May 26, 2019
Jesus invites us to pray directly to the Father. This is quite remarkable. The people of Israel in the wilderness were too afraid to pray directly to God, so they told Moses to pray for them. But Jesus tells us to pray directly to the Father and whatever we ask the Father in his name he will give us.
So, it is important for us to know what it means to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name. To pray in Jesus’ name does not simply mean to conclude your prayer by saying, “in Jesus’ name.” The Lord’s Prayer doesn’t even mention Jesus by name, yet, when it is prayed in faith, it is a prayer in Jesus’ name. And there you have it. To pray in Jesus’ name means to pray in faith. It means to pray according to the promises Jesus has spoken, believing that God the Father will indeed hear and answer your prayer for the sake of Jesus Christ. So, it is possible to pray the greatest prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, without praying it in Jesus’ name, if you pray it without faith, not believing that God will answer you for Jesus’ sake. And it is possible to pray in Jesus’ name without saying any coherent words at all, but groaning in the Spirit or simply saying, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Praying in Jesus’ name does not have to do with your worthiness. You should not feel unworthy to pray to your heavenly Father. You are worthy to pray to God on account of Jesus’ and his merit. God will not reject you, even as he cannot reject his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “The Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” This means that your heavenly Father answers you on account of your faith in Christ. When you believe that God truly will fulfill your joy for Christ’s sake, then you know that God will certainly answer your prayers.
The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer Jesus taught us where we address God the Father as Our Father. These are precious words that Jesus invites us to say. Martin Luther explains it in our Small Catechism, “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.” These are such simple and comforting words. When a guilty conscience prevents you from praying, because you feel unworthy, read these words from your Small Catechism and pray to your heavenly Father with confidence.
Yet, our personal relationship with God is not the only thing that the introduction, “Our Father, who art in heaven” teaches us. In our hymn of the day Luther writes, “Our Father, who from heav’n above Bids all of us to live in love As members of one family And pray to you in unity...” That little word our says a lot. We don’t pray my Father, not even when we’re alone, but our Father. Whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are praying with the entire Christian Church. We are God’s children. He is our Father. God wants his children to love one another. And so, we should love one another and pray for one another. When you pray the Lord’s Prayer cast out all bitterness toward your fellow Christians and remember that you are praying to their Father just as much as you are praying to yours.
Hallowed be Thy name. Your catechism explains it, “God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Words profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!”
We pray in Jesus’ name, meaning we pray in faith. And faith comes from hearing the word of God. So, the first thing we pray for, the very most important thing we can pray for, is that we will hear the word of God taught in its truth and purity. This is how God’s name is kept holy among us. It is our first and greatest need. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Oh, if we would believe this! And God answers this prayer when we gather to hear and learn God’s holy Word and then, looking into the Law of Liberty, which sets us free on account of Christ, we then live according to this word.
“Thy kingdom come.” This second petition relates to the first. First, we pray that God would send us his pure word. Second, we pray that we would believe it. Your catechism explains, “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.” God’s kingdom does not come with a great army, but with the power of the Holy Spirit in the word. God rules over us not with brute force, but by creating faith in our hearts, so that we willingly fear, love, and trust in him. And so, when we pray, “Thy kingdom come” what we mean most immediately is that God would increase our faith, so that we would believe his holy word and live as his subjects in his kingdom. In this way, we are then prepared to continue to pray in Jesus’ name. It is like the man, who met Jesus coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration, who cried, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) And that is what we are saying when we pray, “Thy kingdom come.” We pray that his righteous reign would rule in our hearts, so that when his kingdom comes in power, we will enter it with joy.
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is perhaps the most difficult petition to pray, and yet, it can be the most comforting to pray. It is the most difficult petition to pray, because God’s will is not always our will. We don’t pray, “My will be done,” but “Thy will be done.” We often think that we know what we need. We think, if only my back pain will go away, then I’ll be happy. If only I have enough money to pay my bills, I’ll be happy. If only such and such person were out of my life, then I would be happy. If only this or that. And so, that’s what we pray for. But, as we have learned from God’s Word and from experience, it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes God permits a thorn to stay in our side to keep us from becoming conceited, to teach us patience, to strengthen our faith.
God lets us suffer. And that is why praying, “Thy will be done.” can be so difficult. God may let you suffer for a while. And we think of our dear Lord Jesus, who prayed in the garden, “Father, not my will, but Thine be done.” Even as he knew that it was the will of his Father that he go to the cross and bear the guilt of all sinners. Yes, praying that God’s will be done can be scary, especially when we’re not sure what God’s will is.
And this again is why it is good for us to review our Small Catechism. It says, “God’s will is done when he breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will” Yes, sometimes God’s will for a certain situation is hidden from us. Yet, God’s good and gracious will is revealed to us in Scripture. God’s will is to protect you from every evil and to keep you in the saving faith until you reach eternal life. That is God’s revealed will. And that tells you that God’s will is always good and gracious.
And this is why, “Thy will be done” is the most comforting thing you can pray. Because we do not always know what to pray for as we ought. But when we pray, “Thy will be done” leaving all things to God’s direction, then the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. God’s will is always better than our own will. And so, we Christians can take great joy in praying, “Thy will be done.”
“Give us this day our daily bread.” See how God has not forgotten about you. We spend so much time worrying about our daily bread: what we will eat and wear, where we will live, how we will get this that or the other thing. Yet, God shows you that he knows all that you need and gladly provides them for you. Notice also, that God does not teach us to pray to be rich and secure. People think they are secure when they have a lot of money, when they don’t need to worry about bills. Then they stop praying to God, because they no longer need him. No, God teaches us to pray for our daily bread. Each and every day, God wants us to rely on him for all good things and to receive them with thanksgiving.
“And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Your catechism explains, “We pray in this petition 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 them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.”
These again are comforting words when you feel unworthy to pray. But consider this, God himself taught us a prayer in which we pray for forgiveness each and every day. God knows that you will sin. He knows our frame, that we are weak. And he teaches us to ask for forgiveness every time we fall. And he promises to forgive us! We do not pray according to our own worthiness, but we pray in Jesus’ name. Jesus took our sins away. He gives us access to the Father. So, we ask for forgiveness everyday with the sure promise that God will indeed forgive us.
And notice again, that we do not say, “forgive me my trespasses,” but “forgive us our trespasses.” When we pray this petition, we pray that God would forgive our fellow Christians and even those, who sin against us. And when we forgive others, we do so in order to confess our faith that God forgives us our trespasses.
“And lead us not into temptation.” Yes, it is possible to resist temptation. God would not teach you to pray for it if it were not possible. For every temptation, God gives a way of escape. So, when you are tempted, pray, go to Scripture, and pray God to lead you out of temptation.
“And deliver us from evil. We pray in this petition, in summary, 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.” We experience many evils in this life and we are unaware of many more that happen around us. Yet, the greatest evil is to die an unchristian death. To die without faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest evil, because there is no salvation after that. And so, at the close of the Lord’s Prayer, we always pray that God would keep us in the true faith and to grant us a Christian death.
“For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.” Why do Christians say, “Amen” at the end of prayers? Amen means truly. When Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” He actually said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, …" Your catechism explains it, “This means that I should be certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by him; for he himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us. Amen, amen means ‘yes, yes, it shall be so.’”
And so, when you say, “Amen,” you are saying that you believe that what you have prayed for, you will receive. Amen is a statement of faith. It means that you are praying in Jesus’ name, because you believe that God will give to you as Jesus has promised. When you say “amen” in this way, you are saying that Jesus is not a liar, but always tells the truth. Amen.