One of the most common, common fears that Christians have is prayer. More specifically, public prayer; but most of us struggle with just our own personal prayer life as well. Jesus tells us in Scripture to pray. It says that Jesus taught the Disciples that, “they ought always to pray and not lose heart”. St. Paul also urged Christians to be constant in prayer. This is because Jesus promised, “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” But, that doesn’t stop us from being afraid. Though we have the command from God to pray and the promise that He hears us, it’s too easy to be scared.
A lot of times the ability to whip up a prayer is made into some sort of scale by which we can judge how good of a Christian someone is. If the prayer is good, they must be a good Christian. To avoid the judgment of others we often pull the verse from Matthew (6:8) about God knowing what we need before we ask in order to not pray. Likewise, at various points the Disciples felt the same way. They then asked Jesus how to pray and He gave them what we call today the “Lord’s Prayer.” The prayer stands not only as a fantastic prayer on its own, but it also serves as a model upon which we can base our own prayers. But, what does it mean and what are we praying for in the Lord’s Prayer? To find out, we look at the third Chief Part of Luther’s Small Catechism.
I think that maybe the easiest way to divvy up the Lord’s Prayer is to tackle the first three petitions together, then we’ll hit the last four. We begin by addressing who we are praying to, “Our Father.” By inviting us to call Him Father, God is assuring us that He graciously cares for us as a father does his children and will hear our prayers. The first thing we pray in response is, “hallowed be Your name.” Here we are asking that God’s name be made holy, which it actually already is. God’s name is holy in and of itself, but we pray that it may be kept holy among us also.
We ask this because, though we have received the name of the Triune God in Baptism, we do not always use it in holy ways. Instead, we lie and curse His name through our speech. We also act dishonorably as Christians. This applies not only in our personal lives, but especially in public when, though people know that we are Christians, we behave ourselves as if we weren’t. We say things we shouldn’t, we do things we shouldn’t, and live in violation of God’s commandments.
Therefore we pray that God’s kingdom would come. Again, like His name being holy, God’s kingdom comes whether we request it or not. His kingdom comes in two ways. It comes in this life through His Word and faith, and it comes in eternity. We pray that, despite our sinfulness, God would continue to give us His Word and Sacraments to create and sustain faith in us and that He would expand His kingdom in the world through the Means of Grace. Also, we plead that God would continue to beat back the devil’s kingdom until that time when we shall be united with Christ and all believers in heaven.
Now when we hallow God’s name and pray that His Kingdom come among us, we know that suffering will soon follow. This is because the world cannot stand that the Word is preached and that people believe it. Therefore Satan persecutes Christians through His influence in the world. Against him we pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We pray that He would strengthen and give us patience to overcome all things.
In this life we are in a constant struggle. We’ve prayed that God’s name be made holy, that His Kingdom come, and that His will be done. That’s all good and dandy, but even during these things we live in the flesh. Our bodies have needs. We have need for food and water, oxygen, shelter, safety, family; the list could go on. When we pray that God would give us our daily bread, we are not just praying for bread, but everything that is needed to support this life. Jesus says that our Father in heaven, “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” This means that He continues to provide daily bread for the entire world even without prayer, but we pray that we would recognize all good things as coming from Him, gifts of divine mercy and goodness from our Father in heaven.
We ask for that because we are sinners. We daily transgress against God’s commandments and disobey His will. Therefore we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses.” We humbly ask God that He would not hold our sins against us or punish us for our iniquity, even though that is exactly what we do deserve. We pray this so that we may recognize that we are redeemed in Christ. Because of His perfect obedience to God’s will and His death for our transgressions, we are reconciled to God and are no longer subject to His righteous punishment. As He strengthens us with His Word and Spirit, we are led to forgive those who trespass against us. We don’t do this to merit our own forgiveness; we forgive because He first forgave us.
Living in this life of forgiveness, we pray that we not be led into temptation. This doesn’t mean that there are times when God leads into temptation, because Scripture is clear that God tempts no one to sin. Rather, temptation comes from three places. It comes from our own flesh, which is fraught and will be with evil desires until we die. Then, it comes from the world, which encourages us to act on our sinful desires and congratulates us when we do. Lastly, there’s the devil. He comes to agitate everything. It’s like our lives are pop bottles. We’re under pressure from all the temptations we bear, and the devil comes and shakes the bottle. We pray in the Sixth Petition that God would give us the power and strength to resist temptation. Note, however, it will not be completely removed until our flesh is dead and buried.
Lastly, an overarching petition, “Deliver us from evil.” It the Greek it is in the singular, “evil one.” At multiple points in the Lord’s Prayer we pray against the influence of the devil and the world, and this last petition asks for protection from whatever scheme or plot of the devil that may happen in this world: car crash or house fire, blizzard or flood, death or sickness. This is the final petition because it sums up everything. To be preserved from the devil means that God’s name be hallowed, His Kingdom come, and His will be done.
As we said a little bit ago, praying is a great fear that many of us have. We’re afraid that we don’t know how to pray, or that people are going to judge us if we do. Well, you can always use the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus Himself gives it as the most perfect prayer. But if you don’t want to use it, borrow a petition. Give thanks for daily bread and pray for it to continue; ask that God would give you the strength to forgive as you’ve been forgiven; praise God that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. In these things you’ll never go wrong, and your prayer will always be answered.
So far we’ve covered the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and now the Lord’s Prayer. These are the absolute basics of what every Christian should know. Next week we’re going to up our game a little bit and take a look at Holy Baptism before focusing on the Lord’s Supper in a few weeks. Let us close with prayer.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Luke 18:1.
 Lk 11:9.
 Matt. 5:45.