Open your Catechism: Part 4
The Lord’s Prayer comes from the lips of Jesus as he teaches his disciples how to pray. His prayer still carries our deepest needs to our heavenly Father.
John A. Braun
The Ten Commandments convict us of sin every time we read them. Perhaps that’s why we don’t like to read them. And when we do, we sometimes try to escape their accusing finger just like children squirming to avoid responsibility for disobedience. We ignore the accusation. We make excuses. We compare our behavior with others who appear to be worse than we are. Avoidance has a thousand coats.
Yet, God has changed us. He shares the gospel with us, and through the gospel the Holy Spirit has made us new creatures. We still are not perfect as God demands, but we are forgiven believers who value the treasure of God’s love in Jesus. Luther said we are “only half pure and holy” while we live here. The good we want to do sometimes doesn’t get done, and the evil we do not want to do tumbles out of our mouths and pops up in our actions and behavior.
The change does, however, leave us with a different outlook. We are forgiven, and we see the world and our lives differently. We know there is a heavenly Father who loves us, but we also see that the world is opposed to our loving God. We are different from the world as well.
Living in an imperfect world and faced with our own failings, Jesus invites us to turn to our heavenly Father in prayer. Even though he was perfect, he often prayed to his heavenly Father. The disciples were well aware of his prayer life as Jesus often went off alone to pray. So they asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4). His answer to their request was the prayer we say so often that it sometimes becomes just a stream of words. But the Lord’s Prayer carries the real needs of Christians living in an imperfect world to God.
First, a note about prayer. That note is tied to the first words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in heaven.” Luther captures the attitude we should have as we pray “boldly and confidently as dear children ask their dear father.” I’ll admit that in our world today not everyone has a “dear father.” But God is that dear Father some do not have in this imperfect world. So we pray because he promises to listen when we do.
We come to him asking, “Hallowed be your name.” In this imperfect world we see so many occasions when God’s name is dishonored. We see people living without any thought to morality and decency. Even Christians tarnish God’s name by what they teach and by what they do. So we ask God to keep us from falling into these patterns and to help us bring honor and glory to his name.
“Your kingdom come” is another request that flows from what we see going on around us. Again and again we see believers in Christ belittled, ridiculed, and even persecuted. We note the terrorists trying to kill those who confess Jesus. We are told by the world that the church is for fools and the superstitious. This all frustrates and concerns us. Yet God continues to add believers to his church through the gospel. His kingdom does come in spite of the opposition. We pray it will continue.
“Your will be done.” When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane he concluded his heartfelt prayer with the words, “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). So as we live in this imperfect world, we must trust that all will happen according to his will. That’s the way it happens in heaven. Here we often wonder how he is doing things, but we are asked to trust God as he guards and protects us and defends us as he decides. Even when we don’t understand, we trust that it is all in his hands. He promises that all will work out for the good of his people even if we must suffer.
Daily bread? In the middle of the prayer, Jesus adds a request for our daily needs. It’s a reminder that “the eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time” (Psalm 145:15). As long as God leaves us in this imperfect world, we require all the necessities of life to continue to live as his children. So we boldly ask our heavenly Father for what we need to live so we might let our light shine in this troubled world.
Of course, we need more than food to be God’s children. We need regular doses of forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer asks God for the vital spiritual food we need to keep faith alive—forgiveness in Jesus. We are then prepared to live as lights in this world. Once we are forgiven, we can find the strength to forgive others. Often that is a difficult task, even for Christians. But our example is Jesus. He was spit upon and ridiculed, but he forgave those who hurt him. He forgave us, unworthy though we are. Forgive us, Lord, and help us forgive others.
“Lead us not into temptation.” We are surrounded by ideas and attitudes that are different from what God expects. At times we might feel like the psalmist: “I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong” (Psalm 73:3,4). We can so easily be tempted to abandon our faith in Jesus and simply join the other side. It’s appropriate to ask God to keep us faithful in the midst of all the temptations we face.
Finally, we ask God to “deliver us from evil.” Our goal as Christians is to finish our race and receive the crown of righteousness. The road may be difficult at times, but we know what awaits us at the end of our journey. How often we have sung “Heaven is My Home” or remembered God’s promise, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10 ESV). So we pray that along life’s journey God would give us the strength, protection, endurance, and patience to arrive in his glorious presence.
So we pray the short little prayer Jesus taught us. He’s listening. He promised he would. He always answers, so “his will be done” here for us and for other believers. Amen. Amen!
The Lord’s Prayer carries the real needs of Christians living in an imperfect world to God.
Assignment: Read through Luther’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer. Use each petition to create a prayer list and then pray for the things on your list.
John Braun, chairman of the Reformation 500 Committee, is the executive editor of Forward in Christ.
This is the fourth article in a six-part series on Luther’s Small Catechism.
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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017
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