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Luther’s Small Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer

 

First Reading–James 5:15-18

15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” (NKJ)

 

Second Reading–Matthew 6:9-13

9 “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (NKJ)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

PrayingHands&Cross1Tonight, we come to the Third Chief Part of the Small Catechism.

Luther’s Small Catechism, along with the hymnal, and the Holy Bible, are and have been the primary devotional resources of Lutherans through the years.

They should remain so.

The Holy Bible is God’s Word “Written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4 NKJ), and given “That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:31 NKJ).

The hymnal, the book containing hymns, prayers, and liturgies of our church, confess Christ.

The words therein give expression of and direction to Christ our Savior, and life lived by faith in God’s Son.

The Small Catechism of Luther is sometimes referred to as “the layman’s Bible,” as the text clearly states what is necessary for the Christian faith and life.

For review, the First Chief Part of the Catechism concerns the 10 Commandments, how God’s people are to live, how we are to be, to God and neighbor.

The Second Chief Part concerns the Creed, who God is, what He has done, and what He continues to do for His creation, temporally, and eternally.

While the Commandments serve as curb, show us our sins, and serve as rule/guide, the Creed testifies of God’s Word in Christ, His doing, Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, for our preservation in the faith and for our salvation.

The Third Chief Part directs our attention to the response of faith to having God as God, Jesus as Savior, and the Holy Spirit as Creator and sustainer of that which saves unto eternal life and delivers from eternal death.

In the words of Luther:

1 We have now heard what we must do (i.e. The Commandments) and believe (i.e. The Creed), in what things the best and happiest life consists. Now follows the third part, how we ought to pray. 2 For we are in a situation where no person can perfectly keep the Ten Commandments, even though he has begun to believe. The devil with all his power, together with the world and our own flesh, resists our efforts. Therefore, nothing is more necessary than that we should continually turn towards God’s ear, call upon Him, and pray to Him. We must pray that He would give, preserve, and increase faith in us and the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments [2 Thessalonians 1:3]. We pray that He would remove everything that is in our way and that opposes us in these matters. 3 So that we might know what and how to pray, our Lord Christ has Himself taught us both the way and the words [Luke 11:1–4]. (The Lutheran Confessions, 1-3)

In the second reading, we hear the words of Jesus according to St. Matthew.

Directly, Jesus to His disciples says, “In this manner, therefore, pray…”

Jesus gives the very words to pray.

In St. Luke’s account, the disciples of Jesus themselves inquire about prayer.

St. Luke tells it this way, “Now it came to pass, as He (Jesus) was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” 2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say,” and then the words of the Lord’s Prayer (Lk. 11:1-2 NKJ).

In both accounts, that of Jesus directly giving the words to pray, according to St. Matthew, or according to St. Luke, where the disciples first ask the “how” of prayer, Jesus in both instructs his disciples with the very words of praying, beginning with, “Our Father…”

Such words of Jesus are not to be taken lightly.

When Jesus says, “In this way pray,” or “When you pray, say,” He means what He says.

To say that we cannot or should not pray the very words that Jesus gives to say is hypocrisy if one claims to be Christian, for Christians believe Jesus and His Word.

In our circles, this is not an issue, but it has been in others, simply because they do not take God at His Word.

Yet, taking God at His Word is just what Christians do, because Christians are of Christ.

As the Lord Jesus gives the very words of prayer to pray, no better prayer can be prayed than that which the Lord Himself has given to pray.

Again, Luther writes,

22 …We should be moved and drawn to prayer. In addition to this commandment (to pray) and promise (that God will hear and answer), God expects us and He Himself arranges the words and form of prayer for us. He places them on our lips for how and what we should pray [Psalm 51:15], so that we may see how heartily He pities us in our distress [Psalm 4:1], and we may never doubt that such prayer is pleasing to Him and shall certainly be answered. 23 This ‹the Lord’s Prayer› is a great advantage indeed over all other prayers that we might compose ourselves. For in our own prayers the conscience would ever be in doubt and say, “I have prayed, but who knows if it pleases Him or whether I have hit upon the right proportions and form?” Therefore, there is no nobler prayer to be found upon earth than the Lord’s Prayer. We pray it daily [Matthew 6:11], because it has this excellent testimony, that God loves to hear it. We ought not to surrender this for all the riches of the world. (The Lutheran confessions ¶ 22-23)

God both commands prayer and He promises to hear the petitions directed to Him through His Son.

