The word “Rogation” means “asking,” or “praying,” and the three Rogation Days (the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week) are traditionally days of special prayer, particularly for God’s blessing on the spring planting and on the land we live in.
The sad fact of our existence is that while God created the world good, ever since Adam’s sin we have been at war with it. For this reason, “the world” even came to be known by the New Testament writers as synonymous with the world of sin and the world of the devil, which is opposed to the world of God. St. John begins this passage by boldly proclaiming that “whatever is born of God overcomes the world” (verse 4). Furthermore, “This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (verse 4), and “Who is he who overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (verse 5).
In relationship to the Rogation Days, days of prayer, John teaches that it is especially by prayer that we overcome the world in Christ: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (verses 14-15).
So how is it that prayer, which often seems so passive and unproductive in reality overcomes the world? In the first place, prayer brings us into the presence of the only One who has truly overcome the world. Jesus Christ came into the world by water and blood (verse 6), but Jesus didn’t just come into the world: He came to overcome the world. And this is exactly what He did by perfectly obeying the will of the Father and refusing to give in to the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Not only in His obedience in the face of temptation but also in His obedience on the Cross, by which He definitively defeated the world, Jesus Christ has overcome the world that had opposed Him.
So prayer brings us into the presence of the One who has overcome for us. But it also brings our petitions before the One who has overcome, for He is our High Priest who sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us (see the book of Hebrews). Because Jesus Christ has entered heaven, having overcome the world, we too can now enter into heaven and approach the throne of grace with boldness, because Jesus Christ is our Advocate with the Father.
This means that our prayers, when prayed in faith, are truly heard by the Father. Now there is a confusing thing about prayer (actually there are many!), and that is that John, and even Jesus Himself, teaches that we will receive whatever we ask for in Jesus’ name. The problem is that we’ve all asked for things in Jesus’ name before and haven’t received them.
Though other passages don’t make it clear, John tells us that the reason is that we must ask according to His will. If you think that God is bound to give you whatever you ask for, no matter how sinful, selfish, or ultimately not good for you they are – you’re wrong! It’s a good thing to be wrong when God is the one who is right in contrast.
There’s another difficulty. What if you ask, truly believing, and you still don’t receive? The answer’s the same: it must not have been according to the will of the Father. This is a bitter pill to swallow for most of us, to know that even when we truly believe when we ask that God often still says “No.”
But what God wants most of all is your unswerving faith, even when He says “No.” What He wants most of all is that you trust Him, not just that He is powerful enough to do what you ask but also that He is loving and wise enough to only give you what is best for you. What He wants is trust in Him, and not just in His power or gifts.
If you still ever have trouble in accepting that God sometimes says “No” when you pray with faith that someone will get healed or that broken relationships will be mended or truly bad things would be made well again, remember the example of Jesus Himself. No one could possibly have prayed more faithfully, with greater trust in the Father and a more obedient heart, or more earnestly than did Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. And yet the answer of the loving Father to His beloved Son was still “No.”
The final way in which prayer overcomes the world is that it is through a life of prayer that we live in the Promised Land. How do we live in the world? How do we overcome the world? Through a life in Jesus, who has come into the world to overcome the world. We access this world of the Promised Land through a life of prayer. By prayer we give thanks for where God has put us, and by prayer God turns wherever He puts us into a Promised Land. How can my life be the Promised Land when it seems to be flowing with curdled milk and vinegar? By accepting it as the place where God has placed you. And if it is where God has placed you, then it is His will, and that makes wherever you are holy ground, for God is there with you.
But it takes prayer to accept and believe this and to even be thankful for it.
Growing up in Champaign, Illinois, I lived in a kind of Promised Land (at least that’s the way I’ve always remembered it). My godly and loving parents were with me, and my 2 brothers and my sister were with me and were wonderful playmates (usually). I loved going to school, and my friends that were there. Champaign was home. I felt that way for about 20 years, even when God had put me in other places. I even had a theory of places where I had lived: the golden age of Champaign, Illinois; the silver age of North Babylon (Long Island), New York; and the bronze age of College Station, Texas.
But now I’ve realized that wherever God has put me is to be a Paradise, and I am to cultivate it and make it into God’s Promised Land. So I made a real effort to get to know Hot Springs, Arkansas when I moved there and to care about it more than any place since Champaign, Illinois because it dawned on me that wherever God puts His saints is holy ground. I’ve begun to do the same with Fort Worth, TX. And therefore it is worth caring about the place, and being thankful for the place, and praying about and for and through that place.
By prayer, and a life that lives out that prayer, we recognize God’s kingdom, and we pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” By faith and by prayer, I recognize that my entire life is a place where Jesus has the power to overcome: my physical illnesses and weaknesses; the difficulties of moving; financial difficulties; relationship problems; good health; stable home life; financial ease; and healthy relationships.
In prayer, we realize that God is already here and has already overcome the world so that we might return to Paradise again. What made Israel the Promised Land? The promise of God and the presence of God.
So come boldly before the throne of grace to find help in your time of need. Ask for whatever you truly believe God wants for you. But be thankful for wherever God has placed you today. Allow God to transform you by a life of prayer, not that He would merely change the place you live in but that He would accomplish something much more miraculous and wonderful: that He would transform you by prayer so that whatever the Father wants is now what you want. By praying in this way, your life, too, will become a Promised Land.
Prayer: Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth; We beseech thee to pour forth thy blessing upon this land, and to give us a fruitful season; that we, constantly receiving thy bounty, may evermore give thanks unto thee in thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Point for Meditation: Are you content with where God has placed you? If so, then give thanks to God. If not, then ask God to allow you to cheerfully receive what He has faithfully and lovingly given. If sin is an obstacle, then confess what needs to be confessed.
Resolution: I resolve to spend some time in prayer today, asking God to bless me where He’s planted me.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day