The Lord's Prayer: For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen., Part 9

Preached: August 24, 2008

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Dear Father, We Are Certain that You Hear and Answer
John 14:13, 14

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus, our Lord, is John 14:13, 14.

[Jesus said to his disciples,] "Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, so that my Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I myself will do it." (John 14:13, 14)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Amen. . . . I'm glad no one stood up thinking the sermon was already done. Sometimes it seems that the word "amen" means "the end." We say it at the end of our prayers. The pastor says it at the end of the sermon. And often at the end of the service we sing it three times, because we really, really are done then, right?

No. The word "amen" doesn't mean "the end." It's from the Hebrew word . That set of Hebrew words means "certainty, sureness, faithfulness, truth." Think of a solid foundation that you stand on because you are sure and certain that the concrete will not give way. To say, "Amen," is to say, "Yes! This is so. I am certain. This is the truth. This is my faith." For “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV).

What a fitting word to end our prayers with! For God wants you to pray with certainty, without doubt, sure that he hears, confidently believing his promises to answer. Think of the Second Lesson from James, as he refers to someone praying and says: “When he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6 NIV). Jesus words from the text call forth that same certainty, don't they? He spoke these to his disciples on a night that doubt would lash at their hearts. This was the night Jesus was betrayed, arrested, condemned, and crucified. But in the face of the coming doubt, Jesus tells his disciples and us: “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it. ” (John 14:13). So be sure.

How fitting to end the Lord's Prayer with that word! For by saying, "Amen," you are saying. "Dear Father, we are certain that you hear and answer." That's our theme this morning.

A. We build our certainty on Jesus' name

1) What is the foundation of our certainty?

But isn't being so certain rather cocky? Doesn't that make us look arrogant? Those who are cocky and arrogant are sure of themselves. And that's the key difference. Where are you looking for your certainty? Are you looking to yourself, Are you building on your sincerity in prayer, your persistence, your worthiness? Is that your foundation? Then your certainty is sinful arrogance.

You and I must fight that arrogance. That's not the certainty we want. If arrogance ruled in our heart, then our prayers would not be answered, no matter how certain we felt. For a heart ruled by sin is cut off from God. The prophet Isaiah writes, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2 NIV). May our merciful God preserve us from such arrogance and self-certainty!

But what kind of certainty are we to have when we pray? Think of Jesus words in the text. “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13). This is not certainty in myself, but certainty in Jesus, sureness built on his name, confidence built on him. Such certainty isn't arrogance but faith, faith that's built Jesus our one, sure foundation and certain hope.

2) What does it mean to pray in Jesus' name?

"In my name." So much is contained in those words! They are far from a mechanical addition of "in Jesus' name we pray" at the end of our prayers. To pray in Jesus' name is to pray with faith that is certain of who Jesus is and sure of what he has done for us. Such faith is the opposite of doubt. Such faith is the opposite of arrogance. Such faith is sure of Jesus, certain that he alone is our divine Savior, confident that he has rescued us from sin and death.

This certainty confesses that we do not deserve an answer to our prayers. Back in the Fifth Petition we confessed our sins, that we are worthy of none of the things for which we ask. But to pray in Jesus' name means that despite our sins, we are certain that God hears and answers our prayers because Jesus has taken away our sin. Jesus has covered us with his worthiness. Jesus makes our prayers pleasing and acceptable to God. For in Jesus you are God's dear child. He is your dear Father. What certainty Jesus' name gives us!

3) How does the word "kingdom" remind us of Jesus' name?

Think of his name when you pray, "For thine is the kingdom." That word Kingdom directs us to Jesus. He is the King. His name brought us into his kingdom. In the explanation to the Second Article we confessed how Jesus did this. Not with gold or silver, not with armies of angels, but with his holy precious, blood. He ransomed you to be his own. He purchased you. He redeemed you to be his blood-bought people. So he is your King. What a name Jesus has! What a kingdom!

So we say, "Amen. Yes, I am certain that God hears and answers my prayer, not because of me, but because of Jesus, because his name has brought me into his kingdom."

Beware of those who talk about being certain of what you ask for in prayer and then direct you into yourself, saying that you have to make yourself sure, that you have to get yourself to belief that God's going to give you what you want, that you have to convince yourself of your own sincerity. That's not praying in Jesus' name.

