Lent and Spiritual Disciplines–Day 20

The following was part of a teaching by Mr. Mark Jacobson, written for Wednesday evening fellowship. Tonight, we studied the Lord’ s Prayer.

How three parts work together: medicine analogy
Before we go into the Lord’s Prayer proper, I want to take a sec and talk about how the three main parts of the Small Catechism work together. I’m going to read a portion from Luther’s 1522 prayer book, which ended up being a sort of precursor to the Small Catechism. This is from the introduction, where he’s explaining how those three parts work together.

Three things a person must know in order to be saved. First, he must know what to do and what to leave undone. Second, when he realizes that he cannot measure up to what he should do or leave undone, he needs to know where to go to find the strength he requires. Third, he must know how to seek and obtain that strength. It is just like a sick person who first has to determine the nature of his sickness, then find out what to do or to leave undone. After that he has to know where to get the medicine which will help him do or leave undone what is right for a healthy person. Then he has to desire to search for this medicine and to obtain it or have it brought to him.

“Thus the commandments teach man to recognize his sickness, enabling him to perceive what he must do or refrain from doing, consent to or refuse, and so he will recognize himself to be a sinful and wicked person. The Creed will teach and show him where to find the medicine—grace—which will help him to become devout and keep the commandments. The Creed points him to God and his mercy, given and made plain to him in Christ. Finally, the Lord’s Prayer teaches all this, namely, through the fulfilment of God’s commandments everything will be given him. In these three are the essentials of the entire Bible.” (LW 43:III-14)

So, to modernize it a little bit, the Ten Commandments are like a doctor’s diagnosis: you find out you’re sick. The Creed is the prescription: you need grace. The Lord’s Prayer is where you give your prescription to the pharmacist, with the amazing outcome here that you learn that your prescription was already filled before you even asked.

The Second Commandment Demands Prayer.One direct connection between the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer was mentioned in the reading we heard from the Large Catechism. The Second Commandment, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.” Luther draws attention to the way this commandment contains an implicit command to make a correct use of God’s name, which is to use God’s name “in every time of need to call on, pray to, praise, and give thanks to God.”

“Prayer,” we heard Luther say, “is as strictly and solemnly commanded as all the commandments.” (441.6) We are supposed to pray just as much as we’re supposed to not kill people.

The Promise and the Gift
We saw that the first commandment, to have no other Gods, required us to fear and love God alone, but behind that command was God’s promise to give us all good things, a promise revealed in the Creed. Similarly, behind the second commandment’s demand that we pray is God’s promise to hear and answer our prayer.

Luther says, “What ought to impel and arouse us to pray all the more is the fact that God has made and affirmed a promise: that what we pray is a certain and sure thing. . . . such promises certainly ought to awaken and kindle in our hearts a longing and love for prayer. For by his Word, God testifies that our prayer is heartily pleasing to him and will assuredly be heard and granted, so that we may not despise it, cast it to the winds, or pray uncertainly.” (443.19-20)

So, this is what my two-year-old son does when he’s in a bad mood. We’re eating, and he says, “Daddy, can you say, ‘Can I please have some mac and cheese?'” And I do it. “Can I please have some Mac and Cheese?” And he looks at me and says, “No.” He set up an entire scenario just so he could refuse me. But God, thankfully, is not like that. He would not tell us to ask for things that he did not plan on giving us.

“Furthermore,” Luther says, “we should be encouraged and drawn to pray because, in addition to this commandment and promise, God takes the initiative and puts into our mouths the very words and approach we are to use.” (443.22)

This is just like what we were talking about with Romans 8 last week: how the Holy Spirit is praying for us when we don’t have the words to pray. The Lord’s Prayer is a gift from God; it’s something we can pray when we don’t know what to pray. And we don’t have to worry about whether God will hear it when we pray, and we don’t have to worry whether we’re good enough to pray or clean enough to pray. We can just pray. Luther says that, in God’s gift of the Lord’s Prayer, “We see how deeply concerned he is about our needs, and we should never doubt that such prayer pleases him and will assuredly be heard.” (443.22)

The Seven Petitions
Now that we know God’s heart toward us, let’s go briefly through the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism; and, here, the prayer is broken up into seven sections. Seven petitions.

[See the section from Small Catechism on the Lord’s Prayer] And then the Conclusion: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

From his personal prayer book again, here’s how Luther ends it: “God grant that we may obtain all these petitions with certainty. Let us not doubt that you have heard us in the past and will do so in the future, answering us with a Yes and not a No or a Maybe. Thus we cheerfully say Amen—this is true and certain. Amen.” (LW: 43:III-39)

Thank you, Mark, for this teaching.

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