The last words Martin Luther were, “We are all beggars.” We are not givers; we are not the benefactors. We are receivers; we are beneficiaries. We need. When we remember this, we naturally pray. We realize that we are surrounded by so many and so great dangers, that we cannot free ourselves from evil, that we need what only God can give. Our prayers falter and cease when we are hearers of the Word and not doers, looking at our natural faces in a mirror and forgetting what we are like, that we are beggars, thinking instead that we are givers. So today Jesus reminds us to pray, to ask the Father in Jesus’ name. That’s why this Sunday is named Rogate, from the Latin word that means to ask, request, or petition. Jesus tells us to ask our Father in heaven for His good and gracious gifts, just as earthly children ask their earthly fathers.
After hearing today’s Gospel Reading, we’re inclined to call Jesus a liar, or at the very least say He’s holding out on us. “Whatever you ask of the Father in My name He will give it to you.” As we hear it, Jesus tells us that whatever we ask for in prayer will be granted as long as we include His name at the end, as if it’s a magic spell, the “hocus pocus” and wave of the magic wand we need to get a positive answer to our prayers. But we know it doesn’t work that way! We all can think of things we’ve asked for “in Jesus’ name” and the answer comes back “no.” We can grudgingly allow that when we’re told “no” to frivolous things like waking up to an anonymous million-dollar check taped to the house door or seeing a sportscar in our garage. But what about the good things we ask for—a clean bill of health, unified families, the ability to pay all the bills on time, more friends, peace in the world—why does God say “no” when I asked for something that is good, that doesn’t seem like it would be against His will? Has He lied to me? Why is He holding out on me? The short answer is, No, God is not lying to you. He is not holding out on you. Instead, every answer to prayer is proof of His omniscience, His divine knowledge of what is for your good in this life and in the life to come.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.