Rather, build your certainty on Jesus. Build your sureness on his name. Build your confidence on his cross that has brought you into his kingdom. When doubts attack your heart, look to Jesus. Go to his promises in his Word and Sacraments. For there he assures you of his saving name that takes away your sin and makes your prayers pleasing to God. Then say "Amen," with certainty built on Jesus' name.

B. Our certainty glorifies Jesus' name

1) What does it mean to glorify God?

This certainty glorifies Jesus' name. "For thine is . . . the glory," we pray. All glory to God on high.

For when we pray in Jesus' name, we place him and his kingdom first. That's what it means to glorify God: to place Jesus and his heavenly Father first. That's what Jesus teaches us in the Lord's Prayer: "Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done." God's glory comes first. And even as we pray for our daily bread and our forgiveness, as we pray for help in temptation and deliverance from evil, even then we put God's glory first. We pray for those things so that we may bring glory to our heavenly Father, so that we may serve him and love one another and so let our light shine. For then others will glorify our Father in heaven.

2) What must we guard our hearts against?

This calls on us to examine our hearts as we pray. Why am I asking for this? Am I seeking God's glory? For we are praying in Jesus' name only when we seek God's glory first. Or am I seeking to satisfy some self-centered desire in me? Ambition, worry, selfishness, can drive us to pray, but that's not praying in Jesus' name. That's not praying for God's glory. Even the desire to pray for others can become sinful when that desire pushes aside God's glory and takes first place. Take to heart what James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2, 3 NIV).

So beware of those who promote a "name it and claim it" style of praying. They say you must pray specifically for what you want, naming it and believing that God will give it to you. Then, they say, you'll get it. But such thoughts push God's glory aside. Who am I to tell God what is best? The name-it-and-claim-it line of thought says to me, "You have to want it bad enough to get God to give it to you. You got to want it so bad that you name it and claim it." But that's the attitude James warns against! It's focusing on what I want, rather than on God's glory.

3) What promises can you name and claim so that God is glorified?

Praying with certainty doesn't mean to dictate to God. Rather our certainty glorifies God and puts his will first. What is his will? Look at what his words of promise. He want you to name his promises and claim what they say. If God has promised it, then name it and claim it with all certainty. For if God has promised it for you, then it is in line with his will. It does bring him glory. That's the kind of certainty that prays in Jesus' name.

Now he hasn't promised us a good harvest, or a new car, or a healthy family, or higher pay, or good grades, or many friends, or a winning football team. He may bless us with those things. We certainly thank him in our prayers for such blessings. We may even ask him for those specific blessings. But we ask with the attitude that says: "Your will be done. If you bless me with these, help me glorify you through them. And if you don't bless me in those ways, give me the patience and endurance to accept your answer so that your name is glorified through me nonetheless."

Even though he hasn't promised us those specific blessings, he has made greater promises to you. In the Gospel today Jesus summed up God's promises by saying, “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13 NIV). With the Holy Spirit comes all the spiritual blessings of God's heavenly treasure room, first and foremost, the forgiveness of sins that brings eternal life. And then the blessings that flow from them, such as, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22), and spiritual gifts. In the Second Lesson James summed up God's promises with the word "wisdom." This is the wisdom that begins with the fear of the Lord, the wisdom that flows from faith in Jesus' name. James wrote, “If any of you lack wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 NIV). And as Jesus in the text promises to give whatever we ask in his name, those words, "in my name," again teach us that our prayers are to line up with God's promises. For his promises point to Jesus. Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote, “ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV).

So take to heart the promises of your heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Learn those promises well as you hear, read, learn, and inwardly digest his Word. Cherish those promises as you remember your Baptism and receive the Lord's Supper. Meditate on those promise as you think about each of the petitions Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord's prayer. We've only touched the surface in this series of sermons. Even a lifetime of meditation on these petitions does not exhaust them. For as God's promises fill your heart, then you will pray with more and more certainty that your heavenly Father hears and answers. Then you will pray with the certainty and sureness of a little baby falling asleep in his father's arms. For the arms of your heavenly Father have brought you into the kingdom of his Son, Jesus Christ. They are powerful to save you. So pray with certainty in Jesus' name. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313