Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Lord’s Prayer for You

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2013
First I’m going to say something, and then I’m going to go back on it. I used to think that the Lord’s Prayer is the greatest prayer there is. I don’t think so any longer. The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer our Lord has given us to pray, isn’t the greatest prayer there is. There is one prayer that is greater, that is in fact the greatest prayer.

It is the prayer that our Lord prays. The Lord’s Prayer He gave to us to pray. But the prayer He Himself prays is the prayer that is truly the greatest prayer.

And here is where I will now go back on my earlier statement: the Lord’s Prayer is the greatest prayer. Our Lord has given it to us to pray, and so therefore we pray it, and there is nothing greater for us to pray.

But that other prayer? The one that is greater in that it is the very prayer of our Lord Himself? The reason the Lord’s Prayer is the greatest prayer for us is because of the prayer Jesus Himself prayed. You might think of it this way: we pray because He prays for us. Not only has He invited and commanded us to pray, He prays for us. His prayer for you is what makes it possible for you to pray to your Heavenly Father.

And what is His prayer? This is answered in His statement to the disciples which seems the opposite of what we would expect from Him. He is about to leave them; He has promised to send them the Holy Spirit; He will promise to be with them always, to the very end of the age—and rather than saying that He will pray for them to the Father, He says, “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.” That seems an odd way of praying for them, not praying for them.

But understood in the context of who He is and what He was about to do, He teaches us what it means for Him to pray for us. Our Lord’s prayer for us is not Him asking the Father on our behalf. Rather, it is the life He lived that was a prayer to His Heavenly Father on our behalf. The Bible speaks of Jesus as our Mediator. Jesus Himself in the Gospel reading speaks of us praying in His name. The Bible says He intercedes for us.

The important thing for us to remember here, is that He does all of this not by folding His hands and asking of specific things of the Father on our behalf. No, His prayer is His life. His prayer is who He is and what He has done for each one of us. His prayer is that of His life as a living sacrifice that even went all the way to His sacrificial death.

In the Gospel reading we have Jesus telling the disciples that they will pray to the Father. He says that when this happens He won’t be praying on their behalf. He won’t need to. We won’t need Him to. What He is getting at is that all of His prayers for them are bound up in His life. This is what He is talking about when He says, “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; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” What does Jesus say they did and believed? They loved Him and believed in Him. Specifically, they believed He came from God.

His coming from God is His life. It is His coming in the flesh, living in our human flesh, proclaiming the Gospel, restoring creation, and what it all culminates in: His suffering, death, and resurrection. God sent His Son. His Son came and lived and suffered for the sin of the world. God raised Him from the dead. This is the life of Jesus, this is His prayer to the Father on our behalf. It is His ultimate interceding for us, it is why the Father loves us and saves us and welcomes us as His very own children in His eternal Kingdom. What Christ has accomplished for us, and for this to have been brought about, He has already accomplished. That’s why He doesn’t need to pray on our behalf anymore. God the Father loves us through His Son. That’s what Jesus meant by saying, “for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

In this Gospel reading Jesus is teaching us to pray. He has already said that the reason He left, in having ascended into heaven after His resurrection, was in order to send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Jesus tells us that when we pray we will pray in His name. The Holy Spirit brings it about that we pray to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus. What does Jesus mean by praying in His name? When we go to that place we normally think of when we think of Jesus teaching us to pray, the Lord’s Prayer, His prayer He has given us to pray, we learn how to pray in His name. We pray to our Father, who is in heaven. We pray His name be hallowed among us, that His Kingdom come among us, that His will be done here on earth as it is done in heaven. We pray for our daily bread, the forgiveness of our sins and that we gladly forgive others of their sins against us, that He would guard us in the time of temptation, and that He would deliver us from every evil. And to all of this, we say, “Amen,” yes, it shall be so.

The prayer Jesus gives us to pray, the Lord’s Prayer, is the greatest prayer. In this prayer is included everything for which we need to pray. There is nothing left out. And you know how we pray this prayer? In the name of Jesus. He Himself has given it to us to pray and therefore it is our prayer we pray in His name. It’s telling that in giving us this prayer He never gives us those exact words to use, “in the name of Jesus.” That’s because praying in Jesus’ name isn’t simply the use of those exact words at the end of our prayer. It is praying in Him, who He is, the one who came from God the Father, who became flesh, who lived, who suffered, who died for all our sins, who rose from the grave. Praying in His name is praying according to God’s good and gracious will, which we know clearly in His Son.

That’s why Jesus doesn’t need to pray for us. He already has. His specific prayers for us—His high priestly prayer in John 17, His prayers from the cross—they are all inseparably bound up in His life, which is a living prayer to His Heavenly Father on our behalf, for our sake, out of His abounding love for us, a fragrant and pleasing sacrifice to the Heavenly Father. He has prayed for us. He has come from the Father to live for us and save us. He has ascended into heaven and has sent us His Holy Spirit. He has exhorted us now to pray. To pray to our Heavenly Father. We do so in His name: praying to our Father, in the name of the Son, through the intercession of the Holy Spirit.

How does our Lord teach us to pray? Well, a simple, and excellent, answer is: He gives us His prayer to pray, the Lord’s Prayer. It is the greatest prayer, and one we can never exhaust in our daily and eternal life in and with Christ. But He doesn’t teach us to pray simply by giving us a prayer to pray. He Himself prays for us. He Himself is given to us by His Heavenly Father, so that the Heavenly Father may be our Heavenly Father. Jesus came in order to offer up a prayer. The prayer was Himself. The prayer was His life. It was His suffering, His death, His resurrection. It was His ascending into heaven and His sending of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord’s prayer for us is Himself.

Our praying of His prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, is nothing else than our joining in and with Him in His prayer to His Heavenly Father, so that when we pray, “Our Father who art in heaven,” we are praying to our Heavenly Father in and with Jesus, His Son. In other words, we are praying in Jesus’ name. This is your Lord’s prayer for you. That you don’t need to wonder, or be afraid, or hesitate, or doubt.

Ask Him. Ask according to His will, His good and gracious will. Be bold and confident, as dear children ask their dear father. Pray your Heavenly Father in your need. Pray to Him in your doubts, your fears, your needs. Pray to Him to grant you what you need, what you don’t even know that you need. Pray to Him in the humility of knowing that He is a good and gracious giver. He loves you and holds you in His eternal hand. He will not forsake you, He will always have His ears toward you. You can pray to Him in any need, any thing for which you need help. Pray to Him in thanksgiving that He has given you His Son, and that that is how you know that He is for you and loves you and gives you what you need, what is best for you, what will console you and sustain you.

Your Heavenly Father loves you. You know this because He has given you His son. Jesus came into the world for you. He joined Himself with you in your Baptism. He gives you Himself in His Holy Supper, His body and blood for you to eat and drink in and with the bread and wine, to strengthen you, to forgive you, to commune with you.

This is your Heavenly Father’s will. It is your Lord and Savior’s will. It is the Holy Spirit’s will. It is your Lord’s prayer for you and your prayer to God is in and because of Him, both now and forever. Amen.


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