Rogate ~ Ask
Readings: Numbers 21:4–9 | James 1:22–27 | John 16:23–33
Text: John 16:23-33
This Sunday differs from the other ones in Easter, with the Latin names that we’ve been seeing, Quasimodo Geniti and Jubilate and things like that, because in this one it doesn’t come from the first verse of the Introit. It actually comes from a word in the Gospel that Jesus says several times Rogate, or ask.
This word runs all through the lesson. Just listen to the first 2 verses: “In that day you will ask nothing of me. 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.”
So what does it mean to ask?
First of all, I think, as I was mentioning to the children during the Children’s Catechism lesson that the word pray is actually just a fancy word for ask. Just ask. It happens to be in in usage in Christendom that it has come to mean that you are offering a petition to our God. Because it is a prayer to God, it often takes on this this aura of asking petitions of a more powerful human party. Like when you’re at the DMV and you need to ask them to take something off of your record. It’s something you’re not really sure that you’re going to get.
Then, you combine that with the centuries of Christian history and a lot of baggage has been added to the act of asking God, and sometimes we might even become intimidated because of written prayers like the Collect of the Day. The formulated Collect of the day is no better than the prayers of any Christian. The only difference is that it’s written out in a systematic way.
Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you.”
So what does it mean to ask specifically in Jesus’ name?
Unfortunately, “in Jesus name” is often taken to be a stamp of approval or the prayer is ending, a magic formula. I asked in Jesus name, so I should expect whatever my heart desires! How come God didn’t give me a Mercedes?
Asking in his name is actually much simpler than we think. It simply is the same thing as being in Christ in his Name is to live in His baptismal promise to you as a New Testament Christian. It is a reminder of whose we are, of who God has made us to be—His children! How He has adopted us in the waters of Baptism, when He put His Name on us. We bear the Name of God as adopted children through Jesus Christ.
So as his beloved children, we come to him asking him in that family name that God has given us.
To pray in his name is to ask under the shelter of the cross (so to speak) under the death and resurrection of Jesus because Paul teaches that we are baptized into his death and his resurrection (Romans 6:3-4).
Jesus continues, “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but will tell you plainly about the Father.”
In that hour, He will not be speaking in proverbs or parables as he did for those outside of the church, or as he did for the disciples in the Upper Room. He will show them plainly what God the Father is up to. His passion is the hour where He showed the Father to us plainly was not a proverb or a parable, but it’s where the Father offers up His only-begotten Son to reconcile the world to himself, to adopt sinners like you and me into his family, to draw sons and daughters to himself through faith. That is where we see God pulling back the curtain so that we can see his heart.
What can we ask the Father in Jesus name, in that baptismal Name He gave us?
First of all, just to be clear, we do address prayers to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit and all of them are right. We have been given, that name of the Trinity, and while each Person may have a unique work and relationship to the others, the unity of the One God remains.
As far as what to ask, here it’s helpful to understand there’s two kinds of asking and I made reference to it with the with the children. In the original Greek, there are two different words translated “ask”– ἐρωτάω (ero-TAH-oh) and αἰτέω (ay-TEH-oh). In the first verse of the gospel lesson, “In that day you will ἐρωτάω nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you αἰτέω of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”
ἐρωτάω is to request someone where the outcome is uncertain. There’s not a guarantee that they’re going to do what you asked. For example, in Luke 7, “One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.” (Luke 7:36)
But αἰτέω has a completely different expectancy to it. It is where you were asking someone with the promise that, or the reasonable expectation that they are going to do what you have asked. An example that I’ve heard of this is where you go to the bank, not today ’cause they’re closed, but say you go to the bank tomorrow and you ask for money from your account, you would expect that they would give it to you. In Luke 11, Jesus gives an example of this asking: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12)
The asking that Jesus is saying about prayer is this later one. You’re not trying to convince the Sovereign Lord on High of your puny petition. You are just like Luther taught us in the Small Catechism asking as dear children ask their dear father. And that’s why Jesus emphasizes it by saying in verse 26 and 27, “In that day, you will ask in my name, and I do not say that I will ask the father on your behalf, for the father himself loves you. Because you have loved me and had believed that I came from God.”
Faith is at work in you who believe. Back to this promise of Jesus, “truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the father in my name, he will give it to you.”
