Fifth Sunday After Easter GOSPEL John 16:23-30 The Sunday Meditation: A Plaine Path-Way To Heaven By Fr.Thomas Hill 1634
At that time Jesus saith to His disciples: "Amen, amen, I say to you: if you ask the Father any thing in My Name, He will give it to you. Hitherto you have not asked any thing in my name: Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things I have spoken to you in proverbs. The hour cometh when I will no more speak to you in proverbs, but I will show you plainly of the Father. In that day you shall ask in My Name; and I say not to you that I will ask the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father and am come into the world; again I leave the world and I go to the Father." His disciples say to Him: Behold, now Thou speakest plainly and speakest no proverb. Now we know that Thou knowest all things and Thou needest not that any man should ask of Thee: by this we believe that Thou camest forth from God.
For as much, as this Gospel treateth of prayer, Christ inviting,or rather inciting his disciples thereunto:before we proceed unto the particulars thereof, I will remove one stumbling-block out of our way, that is to say, answer one objection against prayer, to wit that it is in vain, and to no purpose for us to pray.
The discourse of the objection is this: If one should ask where God did glorify St. Peter, the answer is, as St. Paul reasoneth, writing to the Romans, because he justified him: and why did he justify him? because he called him: and why did he call hum? because he predestinate him.
If we go further, and ask why he did predestinate him, the answer were is, because he loved him; and why did he love him? Because it is his will: further then this, to wit, the will of God, we cannot go, no other cause is to be assigned of all this order and progression aforesaid, but the will of God.
Man loveth things because they are good, or appear so unto him, but God loveth us when we had no goodness of our own, nay when we nothing; and in loving us, maketh us good, and therefore no cause can be given of his love, but his will: now as God loveth us for no other reason but because he will; so he giveth his gifts of love, unto us for no other reason but forhis will.
For as much therefore as God knoweth most perfectly what is necessary for us,and giveth it merely for his own will, it seemeth to be in vain and to no purpose to pray for any thing. I answer, though God giveth his gifts merely unto us because it is his will: yet as the Prophet David sayeth, his will is to do the will of them that fear him, not that they draw the will of God to their will, but that he draweth their will unto his, to wit, what he willeth: as if two draw a chain, the one at the one end, the other at the other, the stronger draweth the weaker unto him.
Thus Christ inviteth his disciples here to pray, and us in them, and for this he biddeth us to pray without intermission, and not to be weary, not because our prayers are the cause of receiving what we pray for, but a necessary preparation; as for example, for a man to open his mouth that another may feed him, is not the cause why he feedeth him, but a preparation without which he cannot feed him. To +open our mouth in prayer is a necessary preparation for God to feed us, of which the Prophet David in the person of God sayeth unto us: Open thy mouth, to wit in prayer, and I will fill it: and in another place, I opened my mouth, to wit in prayer, and I drew breath, meaning that as we must open our mouth to receive food & breath without which we cannot live: so must we open our mouths in prayer, to receive the food and breath of our soul, without which our souls cannot live. This were enough to incite us to continual prayer if it were but only a preparation to receive the benefits of God; but besides that, though the very comfort and recreation of prayer be sufficient reward, yet God hath made it a service unto him, and he will not only grant our requests, when they are agreeable to his will; but will reward us besides for our service. That it is a service to him, the Prophet David testifieth in these words directed unto us in the person of God: Thou shalt call upon me in tribulation, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt honor me, to wit, thereby, that God will reward it, Christ sayeth thus in the Gospel:when thou prayest go into thy chamber and shut thy door, that is to say, shut out of thy mind, all distractions, and pray in secret and thy heavenly Father, that seeth thee in secret will reward thee openly: and of them that pray for vain glory he sayeth, they loose their reward; therefore they were to have a reward, if they had done it well.
In regard whereof our prayer is often times a greater benefit unto us, then the thing we pray for, and therefore oftentimes God deferreth to give us what we pray for, that we should continue our prayer, and sendeth us afflictions to give us occasion to pray, not so much to be delivered from them, as to pray, which is better.
God giveth us afflictions and other occasions to pray, oftentimes as a nurse giveth her child a clothe to warm (when he is very cold and is so full of play that he would no otherwise come to the fire) rather that the child should warm himself, then the cloth: so doth God afflict us more to have us pray, then to afflict us, or to be delivered from it.
This being so, together with the inward comfort & recreation of prayer, who would not desire to spend most of his time therein, especially being so easy a Service? and what a wonderful goodness of God is it, to vouchsafe to appoint us such a Service, as no man is excluded from it, be he never so poor or mean, but every man may do it, one as well as another, and as acceptable to God as another.