In His Word is our confidence, both in praying and for God’s response.

We commend ourselves into God’s keeping.

The answer is His.

Into God’s hands we commend ourselves.

In this, too, is our confidence.

Not only does God place on our lips the very words to pray.

He gives the faith that says, “Amen” to His Word and will.

Briefly, the Lord’s Prayer is set into seven petitions, beginning with an Introduction and ending with a Conclusion.

Throughout the seven petitions, we pray the very petitions that our Lord would have us pray.

We request from God the very things for which He would have us request.

We pray that His Name be hallowed among us and by us, by our word and deed.

We pray that His kingdom come, that He give His Holy Spirit, that “we believe His Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

We pray that His will be done, that “the plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature” be thwarted and that God “keep us firm in His Word and faith until we die.”

We pray that God give us what we need—daily—that “God would lead us to realize” that God is the Giver of our daily bread, all that we need for this body and life, “even to all evil people,” and that we “receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”

We pray for forgiveness, also our continual prayer, “That our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them.  We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing by punishment.”

We pray “That God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice,” but “that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.”

We also pray that “Our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.”

To these seven petitions we give an unapologetic and sure “Amen,” certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are therefore, heard by Him, for Christ’s sake.

As Jesus gives the very words to pray, and as the Father gives the very faith to pray such petitions as the Lord Jesus gives, so God’s people pray as the Lord teaches.

In the Lord’s Prayer is all that the Lord would have you pray and petition.

All genuine prayer and petitions given to the Lord can thus be said to reflect the Prayer that our Lord teaches us so to pray.

Confidently, therefore, do we “draw near…to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16 ESV), certain of God’s Word, confident of His promise.

The One Who gives the Words of the Lord’s Prayer is the Lord Jesus Himself, Who alone pleases the Father. His resurrection confirms this truth, and through Jesus alone, the Father is also pleased with you, and hears your prayers prayed in faith through the One Whom the Father sent.  Amen.

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasDearest Jesus, teach me continually to pray according to Your Holy Word. Give me confidence in Your command and promises, that I petition You in certainty. Amen.

 

 

“Temptation,” Matthew 4:1-11

1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  JesusTempted74But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”  7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  9And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  10Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan!  For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”  11Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.  (Matthew 4:1-11, ESV)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

St. James, in his epistle, writes, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12)

The life of the Christian is a life lived under the cross, under the cross in faith to Christ, under the cross bearing what we are given to bear as Christians, as God’s people who are baptized into God’s Holy Name, as God’s people who look to Christ’s Second Coming and our eternal home.

While here on earth, we are on a pilgrimage, our final resting place being that of heaven, the place which awaits all who endure to the end in the true faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The faith of which we speak is not a blind faith or a faith which simply says that things will get better.

The Christian faith is not faith which looks for peace on earth or hopes to change the world.

Neither is the Christian faith a faith which seeks to escape all kinds of sufferings in the world.

The Christian faith is that faith which places trust in the Lord Jesus alone for help and salvation.

God does not promise that the world will get better.

Nor does He promise that the struggles and the challenges we face as Christians will lessen or lighten.

In truth, as the day of our Lord’s return draws closer, our Lord says, “In latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).

Again, He says, “Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

In certainty does our Lord Jesus say to his disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation.” But He also continues, “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Like unto His disciples, the Lord draws attention, not to ourselves or to our own strengths, but to Him, to Him who has overcome the world, to Him who has overcome death by His death and who by that same death destroyed Him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14).

True faith looks to Christ for help and aid.

In the Jesus who overcame the world, so you also overcome the world, as St. John writes in his first epistle, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Through the waters of Holy Baptism, you were born of God, even as John writes in his Gospel concerning Jesus Christ, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

As children of the Almighty God, baptized into Christ, you have His promise of faithfulness.

Living by faith in Christ Jesus, you know and believe that where there is sin, there is also forgiveness.

Where there is struggle, there is also God’s Word and promise.

Where there is temptation, there is also the Lord providing help.

We pray to our heavenly Father in the 6th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” and in the 7th, “But deliver us from evil.”

Help our Lord does indeed provide.

But our Lord does not always take the temptation away.

Instead, He draws you to Himself, that you call upon Him in prayer and trust in His Word.

God’s grace is sufficient for you that you endure that which is called temptation.

By temptation is meant that which would lead to sin, that which would lead away from God and His Word, that which would lead to forsake Christ.

