daily biblical sermons


CHRISTIAN PRAYER
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Saturday, Sixth Week of Easter, May 07, 2016
Acts 18:23-28, Psalm 46, John 16:23-28


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23-24).


Today we reflect on prayer. Jesus tells us that we are to ask the Father in Jesus' name for what we need, and that he will give it to us, that our joy may be full. Our prayers are to be addressed directly to God in Christ's name. Some people think that they should not pray directly to God, because they feel unworthy to do so. So they only pray to Mary, or to the saints, or to the poor souls in purgatory so that they will pray to God for them. But here we see that Jesus himself clearly tells us to pray directly to the Father in the name of Christ for what we need. This is the teaching of the New Testament. This is proper Christian prayer, according to the Bible. "If you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name" (John 16:23).


A Christian's whole day should be interrupted frequently by an interior dialogue of prayer to God in the name of Christ. There are many things we need each day. We should pray for these things. We should not think that we are bothering God by praying for such small things. He wants us to pray for both the small and the big things that we need and are concerned about. Let me list the things that I pray for each day, all day long, whenever I think of them. It is an ongoing prayerful dialogue that I carry on each day at all different times for what I need.


I pray that I will find a seat at the table at lunch where I am accustomed to sit, that I may avoid harmful sights and other dangers. I pray most of all that God will inspire me to write what he wants me to write in my daily sermons, and that it proves helpful to many people and deepens their Christian faith.


I pray for the Church that God will guide it through its troubles, and that he will guide us through the present confusion about divorced and civilly "remarried" Catholics, that it may become clear to all that they are breaking the sixth commandment of God, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14) and are living in a state of constant mortal sin that prevents them from receiving the Eucharist, and that they can expect to be punished for all eternity in hell for their sin of adultery if they die before they repent and end their adulterous union by separation or by living as brother and sister.


I also pray that Christians and Catholics may come to a deeper understanding and belief in Christ's redeeming work, namely that he died for our sins to make reparation for them so that when we put our faith in him, God justly forgives us and declares us righteous and holy.


I pray that Christians and Catholics may come to clearly understand that we are justified and redeemed by our faith, not by our works, because it is Christ's work on the cross that justifies us, not our works, and our faith applies Christ's work to us.


I also pray that once justified by faith without works, Christians may better understand that God now gives them a new power to live a virtuous life according to his moral law (the Ten Commandments) in order to grow in holiness via progressive sanctification. I pray that they may understand how important works are for this.


I pray that Christians may see how important it is to live a simple, unadorned life, seeking all their delight in the Lord, not dividing their heart with worldly pleasures, fine dining, and worldly entertainments, because this dissipates the love of their heart in many different directions so that they are unable to experience the joy of God's love in their heart.


I also pray that Christians may spend time each day in contemplative prayer, whereby they sit each morning in the early predawn darkness, with the lights off, focusing themselves on God in love and thanksgiving for forgiving all their sins and for redeeming them by the reparation-making death of his Son on the cross. I pray that they may learn to use a short prayer, like the Jesus prayer, to focus themselves each morning in loving contemplation. The Jesus prayer goes like this: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."


I pray that the Lord may protect me from attacks from enemies, and I pray for our Church leaders, especially the bishops, that they may lead the Church into the truth, and clearly and courageously preach and teach the truth of the Ten Commandments and the need for genuine repentance, reformation of life, and calling out in faith upon the merits of Christ's reparation-making death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.


I pray that our Church leaders, our bishops, not try to rationalize away God's Ten Commandments, not try to tell people who are living in adultery, for example, that, because of so-called "extenuating circumstances" in their life, adultery is not sinful for them. But rather let our Church leaders, our bishops, make the Ten Commandments of God heard in all their power to drive us to repentance, reformation of life, and faith in Jesus Christ's reparation-making death on the cross for our salvation.


Jesus tells us today, "If you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name" (John 16:23). But we should ask with importunity, like the widow who continually went to the unjust judge, asking for justice, until he finally gave her all she wanted just to keep her from bothering him. "And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily" (Luke 18:7-8). So we are to be persistent and importunate in our prayers of petition for the things we need. This is how God wants us to pray. "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Luke 11:9-10).


Not only are we to constantly ask for what we need, but we are also to believe that God will give it to us. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways," (James 1:5-8 NKJV). "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will" (Mark 11:24). This is how God wants us to pray. He wants us to pray with importunity and faith for the things we need. We are to pray for these things again and again, and we are to believe that he will grant our request.


If we keep God's commandments and do his will, we will obtain whatever we pray for, says St. John. "And we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him" (1 John 3:22). So we must make sure that we are living according to his commandments. If we are not living in accord with his Ten Commandments, if we are living in adultery, for example, and if we have no intention whatsoever of rectifying our life, we can hardly expect God to hear our prayers. "We receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him" (1 John 3:22).


We should also try to pray in a way that is in accord with God's revealed will. We should not pray for sinful things. "And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us" (1 John 5:14). So we should pray for the good of the Church and for the forgiveness of our sins, for we know that that is according to his will. We may also pray that the Church clearly teach the truth as God has revealed it in the Bible, for this also is clearly according to his will. And when we fall into sin, we should pray for our forgiveness and justification, because of the merits of Christ's death which made reparation for our sins, for nothing is more in accord with God's will that that, for that is why he sent his Son into the world.

 

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