When Our Blessed Lord says, “Ask,” He encourages, urges, invites and even commands you to pray. When Our Lord Jesus says, “And you shall receive,” He assures you that your prayer will not be futile. More than that, He gives His Word that what you pray will be heard and acted upon. And when Christ the Lord promises “that your joy may be full,” He tells you the benefit of prayer.
That benefit is firmly grounded not in what you say or do, but in what Our Lord pledges to give—a joy and bliss and delight that not only warms the heart but also fills your entire being. For the joy Our Blessed Lord promises is not the flesh-pleasing joy centered on material things, or the promises of the world, or whatever else you are convinced will satisfy you and make your life better. For you know that those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh. But those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Set your mind, then, on things above, not on things on the earth. For the benefits Our Lord gives are not earthly but heavenly. And the joy He promises is not the self-gratifying joy that so quickly fades. The joy Our Lord promises is not only more enduring, but fuller, richer and more abundant. “That joy is so great that nothing further needs to be added to it.” None of this world’s joy can hold a candle to it. And all other joy is nothing compared to the joy Our Lord promises and gives.
So pray not for what you desire, but pray that you may desire the things of God. Pray not for faith, but pray that you may believe, know and have the firm conviction that no matter what happens, Our Lord cares for you, provides for you, does not give up on you, fights for you, and sees you through all things. And pray not to have a better life, but pray for the will, the strength and the resolve to live the life you have been given to live in Baptism. And pray these things in Jesus’ Name because, by His Spirit, He lives and dwells and abides in you; and, by the same Spirit, He has granted you the gift of you living, dwelling and abiding in Him.
“Ask anything,” Our Lord says. And so we ask for anything He says. “Ask anything,” Our Lord urges. And so we ask not for the world, but for heaven. “Ask anything,” Our Lord pleads. And so we ask for life itself—the Life that He is and that He freely breathes and plants into us. “Ask anything,” Our Lord commands. And so we ask confident that Our Lord both hears our prayer and grants our request. For He has said so. And we hold Him to His Word.
So what do we pray for? Whatever Our Lord promises. And what do we ask? That our joy may be full. And so we pray to Our Father through our Jesus to create in us a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us. We beg Him to cast us not away from His presence, and take not His Holy Spirit from us. And we plead with Him to restore unto us the joy of our salvation, and uphold us with His generous Spirit. For then we have said what He says, and asked for what He gives. And then our joy will be full.
An excerpt from the Rogation Sunday sermon preached 5.21.06 at Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Detroit.