Deliver Us From Evil. Amen.

Text: Seventh Petition and Conclusion

Today, we pray the Seventh Petition, “But deliver us from evil.” Luther writes of this petition that it’s like our Lord has combined all of the previous petitions we’ve prayed and summarized them into this final request. We’ve prayed that God’s name would be holy among us, His will done, His kingdom extended, our daily bread be given and received, that the forgiveness be shone forth in our lives, and temptation resisted. By all these things, God is at work in our lives, delivering us from evil and from the evil one – which is what the Greek text originally said in this petition. We end the Lord’s Prayer this week by praying, in summary, that God our heavenly Father would deliver us from every evil of this present age in the glad confidence that He can and will do what He has promised.


            Let us speak the Seventh Petition together.

But deliver us from evil.

What does this mean? 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.[1]

As we’ve already said, this petition is sort of a summary of all the previous petitions and is directed chiefly against the devil, who is the evil one actively working against God and the world. The devil would give everything to see even us without daily bread, without forgiveness, without pure doctrine, and without faith. He prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, and we pray this petition against him. We ask our heavenly Father to do three things in the Seventh Petition: We ask that He would defend us against all evils of body and soul; that He preserve us in the face of the evils which do befall us; and, we ask that, at the hour of our death, our Father would allow us to die in the faith and be carried to His side in heaven.

Yes, we do believe in the devil. The devil is not a god, for there is no other God; but, he is a fallen angel. Shortly after Creation there was a rebellion in heaven, and Lucifer and his followers were cast out. Jesus said that Satan is a liar and murderer who opposes the truth and all things good. As such, he seeks to lead all he can away from the truth of the Gospel – even, if he can, you and me. The devil uses disasters and calamities, and also pleasures, to lead us astray from God’s Word and faith. We ask in the Seventh Petition that God would preserve us from the assaults of the devil, and from all evils of body and soul. We pray that He would thwart the old, ancient foe and finally bring all his works to nothing.

Even still, there are some evils that God allows us to suffer. It has been the experience of the saints through all time that we suffer many hardships in this earthly life. Our Lord said, “In the world, you will have tribulation.”[2] St. Paul also taught that, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”[3] Our heavenly Father allows us to suffer for two reasons. Sometimes, God allows us to suffer as the earthly consequences of sin. Death and illness are good examples of this. God uses suffering for another purpose, however, and that is that He uses our earthly sufferings to discipline and train us in righteousness. In Proverbs it says, “Do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of His reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom He loves.”[4] We pray in the Seventh Petition, that God would preserve us from despairing in our trials and that would endure our suffering in faith. St. James says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.”[5]

Lastly, we pray in the Seventh Petition that, when our final hour does come, that our Lord would give us a blessed end. When I was little, I used to think this meant that the best way to die is to die in church, or else in prayer. Those wouldn’t be bad; but, what we also pray in this petition is that God our heavenly Father would grant us to remain in the one true faith until death. We pray that He would preserve us from the evil works of the devil and keep us firm in the faith amidst the evils that do happen to us, that we may meet death joyfully and without fear, and so receive the crown of righteousness won for us by Jesus Christ.


            We now turn to the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer. Let’s speak it together.

For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

What does this mean? 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.”[6]

It is true that some ancient copies of the New Testament do not contain these words, including the one that Luther used in writing the Catechism, so this portion was not entirely written by Luther himself. That said, the conclusion has been prayed by the Church at large for 1500 years, and the meaning we spoke dates back to the Reformation, at least. In response to God’s invitation to pray, the Church listens and glorifies God, and ends her prayer with a bold “Amen.”

“Amen” is an old Hebrew word which means, “Yes, it shall be so,” or, “truly, it will be done,” or something similar. It is a confident assertion that things which were said are true and will be done. We end the Prayer in this glad confidence because God has invited us to pray to Him as His own dear children and has promised to hear us. God cannot lie; therefore, we know that our prayers are, indeed, heard. And, not only does God hear our prayers, but He can and does answer them. Our God is the God, the Lord of heaven and earth. By the Word of His mouth all the heavens were made, and by His breath all their host. He is the giver of all good things, who sends rain on the just and unjust alike. And, as our Lord says, if God can so feed the birds and clothe the grass, our Father can also provide for what we need.