Temptations to sin abounds, as you yourselves know from experience.

Not a day goes by that you don’t encounter the temptation to break the Commandments of God, to doubt the Lord’s faithfulness to His Word, to place confidence in self and not in Christ.

So easily we get distracted from the One thing needful—Christ!

Jesus Himself says, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

Temptations often come when and where we least expect them and even where we might think that we are the strongest.

And even should God seem far away or doesn’t seem to be paying attention, God’s Word still stands—His Word that He does not deny, retract, or forget.

He says, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:4).

He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Again, He says, “‘For a mere moment I have forsaken you, But with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,’ Says the LORD, your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:7-8).

The Psalmist says, “His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

By yourself, enduring temptation and lasting at all to the end would certainly be impossible.

But you are not alone.

Given in Hebrews chapter 2 are these words:

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:14-18 NKJ).

And in chapter 4:

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:14-15 NKJ).

Christ has indeed overcome death, the grave, and Satan and His wiles, even by His own death.

Also, Christ Jesus has indeed endured temptation—for you.

Three times, Saints Mathew and Luke tell us, Jesus was tempted by the devil, immediately after His baptism.

With every temptation, Jesus wielded the sword of the Spirit.

Through the Word of the living God, through His Word, He remained steadfast, faithful, and true.

When tempted to turn stone into bread, quoting from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, Jesus said, “It is written, Man shall not live be bread alone” (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4—Deuteronomy 8:3).

When tempted to listen to Satan, who twisted Scripture to make it say what he wanted it to say, Jesus answered, “Again, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12—Deuteronomy 6:16).

When tempted to worship the devil, Jesus answered, “It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (Luke 4:8; Matthew 4:10—Deuteronomy 6:13).

Jesus is THE example for overcoming temptation, and for using Scriptural rightly against the attacks of Satan.

But Jesus is more than example.

If Jesus is only an example, He’s still not your Savior.

The Christian faith is not about what Jesus would do.

The Christian faith is not about doing what Jesus did.

The Christian faith is about believing Jesus according to His Word, believing what He has done—for you.

He is your Savior and your Deliverer.

Jesus was tempted in every way as you are, the Bible says, but without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

He overcame temptation, sin, and death, overcoming what you could not, for He is your salvation.

Though it is true that you can’t avoid temptation, temptation doesn’t have the last word.

Our Lord says in 1 Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Though you do and will face temptations for as long as you live because you bear Christ’s Name as a Christian, this doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you or that you’re somehow not of God, or that you’re a bad Christian.

These struggles mean that you still live in the world and wrestle with your sin, the world, and the devil, just as all of God’s people have and continue to do as they continue to breath on this earth.

Such struggles also may mean that you are more aware of your condition as a sinner and your greater need for God’s help.

Dr. Luther takes note of this in The Large Catechism where he writes:

107 To feel temptation is quite a different thing from consenting and yielding to it. We must all feel it, though not all to the same degree; some have more frequent and severe temptations than others. Youths, for example, are tempted chiefly by the flesh; older people are tempted by the world. Others, who are concerned with spiritual matters (that is, strong Christians) are tempted by the devil. 108 But we cannot be harmed by the mere feeling of temptation as long as it is contrary to our will and we would prefer to be rid of it. If we did not feel it, it could not be called a temptation. But to consent to it is to give it free rein and neither resist it nor pray for help against it. (Luther’s Large Catechism, 6th Petition, Lead us not into temptation)

When temptations do come, and they will, do not think that God has left you.

God is faithful, faithful to His Word, and faithful to help.

Remember Jesus, your Help and Your salvation. So He is. So, He will. Amen.

 

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasHeavenly Father, forgive me  for giving into temptation.  Help me to resist the temptation to sin against you and to disbelieve your Word. Make me confidently yours in Christ Jesus, who was tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15), that I be found in Him alone and so endure what befalls me, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

 

 

Devotion: “Father, into Your Hands,” Luke 23:46

 

Daily Prayer, Early Evening LSB 297

Devotion on Psalm 100, Luke 23:46, 3rd Petition

 

The words of our Lord from the cross we know.  We also know what happens after. Jesus died.

In the conclusion of both Luther’s morning and evening prayer, these words are prayed, “Into your hands I commend my myself, my body, and soul, and all things.”

On the surface, these words say what they mean.  In the midst of experience, they are exhaustive and include everything.  Everything.

