The Foundations of Prayer – Easter 6

The Foundations of Prayer

John 16:23-33 T Easter 6


Prayer is as organic to faith as breathing is to life.

Without breath, life is slowly choked out.

Without prayer, faith is choked out.


Prayer is a gift of God, and a weapon for the fight against the evil foe.

For Satan is always on attack against faith.

He slowly wants your dependence to be less and less upon God,

Until eventually, you reach the last straw:

Your prayers are non-existent, or your prayers have lost their essence –

Meaning, your prayers have lost the foundational aspects that make real prayer.


So, prayer is the theme for this Mother’s Day Sunday, also known as Rogate Sunday.

Rogate means “supplication”, which is what the Lord encourages us to do in prayer.

Jesus gives many promises regarding prayer from our Gospel lesson –

“Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

And “in that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you loved me and believe that I came from God.”


Prayer is a weapon, for heaven hears our requests.

The God of all creation, whose mighty hands created mankind from the dust of the earth,

His ear is open to hear you.

His mercy, His forgiveness, His power, is open to hear what you ask!


This is often an overseen gift in the spiritual fight.

However, this weapon of prayer must be used rightly, or else, it’s useless –

It doesn’t matter if you bring a gun to a knife fight if you don’t know how to operate the gun.

So, we must understand the foundational aspects of prayer to use this gift according to our love for the Father and the Son, and not according to love of ourself – because then, the things for which we ask is no longer prayer.


When Martin Luther historically preached on this text, he taught that there were 5 foundational things that made true prayer.

And no, it doesn’t consist of using lofty rhetoric reserved for the learned.

It’s not a matter of form – that is, the words you use and how you use them.

Rather, it’s a matter of substance – that is, what’s in your heart.

So, Luther lists these 5 things that are necessary for prayer –

One, the promise of God to man.

Two, faith in God’s promise.

Three, faith that our prayer will be heard.

Four, a sense of our unworthiness.

Five, that we do not limit God in any way.


The first foundation necessary for true prayer is God’s promise to man.

This is FIRST because without God’s promise to hear us,

Or without His giving permission for us to approach His ear,

As Luther says, ‘we couldn’t obtain as much as a grain of corn’.


But since God’s promise to hear us leads us to pray,

We see that we don’t receive anything by our own virtue or merit.

It’s not that our works merited God’s ear for even a second.

Rather, God bends down His ear to earth because He is GOOD.

Through His divine goodness, which precedes our prayers and desires,

We’re moved to pray and ask by His gracious call.

In prayer then, we learn how much He cares for us,

For He is more ready to give, than we are to receive.

So, when we pray, we remember the promise of God’s goodness,

That as our heavenly Father, He wants His children to boldly ask Him in a calm and confident spirit, for help.


The second foundation necessary for true prayer is that we have faith in God’s promise.

We must trust that as our true Father in heaven, He is indeed quick to hear us,

Perhaps, even when our experiences tell us otherwise.

For example, in the Old Testament reading, the Israelites were dying from snake bites.

In their time of trouble, they turned to prayer.

They asked Moses, who was the intercessor between them and God, to ask God to take away the snakes.

But did God take away the snakes? No!

Rather, He let the snakes remain.

Instead, out of His fatherly goodness, He gave them healing from the snake bites through the means of the bronze serpent!

God let the serpents remain for a purpose:

because through the snake bites, their faith was exercised.

In their time of tribulation, they had to turn to God and His saving promises for help.

And of course, the same is true for us too.

Jesus in our text didn’t promise that we’d never have tribulations.

Rather he promises healing to us.

He says, “In the world you will have tribulation.

But take heart, I have overcome the world.”


As God’s children, we know that God doesn’t recede on His promises, even when our experiences may suggest otherwise.

As a good Father does, He gives according to what best benefits His children.

Jesus promises this in Luke 11 when He says,

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent, or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?”

In prayer, Christians must trust that the Father in heaven will give them what’s most beneficial for them – even in the situations that we wouldn’t call “good”.


The third foundation necessary for true prayer is faith that our prayer is heard.

If one prays doubting that God will hear him, wavering in confidence whether the request is heard or not, Luther says such a one is guilty of two wicked deeds.

One, that he views his prayer to have little to no use.

James 1:6 says, “but let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

The second evil deed stems from the first.

If you believe your prayers have little to no use, then you doubt the Fatherliness of God.

You’d believe Him to be a liar who can’t keep His promise –

A Father who cares nothing for the children of man.

Such a belief is sinful and must be condemned forever.

Such a belief in God mimics what Satan did to Adam and Eve in the garden.

It causes doubt in the goodness that God works for His children.


The fourth foundation necessary for true prayer is a sense of our unworthiness.

Some may think that the heavenly Father only listens to a select few of His children.

However, He listens to them all.

One does not need to accomplish true righteousness before prayer is heard.

Occasionally, I’ll receive a prayer request from someone, and I’ll get the comment–

“the prayer of a righteous person avails much.”

The idea being – certainly God listens to you. You’re a pastor! You’re righteous!

This is true – however, YOU’VE been made RIGHTEOUS by the same blood of Christ I have.

So, my righteousness is no different than yours – it’s sourced in the righteousness of Christ, given through His all-availing sacrifice on the cross.

For Christ is our mediator to the Father – not anyone here on earth.

So don’t think you have to attain some level of sanctification before God hears you.

If that were true, none of us would ever pray!

Because we’d never be worthy enough.

Our prayers cannot rest on our own merits.

Rather, they must solely rest on the divine promise!


The very reason we pray is because we’re unworthy!

We cannot provide for whatever our needs are, and so we venture out to ask the divine for His mercy and help!

For where we are weak, God is strong!

Where we are empty, God fills us!

Our humility drives us to prayer.

Because it’s in prayer where we lean on the faithfulness of God.

Luther sums up this fourth foundation of prayer with this:

“Your worthiness does not help you, but your unworthiness is no barrier. Disbelief condemns you, and trust makes you worthy and sustains you.”


The fifth foundation of true prayer is that we not limit God in any way.

This is to say, we should not limit our prayer to God to be answered in a specific time and place of our choosing.

Nor should we demand the way the prayer should be fulfilled by God –

for that is telling God how to be a good Father.

But trust me, He knows what He’s doing!

Rather in prayer, ask your request, and leave it to His will, His wisdom, His power.

Then, confident that your Father has heard you and promises to give you what you NEED, cheerfully await the answer.

No matter how long or soon, how or where the prayer is answered, His divine wisdom will find a far better way, time, or place, to answer our prayers than we could’ve concocted.


If we were to limit God, we’d be testing God.

And if we’re testing God, then we aren’t fully trusting God.

So, in prayer, we don’t bend His will to our ways. We bend our ways to His will.


These are the five foundations to true prayer.

When exercising these five things, we enter the spiritual fight with Satan confidently.

For our lives rest in the almighty God who works for the good of His children.

Through humility and trust in His fatherly divine goodness,

Christians know that the Father’s ear is open to hear us and grant our requests.

And when these foundational aspects of prayer are used rightly,

We can trust that our prayers in heaven are heard,

And that God is working in His time to grant us what we need.








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