216. Fifth Sunday after Easter. I.
Lord Jesus, teach us to pray in thy name. Amen.
Gospel Lesson, John 16, 23-28. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask. and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray in his service; or, which is the same thing, in his stead, together with him, for his cause, and trusting in his word and his merit. When I send my servant to a neighbor for something which he has promised me, the servant asks for it in my name. He must be in my service, say what I have commissioned him to say, and ask for that only which I have told him to ask for. But if the neighbor knows that the messenger comes from me, and if he wants to give me that for which I ask, he does not concern himself about the worthiness or the unworthiness of the servant. If the messenger has proof that he is commissioned by me, and if he knows that the neighbor is willing to give me the article for which I ask, he does not doubt that he will receive it, even if the neighbor does not like him. You, dear Christian, who in baptism have been made a member of the kingdom of Christ, and who believe in him; you are of his household, in his service; you are wholly his child, and also the child of the Father, and you have his love and favor. Jesus has told you to go to the Father on his business. “Thus ye shall pray for me,” he says: “Our Father who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, etc. Tell the Father that I have said it; that you are under orders from me, and come about my business.” How happy you would be, did you but understand and believe this as you should! All those things which Jesus has told us to ask for, such as all that which is contained in the Lord’s Prayer, and everything which he has taught us to regard as necessary to salvation, we can ask in his name; — but not all those things which we may happen to think that we should like. Pray in simple faith, holding up before the Father that which Jesus has said; and do not doubt that for his sake you shall receive. Do not consider your own unworthiness, — although, for the matter of that, the Father is well pleased in you for Jesus’ sake; — but remain a petitioner at the throne of grace until your prayer is answered, or until your faith has received the needful assurance. When you do this you pray in the name of Jesus, and you shall receive, and your joy shall be full. For he declares and affirms: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you;” and this promise is a draft on the Father, more safe than a government bond. When you own the bond you own the gold; but it is still more certain that you own those things which Jesus says that you may ask of the Father. All things needful to salvation and to the promotion of God’s kingdom, as well as daily bread and the necessaries of life, are given you in the name of Jesus. Ask, and you shall receive!
Eternal thanksgiving and praise be to thee, dear Lord Jesus, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, for thy wonderful and precious promises! Heavenly Father, give us grace to believe and to pray in faith, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Lord, teach us how to pray aright
With reverence and with fear:
Though dust and ashes in thy sight,
We may, we must draw near.
Burdened with guilt, convinced of sin.
In weakness, want, and woe,
Fightings without and fears within,
Lord, whither shall we go?
God of all grace, we come to thee
With broken, contrite hearts;
Give what thine eye delight to see,
Truth in the inward parts.
217. Fifth Sunday after Easter. II.
Lord, give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Amen.
Epistle Lesson, James 1, 22-27. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
The word of God is able to save your souls; but it must enter your hearts; and this is effected when you not only hear it, but do it. The desire and the strength to “do” must, it is true, be given you by the word itself; and doing must be preceded by hearing. When you “hear,” however, you thereby receive the strength to “do;” and then it will be your fault if you will not do it. If you then obey the word, as far as the grace of God makes this possible, it works in you knowledge of sin, faith, regeneration, and sanctification. But if you neglect this obedience, you become merely a forgetful hearer, who learns to know neither himself nor God, and who has neither liberty nor peace, but remains in sin, and deceives his own self; the truth makes a certain impression on you, but it is not lasting. Therefore, dear friend, obey the word of God, live it, follow it, do it; for Jesus’ sake! You understand, I hope, that we are not speaking of the mere outward “doing,” but of the heart’s obedience to the word of God. Let your conduct, inwardly and outwardly, in thought and in deed, conform to the word of God. You may safely do this; for the word will never lead you wrong. The Lord shall thereby give you wisdom which is worth having. You shall learn to know yourself, your sin and your need; and you shall learn to know the cure to be found in the gospel. You shall be permitted to look into the “perfect law of liberty;” that is, into the eternally sure and merciful counsel of God, that whosoever believes shall be saved. This law of the Spirit, which gives life in Christ Jesus, shall set you free from the law of sin and death. The life of love gives you liberty, and makes you to be blessed in your deed; — not blessed by reason of your deed, but blessed in your deed.
Our text closes with a two-fold lesson: 1) You who live the life in God, bridle your tongue! Is it not a piece of the devil’s own cunning that even the children of God are careless about guarding their tongue, although this is a matter of the highest importance? 2) Ye doers of the word of God; do not forget that he wants you to serve him by serving his needy, lonely, and suffering children, the widows and the fatherless. It is as it should be that you worship God, and edify yourselves by hearing his word; but — read once more the last verse of our epistle lesson in connection with the first.
Lord, thou who dost work in us both to will and to do of thy good pleasure; prompt us to do that which thou dost command. Let it be our constant endeavor to live according to thy word, and always to do that which is pleasing in thy sight. Give us love in our hearts, and let holiness adorn us in our every word and deed. Amen.
God, my Lord, my King, thou art,
Take possession of my heart;
There thy blood-bought right maintain,
And without a rival reign. Show me what I have to do;
Every hour my strength renew;
Let me live a life of faith;
Let me die thy people’s death.