A Good Sermon Ought to be Followed by a Good Prayer

Easter 7 Sunday

John 17:1

“After Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and spoke.”

 

Among all the works of our Lord Christ, we should wish to hear especially how he conducted himself when he prayed and spoke to his heavenly Father. For there is written much about how he preached and performed miraculous signs but little about how he prayed. But here is written before our eyes with many words what he spoke before his disciples and what he left behind for them. But no one cares about it. If it had not been written down, we would run after it to the end of the world. And it is truly an exceedingly intense and wholehearted prayer in which he opens and pours out the bottom of his heart both to us and to his Father. But he does so by using the kind of words that sound like childish, powerless prattle not worth mentioning to our ears when they hear them without the Spirit. For reason and human wisdom disregard what is not presented and adorned with splendid, grand words that make everyone’s eyes and ears pop. But if we could see and consider who the person is who there asks and also who the person is who is asked there, we would not consider these words to be so unworthy and insignificant, but would realize and feel the exceeding power and comfort these simple words have and give. For Christ here observes the rule he gave and taught us, Matthew 6:5-7, that when we wish to pray properly, we should not use many, fine words, but use simple words from the heart. This is why we should not regard this prayer to be so insignificant or deal with it in a superficial manner as if it consisted of useless words of men where everybody thinks he could have done a better job. Because if someone were to try to do a better job, his ability, word, and manner would soon come to naught. But this is the sum and reason for this chapter: A good sermon ought to be followed by a good prayer. That is to say, when you have spoken the Word, you should also begin to groan and desire that it should also have power and bear fruit. For since the Lord Christ had now uttered and completed all his teaching and discharged his office and had blessed his disciples by the fine long sermon of comfort, he finally also had to make a request, both for them and all Christians, in order to discharge completely his office as our one High Priest, not omitting anything that would serve to strengthen and preserve them because he was about to leave them behind alone in the world. This is why I have always said how necessary a Christian prayer is: Without it, faith can neither exist nor remain. For those who preach, hear, and know God’s Word but do not pray, indicate thereby that they are still proud and secure, as if they did not need God’s grace everywhere, do not see their need and danger, think that they are now seated firmly and already have what they might request. The devil is right behind them, assaults them, and overthrows them before they even know what happened to them. This is why Christ, by his own example, teaches us not to forget prayer in addition to the sermon lest the Word remain without fruit when it is used.

 

St. Louis ed., 8:746-747.

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