Sermon – Easter 6 – May 26, 2019
John 16:23-33 ‘The Promise of Prayer’
CT: Being called and made into God’s children through faith in Jesus and His work for us leads us into a divine life-changing, joy-giving conversation.
Intro: The OMG acronym is used far too often for my liking. People use it when they’re pleasantly surprised and when they’re absolutely horrified. Oh my God! Who are they crying out to? What help comes from crying into nothing? And then add to that the uncertainty that even if someone is listening, could they do anything to help.
It’s hard for even for the most seasoned Christian to cry out to an invisible God with the conviction that He’s not only listening, but that He’s fully willing to help—and will. And when our prayer is not answered in the way we expected or wanted, not only are we left questioning God (sometime railing against God), but the sceptics around us tell us to see how prayer is only a mental crutch. Yet I’m always amazed at how quick the same people are to accept an offer to pray for them. Some have even responded with, “I hope you have an ‘in’ with Big Guy,” or “it can’t hurt to cover all the bases.”
As you examine your own prayer life, do you ever have niggling doubts about who is listening?
Faith: Yet Christian prayer attests to faith that God is not only listening, but is listening as our dear heavenly Father. In fact prayer is such a big part of the Christian life that Martin Luther called it the heart beat of a Christian. It’s as important to the Christian life as taking a breath is to your physical well being. And it’s not about wallowing in self pity; it’s about knowing the closeness of our heavenly Father; the assurance of His presence.
Joy: Jesus’ resurrection turned the disciples sorrow into joy, yet after His ascension how would this joy continue? Jesus pointed them and us to prayer. He said, “Ask [in my name], and you will receive that your joy may be full.” Could the incompleteness of your joy be from not asking the Father in Jesus’ name? But we do pray in His name, don’t we? But perhaps there remains a glimmer of doubt about the power of Jesus’ name; that God might not listen to me.
Only Jesus brings that day of joy made full—made complete by His death on a cross for the forgiveness of your sins, His burial in a grave to conquer death, and His resurrection that He might raise you up to a newness of life, lived now for forever. That day begins with the gift of the Holy Spirit who moves us to love and forgive as we are loved and forgiven. Joy is the assurance of God’s life living in us, between us, and among us, and praying expresses and exercises His life in our living. Prayer connects our heads to our hearts in a way where God brings about a change in our attitude, behaviour, and character. Pray for that person who has hurt you or that situation you want to avoid. Neither the person nor the situation go away or necessarily change, but in prayer God changes how I see them and am willing to treat them. God changes me in prayer.
Our joy comes from knowing that our heavenly Father loves to give. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says that when our children ask for food we don’t give them something hurtful, so, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13) From Romans 8 we read, “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
Name: Our lack, failure, or weakness of faith, is only remedied by Jesus, who proclaims the Father’s love for us and care over us through that day of His own death and resurrection. Jesus said that His suffering and death was necessary for our salvation; it’s the way God returns us to Himself. The name of Jesus makes the family and the prayer. It’s the name through which God takes hold of us and possesses us as His own. We no longer belong to ourselves, or are we slaves of sin, and the devil has no power over us. Yet the world and our sinful flesh would argue against these redeeming promises of God and threaten our faith, arguing that they’re not true. And the devil loves to throw your sins and faith denying situations into your face and say, “See! You’re not worthy. God’s not going to forgive that one!” But prayer strengthens faith as we engage our heavenly Father in a conversation on the basis of Jesus’ work for us.
Participation: You see, praying in Jesus’ name is not simply a short cut to God’s favour. It’s not like a little girl blinking her big eyes at her father and wrapping him around her little finger. It’s not some magic formula to get what we want; it’s participation in Jesus’ saving will and work—His name. While sin in our lives seeks to manipulate God for our ease and advantage, praying in Jesus’ name brings the security of living in His resurrection—actively trusting in God our Father as ‘good’—as for us—in the midst of work, school, play, home, and church—in the midst of favourable days and times of stress and trouble.
Pattern: Jesus is our prayer pattern. As Jesus came from the Father and went to the Father, so it can be said that our prayers originate in the Father’s will for our lives. We don’t pray because we like it or need to (even though we do), but because God wills us to call Him, ‘Abba,’ Father, through His Son. And Jesus didn’t ascend into retirement; while we pray out of His work for us and through Him, He binds us to our Father in heaven in a deeper, more caring relationship than we ever thought possible.
When we cry out from Jesus Christ to God our Father, we cry out to the Answer Himself. It’s a Spirit led and Spirit fed confession of faith that our prayers are heard in the name of He who has overcome the world. We are forgiven; we are children of God, confident that every answer will be met in and through Christ Jesus. Praying in Jesus’ name is praying in the full confidence that He who gave His life for me will also care for me. The answer you and I need for every prayer arises out of, and is given in, Jesus’ name.