And so, we end the prayer right where we began. With the words, “Our Father,” God invites us to pray to Him as dear children would ask their dear fathers. In response to His gracious invitation, we pray that His name would be holy among us, that His kingdom come to us and all the world, that His will be done, that we receive our daily bread with thanksgiving, that we be forgiven our sins and so forgive others, that we be strengthened against temptation, and be defended against the devil and all evil. All these things are good and pleasing to our heavenly Father, and so we gladly say, “amen,” for He will truly do all these things.

St. James said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”[7] Let us pray that God the Holy Spirit would continue to work through the Word and Sacraments, that we be strengthened and preserved in the true faith, and that we may gladly and confidently pray to our Father in heaven, who alone is able to do more than we can say or think.



[2] Jn. 16:33, all Bible citations from the English Standard Version.

[3] Acts 14:22.

[4] Prov. 3:11.

[5] James 1:12.


[7] James 1:5-6.

Forgive and Lead Us

Text: Fifth and Sixth Petitions

Today we move into the second portion of the Lord’s Prayer. As we said a few weeks back, the seven petitions can be divided into two categories: those petitions asking for blessings, and those asking for deliverance. In petitions 1-4, we asked God for blessings – for the hallowing of His name, the coming of His kingdom, for His will to be done, and our daily bread be given. In our petitions today, we move into the petitions asking for deliverance, particularly from sin and temptation. Although we are God’s children in His kingdom, we remain in the flesh. We ask in these petitions that God would not deny our prayer because of our sins, but instead, continue to forgive us and strengthen us against temptation until we enter His eternal kingdom of glory.


            Let us speak the Fifth Petition and its meaning together.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

What does this mean? 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.

In this petition we pause to focus on the reality of our lives here on earth. Though we have been brought into God’s kingdom by the preaching of the Word and Holy Baptism, and have been made His children through the same, we still remain in the flesh and in this world. Though the guilt of original sin was washed away in Baptism, the effects of it remain. As we remain in this flesh, the temptation to sin also remains. Original sin is the corruption of our human nature that all humans have been born with since the fall of Adam and Eve. It means that we, by nature, are inclined to rebel against God and His Word. Original Sin is forgiven in Baptism, but the inclination to sin remains in our flesh. The Old Adam still hangs around our neck, Luther would say.

And, as the temptation to sin remains, we must confess that we do, daily and often, give in. We sin much and greatly. We have transgressed against God’s Law, and we have even enjoyed it. And, for our sins, not only do we deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment, but we don’t deserve to have our prayers heard…to say nothing of them being answered. We ask in this petition that God would not remember our sins against us or deny our prayers because of them, but that He would remember His steadfast love and mercy toward us. God the Father sent forth His only Son to fulfill the Law and die as the atoning sacrifice for us. By the working of the Holy Spirit, we have been brought to faith and have received the forgiveness of our sins. We ask in this petition that God would continue to forgive us our sins by His grace, as we do sin daily and stand in great need.

Included in this petition is also a reminder of how we are to live and act toward others in this world. The petition is “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” St. John, perhaps reflecting on this petition, wrote to his flock, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…We love because he first loved us.”[1] As we sin daily and much against God and His Commandments – and He has yet forgiven us – so we, too, are to forgive those who sin against us. St. Paul also said, “[Bear] with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”[2] God does not forgive us because we forgive; we forgive because we have first been forgiven. We ask in the Fifth Petition that God would not deny our prayers because of our sin, but continue to forgive them and also lead us to forgive those who sin against us. In the Sixth Petition, we ask that God would preserve us against temptation.


            Let us speak the Sixth Petition and meaning together.