That could be very broad. It could be misunderstood if it comes unhinged from who God has revealed Himself to be. He is not the heavenly sugar daddy who gives us whatever our spoiled heart’s desire. No, what we are able to ask is everything according to what God has revealed, He made his desire and his disposition to hear us clear on the cross: He desires all to be saved. He desires to care for his children. He desires to take care of every earthly need that we have.
But we shouldn’t ask and can’t expect that he’s going to do something contrary to his will. This is why it’s wrong for us to say God d*** you. We shouldn’t say something like that. It’s not our place because it’s not God’s will, but it would be better for us (as those who justly deserve to be damned), to instead say “God save you” or “God have mercy on you.”
Even though it just doesn’t satisfy that that intensity we have when we’re flying off the handle. Remember last week’s lesson from James (James 1:16-21) where he says, “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.” Thanks be to God that he’s put his anger away in His Son.
We can ask for God’s help in every need we can ask even in times where we are tempted. We cannot ask for something that is completely against his will, but we can ask, when we see that we are being tempted to break his commandments, we should by all means pray for His help! “Call on me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15) We can also ask for someone else who is being tempted, “Brothers, if you see anyone who is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1) We can ask for forgiveness when we have failed, and we can trust that he answers our prayers. We can ask for justice to be carried out for him to save people.
We are free to ask for anything in the faith that he has given us, from the inconsequential to the profound. Faith receives abundantly: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)
The Lord has already given us a starting place: The Our Father (Lord’s Prayer) is a great place to start.
It’s not something that’s meant to be thoughtlessly rattled off, but something that Jesus has given us to ponder daily. These are things that he teaches us to ask for and to expect from God.
That his name would be hallowed, that we would live lives that reflect that name that he has given to us, that we would reflect Christian lives. And that he would have mercy on us when we fail, where we fail to do that. That his Kingdom would come is the prayer of the church in in our day, where numerically it is declining. We pray that his Kingdom would come because we see more of the population of the Earth going the way of their own delusions. We pray for his will to be done, trusting that it’s not our own wisdom and learning our own powers that are going to go the best way, but we entrust those things to our Heavenly Father. We ask him to provide for all of our needs that we ask him to not only forgive us, but enable us daily to forgive those who have wronged us. We ask to be protected against temptation and more on that when we get to the end of the text and that. Finally, we ask to be delivered from every evil that we suffer day to day, and the evil of everlasting death. All of these things Jesus has taught us to ask for because God has promised to answer us in those needs.
Another place than Scripture that is so valuable is in the Psalms. The Psalms are filled with every manner of prayer. Every situation that a Christian will find themselves in is in the Psalter, all 150 Psalms. If you just want the brief tour, I’d recommend looking at the prayers in Responsive Prayer 2, page 285 in the hymnal.
There are things that can prevent us from asking, from praying. “I don’t know if I’ll say the right words!” We could feel unworthy to ask for such great things (and we are, but He has offered them!)
We could be distracted, and often are. Our minds are like kittens. They can go crazy. Our thoughts can be so busy when we have a moment to pray. (Speaking from experience) You quietly fold your hands and close your eyes to take away the distractions and keep your hands from doing the million things on your To Do List. And what do you do? You obsess or you plan, or you think about all the things that you failed at this or that. That’s not prayer; that’s worry. So, there are many things that can distract us from prayer.
But the Lord has given us his Holy Spirit to keep us asking, to keep us focused on Him and His work, and so the things that encourage us in our prayers that don’t have to be formatted, they don’t have to be any more than, “Lord, have mercy.” He has adopted us as his children, so we should picture him being on the edge of our edge of his seat to hear from us whenever we put our feeble trust in him. He’s commanded us several times in these verses to ask him, and he’s promised to hear every single last request, even those prayers that don’t even have words.
In the last part of the reading today reminds us of what we will be driven, what will drive us to prayer?
Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise to us when bad things happen. Jesus has said that it will happen. Our own experiences have shown that it will happen. But the thing that is unique for the children of God is that we have a Father in heaven, who has promised to hear us in our tribulation and who has promised to love us, save us, protect us, and deliver us! We have an Almighty Father who has given His Son nailed to the cross and raised from the dead is the guarantee that he will answer every request of his children. As St. Paul writes in Romans 8, “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?” (Rom. 8:32)
So don’t be intimidated by the word “prayer.” Be encouraged to talk to your Heavenly Father constantly in your heart, inwardly, in public, wherever it is. Asking him in faith, trusting His Word, where he has shown you what you can ask for and expect from him, and he will surely do it.
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.