“The Lord’s Prayer: ‘Pray Then Like This'”

Midweek Lenten Service
Wednesday, March 8, 2023

“The Lord’s Prayer: ‘Pray Then Like This’”

This year our midweek Lenten series is called, “A Catechetical Lent: The Six Chief Parts of the Small Catechism.” And today we come to the third of those six chief parts, namely, the Lord’s Prayer. We call it the “Lord’s” Prayer, because our Lord Jesus Christ taught his disciples to pray this prayer. And so this is the prayer that our Lord teaches us to pray, because we too are his disciples. We follow him in faith and learn from him and listen to his voice. So when Jesus speaks, we listen. Today Jesus tells us to pray, and he tells us how to pray. In giving us the Lord’s Prayer, he says, “Pray Then Like This.”

“Pray then like this.” Jesus here is telling us to pray. He expects his disciples to pray. He says, “And when you pray,” not “And if you pray.” He means you, his disciples. And the way you are to pray stands in contrast to the way those who don’t know God pray. Those others, the pagans, the Gentiles, they think that God–whoever he is–will hear their prayers because of what a big show they make of praying. As though God will be impressed by their long, flowery speeches, which are just a heaping up of empty phrases.

“No, no,” Jesus says, “don’t pray like them. Rather, because you are my disciples, you know God, and he knows you. I have made God known to you, that he is your kind and loving heavenly Father. He knows what you need even before you ask him. So you can come to God in prayer as simply as dear children ask their dear father.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is why we can address God as “our Father”: Because Jesus makes it so! Because of what Jesus has done for us, now we are part of the family. By his death on the cross, Christ has removed the barrier of sin that separated us from God. By our baptism into Christ, the Holy Spirit has removed the shroud of darkness that clouded our vision and kept us from knowing God as he really is. Christ Jesus came from the Father’s side and has made God known to us. In Christ, we know God’s fatherly heart of love and mercy. Through Christ, we have access to the Father’s throne of grace, where we will find help in every time of need. And so we can pray with all boldness and confidence, and come to God with our brother Jesus, and say, “Our Father who art in heaven.”

“Pray then like this.” Now we come to the actual petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, the things we are asking for. And just like the Ten Commandments, where we can see a first table and a second table of the law, so likewise with the Lord’s Prayer: The first table, the first group of petitions, deal more directly with God’s concerns, and the second table deals with our own needs.

You know, in this same Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his disciples not to worry about things like food and clothing and so forth, but rather, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” And that’s what we do at the start of the Lord’s Prayer: “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, before we get to our own needs.

These opening petitions are God’s concerns, but when you pray, you can make them your concern, too. For example, “Thy kingdom come” can be a springboard for further 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 our missionary Matt Wood, as he shares the gospel in the nation of Indonesia.” You see, while you obviously can pray the Lord’s Prayer as a prayer on its own, you can also use the various petitions as springboards 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 people you know have right now? Put those needs 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.

And when you pray, “Forgive us our trespasses,” you can think about: What are your sins that you are aware of, the ones 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: “And lead us not into temptation.” God wants you to call on him in the day of trouble. When temptations are flying around your head, call on God for help.

“But deliver us from evil.” When the evil one, the devil, is throwing evil things your way–attacks of every sort, both physical and spiritual–pray in the name of 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 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, 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.”

“Amen.” Whether we pray the Lord’s Prayer by itself or 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 promises to answer our prayer, what else can we add but a hearty “Amen”?

Now how can we be so sure God is hearing our prayer? For these reasons: 1) God has commanded us to pray. 2) He has promised to hear us. 3) Our own needs impel us to pray, and God invites us to bring those needs to him. And 4) In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gives us the very words to pray, so we don’t have to guess or doubt, but can be sure that this prayer is pleasing to God.

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 this prayer every day, several times a day even, in the morning when you get up, in the evening when you go to bed, and in between in your daily 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 you pray it. Why? Because your particular needs are always changing, and yet they will always be covered somewhere under the comprehensive petitions of this prayer. And all of God’s gifts, which he pours out on us day after day, are packed into this one little prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer may only take a short time to pray, but there’s enough here to cover all of our needs and all of God’s gifts. It’s a prayer we can be sure that 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. May we gladly pray it every day, and may we use it as a model and springboard for further praying. Amen, amen, yes, yes, it shall be so!

Published in: on March 8, 2023 at 9:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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