To say such a prayer, only the Christian can pray. This prayer reflects only what a Christian can pray. When all else seems lost, the Christian continues to have hope, and to be hopeful.

Such hope and such hopefulness does not rest in our decisions, but in the Lord who establishes in the faith, and feeds that faith with and by none other than Christ and His precious gifts.

As God’s children, purchased “not with gold or silver but with Christ’s holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death” (Meaning to 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed), we have, really, nothing to fear.  As our hope is in Christ, so is our confidence that all will be according to God’s will, in His time, and in His way.

God sustains and will keep a people for Himself, by means of His Holy Word.

What things might look like in time to come, doing what we are able with the blessings God continues to freely bestow, as His people, we entrust ourselves into His care and keeping, certain of His promises, which are “Yes” in Christ, and unto eternity (2 Corithians 1:19).

Uncertainty might remain with reference to how things will be on this side of heaven, but there is the certainty that God’s church will always remain His church, for it is His, not ours.

Also are we not our own.  We belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8).

Let these words sink in.  “The Lord, He is God.  It is He who made us, and not we ourselves.  We are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3).

We are His.  The Church is His. His will be done.  And it is, and will be, as He “breaks and hinders” the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, and “when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.”  So He does.  Amen.

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasPrayer: Lord, you have your church to proclaim the good news of sins forgiven in Christ, to faithfully confess your name, to speak the truth in love to those who would hear it and to those who will not. As we your children petition you to guide and direct our conversations and thoughts, so do so, that we reflect Christ and be ever confident in your unmerited and abundant mercies.  Help us to know that whether we have less or more, true contentment is found in you alone.  Amen.

 

 

Hope in Temptation

“He (Jesus) was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan”

(Mark 1:13)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Words from Luther on temptation…

107] To feel temptation is therefore a far different thing from consenting or yielding to it. luther1We must all feel it, although not all in the same manner, but some in a greater degree and more severely than others; as, the young suffer especially from the flesh, afterwards, they that attain to middle life and old age, from the world, but others who are occupied with spiritual matters, that is, strong Christians, from the devil. 108] But such feeling, as long as it is against our will and we would rather be rid of it, can harm no one. For if we did not feel it, it could not be called a temptation. But to consent thereto is when we give it the reins and do not resist or pray against it. ” (Large Catechism, 6th Petition, 107-108)

Temptations are out there and they are bound to come, but this doesn’t mean you have to give in to them.

Yet, though the spirit be willing, the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38).

With the apostle Paul, we too say, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me fromdavid-repents this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).  On your own, you do fail.  And on your own, should you pass the test, you are then tempted to think highly of yourself.

Humility flies out the window, save for the means God uses to once again humble you that you look to Him and boast in Him and not in your own accomplishments and victories.

There is but one hope for sinners who are swayed by temptation and seduced to give in due to the weakness of the flesh.  It is Jesus.  His being tempted in the wilderness gives confidence – not because He is your example, though He is, but more than that – because He is your Savior.

Jesus is Your Savior, who conquered Satan by means of His own death on the cross.  In times of temptation, and at all times, look to Him.  Trust and use His Word and promise, for thjesus-with-word-and-sacramentey are yours, and they are not without power against the attacks of the evil one.

Commend yourselves into the Lord’s hands and keeping.  Entrust yourself to the Lord Jesus, for in Him, God does and God will, deliver you.  He doesn’t lead you into temptation, but He does lead you to Himself, your true and lasting refuge. Amen.

Prayer: Father, lead me not into temptation.  Help me to resist, not by my own strength, but alone in the strength You give me in my weakness. Amen.

National Day of Prayer–Some thoughts

“The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Proverbs 15:29

 

In the Holy Name of the risen Christ. Amen.

NationalDayOfPrayer2According to the National Day of Prayer task force, “The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.”

This encouragement to pray is a good thing. In fact, God commands prayer (the Second Commandment).   Not praying, therefore, is a sin. Praying for the nation in which we live is also a good thing (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Prayer for ourselves and for others, as well as for our nation, is indeed “good” and “pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” God promises to hear prayer, as revealed through the Psalmist, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me (Psalm 50:15).

Thus, not only does God command prayer. He also promises to hear prayer (Read the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer in Luther’s Large Catechism). The command and the promise of prayer move the Christian to pray, and so His people do pray, even “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Yet, the National Day of Prayer task force and the annual observance do not make the distinctions that God does. They lump people of all faiths together, as if all prayer of all people are acceptable to God, and therefore, heard by Ps1bHim.

