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The Fifth Sunday after Easter
commonly called Rogation Sunday
excerpt from
COMMON PRAYER: A Commentary on the Prayer Book Lectionary
Volume 3: Easter to Pentecost (p. 60)
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
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 46.1)