And lead us not into temptation.

What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

Now, even though we have been brought into God’s Kingdom and are daily forgiven our sins by faith through the Word and Sacrament, as we’ve said, the Old Adam remains. As long as we are in the flesh we remain both saint and sinner. As sin remains, so does temptation. And, it remains in force. No one is so secure in the faith that they can’t immediately go from the most joyful moment in the forgiveness of sins to the depths and depravity of sin. Perhaps you’ve experienced this: as you leave the sanctuary, no sooner have you stepped foot outside, then have you started coveting. None of us are so sanctified that we do not feel the sting of temptation. Temptation to sin comes from three places – the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. Our flesh tempts us to lust and covet, the world to doubt and deny God’s Word, and the devil all the above.

We ask in this petition that God would preserve us against the assaults of the devil, the world, and our flesh. Though we are in the flesh and daily sin much, we ask that God would strengthen and defend us against future sin. We ask that He would give us purity of mind and heart, and contentment; that He would strengthen us against the enticement of the world to deny or change what He has said; we ask that He would harden us against the old satanic foe. As we said a moment ago, “We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.”

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”[3] There are no temptations that are ultimately unique, St. Paul says. Although we are beset on all sides by temptation to sin, God has provided for us the means of escape, which we know as the Means of Grace. The Means of Grace are the ways in which God’s grace and forgiveness are given to us. They are: God’s Word, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Holy Absolution, and, “mutual conversation and consolation of brethren.” Through these things, the Word and Sacraments, God forgives us our sins and strengthens our faith. Through these Means of Grace, God hardens and preserves us against the temptations of the devil, the world, and our flesh until such time as we receive the full victory at Christ’s return.

In these petitions, we acknowledge that we are but sinful human beings. Though we have been forgiven our sins, because of the weakness of our nature, we continue to live contrary to God’s Word and Commandments. We ask today that God would not remember our sins against us, but His mercy. We ask that by His grace through Christ, He would continue to forgive us our sins and grant us our prayers. So, we, too, will forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us. So that we may do that, we ask that God would continue to preserve among His Word and Sacrament, that our sins may be forgiven, and our faith strengthened against all temptation.

[1] 1 John 4:10, 19. English Standard Version.

[2] Col. 3:13.

[3] 1 Cor. 10:13.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Text: Fourth Petition

We learned last week that the Lord’s Prayer is divided up into seven petitions; it has seven different requests and supplications to God. In the first four, we are mainly asking God for different blessings, and in the last three for deliverance. We ask God in petitions 1-3 for spiritual blessings: that His name would be holy among us, that His kingdom would continue to come to us by His Word and Sacraments, and that His will would be done here and around the world. These are all spiritual things, after which we then turn to material blessings. Jesus told us in the Gospel to seek first God’s kingdom and all things would be added to us, and in the Lord’s Prayer He reinforces that. Daily bread includes all the things that are needed to support this body and life. In the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray that God would continue to provide for the bodily needs of ourselves and others, and that we would receive these things with thanksgiving.


Give us this day our daily bread.

What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.[1]

If you remember back to last year, or to your confirmation days, you might remember that in the First Article of the Creed we confess our faith God in the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth. God, our heavenly Father, is the creator of all that exists. He formed the heavens and the earth. He molded man from the dust of the earth and made woman out of Adam’s side. We learn these things throughout Scripture, but especially in the first chapters of Genesis. Remember, also, that God isn’t just the creator of all things, but He is the preserver of all things as well. We do not believe in God the Watchmaker, who puts everything together and leaves it to work on its own. Rather, Scripture reveals God to be actively involved in His creation – chiefly in sending His Son for our salvation, but also even by providing daily bread and sustenance for all living things.

