The Fifth Sunday after Easter May 13, 2007
1 Timothy 2:1-6
27, 321, 458, 457
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
[Jesus said], “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.”
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus, the heartbeat of all our prayers:
Every teacher’s greatest challenge is getting the attention of his students. This can be very intimidating to the would-be teacher. He soon learns that getting a student’s attention is a gift he will have to cultivate. I once knew a teacher who seemed to possess that gift. He could face a room full of jabbering, laughing, excited students, and gain their complete attention with two words: “Tune in!” He worked with youngsters who grew up around TV and radio. They understood that you don’t get the program you want unless the station is properly “tuned in.” If this teacher told them to “tune in,” they knew that he was about to say something that needed their undivided attention.
The fears a teacher has about speaking without being heard are shared in a larger way by many other people—people who think they are alone or that nobody understands just what they are going through, people who feel isolated because of who they are and what they have done, people who recognize that the greatest threats they face aren’t material and earthly, but spiritual and eternal.
These are people who want to pray—who want to bring their everyday cares or overwhelming fears before the throne of heaven. If you find yourself among these people we invite you to tune in to our Lord’s invitation to pray as we consider the privilege of Christian Prayer. I. Jesus: the tuned-in Savior, II. The believers: tuned-in to His Name, and III. The privilege: tune in to our Heavenly Father!
There are times when we may begin to wonder if our prayers are really heard. We sense that God may not be as interested as we would hope or that something is getting in the way of our prayers.
There is actually something that does get in the way of our prayers and the problem is sin. Because our hearts are sinful, they are very much out of tune with the heart of God. Because we are people who fall short in every respect when God commands that we love Him above all things and that we love our neighbor as ourselves, we feel the heat of God’s wrath. Like Adam and Eve we feel naked and ashamed. Naturally, God seems distant and out of tune. Prayer seems to be, and actually is, out of the question.
This is why it is critical for us to see that Jesus is a tuned-in Savior. We can see, especially in the Gospel of John, how Jesus stressed that to His disciples. Time and again He would speak to them about God, referring to “My Father.” The world has never seen anybody who could speak so comfortably about God as if He knew God’s own heart. He spoke of “the work which His father had given Him.” He spoke of returning to “His Father’s house” and preparing there a place for us (cf. John 14:1ff). Jesus asserted that His Father loved Him because His work involved laying down His life for others. Jesus, in His ministry as the Good Shepherd was so in tune with His Father’s will to “seek and save what was lost” that their thoughts and goals were interchangeable: “the Father is in Me, and I am in Him.” Jesus, finally, was so bold as to assert that “I and My Father are one.”
Jesus Christ is tuned in to the almighty God. In fact, the Bible clearly teaches that all who truly honor the Father will also honor the Son. The Father rejects all who reject His Son. No one who prays in the faith of Judaism, the Lodge and Scout religion, or in any sort of faith that denies the deity of Jesus, is heard in heaven.
But even if Jesus is in tune with His Father, chances are we’d still feel out of place trying to pray to either one. If the man down the block is angry with you because you cheated him in some business you can’t expect his son to be very receptive of you either.
But Jesus also made it clear that He was in tune with humanity as well. To begin with He came into the world as a man—with flesh and blood, feelings and needs—like every other person. As the Bible says “He was born under the law” (Galatians 4:4) like everyone else. Under that law He loved everyone perfectly. He was perfectly in tune with the needs of others.
This made Jesus approachable. Bartimaeus, after miserable years of blindness, cried out to Him, “Son of David have mercy on me…” (Mark 10:46ff) and Jesus had mercy on him. Some, like the woman with a hemorrhage, dared only to touch the hem of His garment (Matthew 9:20ff). But they too, were received. When Jesus was approached by a grief-stricken Martha of Bethany, Jesus was tender and understanding.
This being “in-tuned” is still true of Jesus today. He still invites us with our burdens. He experienced pain, rejection, temptation and so He is in-tune with us in our pain, distress, and temptation.
We spoke of the work that Jesus came to do. This is the work of redemption—buying us back from sin and turning aside the wrath of God by dying on the cross for our sins. Because He was in-tune with His Father and in-tune with the needs of mankind, Jesus willingly undertook this terrible work.
That’s amazing, isn’t it? That Jesus would do this for a worm such as I, for the sinful wretches of mankind. Jesus, with His holy, precious blood and His innocent sufferings and death, reconciled us to the almighty God. This is an astonishing work! It is so unique to us that it becomes the central issue of Jesus Christ’s identity. When we think of Jesus Christ, we think automatically of the cross. When the words “Jesus of Nazareth” are heard, we think of peace and safety.
The “who He is” and “what He did” are so important to us that it all adds up to become His very name. His “name” is no less than the sum total of all that He did. Those who believe in all that He has done are tuned-in to His name.
That’s what Jesus was stressing to His disciples when He said “most assuredly, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name, ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” [vv.23-24] It is this name of Jesus that gives us access to the Father. It is in the name of this Jesus, along with the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit, that you have been baptized—washed of all sin and clothed in Jesus’ own righteousness. Because of that name we have a truly amazing privilege: “In Jesus’ name” we can ask of the Father anything our heart desires and He will give it to us.
It is an amazing invitation that you and I, corrupt children of Adam and Eve, have to pray to the God of heaven. No matter how we feel about ourselves, His promise is that we can confidently pray and we will be heard. He’s saying that we don’t even need a middle man. “In that day you will ask in My Name, and I do not say that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from God.” [vv.26-27]
We have the privilege to tune in to the Heavenly Father because through faith in Jesus Christ He has become our Heavenly Father. As a dear father listens to his children and sees to their every need, so the Almighty God lovingly befriends us and cares for us.
The believer asks his heavenly Father the deepest desires of his heart, but that is a reborn heart. Understand that we’re not talking about the desires of our flesh. That may weed out 99% of the things your might want or think you need. The new boat or even better health are all things your Heavenly Father may see fit not to give you.
But the other 1% will prove to be 100% of the important things. The things that concern us in our salvation, our service to God, and our God-pleasing life here on earth. This 100% of our true needs is represented in the Lord’s Prayer (reviewed in hymn form with hymn 458). You and I are very privileged people. We possess Jesus’ name by faith. We have an avenue of prayer through which we can tune into our heavenly Father and be confident that He is tuned in to all that burdens our hearts. May His Spirit move us to use that privilege freely and confidently. Amen
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.