Nevertheless, God does not hear the prayers of all people, as recorded in the Proverb text above. The Psalmist, too, exalts this truth by saying, “The LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6).

The righteous are they who look to God for mercy in Christ, who repent of their sin, who seek salvation from Christ alone, recognizing their dependency on the Lord for help and deliverance from sin and death. These are they who have faith, and only these have the certainty of God’s hearing and help (Hebrews 11:6; Luke 17:5-10; 1 John 5:14-15).

The wicked, however, are they who reject God’s salvation in Christ and have a different confession of faith than the faith revealed in Holy Scripture (John 8:31-32, 47; 14:23-24; 1 John 5:9-13; 2 John 1:9) . God does not hear the prayers of the unbeliever because they do not pray in faith (Romans 14:3; James 1:6).

We make such distinctions because God Himself makes such distinctions. Thus, instead of lumping all people together as having the same God, and praying to Him, we believe God’s Word and therefore, seek to speak the truth of that Word which alone converts souls from death to life.  We also humbly pray that the Lord would keep us from arrogance and pride, even as we pray for all people, our nation and ourselves, even concerning the more significant and eternal matters of God’s mercy and forgiveness through His Son, in whose Name God’s people with confidence pray.

When being humbled…

JesusBlessing1Luther: Therefore when you feel that you are being humbled, cast yourself at the feet of your heavenly Father and say: “O Lord, if Thou dealest with me in this manner, I shall bear it patiently, and I confess that I have deserved something more terrible. Therefore be merciful to me. If Thou dost not want me to be an heir, see to it that I remain a servant (Luke 15:19). Indeed, as the Canaanite woman says, I do not refuse to be a dog in Thy house so that I can at least eat the crumbs which chance to fall to the ground and otherwise are wasted (Matt. 15:27). Thou dost not owe me a thing by any right. Therefore I cling to Thy mercy.”

The Prayer of the Christian

    [23] And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.”  [24] Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Mark 9:23-24 (ESV)

The life of the Christian is one of prayer, prayer to Him who alone hears, answers, and gives according to His good and gracious will.  This One who hears is none other than the Triune God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  All other so called ‘gods’ are false gods, and not the true God.  And false gods are only idols, the work of men’s hands.  And as the Psalmist says, They have ears, but they do not hear and those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them (Psalm 115:6, 8).  They cannot nor do they deliver in times of trouble.  But the true God, the God who graciously saves, abundantly delivers, and readily hears, this One does, as our Lord declares through the Psalmist, Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me (Psalm 50:15).

To this One do we pray.  And our prayers He hears, for the sake of His Son.  The God who delivers in the day of trouble, this is our God, He who sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).  This is He who says, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).  To He alone do we offer our petitions, ‘praise, and give thanks’ (Small Catechism, Explanation to 3rd Commandment), for by His grace, we have come to know Him for who He is – our Savior who delivers from sin and gives unto us eternal life.  We have come to know that even though He seems to be silent to our prayers and our requests, He yet hears every word.  With confidence does the Christian pray, confidence in the Lord’s promise that He will hear, and that He will answer, in His own time and in His own way.  Thus does the Christian pray to the Lord, Thy will be done, Thy will and not mine.

According to God’s Holy Word, the prayer which is prayed in faith will be heard.  Jesus says, Ask and it will be given to you (Matthew 7:7).  In another place, He says, What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  “Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9-11).

Yes indeed!  How much more does our Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him.  Much more does He give, because of who He is.  He promises to hear His people because He promises to do so.  And in His promise, His people place their confidence, hope, and trust, and not in their own righteousness, goodness, or piety.

In pride and self-glory we do not come before God.  Those in their arrogance who come before God He does not hear.  They come in their own righteousness.  God’s help they do not truly seek, for if they truly sought help from the Lord, they would not demand from God, but humbly ask of Him, leaving the outcome and the answer to Him.

They who ask of God, dependent on God’s reply and answer, trusting not in themselves or the worthiness of their prayer, but entrusting themselves into God’s care, believing His Holy Word and in Christ His Son, these He certainly does and will hear.  But this kind of faith and commendation into the Lord’s hands and will is not inborn within us or natural to us.  It is God given, not according to our nature, but according to His gift.  By the hearing of His Holy Word, God gives this kind of faith (Romans 10:17).  And by the hearing of His Holy Word do we battle within ourselves against doubt and unbelief in God’s promises, that we not demand of God according to our will, but that He answer according to His.

