Resurrection Lutheran Church, St Catharines
Catechism Operating Manual--The Lord's Prayer
March 08, 2023; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor
Catechism Operating Manual
Rev. Kurt Lantz Midweek Lent 3 Lord’s Prayer
March 15, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Catechism instruction provides a knowledge that we hope will penetrate beyond the thinking mind, to the heart of conscience, so that each catechumen would believe that before God they are a sinner in need of His mercy and grace and that the mercy and grace from Christ’s atoning death and resurrection are given to them in the sacraments that the Lord instituted for this very purpose.
So there is a knowledge of the mind and a faith of the heart, but there is also need for instruction in how this knowledge and faith is put into use in the life of the Christian. We began with the Ten Commandments, how the Holy Spirit uses them in our life and how we allow that to happen by conscious thought and deliberate examination of our life in the light of the commandments. Then, last week, we looked at the Apostles’ Creed as a shield composed of what God’s Word tells us about His love for us, so that we have a defense against the lies of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.
Tonight, we move to the next section of the catechism, our Operating Manual of the Christian faith, by looking at the Lord’s Prayer. There are meanings and explanations of every line of the prayer in the Small Catechism, but we want to focus on how the prayer is put to use in the life of the Christian.
Here we might come away a little disappointed with the instructions that Jesus gives for the use of His prayer. “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ And he said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Our Father who art in heaven...’” (Luke 11:1-2). We might be a little disappointed because Jesus told His disciples which words to say, and when we want to pray, we want to say our own words, not those of someone else. But by humbling our self-centred nature we can joyously make use of Jesus’ words when we realize that He has exalted us to join Himself as children of the heavenly Father, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
And then, Jesus told a story to His disciples to teach them how to use these words:
And He said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mind has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs (Luke 11:5-8).
Jesus tells us to use His prayer with impudence. That means with no concern about what the person you are asking will think of you. Just keep asking with persistence until you get it. Be shameless about it.
Isn’t that how Abraham approached the LORD when he prayed for the people of Sodom? He tried to wrap it up in Lenten humility (“Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes” Genesis 18:27), but He just wouldn’t quit until he got the Lord to agree to his terms: to spare the city if there were but ten righteous people in it. I would have been too embarrassed to do that. I would never consider going to my neighbour’s house to ask for bread at midnight. I don’t think you would either. Are we too proud to go to our heavenly Father day after day to ask Him to “give us this day our daily bread”?
Jesus told His disciples to be impudent, shameless, and persistent in praying His prayer, not because the Father needs to be persuaded and poked and coaxed out of bed, but because He doesn’t. The point is that you might have to be impudent with your telephone or internet provider to get the service you want, but you are sure to get what you ask for in Jesus’ prayer from His Father and yours, so don’t be afraid to ask and ask again and again. There is no shame. These are the things that Jesus told you to ask for. “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10).
In the Ten Commandments, God’s Holy Spirit is at work to show us our need for a Saviour from sin, death, and hell. In the Apostles’ Creed the Holy Spirit is at work to create and sustain our faith in God who has provided that Saviour and everything else that we need for this life and for eternal life. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus prays with us so that we can ask for these things shamelessly.
What if you had a neighbour who had earnestly ordered you to come to him, even in the middle of the night, whenever you need anything? What would he think the next day if he found out that you had a need and did not wake him so that he could help? In speaking about the Lord’s Prayer, the Large Catechism first takes us back to the Second Commandment: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” The commandment not to misuse it, certainly indicates that we are to use it rightly.
For thus we heard in the Second Commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain, that we are there required to praise that holy name, and call upon it in every need, or to pray... Prayer is therefore as strictly and earnestly commanded as all other commandments... (LC. Lord’s Prayer. 5).
Along with our heavenly Father’s command for us to pray, is the assurance that He will hear and answer, for why else would he have commanded it if He didn’t intend to do anything in response. “Ask it will be given.”
Such promises ought certainly to encourage and kindle our hearts to pray with pleasure and delight, since He testifies with His word that our prayer is heartily pleasing to Him, moreover, that it shall assuredly be heard and granted, in order that we may not despise it or think lightly of it (LC. Lord’s Prayer. 20).
Having given us the very words to use in prayer, Jesus teaches us the things which require prayer, things that we cannot accomplish on our own. This opens our eyes to our great need for a loving heavenly Father and a Saviour from our trespasses. It reveals to us that we have a great enemy, the devil, who is constantly at our heels, from whom we need divine protection at every moment. The Large Catechism describes the Lord’s Prayer as our high walled fortress.
For this we must know, that all our shelter and protection rest in prayer alone. For we are far too feeble to cope with the devil and all his power and adherents that set themselves against us, and they might easily crush us under their feet. Therefore we must consider and take up those weapons with which Christians must be armed in order to stand against the devil. For what do you think has up to now accomplished such great things, has checked or quelled the counsels, purposes, murder, and riot of our enemies, whereby the devil thought to crush us, together with the Gospel, except that the prayer of a few godly men intervened like a wall of iron on our side? (LC. Lord’s Prayer. 30-31)
What, but Abraham’s prayer saved his nephew Lot and his household? Despite there not being even five righteous persons in Sodom and Gomorrah, the LORD saved those who shared in the promise given to Abraham. Our gracious God went beyond what Abraham bargained and gave a gracious and favourable answer to his plea.
Last week we noted that in the section on Daily Prayers, the Small Catechism instructs the operation of the Creed to be carried out morning and evening every day. The instructions for the use of the Lord’s Prayer are no less. They are more. In addition to morning and evening, the catechism instructs that the Lord’s Prayer is to be put into operation also at every meal, before and after, to accompany both asking the blessing and also the return of thanks.
Overkill? Not for you, but perhaps for the devil. The Large Catechism concludes its exhortation in the use of the Lord’s Prayer by saying:
For whenever a godly Christian prays: Dear Father, let Thy will be done, God speaks from on high and says: Yes, dear child, it shall be so, in spite of the devil and all the world (LC. Lord’s Prayer. 33).