Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Martin Luther formatted his Catechism in a very particular way. One Medieval Roman Catholic handbook for Christians went through Apostles’ Creed, then the Commandments, then to Christian living, which included hearing Mass, praying the Our Father, the Ave Maria, or the like, and a guide on Christian childbearing and childrearing. This was all meant to move the Christian into the Sacrament of Penance, confessing their sins and doing the works of satisfaction to relieve the temporal consequences of sin.
Well, we know how well that method worked for Luther, feelings of guilt at his sins, and inadequacy at not doing enough plagued him relentlessly. So when it came time for him to make up his own catechism for the church, he switched things around. He put the Commandments first, to show that we are sinful and in need of Christ, then the Apostles’ Creed to reveal Christ to us. The question after this is, how do I come to this God, and how does He come to me? In answer to the first part of the question, Luther moves on to the Lord’s Prayer. This is now where we, sinners who have died in the law, and been raised with Christ through faith, now come to God and speak with Him. And it’s only now, since we have gone through this dying and rising, that we find God is our Heavenly Father, our good, gracious, and merciful Father.
In Catechism classes I make much out of this notion of God as Father, the good Father. When we go to our own fathers as little children, asking for a glass of milk, our father will do what’s best for us—he’ll get the milk for us, or say we need to wait a bit for the supper that’s almost ready. This is what it means when we pray that God is our Father, He’s going to do what’s best for us. We know He will because He’s already given His own Son to die for us on the cross. So we are free to come to Him, just like you’d go to your dad to ask for a glass of milk, in fact God the Father might even be better than your dad, because He wants you to go to Him with all your questions, struggles, hurts, pains, and anxieties, no matter how small they might be, He’ll never give you the cold shoulder. He gave His Son for you, you matter to Him, of course, He’ll hear your prayer, even if you feel it’s silly or of no consequence.
Nor do you have to manipulate Him into hearing you, or giving you what you pray for. You’ve been adopted. In your baptism, through faith, God has adopted you through Christ. You are a part of His family by the adoption price that God paid for you in the body & blood of Jesus Christ. That means that God chose you. He picked you to be a part of His family. He decided to care for you, to make you a part of His household. Again, we find encouragement to pray here, because it doesn’t matter how silly we think the subject is, or what other people will think about we’re praying for, we’re adopted children of God. That’s a fact. And it frees us to pray to Him for all our needs of body and soul.
Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer as the model for all our prayer. It shows us what our needs are, and gives us the prayer that God always answers yes to. He will say “Yes,” to hallowing His name, to bringing His kingdom, His gracious and merciful reign, among us, to do His will (which, so we’re clear is to save you and bring you to be with Him in eternal life). He’s always going to say “Yes,” to give you this day your daily bread and forgive you your sins (also every day). He’s always going to say “Yes” to guarding you against temptation and saving you from evil, or the Evil One. He will do all these things because He is your Father, your good Father, your heavenly adoptive Father, who claimed you out of darkness with His marvellous light, washing you of your sins with the blood of Christ in your baptism.
The Lord’s Prayer is the perfect prayer, the prayer that God gives to you to pray. There’s so much more to say about prayer, and the Lord’s Prayer itself. But we’ll leave it here for now. The Lord’s Prayer is God’s gift to you, prayer is God’s gift to you, that you may come to Him, through Christ, with all your needs, wants, desires, hurts, and struggles. Thanks be to God!
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Tim Schneider