Easter 6—Rogate 2023 (Jn 16, 23–33; Num 21, 4–9)

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Jesus said, “Ask in My Name.”

᛭ INI ᛭

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

It’s because of His empty tomb that Jesus can say, “Take heart” in a world full of trials and tribulation. Through His death and resurrection Jesus has “overcome the world” for you. Your sins truly are forgiven, death is just a pale shadow, and the devil is judged—all because Jesus died and rose again. We can take heart, we can have peace in the midst of the world because Jesus died and rose and because the Sacraments deliver the benefits of Good Friday and Easter—forgiveness and life—right to us. We also have peace because of prayer.

Today, Jesus gifts some words about prayer. That is what Rogate Sunday, “Ask” Sunday is all about! “In that day you will the Father ask in my name,” Jesus says. So, we’re answering a few questions about prayer today. What is it? Does prayer have power? What’s prayer for? When we get the answers, we can have some peace.

(3. What is and isn’t prayer?)

“Thoughts and prayers” as the saying goes. “Thoughts and prayers” are always put together. This gets us to what prayer is not. Prayer is not just “the power of positive thinking.” It’s not thinking good thoughts, drumming up Good vibes, or keeping a “positive outlook.” Thinking that something will turn out okay is not yet prayer, even if that thinking is that God will do something good. That is not yet prayer. Such things a far cry from actual prayer, for even unbelievers do these sorts of things. (No real peace here.)

So, what is prayer? Well, simply it’s the name for this Sunday: “Ask.” “In that day you will ask the Father in my name,” Jesus says. Prayer is actually putting a request into words, and asking God the Father for it. You can also ask Jesus: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (Jn 14) Prayer is taking time to call out to God, to call upon Him. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.” (Ps 50) (Abundant peace in prayer!)

The Small Catechism teaches us this, when it comes to the Lord’s Prayer. The Prayer that never runs out! Jesus’ own words. He prays with you. You pray with Jesus’ Words, also learning “that God tenderly invites us…to ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.” (SC) We can have boldness before God, no longer keeping our positive thoughts to ourselves, but actually to call out to Him, ask Him for things, with actual words.

(2. Is there power in prayer?)

Finally, if among the Sacraments everything should be numbered that has God’s command, and to which promises have been added, why do we not add prayer, which most truly can be called a Sacrament? For it has both God’s command and very many promises. If numbered among the Sacraments, although in a more prominent place, || it would encourage people to pray. (Apology XIII (VII): Number and Use of the Sacraments, §16)

That’s what prayer is and is not, but is there power in prayer? That’s another thing lots of people say, “I believe in the power of prayer.” Of course. There is no power in our positive (“everything’s gonna be ok”) thoughts.

But there’s power in prayer not because of the prayer itself. That’s what we think though. We view prayer as magic. That we need to say the right things in the right way to get what you want. The magic of “in Jesus’ name.” Hocus pocus. That if you believe really hard enough your prayer will work, but if you don’t, it won’t. (There’s no peace in such prayer!) It’s wrong that faith that makes prayer effective, powerful, and “work.” Faith in the power of prayer is often misplaced faith.

“Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone And rests in Him unceasing.” (LSB 555) Faith doesn’t say, “Because I believe really strongly God will do this.” Faith doesn’t look at itself but only to Jesus. Faith prays for things because of what Jesus as done. It’s for Jesus’ sake that the Father answers your prayer. He’s “promised to hear us.” (SC) Not for your sake, but Jesus’. He loves you for Jesus’ sake. You have no sins that hinder your Father caring for you. Christ paid for them. You are baptized. What He says of Jesus, He says of you: “My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Mt 3) Faith trusts the words and promises of God for in them is eternal peace.

*“This is nothing else than the word of undoubting faith, which does not pray on a dare but knows that God does not lie to him. For He has promised to grant it. Therefore, where there is no such faith, there cannot be true prayer either.” (LC)* As James says, **“Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1)** Faith again is an outward trust toward God not an inward looking at how trusting I am.

(1. What is prayer for?)

If “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5), then what is such prayer for? Is it just getting stuff from God? (That’s neither faith nor love toward God.) He is no vending machine. Faith trusts that God gives all things and makes all things good because of Christ Jesus, but a bare consumerist feeling toward God is your sinful flesh at work.

Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (Jn 1) If Jesus’ Word abides in you, you’ll ask according to that Word as opposed to your own words. Moreover, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8)

Prayer is about giving things to God. It is about asking Him for things. (Also praising and thanking Him for things.) It is for the comfort and peace of the saints. God “has promised to hear,” to answer.


And so, when we ask for deliverance and a solution to the problem, we trust He will and does. Not on the basis of our frequent or infrequent asking. Not on the power of our asking. But on the Basis of Jesus alone, for He alone died and rose for you. He alone baptized you. He alone gives you His body and blood to abide with you, and you with Him, to put His Word into you.



It’s not positive thoughts. It’s actually asking God for something. It’s powerful not because you asked, not because of what it is or how serious you are or anything you. It’s powerful because of Him who answers, because of whose name you’re praying through—“through Jesus Christ, [my] Lord.”


Faith says, “I commend this to the God who sacrificed His Son for me.” “God’s got this,” and when He does His God thing with it. Faith says, “Amen.” Faith says, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blesséd be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1) Faith does this because faith says no matter what God keeps His promises: Christ’s empty tomb proves that.

God’s ways aren’t our ways. His solutions aren’t our solutions. The Israelites prayed for God to take away the serpents. They got a snake on a pole. (Christ crucified for you!) Christ asked to be saved at the cross. He was…when He was raised on the third day!


Your heavenly Father will hear. He’ll answer. He already has! See the empty tomb. See the font. See the Supper—Christ’s body and blood for you. These are His answers now and on the Last Day. He will answer your prayers. Even such a one as this: “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” At His table, He answers that one today.

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

᛭ INI ᛭

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