17 August 2014

Pray Without Ceasing and Do Not Lose Heart

Do not let go of this fact: Jesus has come to you, and by His Gospel He calls you to Himself.  God the Father speaks to you by His Son, and He promises grace and every blessing to all who call upon Him.  He is not teasing you, nor toying with you.  His Word and promise are sincere.

In Holy Baptism, the Lord has bound Himself to you.  The Father has united you with Christ Jesus, the beloved Son.  He has named you with His own Name, and thereby adopted you as His own child.  He has given you His Holy Spirit and, with that, eternal life.  He forgives you all your sins; He justifies and sanctifies you.  He shall not withhold any good thing from you.

All of this is sure and certain; for His call and His gifts are irrevocable.  What He says to you is true, and He is faithful; He will do as He has promised.

Therefore, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

In Christ Jesus, your God and Father has commanded you to pray, He has taught you to pray, and He has promised to hear you.  Therefore, pray at all times, and do not lose heart.  Pray without ceasing.  Pray with confidence, and say “Amen!”  Pray, praise and give thanks.

Pray, not only for yourself, but for your neighbor.

Pray, not only by yourself, but together with your brothers and sisters in Christ, in the company and fellowship of His Church.

Praise and worship the Lord your God: with heart and hand and voice — in prayer and confession — in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs — not only with thanksgiving for His good gifts and benefits, but also praise Him for who He is, for whom He has revealed Himself to be: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the one true God in three divine Persons.

And do give Him thanks for all His gracious gifts and generous benefits, above all for the forgiveness of sins and life and salvation in Christ Jesus.

Give thanks, not only for what you already see and hold in your hand, but in the hope of His mercy, in faith.  For prayer is the voice of faith, which is a confession of the Word of God.

To pray with such faith in the Word of God is the most decisive and definitive characteristic of Christian discipleship and life.  Christians pray.  It is that simple.

It is a matter of trust and confidence, by which you not only look to God in Christ for help, but you rely upon Him alone for all that you need, for both body and soul.

To pray with such faith depends entirely upon the Word of Christ.  Thus, true Christian prayer always begins with and continues to rest upon the hearing of His Word.  You cannot pray without it; but, if you would pray, open your ears before opening your mouth.

If you have not prayed as you should, repent.  Hear the Word of God, and pray.

If you have prayed only out of habit or superstition, without the fear, love and trust of God in your heart, repent.  Do not cease to pray, but pray with a right spirit.

If you have been lazy or distracted, so that you have not given your time and attention to the Word of God and prayer, repent, and pray in Jesus’ name.  Pray because you need Him above all else.

If you have neglected to pray with and for your family and your Church, repent, and fulfill your calling as a Christian.  To pray and intercede for your neighbor, and to offer the morning and evening sacrifice of thanksgiving, that is your royal priesthood as a baptized child of God.  Do it faithfully.  Where you have fallen short, do better.

If you have become discouraged, given up hope, and ceased to pray because the Lord seems neither to be listening or answering, repent, trust Christ, and live.

Do not despair, but continue crying out to the Lord Jesus.  He is not deaf to your pleas, nor blind to your tears.  Nor is He slow about keeping His promises, but patient with you and merciful.

The Lord’s desire is to save you.  If His help tarries for a night, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime, yet His joy will come in the morning.  Even if you go down to the grave in death, He shall raise you up to life.  It shall be done for you as you wish.

As often as His Law accuses you of sin, say “yes” to that.  His Word is truth.  You are a sinner.

But do not take that thundering “no” of the Law as the last word or the final answer to your prayer.  For Christ is the Savior of sinners.  He speaks to you another Word that satisfies His Law and rescues you from sin and death and all your demons of body and soul.  It is the Word that has been spoken by His Cross and in His Resurrection, and spoken also to you in Holy Baptism; therefore, the “Yes and Amen” of His Gospel stands fast, even through the long dark night of silence.

Do not despair, but pray.  His Word of mercy shall yet be heard.

If you suffer hardship, loss, pain, or grief, even all of this is for your good, for the strengthening of your faith.  It is a participation in the Cross of Christ, by which you enter into life with Him.  It is also an opportunity and blessed privilege to confess your hope in Christ, for the strengthening of your neighbor’s faith, unto life everlasting.

Trust your dear Father in heaven.  He knows what He is doing, and He does it all for the sake of love, out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy.

Trust your gracious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who has not only taught you to pray; who not only hears and answers your prayer; but who also prays and intercedes for you.  His Spirit also helps you in your weakness and prays for you, even when you are reduced to groans of anguish.  Thus are you strengthened and sustained in faith and life.

For you are a sheep of the Good Shepherd’s pasture.  You were lost, but He has found you and brought you home, rejoicing.

You are not a dog, but a dear child, seated at your Father’s table.  You are no longer a stranger, an alien, a foreigner or outcast, but you are a beloved member of His own household and family.  This is where you live.  This is where you belong.

When you pray, you are not begging for table scraps, but asking your Father for the food He loves to give you, for the gifts Christ freely gives.  Ask Him, therefore, not as though He would otherwise withhold His generous hand, but in order to confess and give thanks for His mercy.  For here is the Bread of Life, which He bestows from His open hand to satisfy your deepest longing and your heart’s desire.

Open your ears to hear, and speak as you have heard.

Open your mouth to pray, and you have opened your mouth to be fed, to be healed, and to live.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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