"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 16:23-30).
Tonight Jesus says “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.” And because you are his disciples you pray in the morning the Lord’s Prayer, you pray the Psalms. You take your congregation at prayer bulletin insert that your pastor prepares for you and you pray that, at home, too. You pray at breakfast lunch and dinner and thank him for the food which he has given you. You pray regularly and daily for your family, for your children, for your spouse. You pray for your neighbors. You pray for your coworkers. You pray that those who don’t yet know Jesus would come to him. You pray for your enemies. Most importantly you pray for yourself.
Rather than brooding, and fuming, and becoming anxious you open up your heart and pour out every complaint you have to God. You ask him for whatever is on your heart because you know that he cares for you. You know he listens to you, and you know that he will give you everything that you ask in his name. You are a person of prayer.
If you are delusional enough to say, that this describes you, think again. You have failed in this. I have failed in this. And I know why. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned against the God of love – we have all hid from his presence. It is an awful game of hide and seek. We are afraid of God. We are deeply troubled by past and present sins and we are afraid that God is disappointed in us. Perhaps angry with us – or written us off altogether. We think that he is coming after us to give us our fair share. To deal with us according to what we have done. And if we think we are dealing with an angry God, the last thing we could bear is to open our mouths to pray to him. We are spiritual phonies. Why should we bother him?
We think that before we pray, we should at least get our lives put together a little more. We think that that sort of status with God to speak to him face to face is for more professional Christians than ourselves. And so we consider ourselves helpless and beyond any possibility for help. And so we are silent. We don’t ask him for anything. We are unsure if God hears us at all. And if he does hear us we are not totally convinced he altogether cares that much.
Last week Kristina and I welcomed another baby into this world. He entered this world a bit wet, cold, and shaking. And this most helpless creature asked for help. He prayed in the only way that he knew how. He cried for help. He made some noise. And before he could even open his eyes he was cleaned up and placed on a mother’s warm breast – his naked chest against hers. I covered them with a blanket. And Lazarus our boy was content. His prayer was answered. He rested peacefully.
Jesus tells us tonight that the Father himself loves you, because you have loved His Son and believe in Him. If sinful human parents know how to care for their children, how much more does our heavenly Father delight in caring for his own children. Like a newborn infant you have come into this world with more than your fair share or crying. But you are not an orphan – you are not an unwanted child.
You are redeemed and highly prized by God. You are called by name. You are adopted by God through holy baptism, which means that you have Jesus as your older brother. God as your Father, and the church as your mother. Your prayers have failed but Jesus prayers have not. He prayed for you in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed for you on the cross. He rose from death itself to give you new life in His name. Thursday we observe the feast day of the Ascension where we see that Jesus has not just come to us but that he takes us with him to the Father. That’s why Jesus tells us tonight that he no longer asks the Father on our behalf but that we may call upon the name of our Father as if we were Jesus himself.
Through Jesus you have the status of children of God. For St. Paul teaches us in tonight’s epistle that there is one God, and there is one mediator, one go-between between God and men, the man Christ-Jesus. He has been born of Mary, rejected by men, and crucified for your own sins. Our Old Testament tonight tells us that Moses raised up the serpent in the wilderness and that all who looked upon the serpent would live. And this Christ – who absorbed the wickedness of this whole world was buried for your sake – and more gloriously was raised up to bring life and immortality to light.
Jesus has done this not for himself but for you. It means God’s wrath has ended. God is not angry with you. He’s not disappointed in you. Because when he sees you he sees his son. He sees Jesus. He sees who you were always meant to be from before the foundation of the world except without sin. Because Jesus has taken them all away. When you understand that the Father himself loves you – only then can you open your mouth to pray.
And it’s best to pray like an infant fresh from the womb. When it comes to the Christian life of prayer. It is best to be helpless. It is best to be weak. Prayers don’t need to be eloquent or well thought out. Just ask, cry out, say Lord help me.
We chose the name Lazarus for our boy because in Hebrew, Lazarus simply means, God has helped. And God has done that and continues to in holy baptism – for you and for him - where you were washed clean from all sins at the baptismal font. Placed at the breast of holy mother church for true spiritual milk, comforted by the voice of your loving and heavenly Father, and wrapped in a white quilt of Christ’s righteousness.
This is really what Jesus means when he says “We must become like a little baby to enter into the Kingdom of God.” That we make ourselves totally helpless and depend only upon him. That we cry out for help – knowing that he is always more willing to give than we to receive. So ask and you will receive his love. Ask and you will receive the embrace of Christ. Ask and you will receive His body and blood given and shed for you. Ask and you shall receive – that your joy may be in full. Like a new born child this should be enough to make you content. Your prayers shall all be answered. And tonight you should rest peacefully. In the name of Jesus. Amen.