“Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”
Today is the Fifth Sunday after Easter also known as Rogation Sunday. Pop quiz: What does “rogation” even mean? It comes from the Latin word meaning “to ask” or “to pray.” “Very truly, I tell you,” says Jesus, “if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”
So, what should we ask the Father for? If you could ask the Father for anything at all what would it be? Think about that for a moment. What comes bubbling up in your soul when you think about that?
Well elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus is talking about perseverance in prayer and he simply says, “Ask, and it will be given you,” (Lk 11:9). Look, he says, if you know how to give good things to your children when they ask “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Ah ha, the Holy Spirit. There’s something.
Did you know that you can ask your heavenly Father to give you the Holy Spirit? That’s not a rhetorical question, really, do you know that you can ask for the Holy Spirit? And Jesus says if indeed you ask for the Holy Spirit you will receive him.
A couple of weeks from now we’ll be celebrating the wonderful feast of Pentecost which commemorates the giving of the Holy Spirit to the apostles and the holy women gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem. And when you were baptized you received that same Holy Spirit, poured into your heart.
But here’s the wonderful thing, the Holy Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving. The grace that you received in baptism can (and must!) be relied upon continually. Each day you can (and should!) ask him to fill you up and flow through you, sustaining you as sap does a tree.
When is the last time that you woke up and as your feet hit the floor you asked the Holy Spirit to fill you? Have you ever asked the Holy Spirit to fill you? “Ask and you will receive,” says Jesus, “so that your joy may be complete.” So that your joy may be made full. So that your joy may be filled up and spilling over. Imagine that. Imagine asking for the Holy Spirit and God the Father actually answering that prayer so that the joy of the Holy Spirit springs up within you to overflowing.
Now I want you to hear again the Collect that we prayed together at the start of the liturgy this morning. “O Lord, from whom all good things do come: Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”
“Grant to us thy humble servants.” So, we’re asking God for something. Rogation Sunday. What are we asking for? “That by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same.” In other words, we’re asking God to help us set our minds on that which is good and beautiful and true and not just to set our minds on it but to do it. To believe the gospel, yes, but also to live the gospel. Not just to be hearers of the word but to be doers of the word, says James.
And we’re asking God for “holy inspiration” to do so. OK time for another pop quiz because you did so well on the first one. What does “inspire” mean? Again it comes from the Latin meaning “to breath into.” Oh and also “breath” and “spirit” are related. So when we ask for God’s “holy inspiration” to think and to act according to his good and loving purpose in the world we’re not asking for a motivational quote. Rather, we are asking quite literally for God to breath his Holy Spirit into us so that we can be the people and the community that he is calling us to be.
“If you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” Prayer is about much more than just asking though, isn’t it? The late Father Robert Crouse said that prayer “is the habit of relating, the habit of referring all our thoughts and words and deeds, and all our circumstances to God through Jesus Christ.”
In other words prayer is a matter of attention, it’s about paying attention to God at all times and in all things. It is a “habitual, continual awareness” that we live in the presence of the Father. It is seeing every moment and circumstance as an opportunity to draw nearer to him in love. Fr Crouse continues, “Prayer is not some magic charm employed to change the will of God. Prayer is looking into the mirror of the love of God, and remembering, and being changed by what we see.”
Prayers is thus about learning to love what God loves, to desire what God desires, to will what God wills. And so we must be willing to do as well as hear. What good is it to pray for forgiveness unless we are willing to amend our ways? Why pray for patience unless we attempt to bear with those who test our patience? And for all that we need the Holy Spirit to fill us up so that we can both desire and do what God asks of us.
Let’s take a moment now to pray. Close your eyes and open your heart and let’s ask God the Father to fill us with the Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Father, we come to you open and longing to be filled. You breathed life in Adam and breathed your Holy Spirit into the Apostles. Fill us too, we pray, with your life-giving Spirit, so that our lives would be overflowing with joy and so that we would both desire and do what you ask. +