24 July 2016

Pray with Confidence in Christ

Dear Christian, dear child of God, you are to pray without ceasing.  Your entire life is to be one of prayer to your dear Father in heaven.

It is not an optional choice, whether or not you pray.  For you pray to honor the Lord, your God.  You pray to worship Him alone, who is the true and only God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You pray because He has commanded you to pray, and because He has promised to hear you.  Do not despise His command or His promise, but pray because you need Him above all.  Your need for Him is greater than life itself, for He is your highest good, and without Him you have nothing.  Therefore, seek His face always.  Look to Him, and wait upon Him.  Call upon His Name.

Pray with and according to His Word, in faith and hope and confidence.  If you were simply to invent the words to say in your own heart, with which to approach Him, you could have no confidence or certainty that He would hear or answer you.  But as you are armed with His Word, with His commandment and His promise, and with the Words that He has placed upon your lips, so sure and certain is your prayer that you say, “Amen,” knowing that it shall be so.

Do not waver, and do not doubt.  Do not pray as though it were a gamble, as though it were some kind of last ditch resort.  Pray knowing that you pray to your Father, that He loves you, that He hears your prayer, and that He answers.

Pray to Him for everything that you need, both great or small.  Pray for all that you need in body and soul, and for all good things.  But, above all, pray for the forgiveness of your sins, on which everything depends.  Without His forgiveness, you receive nothing.  For you are worthy of none of those things for which you pray, nor have you deserved them.  He gives them all to you by grace

Pray for yourself, for your family and friends.  But pray also for your neighbor, for your friend and for your foe.  Pray for the entire Church of God on earth, and for the entire world.  Pray for all those for whom Christ your Savior died, who died for all the people of all times and places.

Pray that the work of God would be done in you and in your life.  And pray that His work be done through you, as well, for your neighbor.  Pray that His good and gracious will be done throughout the world, to the glory of His holy Name.

Such prayer is nothing else than the voice of faith, which calls upon God in confidence and hope.

But you do not believe as you should.  And because you do not believe, you do not pray as you should.  Think of how often your worship and your prayers have faltered.  How often you forget to call upon God, until some tragedy strikes, or until there is some thing that you want, and you turn to God as though He were your lackey, your gopher.

Prayer depends upon the forgiveness of sins, for you daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment.  But you do not trust God’s forgiveness.  You do not come to Him confidently, knowing that your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake.  But neither do you recognize your need for His forgiveness, and so you do not seek His forgiveness diligently for yourself.  Nor do you forgive and love your neighbor in his need, although you are commanded to do so; and if you do not forgive your neighbor his trespasses against you, neither will God forgive your trespasses.

Apart from faith and the forgiveness of sins, you do not know how to pray, and you cannot pray.  Left to yourself, you are left with nothing.  Fatherless and destitute.  Pathetic.  “Being evil,” as Jesus says, with no love for God or man, unable even to pray, you receive nothing because of your doubt and your disbelief.  And you have nothing to give, nothing to offer.  There is nothing with which you can bargain before God to get what you want as though by some kind of payment.

But hear this Word of the Lord, which says to you that Jesus prays.  The almighty and eternal Son of God, He prays.  He prays constantly throughout the Gospel.  He prays without ceasing.

And the Lord Jesus prays, not only as a good example for you; He prays for you.  He prays and intercedes for you, on your behalf, as your merciful and great High Priest.  Indeed, His prayer for you is the culmination and confession and ongoing exercise of all that He has done for you: His Incarnation, His Life, His Cross and Passion, His Resurrection and Ascension.  All for you.

His prayer has become your prayer, as His God and Father has become your God and Father.  For He, the Son of God, has first of all taken your place under the Law, under the burden of your sin, under the judgment of God, in His own flesh, even unto death upon the Cross.  And now by His Gospel, especially in your Holy Baptism, He has given you His place, so that you are a son of God in Him, by grace and by adoption, beloved and well-pleasing to our Father in heaven.

