Text: Second and Third Petitions
Last week, we began again our time of Lenten catechesis. It is during this season of the year that we turn again and take up the Catechism. In the Catechism are the basic teachings of Scripture which all are encouraged to know, and which we who are confirmed are to also believe and confess. Two years ago, we began with the Ten Commandments. Then, we took up the Apostles’ Creed. This year, having learned what we are to do and believe as Christians, we also learn again how we are to pray and what to pray for. This year, we are studying the Lord’s Prayer.
In short, to pray is to speak to God in word or thoughts. Prayers can be spoken or sung, or they may be offered only in our minds to Him who discerns our thoughts from afar. Prayers may be concerned with any number of things such as thanksgiving and praise, confession and supplication. In the Lord’s Prayer we receive a model of how to pray and what to pray for. In the Introduction we learned that we are invited to speak to God as His own dear children, and in the First Petition we pray that His name would be kept holy among us. Today, we study the Second and Third petitions. In these petitions, we pray that God’s Word would continue to dwell and be received among us and all the world, and that all who would prevent that be restrained and defeated.
Let’s recap a little bit, shall we, before we go further. One thing that I neglected to mention last week is, what’s a petition? I’ve said that word about four times already in this sermon, but what does that mean? A petition is a request. To petition someone is to ask for something you want or need. In the Lord’s Prayer there are seven petitions, seven things we pray for. These requests, petitions, are sandwiched by an Introduction and Conclusion. The first four petitions are all asking for some sort of blessing (spiritual in the first three and material in the Fourth) and the final three petitions ask for deliverance (from sin, from temptation, and from the devil). The Intro and Conclusion encourage us that God invites us to pray for these things and will grant them according to His good will.
Last week we began with the Intro, Our Father Who Art in Heaven. With these words we are immediately comforted with the promise that God truly does desire our prayer. He invites us to pray to Him with confidence, just like children speak to their beloved fathers. And, like a loving father, God provides. He hears and answers prayers which are made through faith in Jesus and in accordance with His will. So, when we pray, we always pray according to God’s Will – for His is truly best – rather than our own. Recognizing that we often have difficulty with that – submitting to God’s will above our own – we pray straightaway in the First Petition, Hallowed Be Thy Name.
As we’ve already learned, this petition is not asking that God’s name be made holy, because it already is. In the Psalms it says, “Let them praise Your great and awesome name! Holy is He.” Again, it says, “He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever. Holy and awesome is His name!” The mother of our Lord also said, “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” In the First Petition, rather, we pray that God’s name would be kept holy and used in holy ways among us. We pray that He would preserve us in the true and pure teaching of His Word and that we would not be given to false and human doctrine. We also pray in the First Petition that we, as God’s children, would live holy lives in keeping with His Word.
In the Second Petition, we recognize that we have been made God’s children by the power of His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit, and we ask that these things would remain among us. We speak the Second Petition and meaning together. We pray in this petition that God’s kingdom would come to us also. But, what does that mean? The kingdom of God? It’s kind of a complicated phrase, because it can refer to a few things. First, there’s the “kingdom of God,” the universe. God is the King of Creation. He rules the world by His law; laws like gravity and cause and effect, but also His moral law. That means that the universe works, and crime is punished. That’s not the kingdom we’re talking about.
We are talking about the kingdom where God rules by grace and where He freely grants forgiveness and salvation. This kingdom is called God’s Kingdom of Grace, which we might also call the Church. This is the place we’re brought into by the preaching of the Gospel and the washing of Baptism. This is the place where sins are forgiven, and godly lives are led. We pray in this petition that God would continue to grant us a place in His kingdom by His grace and spread this kingdom of grace to all the world. In this petition we pray that there would be increase of the Gospel and its spread until all the world adore the saving name of Christ. We also pray here that God would finally lead us and all the saints to His kingdom of glory, heaven.
One of Luther’s favorite phrases was this, “Where God builds a church, the devil places a chapel next door.” He meant that, where God’s Word is taught in its truth and purity, there the devil will also be tempting men to fall away. This has been true ever since the ancient serpent spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden. The history of the Church has also witnessed that whenever the Gospel shines brightest, then the devil is also hardest at work. Yet, the more he presses, the more the Church grows. That’s because we pray in the Third Petition that God’s will be done. We speak the Third Petition together.
As with the other petitions, where His name is holy and His kingdom comes even without prayer, we pray in this petition that God’s will may be done among us also. His will is done, first, when “He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world and our sinful nature.” Here Luther reinforces where the temptations to sin come from: from the devil, from the sinful world, and even from our own sinful flesh. He echoes St. James, who says, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” The devil, the world, and the flesh do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come. We pray in this petition that God would put to death in us our sinful desires and that He would restrain the wicked foe and all his horde until Christ returns.
God’s will is also done, Luther says, “when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.” So often, it seems, we’re hanging on by a thread. Either life gets the better of us and we despair, or we get the better of life and become proud. In either situation, most often, our faith is weakened. We ask in the Third Petition that God would not only put to death the sinful desires within us and restrain the ancient serpent, but that He would also strengthen and keep us in the faith. For this purpose, Christ gave His Word and instituted the Sacraments. Through His Word we are called and strengthened in the faith, by Baptism we are made God’s children, by the Supper our sins are forgiven, and in the words of Absolution our hearts are reassured that we are forgiven. By the regular reception of these things, God works to keep us firm in His faith until we die and enter His eternal kingdom of glory.
We’ve learned now the Introduction and first three petitions of our Lord’s prayer. With these words, God invites us to pray to Him as his dear children. We can know that He desires, hears, and answers our prayers. We pray that His name would be holy in our teaching and actions, that He would continue to call to faith all the world and keep us firm in His faith until we leave this vale of tears for the shores of heaven. Next week we will learn again the Fourth Petition, Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread.
 Ps. 99:3, English Standard Version.
 Ps. 111:9.
 Lk. 1:49.
 Martin Luther, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Luther’s Works (American Edition), Vol. 23, pg. 284.
 Martin Luther, Small Catechism, Part III.
 James 1:14.