Concerning wisdom, St. James writes, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8).

This word certainly applies for asking in prayer for wisdom.  But also does it apply concerning prayer in general.  The prayer of doubt is not really prayer at all.  Thus do we not pray in such a way that we say, ‘Lord, if you hear’ or ‘Lord, if you help’ or ‘Lord, if you answer.’  This is not prayer.  It’s a wish, a wish that demonstrates little confidence and assurance in God and His Word at all, but is really a sign of unbelief.

God’ Word is not uncertain.  His promises are not a possibility, probability, or accidental.  God’s promises are certain and true because it is God who gives them.  Adding an ‘if’ to what God promises is to disbelieve God.  But the confidence God gives unto us that He hears the prayer of faith is His Holy Word.  Throughout the Holy Scriptures, example after example abounds of God answering prayer, that we believe and have confidence in God, who for Christ’s sake, hears our prayers.

The man in today’s Gospel reading from St. Mark is such an example.  So is the woman who asked the Lord to cast the demon out of her daughter, even when Jesus had replied, It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs (Mark 7:27).  But to Him the woman replied, Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs (Mark 7:28).  In agreement with the Lord, she confessed the same and was willing to take what the Lord would give.  She trusted in His kindness and believed His Word, and her daughter was delivered.

So also did blind men receive their sight; the lame walked, lepers were cleansed (Luke 7:22).  These had asked our Lord in faith for help, to have mercy upon them, and to hear them, and He did.  And so also does our Lord help us in our needs, giving faith to trust in Him and confidence in His Holy Word, leaving the outcome to Him and waiting on Him for answer.

The Bible says that The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16).  This is true.  And one is a righteous man who believes in Christ, in Christ whose righteousness covers his own unrighteousness. It is this way with us.  Christ’s righteousness covers our own unrighteousness.  His sinless life covers our sinful life.    Through Christ, therefore, does the Christian pray.  And that prayer is heard.

Therefore are our prayers not in vain.  Nor are they useless.  Prayer is not a worthless activity.  It is the diligent and continual exercise of God’s people, God’s people who live by faith in God’s Son.  Prayer is spoken with the mouth, but is also prayed within the heart that trusts in Christ for help and deliverance and gives Him the glory.

It is on account of Christ that our prayers are heard.  This is because our boldness and confidence to ask of God is not founded on the one who asks, but on Him who is prayed to; on Him who commands us to pray and who promises to hear.  According to His Word do we pray and according to His Word do we believe He hears and answers.

Note how the writer to the Hebrews prefaces these words, Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  Just before he speaks of Jesus when he writes, Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:14-15).

Jesus, though tempted as we are, was without sin.  He sympathizes with our weakness and is able to aid those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:18).  He is our High Priest who offered Himself once and for all on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 7:27; 10:10).  And because He has, Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  And in Christ is where God’s mercy is found.

In yet another place, the writer to the Hebrews speaks of having a boldness by the blood of Jesus, our High Priest, saying, Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:22-23).

This is how we know that God hears and answers our prayer – on account of Christ.  Believing in Him for forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation is faith, a faith not born of man, but the faith born of water and Word, God’s Word, the faith which trusts not in one’s own piety, strength, or worthiness to come to God in prayer for help in time of need, but trusts in Him who, by His grace, for Christ’s sake, promises to hear and answer.

Thus do we see the father in the Gospel text this morning, praying in such a way that even in his own faith he does not trust, but in Him to whom He asks for His son’s deliverance.  Therefore, did the father pray, I believe; help my unbelief!

Oh for such a faith as this, that takes no confidence and assurance in the strength of one’s faith, but even acknowledges its disbelief and doubt before God who alone can help.  This is true despair of oneself, that one throw himself fully upon God’s mercy, resting upon nothing within, but hoping on everything from without, upon Christ.

And to this one, Christ and God hears and answers.  Thus, do we also pray, with Christ’s disciples elsewhere, Increase our faith (Luke 17:5).  And He does.  Forgiveness into our ears does He proclaim.  Christ’s body and blood does the Lord give in bread and wine.  And to our Baptism does our Lord direct us, For as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

This newness of life is one born of water and the spirit (John 3:5-6).  It is the life of faith, faith in God’s Word and trust in His promises.  For Christ’s sake does God our Father hear us.  And increase our faith He does.  Ourselves we do not trust, neither the strength of our faith or the greatness of our prayer

 

 

 

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