"Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." Our Lord Jesus Christ has given you a promise that God will answer your prayers. That's awesome. When the Israelites were dying from venomous snake bites they had to ask Moses to pray to the LORD for them. But not you. You can ask God directly! Your Savior Jesus says, "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 have loved me and have believed that I came from God." So you see that it is by faith in Jesus Christ that you have the promise to pray directly to God and have the assurance that you will receive whatever you ask for.
Jesus Christ won this privilege for you by coming from the Father to earth, joining our human race, dying for our sins, and returning to the Father alive. It's all about what Jesus has done. That's why you can pray with certainty. This means that your sins cannot disqualify you from prayer nor will God ignore your prayers, because of your sins. It is a lie of the devil that you are unworthy to pray or that God will not hear you. When you feel least worthy to pray, that is when you need to pray all the more! And your heavenly Father hears your prayers and answers them, not because of your worthiness, but because of Christ. Therefore, if you have faith in Christ, you are worthy to pray and God hears your prayers gladly. So if you are tempted or fall into a horrible sin or doubt, that is not a time to hide from God, but to run to him in prayer. He will hear you.
St. James says not to be hearers of the word only, but doers. Prayer is the word in action. You have the right to pray to God through faith. Faith comes from hearing the word of God. Your prayers and God's word are inseparably linked. God's Word gives you Jesus. Your prayers and Jesus are inseparably linked. If you have Jesus, your prayers will be answered.
Not only do you have the promise that your prayers are effective, but you have the command to pray. Pray without ceasing.
So you know that you have the promise that God will hear and answer your prayers. You know you have the command to pray. So, what should you pray for? Well, we already know that prayer cannot be separated from God's word and faith in God's word. So it's a good idea to ask God what to pray for. And your dear Lord Jesus has taught you a prayer, the Lord's Prayer. In the Lord's prayer we make seven petitions directly to God our Father. Every request a Christian makes in prayer fits into one of these petitions in the Lord's Prayer. The first three petitions specifically address the needs of the confirmands today.
The first petition is, "Hallowed be thy name." In other words, "Let your name be holy among us, O Lord." How is God's name kept holy? You were all taught, "God's name is kept holy when the word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God's Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!"
Sam, Thane, Olivia, Matthew, and Zack, in your vows this morning you will confess to believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as he is confessed in the Apostles Creed, and that the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, that is, the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are the true Word of God. And you will confess that what you were taught from the Bible and from the Small Catechism drawn from the Bible is faithful and true. When you pray, "hallowed be thy name" in the Lord's Prayer, you are asking that God will provide you with faithful pastors who will teach what you here confess to be true. And you pray that you would actually listen to what is preached and taught to you and that you would believe it.
It matters what you believe. Despite what you may learn elsewhere, there is such a thing as truth. God's word is truth. Jesus is truth. You have a real Creator, there is a real heaven and a real hell. You have real sins, the wages for which are death and hell. You need a real Savior. So the truth matters. What you have been taught and what you are confessing before God and man this morning is the truth. Jesus Christ is true God, the second Person in the Holy Trinity. He is also true man, sharing in your flesh and blood, yet without sin. Jesus took your place under the law and he loved perfectly. Yet he died for your hatred and sin. This is true. This is what your faith depends on.
Your faith depends on the truth. That means that you need to hear the truth, so that you can believe and confess the truth. When you pray, "Hallowed be thy name" you are praying that God would grant you the grace to keep your confirmation vows and to confess the truth unto your dying day.
Your prayers depend on the truth of God's Word. If what you believe is false, then how do you know whether God loves you? How do you know if Jesus has reconciled you to the Father? How do you know if God will answer your prayers? And so you pray, "hallowed be thy name" for the sake of your prayers, so that you may know that God does hear them and answer them.
This is why you learned the Small Catechism by heart. Your memory work wasn't some mindless assignment. I didn't assign it to you kids, because my pastor assigned it to me when I was younger and his pastor assigned it to him and so forth throughout the generations and we're all afraid to fall from tradition. The Small Catechism teaches you the basics of the Christian faith drawn from the Bible. The Small Catechism is not a textbook. It is a prayer book. That is why we recite it together as a congregation. You should recite at least a portion of your Catechism everyday as part of your prayers. And when you have a family, you should recite it to them, teach it to your children, and pray it with them. The Small Catechism teaches you the truth of God's Word. God answers your prayer, "Hallowed be thy name" by you praying the Catechism. That is where you learn who God is, what his Law and Gospel are, how to pray, and where to find Jesus. Keep your Catechism by your bedside. Pray a portion of it every night before you go to bed. And God's name will be hallowed among you.
Thy kingdom come. God's kingdom certainly comes without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also. How does God's kingdom come? You learned, "God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity." The confirmands will be asked, "Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord's Supper faithfully?" They will answer, "I do, by the grace of God." Whenever you pray, "thy kingdom come" in the Lord's prayer, you pray that God would give you the grace to keep this vow. How does God's kingdom come to you? Through his Word. The Holy Spirit will come to these confirmands through the holy Word of God, to create faith and guide them in the way of truth.
The Third Commandment is, "Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and his word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it." This of course means that when you skip church, neglecting to hear the preaching of God's word or to learn it, you are breaking the Third Commandment and sinning. That is serious in and of itself.
But there's actually something even greater than that. God's kingdom comes through his Word. The Holy Spirit comes through God's Word. God answers your prayer, "Thy kingdom come" by preaching God's Word and sending you his Holy Spirit in church! So breaking this vow by not going to church is not only a sin, but it is damaging to your faith and goes against your prayer, "Thy kingdom come." When you pray, "Thy kingdom come" you are praying that God will either get you to church or get God's word to you in some other way if you are physically incapable of going. When God's kingdom comes to you through his Word, your faith is increased, you become more sure of your salvation and more confident in your prayers.
Finally, the Third Petition: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Well, what is God's will? "God's will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God's name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will."
The confirmands will be asked, "Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death?", and, "Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?" And to both questions they will answer, "I do, by the grace of God." Now why are we asking kids to keep this faith and to live according to God's Word even to death? Is it appropriate to ask such a question? To death? Yes, it is. Why is it appropriate? Because it is God's good and gracious will that these five youths reject all evil plans of the devil, the world, and their sinful nature and hold fast to God's word in faith, trusting in Jesus Christ unto life everlasting.
It is God's will that you be baptized and believe the Gospel. It is God's will that you go to church and hear his word and believe it. It is God's will that you continue to read and learn your catechism and grow in faith each day. It is God's will that you trust in the cleansing blood of Jesus, shed for you to wash away your sins. It is God's will that you receive Jesus' body and blood in the Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of faith. It is God's will that you pray to him often, alone, with your family, with the church, night and day, when you are afraid, when you are brave, at all times. This is his good and gracious will.
In confirmation class you have learned that God loves you. You have learned to be confident in your salvation, because Jesus cannot fail. And you have learned to be confident to pray. You're not done learning. And Jesus is not done teaching you. He will continue to teach you to pray through his Word and Sacraments until all your prayers are finally answered and your joy is full.