Rogation – Ask in my Name

Easter 5 - Vasily Surikov 1848-1916 Young Woman in Prayer

James 1:22-27       St John 16:23-33


"Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
... ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. "


In the ancient Church Calendar, today is our last Sunday in the Easter season – the 40 days of Jesus’ earthly appearances ends this Thursday when Jesus ascended into heaven.

During this season we have been reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and on the new resurrection life that this means for us.

Last week we were reminded by Jesus in the Gospel that it is a good thing that his earthly life was coming to an end.  It was so that the disciples, and that we too, might have a new inner and spiritual relation to God.

I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him to you. 

Each of us who have been baptized and believe have received this gift of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.


This Sunday our readings speak to us “more fully of that [new] inner spiritual relation to God in the life of prayer.” [Crouse]

This Sunday is also called “Rogation Sunday” after the Latin verb rogare, which means to ask or to pray

JESUS said to his disciples, Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.  Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Whatever we ask the Father in Jesus name, Jesus says the Father will give it to us.

There are a few things to say about this.

Perhaps, our greatest hindrance in the Spiritual life is a kind of disconnect between our current distress and actually asking God to help us in that distress.

As Christians, the Spirit brings to our minds a certain self-consciousness of our distress.  But so often it is the case, that we are simply running away from our anxiety, trying to distract ourselves continually in worldly ways.  Instead, the Spirit reminds us to ask – “God help me in this distress that I am feeling – anxiety about family, anxiety about loneliness, the deep pain of heart ache, of grief, or not having enough to eat – whatever it is.  Jesus is saying, ask the Father for help in his name and you will receive.

It is a strange and wonderful and very simple part of my ministry as a priest to listen to a person in his or her particular distress, and then to pray with that person for those very things, and to see what relief is experienced.  We can all help each other in this – reminding one another to pray, and praying for one another, and also to take time in quiet to discover for ourselves what is our current distress and then to lift it up in prayer to God.

Young Solomon, when he was first made king, realized his distress at the great responsibility put on his shoulders, and he was asked by God in a dream what he wanted.  He simply asked God for wisdom in leading the people – it was the perfect prayer, knowing what to ask and then simply asking for it – and God answered him in abundance. [1 Kings 3:5-15]

But does God really give us anything we ask in Jesus name?

Surely all of us have experienced otherwise.

There are some reasons why this may be the case:

First, what we ask for might actually be harmful for us or not as good as something else that God has in store, so God will not always respond the way we think.  We discover in prayer that the more we listen, the more we come to know what is God’s will.  St Augustine says that to ask “in Jesus’ name” means to ask “such ideas of him that ought to be entertained” [St Augustine].  If we ask for a scorpion, God will not give it to us, He will give us bread.

Second, it may be there is a purpose in us not receiving yet – so if we ask and do not receive, and are convinced it is a good thing, we are not to give up in asking – it may be that the very best way to receive this gift is not now, but later.  It may be that God is deepening our faith and trust in Him, and perhaps God knows that we need to wait before our soul is ready to receive such a gift.

Yesterday we remembered those who gave their lives in the great war, today celebrate the victory over evil aggression in the Netherlands.  Many prayed from the start for the end of war, why did it not happen earlier?  It is above our paygrade to understand this fully.  But we could speculate that the deeper the confusion and lostness of a society, the greater the catastrophe that comes upon us.  And it took such catastrophe during those years, to awaken and call forth the highest virtues in those involved – courage, generosity, self-sacrifice, love of neighbour, a trial of such inconceivable suffering to reset the direction of the world.  Let us pray that such a trial will not be required of our generation.

After Jesus told the disciples these things on the night of his betrayal, they were full of confidence that they finally understood.

His disciples said, “Ah, …  Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”  

Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?  Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus, as fully human, has that inner spiritual relation to God so that in all situations, he knows he is not alone, but that the Father is with him.

This is what the disciples could not know before Pentecost – their sense of comfort came only from Jesus’ physical presence with them.  As soon as he left them, they would all scatter, they would be fearful.

But after Pentecost they would know the inner comfort, the strength, that each one of us can come to know as we come to know and love His Spirit dwelling in us.  It is this inner comfort, this inner strength, that gave the disciples such boldness to go into all the world and, despite persecution, to gladly preach the Gospel.

Those of us in the Bible study on Acts, as we read it carefully together, are reading just how inspired the early Church was by the Holy Spirit in everything they did.  Their closeness to God through listening for the Holy Spirit brought both boldness to speak, miracles in their midst, a deep generosity of heart to those in need, and also a fear of God – that they would take absolutely seriously the call to be utterly truthful before God.

In prayer, we come to know the voice of the Spirit speaking inwardly and separate it from other voices.  We take a step back from the external world around us, and all the support it gives us, to discover and found our strength on that new inner spiritual relation to God.  We come to know the Helper, the Comforter.  Jesus knew this kind of relation to God – be of good cheer, he says, I have overcome the world.  We too come to know this as we pray.

One preacher describes this new inner spiritual relation to God [Fr Crouse].  He says,

The practicality of Christian life depends upon the practicality of prayer.  And I don't mean just "saying prayers," though that is a beginning, a sort of method of prayer.  By prayer, I mean habitual, continual awareness of our life as being plainly in the presence of the Father, in every instant and in every circumstance, and a steadfast willing of the will of God.

This is the overcoming of the world, and of loneliness, this is what it is to “pray at all times”, this is our participating in the Resurrection life.  [Eph 6:18; Luke 21:36]

We can sharpen this awareness of God’s presence, through disciplines of daily prayer.  Anglicans have commended the practice of daily Morning and Evening Prayer.  You need to find what will work for you, but the daily offices or some similar practices have been found by countless Christians through the ages to be key.


James tells us in this morning’s Epistle, to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only.

Jesus told us to pray, and he showed in his earthly life what that looks like.  He gave us the Lord’s Prayer.  He prayed in the synagogues and in the Temple.  He also told us to go into a room by ourselves to ask the Father in secret and assured us that the Father will hear in secret.  He often went on the top of mountains by himself to pray.  He showed us prayer in his time of greatest distress: in the garden of Gethsemane, on the Cross.  He showed us what a life of prayer is like – the deep searching to understand what is the will of God and then asking for the strength to do it.

The life of prayer leads us to self knowledge, to knowledge of God, to know how to love our neighbour more perfectly.  And God gives us the strength to do the things we discover in prayer that we are asked to do.  To visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unspotted from the world – this is what the life of authentic prayer leads us to – religion that is not vain.

What is it that you really want?  We barely know yet what that is.

Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.

Amen +

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Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Psalm 127:1,2