5 Easter 2011

Here’s How To Ask

The Fifth Sunday after Easter
29 May 2011
Verses 26-27 of St. John 16:23-33

Did we just do something our Lord told us we need not do? I am referring to the Litany we just offered, in that we petitioned Jesus for God’s help with our various petitions. In this morning’s gospel account Jesus says we can address God directly, in Jesus’ Name. Does that mean that we do not have to go to the Father through Jesus? It almost sounds as if! “…Ye shall ask in my Name: and I say NOT unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” Such a sentence coming forth from our Lord’s lips is confusing to our ears.

If we can go directly to the Father ourselves with our petitions (as our Lord seems to instruct) WHY did we just direct many of those petitions to Jesus himself (in the Litany)? For in reciting the Litany, we pray to Jesus for most of the petitions included therein.

To cite some obvious examples: We direct the 1st petition to the divine one who ‘hast redeemed us with thy most precious Blood!’ In the 7th petition we invoke his help ‘by the mystery of thy holy Incarnation, and move on to make reference to thy Nativity, Circumcision, thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation. And in the next (8th) petition, thy ‘Agony and Bloody
Sweat, thy Cross and Passion, thy precious Death and Burial, thy Glorious Resurrection and Ascension.’ In other words, pleading the entirety of our Lord’s life. Finally the 27 petitions end with addressing him as ‘Son of God’, ‘Lamb of God’, ‘Christ’, and as ‘Lord’. Unmistak-ably, all of these references apply to the Son of God, Jesus himself!

But the Litany begins with a petition to the Holy Trinity. Because the whole of the Litany is addressed not simply to Christ, but to the Godhead in His entirety: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Yet as a whole, our petitions to God are PREDICATED upon what Jesus did for us! He came down from Heaven for us, was conceived and born for us, ministered and taught for the sake of us, suffered and died for us, rose victorious from the grave and ascended for us! It was he who opened the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven for us.

For with his Death upon the Cross, his Death simultaneously tore apart, split asunder the great Curtain of the Temple that designated, separated, isolated, and confined the inner sanctum, the “Holy of Holies.” A section in the Temple so holy that only the high priest could enter therein but once per year to address God by his sacred Name in behalf of the People, and so holy a Name that only the High Priest was permitted ever to utter it. In dividing the curtain, Jesus’ Death gave us direct access to the “Holy of Holies” to God Himself!

God’s dwelling place never ceases to be holy! But thru Jesus it is approachable, and also is accessible to us. Jesus offers to us depth of intimacy with God. How approachable? How accessible? How intimate? When the disciples asked how they ought to pray, Jesus taught them the Lord’s Prayer, which begins ‘Our Father which art in heaven.’ And he taught them also, “When you pray; pray Abba (Father).”

He taught them this in the Aramaic dialect of Hebrew. In the Aramaic dialect, ‘abba’ is a more intimate term than ‘father’; for it literally means ‘daddy’! Abba = Dada! Daddy! The term of endearment! A term clearly indicative of the kind of intimate, trusting relationship a little child has with his paternal parent. Such an intimate, loving relationship with God is all made possible to us through Jesus! And it is made accessible through the invocation of his Name.

All things are possible in his Name. All things whatsoever! “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my Name, he will give it you.” Anything whatsoever? Not things that would be bad for us; not things that would be harmful to us. Only those things that would be best for us! To quote his words, “That our joy may be full!” Our tendency is to think that most of the things we ask for are good for us; but they may not be – not in the judgment of God who loves us, and always desires the best for us.

So we need to follow Jesus’ pattern as we ask things of God. Jesus asked forthrightly that if were possible he might not have to drink of the cup of brutal death by crucifixion. But he ended his prayer, “Never-theless, not MY will; but THINE be done.” Indeed in that spirit all our petitions ought to be presented to God: Nevertheless, not my will, but THINE be done!

“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my Name: Ask, and ye shall receive.” St. James’1st chapter informs us how we ought to ask, as well as how we ought not to ask. “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting: for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord” James is attesting: We must ask in faith! Jesus said elsewhere: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

People did ask in Jesus’ Name. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” “Jesus, thou Son of David have mercy on me.” But we must also be persistent with our petitions! The blind man by the wayside, hearing that Jesus was passing near, cried aloud to Jesus for help. The crowd tried to silence him. But he persisted, and cried out the louder, “Jesus, have mercy on me!” And Jesus heard him, asked his need and gave the man his sight. Jesus tells the parable of an old woman who sought justice through an unjust judge. He kept putting her off; and she kept coming back. She persisted until he granted her request!

Jesus himself instructs: “Ask and ye shall have, Seek and ye shall find, Knock and it shall be opened unto you.” When one knocks, is it ever a single rap? Is it not distinct and audible persistence in rapping that will eventually gain attention and a response?

“Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” We are to ask in Jesus’ Name. We are to ask in Faith. To ask with persistence. And to ask for the things that most especially are consistent with His Will for us; not selfishly to satisfy our own whims, likes and desires. Our Lord told us we can petition directly to the Father with whom, thanks to Jesus, we now have total intimacy and complete access. We have only to ask IN JESUS’ NAME!

So, let your requests be made known unto God: Ask Him directly, in faith, with persistence, and in accordance with His Will. Offering all our requests to the Father in Jesus’ Name. Ask in these ways, and ye shall receive. Ask, so that your joy may be full. For he loveth you; because you love Jesus and believe he came forth from God. So then go ahead now, ask in Jesus’ name; that your joy may be full!