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Catechetical Refresher - The Lord's Prayer

Catechetical Refresher
The Lord’s Prayer
Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
July 31, 2018

The third of Dr. Martin Luther’s six chief parts of Christian doctrine as found in the Small Catechism is: the Lord’s Prayer. You will get the most benefit from this essay if you have your catechism open as you read. Online readers click here for a catechism.

In the Ten Commandments we learned the Law. The Ten Commandments show our sins (SOS). In the Creed we learned the Gospel. The Creed shows our Savior (SOS).

Remember “Law and Gospel”. These are the two major doctrines of Scripture; as basic to Lutheranism as 2+2 = 4 is to mathematics.

You should also know that there is an internal logic to the order of the Six Chief Parts. First we must know our sins or the Gospel will mean nothing to us. If you don’t know you are ill, you will never seek medical attention. But like high blood pressure, sin is “the silent killer.” It kills the soul while all other systems might appear to be in perfect working order. Once we know the Law, once we know that we are terminally ill with sin, we can only despair until we learn the Gospel: the grace God displayed in sending his Son to “seek and save those who are lost.” It is basic to Christian faith that there is no earthly cure for sin. But only the blood of Jesus shed on the cross, and received at the altar, can cleanse us and make us alive to God. Jesus is the Great Physician of body and soul, and he himself by his birth, death and resurrection is the Gospel. He is our Savior. He saves us from the peril of our sins. Having heard the Law and having believed the Gospel we now come to the Lord’s Prayer.

In the church’s first three hundred years the Lord’s Prayer was a secret. No one was allowed to hear it, or know it until they were nearly done with their instruction, and stood at the verge of baptism. Then they were given the Lord’s Prayer, the church’s treasure, as a gift. But no unwashed lips were permitted to utter it.

Over the next seventeen Christian centuries things changed drastically, however. They Lord’s Prayer became the property of Christian culture. Whether or not one believed or was baptized everyone knew it. The Spirit was at work. But a strange turn of events has occurred in the last twenty-five years. After seventeen centuries the culture has lost this prayer! Today, other than those who practice the Christian faith, people no longer know it. It no longer rolls off their lips like it did as recently as a quarter of a century ago.

It is a great loss!

Why? Because simply to know it, hear it, and pray it (even if only in an emergency) is a greater blessing than words can express. This prayer comes from the lips of Jesus! This is Jesus’ own prayer. These words are divine, holy, and life-giving words that impart courage, wisdom, spiritual strength and the forgiveness of sins to those who pray it believing. It is true Light in deepest darkness!

The stories of people who prayed this prayer when in desperate straits, and when they could form no other for utter terror and grief, are many. It is the prayer that people pray on their death beds, when all others are forgotten. It is the prayer that God answers above all others because it is the prayer of his Son, prayed in the name of his Son. Jesus.

Time and space do not permit a detailed explanation here, but I urge you to read the prayer and its explanation as given in the catechism by Dr. Luther. Not only read it, but meditate on it. And then, once you have read it in Luther’s Small Catechism, he goes into much greater detail in his Large Catechism. You can do no better if you want to recharge your flagging faith and make great leaps in Christian knowledge and thought.

Though we will go into no detail here, let us consider the following.

Jesus teaches us to pray “Our” Father because by baptism we become brothers and sisters to Jesus; his family who hears his word and keeps it. (Luke 11:28) Whatever other relations or family you might have, or not have, God is your Father, and Jesus is your Brother by faith in Christ. As we sing in the immortal Luther hymn: “What harm can sin and death then do? The true God now abides with you. Let hell and Satan rage and chafe, Christ is your Brother--ye are safe.” (TLH #103 v. 4)

When you pray the Lord’s Prayer you are praying well! You are praying the perfect prayer that takes in every need of body and soul. In it we pray for faith, hope and love. For the forgiveness of our sins. For the power to forgive others, lest we should not be forgiven by God. We pray for, and receive, daily bread which is everything needed for this body and life. But what Luther does not include in his explanation; but we should is the Lord’s Supper.

Interestingly enough, though he never included the Eucharist under “daily bread” he made the Lord’s Prayer the Eucharistic Prayer for the two Reformation masses he composed. This was a serious break with Christian tradition, but it does serve well. Consider the following:

In the Eucharist we dine at our Father’s Table, the Christian altar. In so doing we hallow God’s name because there is no greater act of worship than to believe and receive the gifts of God given herein: the remission (not of cancer but) of sins, peace with God in spite of our many and dark sins, life, and everlasting salvation.

In this sacrament God’s kingdom comes to men. His will is done as we offer bread and wine to God, but which he returns to us as the Body and Blood of Jesus. That can only be done by the Word and Will of God.

The Bread of Life is given us in this Sacrament. We forgive and are forgiven; we are led away from temptation and to holiness; and we are superlatively delivered from evil when we partake hereof. And so this perfect prayer serves well.

But the Lord’s Prayer is more. It is the chief prayer in the baptismal rite. Today we pray it over the baptismal candidate, adult or infant makes no difference. They are hallowed and blessed by it.

We offer it, too, in the confirmation rite; asking every blessing for those who now confess their faith aloud.

We pray it in occasional services: Matins, Vespers; Compline, and at weddings and funerals.

And … if we took Dr. Luther’s advice and example we would pray it five times every day. Once with our morning prayers; once with our evening prayers; and at each meal as we ask the blessing.

In summary anyone who knows this prayer and prays it, prays well. Prays well and is in possession of every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.

“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)

Peace be with you. Amen.

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