“The Catechism in Six Parts: The Lord’s Prayer”
So far in our series on the Catechism we’ve had the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed. The Commandments show us God’s good will for our lives, but the problem is, we don’t do it as we should, and so the Commandments show us our sin and our need for a righteousness we don’t have. Then the Creed comes along and shows us the answer to our problem, in the triune God who loves us and saves us and forgives our sins. Now that we are saved and are God’s children, the question then becomes how we find God’s help for our daily living. That’s where the next part of the Catechism comes in, namely, in the Lord’s Prayer.
Now suppose you were commanded by God and invited by him to pray for all the needs you have and for all the gifts he has to give you. Think of that! All of your needs, and all of God’s gifts. And you have to put them all into one prayer. How long would it take you to pray for all those things? How many hours, how many thousands of words, would it take?
Well, actually, you could do it in about 30 seconds. Because that’s how long it takes to pray the Lord’s Prayer. How can you possibly cover all of your needs and all of God’s gifts in that short of a time? Apparently, our Lord Jesus Christ seems to think that it’s possible. In fact, he even gave us this prayer that does all of that. We call it the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father.” In this short prayer, which we can pray every day, we are invited by God to come to him and call upon him, to seek his help in all of our needs and to ask for all of his gifts. It really is a remarkable prayer, this prayer our Lord taught us.
That’s how it is with these parts of the Catechism, isn’t it? Each chief part is a short summary that covers vast and profound things. The Ten Commandments cover all of God’s will for our lives and show us all of our sins where we fail to do it–all covered in just ten short commandments. The Apostles’ Creed is a summary of the entire New Testament, telling us who the triune God is and how he creates, redeems, and sanctifies us–all of that in just three brief articles. And now the Lord’s Prayer, which is a comprehensive, all-purpose prayer–yet very short, an introduction, seven petitions, and a conclusion. What a handy summary of the Christian faith and life we have in these parts of the Catechism! Easily memorized, ready for our recall, right there for our use, morning, noon, and night–any time, any place, every day.
Tonight our focus is on this comprehensive, all-inclusive prayer we call the Lord’s Prayer. As I say, it covers all of our needs and all of God’s gifts in one short form. And we are taught and invited by Christ to pray this prayer every day and to come to our dear Father who promises to hear us. This is a prayer we can be sure of, one that we can put a hearty “Amen” to, for Christ himself is the one who has given it to us. Think of what a treasure we have here in this prayer! Our only problem is that we do not pray it often enough, with thought and in faith.
The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer that works as a prayer in itself, to say these exact words that Christ gave us. It also works as a model and a springboard for further praying, that is, as a pattern for prayer. Let’s see how each line of the Lord’s Prayer can lead to further praying.
“Our Father, who art in heaven”: Know first who this God is you are coming to in prayer, that he is your dear Father who loves you and cares for you. Meditate on God’s character as you have learned to know him, and put that into words. “Father, I thank you that you take me as your own dear child and that you promise to hear my prayers.” And so on.
Then the opening petitions: “Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In these first three petitions, we are seeking first God’s kingdom and glory and honor, the things that pertain to what God is doing in the world. Make them your concern, too. For example, “Thy kingdom come” can be a springboard for particular prayers related to the spread of the gospel, that God’s kingdom of grace would be extended in the world through the ministry of the church. You could name particular missionaries or ministers you have on your heart. For example, “Lord, please bless missionary Duane Meissner as he shares the gospel of the kingdom in the nation of Belize.” You see, that would be using the Lord’s Prayer as a springboard for further praying.
Likewise, when you come to the petition about daily bread, consider: What are the particular needs of this body and life that you or your fellow Christians have? Put them into words, and bring your supplications before your Father in heaven. You might pray for someone who has lost their job or is sick or hospitalized. Or when you pray “Forgive us our trespasses,” think about: What are your sins that you are aware of, that trouble you and for which you need forgiveness? Confess them before your gracious God, pleading the blood of Christ your Savior. “As we forgive those who trespass against us”: Is there someone who has sinned against you? Pray for a heart of forgiveness, and ask God for help to restore your relationship.
Then we come to the attacks of the devil upon us: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” God wants you to call on him in the day of trouble. When temptations fly about your head, call on God for help. When the evil one is throwing evil things your way–attacks of every sort, both physical and spiritual–pray in the name of the Mightier One, Jesus Christ, who has defeated the devil on the cross. Name the things for which you need help, and call on God for protection and deliverance. He promises to hear you and to help you.
In Psalm 50:15, the Lord says: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” And so we conclude our time of praying the way we began, by praising and glorifying God. “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.” You might sing a hymn as part of your daily prayers. To praise God in song, to rejoice in the Lord–this will not only lift your spirits, it will also spur you on in your faith, as you dwell on the goodness of God. “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”
Whether we pray the Lord’s Prayer by itself or we use it also as a pattern for praying our own particular petitions–in any case, when we pray in this way, knowing we have a gracious and merciful Father who hears us and promises to answer our prayer, then what else can we say but to add a hearty “Amen”? Amen, yes, yes, it shall be so! How can we be so sure? 1) God has commanded us to pray. 2) He has promised to hear us. 3) He invites us to come to him with all our needs. And 4) Jesus himself gives us the very words to pray, so we can be sure this prayer is pleasing to God. If all that doesn’t merit an “Amen,” I don’t know what does!
Yes, if Jesus gives us this prayer and teaches us to pray in this way, we can be certain and confident in our praying. For who is Jesus but the very Son of God, who came from heaven from the Father’s side? Who is Jesus but the one who reveals the Father to us? Through Christ we know the Father’s heart. And we come to God and call on him as “our” Father, because we are coming in company with Jesus, the one and only Son of the Father in a unique sense. Through Christ, we have gained access to God and this grace in which we now stand. For Christ has opened the way to God through his blood shed for us on the cross. Our sins stood in the way and prevented our access to the Father, but Jesus has opened the new and living way through his body. He won forgiveness for us by his death. He rose and ascended into heaven and presents his shed blood as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Christ intercedes for us, and he gives us access to the throne of God, where we will find help and grace in every time of need. The Lord’s Prayer is efficacious because of the Lord’s blood shed on our behalf.
You and I have been joined to Jesus Christ in Baptism. Jesus is our brother, and so the Father becomes our Father, too. And we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, from whom we have received the spirit of sonship, by which we cry out, “Abba, Father!” What a great and glorious privilege we have been gifted with, that we can call on our Father in prayer!
And what a great and glorious prayer we have to do this with! The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, in which all of our needs and all of God’s gifts are summed up for us in one brief prayer. You can pray it every day, two or three times a day even, in the morning when you get up, in the evening when you go to bed, in between for family devotions. The Lord’s Prayer is your daily companion, always there when you need it. But the Lord’s Prayer is also a prayer that is ever new, every time we pray it. Why? Because our particular needs are always changing, yet they will always fall somewhere under the comprehensive petitions of this prayer. And God’s gifts, which are even greater than our needs–all of God’s gifts, which he pours out on us day after day–all of those countless gifts are packed into this one little prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer may only take a short time to pray, but there’s enough there to cover all of our needs and all of God’s gifts. It’s a prayer that sums it all up. It’s a prayer we can be sure God wants us to pray, because Jesus is the one who gives it to us and he teaches us to pray in this way. And so we give thanks for the Lord’s Prayer, and we will gladly pray it and use it as a model for our further praying. Amen, Amen! Yes, yes, it shall be so!