In the Psalms, for example, it talks about God who, “set the earth on its foundations… [who] covered it with the deep as with a garment… [who makes] springs gush forth in the valleys… [who makes] grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate,” who gives food to all things in due season.[2] In another part of the Psalms it says, “The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made… The eyes of all look to You [O Lord], and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing.”[3] Jesus said,

“If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you…Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”[4]

God our heavenly Father, out of His great love and mercy for all things, gives to all things their daily bread. And, just as the Catechism says, daily bread “includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body.” It includes everything we mentioned and more. When we think daily bread, we think mostly food and clothing and shelter. In this petition, we pray for everything that goes into those things – good weather, fruitful fields and harvests, good workers, good government and support services, deliverance from war, and so on. In this way, this is an especially far-reaching prayer, since we are asking God to continue to provide for all our bodily needs, and the needs of others, and everything that goes with that. We also pray against the devil here, because if he could, he would take away everything we have and drag us down to hell with him. He is actively at work disrupting the world and tempting people to despair. The Fourth Petition is directed also against the devil.


Give us this day our daily bread.

What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

So, what do we pray for in the Fourth Petition? We pray that, as God already does, that He would continue to give us our daily bread; that He would lead us to realize this and receive all these things with thanksgiving; and, that we would be content with what we have so that we may share our blessings with others. Jesus said that His Father clothes even the lilies of the field, He gives food to the young ravens that cry, He sends rain on both the just and unjust alike. We pray in this petition that He would continue these things among us also. We ask that, as God has provided for us up to now, that He would continue to do so. We pray that He would continue to send favorable weather so that our crops can grow, good workers so that the products we need may be made and repaired, and good rulers so that we may live in peace.

We also pray in this petition that not only would God continue to provide for us and the world, but that He would lead us to realize this and receive His gifts with thanksgiving. There’s a difference between believing that everything we have comes either from hard work or chance, and believing that we have what we do because God has blessed us. Indeed, we do work hard, but it is by God’s blessing that our work is productive. St. Paul might say that we water the field, but God provides the growth. We ask in this petition that God, by His Holy Spirit through His Word, would teach us that He gives us all things out of love. All that we need is already known by God, who provides for us as a loving father would his children. We ask that we, in turn, would be like the one leper who returned to give thanks – and not like the other nine.

Lastly, we pray in this petition that, receiving God’s gifts with thanksgiving, we would also be content with what He has given us. It is the truth that our sinful flesh always wants more. I can think at least seven Commandments that are meant to direct us away from the sinful pursuit of things we don’t truly need. St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”[5] If we learn to receive our bread with thanksgiving from a God who loves to provide, then we can also freely share with those who are in need. It may be that in doing so, God is using us to provide daily bread for others. We pray in this petition that we may be content with God’s gifts, and use the things He gives to provide for others in need.

In the Fourth Petition, we confess that God our heavenly Father is the maker and preserver of all things. He gives to all things their food in due season. We ask that He would continue to provide for us our daily bread, that we would receive His gifts with thanksgiving, and that we would be content with what we have so we may share with others. Next week, we’ll learn again the Fifth and Sixth Petitions: Forgive us our trespasses and lead us not into temptation.





[5] 1 Tim. 6:8.

Thy Kingdom and Will

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.”[1] Again, it says, “He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever. Holy and awesome is His name![2] The mother of our Lord also said, “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”[3] 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.”[4] 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.”[5] 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.”[6] 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.

[1] Ps. 99:3, English Standard Version.

[2] Ps. 111:9.

[3] Lk. 1:49.

[4] Martin Luther, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Luther’s Works (American Edition), Vol. 23, pg. 284.

[5] Martin Luther, Small Catechism, Part III.

[6] James 1:14.

Hallowed Be Our Father’s Name

Text: Introduction and First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

From ancient times, the season of Lent – the season in the Church Year we have now entered – has been used as a time of catechesis, a time of learning. It was during this time of year that candidates for Baptism used to increase their devotion to God’s Word in preparation for receiving the washing of the Water and the Word on the Vigil of Easter – the Saturday before Easter, after sundown. Though we now Baptize in all parts of the Church Year, Lent, as a period of learning can still be seen in the readings for each Sunday, especially in the epistles.

