy to pray, God will make me fit and worthy. For I know that He loves me, not because I am so good or righteous, but for the sake of Christ, Whom I love and in Whom I believe. (Luther, House Postils, 2:106)

What the devil doesn’t want you to know is that even when you are too whipped to pray, even when you feel like you hate God and want nothing to do with Him, even then the Spirit prays for us when we cannot pray for ourselves. St. Paul says “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26 ESV) This is God’s work for you. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ hears your prayers. You have been washed in Him, you sit at His holy table, eat, drink, listen and speak with Him. You are a part of the family, and that will never change. Hear again those beautiful words from the catechism:

Our Father who art in heaven.

What does this mean?

With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true father and that we are his true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask him as dear children ask their dear father.

Pray with boldness and confidence. You are the Lord’s. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.