Think of it.  In Christ all the fullness of Deity dwells bodily; yet, He has not only given Himself for you, He has also given Himself to you in Love.  And He has taken you to Himself and wrapped you in His embrace, and united you to Himself forever.  Therefore, all that you are, and all that you say, as you stand before God, is hidden in Christ Jesus.  And for His sake you are heard.

Before you have called — before you were even able to call upon Him or come to Him — He has already answered your prayer in Love, and has provided you with all good things in Himself.

For the sake of His divine and holy love, by His grace alone, the Father has given His Son for you, and given His Son to you.  And in and with His Son, He bestows upon you the Holy Spirit, so that He is your own dear “Abba! Father,” your true and permanent Father; and you are His dear child.

You can come to Him and pray to Him, just as little children go to their fathers; indeed, far better, far more confidently.  For here is a Father who never loses His temper, who never forgets His promises, who never goes away and leaves you alone.  Here is a Father who is always faithful, who always hears, who always answers, who always loves, all for the sake of Jesus Christ, His Son.

He has obtained for you and for the world the forgiveness of sins, for each and every sin.  And He has bestowed that forgiveness upon you by and with His sweet Word of the Gospel, by His means of grace, by His holy Word and Sacraments.

By the preaching of His Word and by His Holy Spirit, He has called you to repentance — not for the purpose of shaming you for your sins, but to call you away from your sins and the death to which they lead, back to Himself in faith and love.  And with His free and full forgiveness of all your sins, day after day, He strengthens and sustains your faith and hope and confidence in Him.

It is in such faith that He opens your mouth to pray.  And it is by and with His Word that He teaches you to pray.  In fact, as you know, He gives you the very Words with which to call on Him.  When you pray, say this: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy Name. . . .”

Of yourself, you are small and weak and helpless.  What is more, and what is worse, you daily sin much in your thoughts, words, and deeds.  Of yourself, you could not pray; it would do no good.  For all that you deserve is nothing else but punishment, both for now and for ever.

But Christ Jesus has risen from the dead and ascended to the Father in your stead, on your behalf, in His own Body of flesh and blood like yours.  He who was crucified for your transgressions, who has been raised for your justification, never to die again, He ever lives to make intercession for you at the Right Hand of the Throne of God.

The very Son of God, your Savior, is always praying for you.  And the Father hears His prayer in love, and He answers for Jesus’ sake.  So, too, the Holy Spirit intercedes for you, groaning within you the “Kyrie, eleison!” of faith.  Day and night, evening and morning, waking and sleeping.

Thus, God Himself is on your side.  He contends with you and for you against all your foes.  He who forgives your sins also prays on your behalf.  And His every prayer for you is answered.

Thus do you come before God in peace and joy, and you live in His presence in Christ Jesus, your Savior, who is your Brother in the flesh and your dearest Friend, as He was Abraham’s Friend.

It was for Jesus’ sake that Abraham was counted righteous.  For Jesus’ sake that Abraham was beloved of God.  For Jesus’ sake that Abraham’s prayer was heard, even when he had the nerve to ask again and again that Sodom be spared.

Ultimately it is for the sake of Abraham’s Holy Seed, the one Righteous Man, Christ Jesus, that God’s righteous wrath and judgment against the entire world of sinners has been removed: poured out upon Christ Himself to atone for your sins, to make restitution, and to reconcile you to God.

You pray, then, to Almighty God, in the sure and certain confidence of the forgiveness of your sins.  Your debt has been fully paid and cancelled.  There is nothing that you owe.  The accusation against you has been silenced.  There is no longer any condemnation for you in Christ Jesus.

And it is most certainly true that He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for you, will also freely give you all good things in and with Him, in His Body and His Blood.  Even as He has taught you to pray, and has given you the very Words of Christ with which to pray, and has promised to hear your prayer and to answer you.  Amen. Amen. It shall be so.

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

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