Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
John 16:23-30 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” 29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”
The Gospel gives us one of the most powerful and comforting promises of all Scripture. When Jesus was walking the earth in the flesh the disciples could come to him with their every need and ask for every desire. What a comfort it was to them to have Jesus with them and be able to look to him in time of trial. When the storm raged and their boat was sinking, there was Jesus, asleep in the back of the boat. All they had to do was wake him up and call upon him to save them and the storm ceased and the sea became calm.
When they caught no fish during the entire night, Jesus merely told them to cast out their nets and they were filled to the point of tearing. When tax day came and they had no money, Jesus told them to bring a fish and there were two coins in its mouth, enough to cover the tax. The ten lepers came to him and were cleansed. The Syrophoenician woman pleaded with him and her daughter was freed from a demon. A blind man calls out as Jesus passed by and was given sight. When Jairus’ daughter died he went to her house and gave her life back.
These people had direct access to God. The only problem was, they had to come to Jesus, or wait until he would pass through their town or village. When he was in the hills all night and they could not find him, no one could get healed. He had to be there. The widow whose son died was just fortunate enough to have Jesus pass through her village during the funeral procession.
So now, Jesus is telling his disciples that he is to return to his Father in heaven. All well and good…for Jesus. But what about them? What about us? Today we can’t just hop on a jet and fly to Jerusalem to seek Jesus’ help. If your cruise ship in the Bahamas starts to sink, you can’t just go to his cabin and wake him up. We can’t take a tour to the Holy Land and visit the cross on Calvary to receive forgiveness for our sins? We can’t just go to Bethlehem and worship him in the manger and offer him there our gifts and treasures.
Perhaps there’s another way. Perhaps a holy person who is more in contact with God can deliver our prayers for us. Perhaps a priest or a pastor or a nun or aunt in heaven can take our prayers to God for us. Or maybe we could go to Rome and purchase forgiveness of sins, or have a mass said on behalf of our dead aunt. Is there someone in heaven who might take our petitions to God. What about the holy and pious saints who have gone to heaven already? Or perhaps even the mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin? Wouldn’t she have more influence than I?
If only Jesus would come through Aurora on his next world tour, then he could empty the hospitals, release the dead from the cemeteries, and pay off our mortgages. But, he has gone back to the Father in heaven. So what are we to do now?
The Gospel gives us something even better! Greater hope! Greater consolation! Greater joy! For when Jesus was walking the earth in the flesh, no one asked anything in his name. But now, whatever you ask of the Father in his name, the Father will give to you. This is to say, “While I was with you, you just asked me for what you needed. You didn’t ask the Father as I do, but came only to me. But now, you don’t have to ask me for anything, because you can go directly to the Father and ask Him yourselves for what you need, just as I do.” Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. So when Jesus teaches us how to pray, he tells us to say, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” Whenever and wherever in Scripture that we are taught to pray, it is always to the Father. And we don’t have to wait for the Father to pass through our town in order to ask him.
Never are we instructed or authorized in Scripture to pray to anyone else but the Father. We are never taught to pray to angels or to holy people or to people already in heaven. Their prayers are never more effective than ours. God does not listen to them any more than he does to us. Now he has elevated us to the ultimate rank before God the Father, that we can come to His throne of grace ourselves. Away with the prayers of saints. Away with relics and holy objects. God does not listen to spiritual people like pastors, teachers, authors of Christian books, any more than he does to you. Only His Son who suffered and died for you in whose name you pray does he hear. Through faith in Him you are authorized to go directly to the throne of grace with confidence that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
The Father loves you on account of faith in Christ. Apart from faith, there is no access to God, no prayer does he hear apart from faith. For on account of sin he sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden and cursed them with death. On account of sin we are barred from the presence of God and he gives no ear to our prayer.
But, on account of the suffering and death of Jesus, God is reconciled to you and his anger is turned to love. Ask in the name of Jesus for the Father loves you because you have loved and trusted in Jesus for salvation from sin. It all stems from baptism, for there the Holy Spirit came upon you and gave you faith in Jesus, and because of your baptism God declares you his beloved son or daughter in whom he delights. Ask the Father in Jesus name, for all who believe in Jesus are well pleasing to the Father on account of Jesus death on the cross. No one is more pleasing to the Father than His Son, Jesus. And all who believe in Jesus are just as pleasing to the Father as Jesus.
Therefore, go directly to the throne of grace and make your prayers and supplications on the basis of Christ’s merits. There is no more effective prayer. For such prayer in faith in Jesus is truly pleasing to God and he promises to hear and answer that your joy may be full. Amen.