Return to Sermons | Home

“He Hears Us”
1 John 5:14


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Seventh Sunday of Easter—May 24, 2009

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our text is from today’s Epistle Reading in the fifth chapter of 1st John: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

On the one hand, God promises “That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”  But, on the other hand, the opposite is also true: If we do not ask “according to his will,” God does not hear our prayers.

None of us deserves to have God hear our prayers.  Isaiah says, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”  Our sin is like a barrier, preventing our prayers from even coming before God.  But, Paul says in Ephesians, “Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has . . . destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. . .  For through him we . . . have access to the Father.”

When the floods came to Fargo recently they built huge barriers of sandbags to separate them from the raging river.  Those were protective barriers that they did not want to come down.  But, imagine the barrier separating you from God, made up of all your sins, like those millions of sandbags.  Not a protective barrier, but an evil barrier, separating you from God’s love, trapping you in hell, and keeping you out of heaven. 

The blood of Christ is like a blessed flood, which overwhelmed and destroyed that evil barrier.  A blessed flood, freeing you from hell, ferrying you into heaven.  A blessed flood, which we see poured out here today in the waters of Baptism and the wine of Communion.  A blessed flood, breaking down the barrier of sin and reuniting you with your heavenly Father. 

Paul puts it this way in Romans, “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.” “For he himself is our peace, who has . . . destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. . .  For through him we . . . have access to the Father.”

The first and most important requirement for praying to God “according to his will” is something most of the world will reject as politically incorrect, and something even we may not think about in those terms, but it is absolutely essential if our prayers are to be heard.  Jesus put it this way: “The Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” 

To pray in the name of Jesus means much more than just mechanically inserting his name at the end of a prayer.  To pray in the name of Jesus means to trust in him as your Savior, to have faith in him as your Lord and God.  That is the first and most important requirement for praying to God “according to his will,” because it is only through faith in him that the barrier of sin is destroyed so that we “have access to the Father.”

“The Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”  But, again, the opposite is also true: The Father will not give whatever we do not ask in Jesus’ name.  As John says at the beginning of this epistle, “We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.”  Paul says in 1st Timothy, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.”  Jesus himself put it this way: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The politically correct thing these days is to suggest that prayers offered apart from Christ will somehow still get through to God.  But, the Scriptural truth is that any and all prayers offered without faith in Christ, or through any other mediator, or to any other God, are like a phone call made to a non-existent number.

That includes prayers which misguided Christians may make to the Virgin Mary or other Christian saints.  As the Augsburg Confession and Apology of the Lutheran Church say: “Saints should be kept in remembrance among us . . .  However, it cannot be proved from the Scriptures that we are to invoke saints or seek help from them. ‘For there is one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus,’ who is the only savior, the only high priest, advocate, and intercessor before God. . .  He alone has promised to hear our prayers. . .  Therefore we cannot accept . . . the practice of praying to the saints. . .  this obscures the work of Christ and transfers to the saints the trust we should have in Christ’s mercy. . . We know that we must put our trust in the intercession of Christ alone because only this has God’s promise.”

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”  The first and most important requirement for praying to God “according to his will” is to trust in Jesus as your Savior, to have faith in him as your Lord and God, and to offer your prayers to and through him alone, because no one comes to the Father except through him.

The next requirement for praying to God “according to his will” is to pray for such things as are in agreement with his will as revealed in Scripture, as Psalm 119 says, “Direct my footsteps according to your word.”

For example, if your neighbor is having financial problems, and you like their house, would it be wrong to pray that they are forced to sell or foreclosed on, so that you could buy it?  God will not act favorably on such a prayer, because he commands, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.”  What you should pray for instead “according to his will” in such a situation is explained by Martin Luther in the Small Catechism: “We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house . . . but help and be of service to him in keeping it” and “help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.” 

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”  The question to ask is not, “What do I selfishly want?” but rather “What is God’s will?  What would God have me pray for in this situation?”

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray for both spiritual blessings and earthly blessings.  “Hallowed be Thy name” and “Thy kingdom come” are prayers for the success of the Gospel and spread of Christ’s Church.  “Forgive us our trespasses” and “Lead us not into temptation” are prayers for piritual blessings.  But, in addition to these spiritual blessings, our Lord would also have us pray for the earthly needs and wants of this life: “Give us this day our daily bread” and “Deliver us from evil.”

This is a God-pleasing pattern for us to follow in our prayers.  Praying first for the spiritual blessings of forgiveness and faith, for ourselves and others, for the spread of the Gospel, and the growth of Christ’s Church.  And also praying for all the needs of this life.  As Luther explains in the Small Catechism, “What is meant by daily bread?  Daily bread includes everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”  The final requirement for praying to God “according to his will” is to follow the example of our Lord Jesus himself as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it be possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not my will, but your will be done.”  Or, as Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

In Romans, Paul says that there are times when, “We do not know what we should pray for as we ought,” but then he assures us, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.”  Our heavenly Father hears and answers every prayer of his children in Christ.  But, sometimes, like any good parent, the answer is “no” or at least “not now” or “not in the way you expected.”  We may think we know what is best, but we must always acknowledge that our perspective and understanding is limited, and trust in our heavenly Father to give or to withhold according to his wisdom and love for us, trusting that he is working all things together for our good.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

The first and most important requirement for praying to God “according to his will” is to trust in Jesus as your Savior, to have faith in him as your Lord and God, and to offer your prayers to and through him alone.  “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.”  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The next requirement for praying to God “according to his will” is to pray for such things as are in agreement with his will as revealed in Scripture.  “Direct my footsteps according to your word.”

The final requirement for praying to God “according to his will” is to follow the example of our Lord Jesus himself and always pray with the attitude, “Yet not my will, but your will be done,” trusting that “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

Amen.

  Return to Top | Return to Sermons | Home | Email Pastor Vogts