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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.

 

 

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.

Jesus’ Temptation & Our Own

[12] The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.   [13] And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Mark 1:12-13 (ESV)

 Even Jesus wasn’t free from temptation, temptation being that which would lead to sin against God and away from God if given into.  Immediately following His baptism by St. John the Baptist, as according to Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for forty days where He was tempted by Satan himself.  No figure of speech here is meant by that name Satan.  The Satan here means none other than the devil himself, the same devil who was thrown out of heaven because he wanted to be like God (Revelation 12:7-9).  This is the same devil who as a serpent in the Garden of Eden tempted Eve, the woman formed from the rib of the first man Adam, to eat of the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:21-23; 3:1-6).  This is that same Satan who attacked Job in the Old Testament book with the same name, that same Job who suffered greatly and suffered much at the hands of the accuser, but who would not give-in to curse God and die (Job 2:9-10).

Satan is a real being, contrary to the results of many a poll in our day that say otherwise.  When it comes to matters of truth, numbers and the majority don’t run the show.  God’s Word does.  Though we do not see Satan, he tries to not only hurt, harm, and tempt to sin, but ultimately he tries to lead us to doubt and to disbelieve God’s promises, that we not trust Jesus for help and hope and find in Him rest for our weary souls, but rather that we despair and find no comfort whatsoever, or that we find comfort in that which is not the true and everlasting comfort of God’s Word (Matthew 11:28-29).

This is where Satan would lead us, not to belief and trust in God’s Son our Savior, but belief and trust in another that is not the true God.  Thus would Satan lead us to hell, not to heaven.  For this reason, Satan has his eyes not only on us, but during those 40 days that Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan had his eyes fixed on Jesus, not in belief, but for the purpose of bringing about Christ’s downfall.  Had he succeeded, no Savior would we have and certainly lost eternally would we be.

That Jesus suffered temptation and yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15) is a sure testament that temptation, in and of itself, cannot harm us.  Here, Dr. Luther’s Words of the Reformation are helpful, for they rightly distinguish between ‘being tempted’ and ‘giving in’ to temptation.  There is a distinction, as is recorded in Luther’s Large Catechism,

107 To feel temptation, therefore, 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. (Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The book of concord : The confessions of the evangelical Lutheran church (The Large Catechism: 3, 107-108). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.)

These words hold more than a little comfort for all who are troubled by temptation.  It is a sure sign that one is on the right path if one wants to be rid of temptations all together and sees them for what they are.  But resisting them by our own strength we cannot do, as even by experience we know.  As soon as we believe ourselves strong enough to overcome, we find that we fall.  By our own strength, we cannot resist. To the Lord we must cling.  It is He who gives His strength that we keep at it, not losing heart, but trust in the Lord for grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Here, our Lord does not forsake, for 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). The Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

It is not the faithlessness of God that leads into temptation, but Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed (James 1:14).  Therefore do we certainly struggle with our own desires which are contrary to God’s Word and will.  But here we are not left to ourselves, nor are we old Adam only.  In Christ we are new creations.  The Old has passed and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Your sinful flesh has been drowned in the water of Holy Baptism.  No longer are we your own.  You belong to another, even to the Lord who has redeemed you from your sin and saves you from eternal death.  Belonging to Him, we wish not to remain as we once were according to the flesh.  We wish to change, living Godly and upright lives according to God’s Word unto Him who calls us to Himself.

And to you does God give strength and preserve you in the faith that you continue in Him.  According to His Holy Word does He call you from despair and doubt, and from self-righteousness and pride.  He offers you His forgiveness and His body and blood that you believe and eat and drink and so be confident of His grace and mercy, for we know ourselves to still be sinners.  He gives you of His Spirit that you live unto Him who is your Head, deny yourselves, and follow Him.  And these you do, though feebly on your part on account of your sin that still clings to you.  But God in Christ shows you your Savior and Lord, even your Salvation, your anchor and your sure foundation.

Therefore, to Christ flee for refuge.  Temptations surely do and will come, even as our Lord says, Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).  Of yourselves and by yourselves, we will fall.  But pray to the Lord for help, even as you pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Lead us not into temptation” and “Deliver us from the evil one.”  And so our Lord does, through He who did overcome when He Himself was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days and through He who delivers you from sin, death, and the power of the devil through His own death on Good Friday.  Amen.

Prayer:  Lord, in Your mercy, do not forsake me.  Help me to resist temptation and always firmly to believe in You.  Amen.

 

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