This the fifth Sunday after Easter is commonly called “Rogation
Sunday”, from the Latin word rogare, meaning “to ask” or “to pray”. The
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday which follow it, and precede Ascension Day,
are known as the “Rogation Days” from the ancient custom of saying solemn
prayers and litanies on those days for the protection of the nation and
the blessing of the crops which in Europe would be planted about this time.
The customs have nearly now all disappeared, but the name remains, and
the emphasis in the Eucharistic lections for this Sunday are still about
prayer, and the practical application of the good will expressed in prayer;
not inappropriate themes as we approach Whitsunday.
In the Gospel, from that of St. John, we are taught how to ask of God,
so that we may obtain the object of our prayer. From the beginning, we
must admit what true prayer implies, that we are totally dependent upon
God, in whom “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17.28). At the
same time, we admit his ability to do all things, and all things well.
We do not pray in order to remind him of what we need, for he “knows what
things we have need of, before we ask him:” (Matt.6.8). In asking, we rather
remind ourselves of our great need for him, and of our deficiency. And
we must ask in Christ’s name: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever
ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” That does not
mean simply to end our prayers by saying his name. By prayer in Christ’s
name, we mean prayer which is in accord with his will. It means praying
for that of which he would approve. In order to have prayers answered,
we should pray for that which is in accord with God’s providence.
But it is not simply enough to pray in word; we must also pray in deed.
Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter
the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is
in heaven.” (Matt. 7.21) And St. James, in the Epistle for today, says
“Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only”. Prayers, in which
we join our wills with God’s will, are in vain unless we are willing, according
to our capacity, to act on them. What good does it do to pray for forgiveness
unless we try to amend our ways? Why pray to be more loving unless
we attempt to love?
The collect for today prays that we will be inspired both to will the
right things, and be given the power to do them. The word “inspire”
is related to the word “spirit”, and it is the Holy Spirit working in us
and through us which enables us to will and do what God approves.
Let us on this Rogation Sunday pray earnestly for the gift of the Holy
Spirit, first sent on the Feast of Pentecost, that in all we desire, pray
for, and do, we may please Almighty God.
“God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm