P: Christ is risen.
C: He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Satan promised your first parents that if they sinned, they would become like God. But in truth they ruined God's perfect creation by their sin and made life in this world so difficult no one can handle it on his own.
How can our youth for example not be adversely affected by the peer pressure they face and the humanism they are so often fed in their schools? Their rampant drug abuse, adulterous ways, and their propensity to fall away from God answer that, I'm afraid, even as they reveal the difficulties Christian parents face in their attempt to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord. And as if that weren't hard enough, how can they support their family in an unstable economy and protect them in an increasingly hostile world? How can anyone overcome the difficult challenges, nagging fears, and threatening dangers he faces throughout this life, even while fighting off Satan's temptations everyday of his life, all in his own?
Let's face it. Life is hard, thanks to sin, and yet you are not alone, for God said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." And he who is with you at all times, in all places invites you to approach his throne of grace and to lay before him your fears, concerns, and desires in prayer.
Of course, that would mean nothing without the promise Jesus made to his disciples on the night he was betrayed, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you."
God hears the prayers of his children. Even better than that, God answers their prayers. He can do no other. For prayer is motivated by his promises. And because "God is not a man that he should lie," whatever he has promised he will do.
So Abraham prayed for the son God promised him, and Isaac was born in his old age. Moses prayed for the deliverance God promised Israel from the Egyptians, and the sea opened up to let them through on dry ground. Elijah prayed for the display of power God promised on Mount Carmel, and fire rained down from heaven to consume his sacrifice; Daniel in the den prayed for the protection God's promised him, and an angel to shut the mouths of the lions. Scripture abounds with examples of how God answers prayer according to his promises.
And you who are blessed with faith to believe this also pray. You pray in the morning as well as in the afternoon and evening. You pray in good times as well as in bad times. You pray to give God thanks as well as to beg for his help. You even pray even when the situation seems impossible, because you know what did Mary that "with God all things are possible." You pray not to inform God, for he knows your situation even better than you do, but to remind yourself of what he's promised to do for you.
So why doesn't he always do it? You know as well as I that prayer doesn't guarantee all your problems will be solved and your fears vanquished. The bills may still pile up, your loved one may get sicker, even die, your adversaries may still be against you. Just because you pray doesn't mean that your life will go the way you want. And when it doesn't, your faith can begin to waiver: Maybe God isn't so willing to do what he has promised, or maybe you're just not worthy of his blessings. That is true of course, but so is this, that God's promises are unconditional and so do not depend on your worthiness.
Those whom Satan has deceived into thinking they are have come up with some very bizarre ideas about prayer: such as, we have a better chance to obtain what we want from God if we can get many people to pray to him on our behalf, or the minister, and best of all, Jesus' own Mother. Surely, God will be moved by her petitions. What each one of these lies has in common is that your prayer alone is not enough.
But listen again to Jesus' promise, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you."
Jesus' name is how he has revealed himself. And he has revealed himself to you in the same way he did to the Children of Israel in the desert, as a serpent lifted up on a pole: a serpent, which in Scripture is the image of Satan, because he who knew no sin became the sinful one; and on a pole, because Jesus was lifted up on a cross, "that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life." To pray in Jesus' name then is to pray in the faith that God hears your prayer and will answer it in the best way, at the best time not because you are worthy, but because you were reconciled to him by the Death of his Son.
And thanks be to God that you just happen to be in one of those times. For when you asked God earlier in this Service to forgive you all your sins for the sake of his beloved Son, he by my voice absolved you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And because you in the Collect for this Day asked him to inspire you to think and do those things which are right, he through preaching promises to increase your faith so that you become doers of his Word, and not hearers only. Very soon now you will ask him to bless your presence at this Altar, and he will by feeding you his Body and his Blood for the forgiveness of your sins.
Dear Christian, these are the ways your Lord in answer to your prayers is delivering you from the Evil One right now. And because he is, the Day will surely come when he will deliver you from every evil, and bring you safely into his heavenly kingdom.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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