Fifth Sunday after Easter St. John 16: 24-33
Sermon Notes by the Reverend Dennis Washburn, Ph.D.
In English church tradition, this Sunday has been known as Rogation Sunday. “Rogation” comes from one of the Latin verbs meaning “pray” in St. John 16.
In today’s Gospel from John 16, Christ talks to His disciples about prayer. In John 16:23, Christ promises His followers, “…Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” In the next verse, He stresses the newness of the situation. “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (ESV) So let us spend a few minutes thinking of Christian prayer.
First, at a basic level, praying to the Father in Christ’s name refers to certain expressions used in our prayers- “in Jesus’ name,” “for Christ’s sake,” “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And the greatest prayer we offer in Jesus’ name is the words which He taught in the Lord’s Prayer. All these words are important in themselves. They are signs of the ways that Christians approach the Almighty.
Secondly, in Biblical tradition, the name is an expression of a person’s essence, identity or spirit. The name is closely related to a person’s character, thoughts, and deeds. So praying in Christ’s name means appealing to the nature and character of the Christ, the redeemer of God’s people. It implies that the merits of Christ will be applied to those who sincerely and faithfully call out in His name.
Thirdly, praying in Christ’s name signifies that we hope to model our thoughts and deeds, indeed all aspects of our lives, upon Christ’s example. Aware of our own sinfulness, in faith we hope to approach the Father with the mind and spirit of Jesus. We seek to pray as our Lord Himself would pray to the Father in our situations. We don’t just ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” but also “How would Jesus pray?”
As Christians, we always pray as members of the Body of Christ. Like our Savior, we must always be ready and willing to pray for the Father’s will to be done. We must subordinate our personal opinions and preferences to the greater divine plan for salvation. When we pray with Christ-like faith in the heavenly Father, then our prayers are most truly offered in Jesus’ name.
Our Lord tells us that God answers prayers that are truly in His name. Yet, even such prayers may not be answered exactly like we imagine or hope. Our personal wishes may not be the best when viewed from the divine light of history and eternity.
In Gethsemane, even Christ offered two kinds of prayers. He preferred to avoid the sufferings of the cross, but He also humbly submitted to the greater divine plan for salvation- “Thy will be done.” And through such a faithful and humble attitude, He overcame the tribulations of this world (Jn. 16:33).
As followers of Christ, our prayers should reflect His perspective. In this life, our preferences are conditioned by our physical circumstances and by our human minds. But despite our situations and trials in this world, we seek to follow Jesus. Despite all our feelings of the moment, we must remain committed to the wise and loving plans of God our heavenly Father; the fulfillment of His will must remain our priority in prayer as in other aspects of life.