In the Lutheran Church there has been a longstanding tradition of studying the Catechism during Lent. This stands as both a welcome refresher for those of us who’ve long since been through confirmation, and a continuing help to those who are currently receiving instruction. In our congregations, we continue this practice. Two years ago, we studied the Commandments, which show us what God’s will for our live is and what sort of actions are pleasing to Him. Last year, we confessed the Apostles’ Creed and learned what it means to believe in God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This year we take up the prayer our Lord Jesus has taught us. We’ve already learned what we should do and believe. In the Lord’s Prayer, we learn how to pray. Today, we learn that in the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer we are encouraged to pray to our heavenly Father as His dear children, and in the First Petition we ask that His name would be kept holy in our words and lives.


Before we go further, perhaps we should answer this question first: What is prayer? A month ago, when we celebrated the Transfiguration, I asked this question at the start of the sermon: What is the Bible? Today’s question, what is prayer, is likewise simple but easy to overthink. Prayer is speaking to God. The synodical explanation in the back of the catechism says that prayer is “speaking to God in words or thoughts.” From there, prayer can take any number of different forms. The most familiar form of prayer is often the spoken. Prayers to God are often spoken out loud, especially when we pray as a congregation. When we pray as a congregation, we are praying as one body together. Praying out loud facilitates that. Prayers are also often sung, such as in the liturgy when the pastor chants a prayer or in the hymns the congregation sings. Prayers may be spoken or sung, but the most frequent prayers are those offered silently in our thoughts.

As prayers may take many different forms, they may also be concerned with many things. Prayers may be prayers of praise. They may be prayers of supplication, requests for ourselves and others. Often times, we offer prayers of thanksgiving and some are prayers of confession. We address our prayers to the Triune God first, because He does command it. In the Psalms it says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”[1] Our Lord also has said, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.’”[2] He says when, and does not leave it open for us not to pray. In addition to God’s command to pray, which also falls under the Second Commandment, He has promised to hear us. Our Father in heaven hears and answers all prayers made in faith.

Third, in addition to God’s command and promise, our own great need should move us to pray. None of us live such perfect lives that we have no wants or needs – to say nothing of our need for forgiveness. And, even if our own needs don’t move us to pray – those of our neighbors should. And finally, we can pray using words that our Lord Himself has given us. We call it the Lord’s Prayer because He is the author and it is for us both the best prayer and the model for how we should pray and what we should pray for.


Having said that, let’s say the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer together. With the words, “Our Father,” God invites us to believe that He is our true Father and we His true children, so that we might address Him with all boldness and confidence. The Lord’s Prayer, then, begins with a Gospel promise. Our God, the God, is not some distant deity who is not truly concerned for us inhabitants of earth. Instead, He is our Father and we are His children. We are His children by faith. Though we, by the Fall into Sin and by our own personal sin, had separated ourselves and become children of wrath, God the Father sent forth His Son to fulfill the Law and redeem us. Through faith in Christ we are restored to a right relationship with God. By faith, Jesus is our Lord and brother, His Father becomes our Father, and we His children.

Jesus teaches us to pray in this way, so that we might pray with boldness and confidence. This confidence is not based on anything in us, however. By faith, we address God as Father. By faith, He is our Father and we are His dear children. Therefore, we should not fear to speak to Him. In fact, He doesn’t just command it; He desires it. God wants to hear from us and for us to speak to Him. He invites us to. With the words, “our Father,” we are encouraged to speak to Him as children would their own fathers – with boldness and with confidence. In the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches and invites us to pray to God our father with boldness and confidence in His promise to hear and answer.


Now, the First Petition. We speak it together. In this petition we ask that God’s name would be kept holy in our words and our lives. In the Large Catechism, Luther points out that “Hallowed be Thy name,” doesn’t make for good German – and maybe neither English – because God’s name is holy in and of itself. Simply put, God is holy. His name is holy. There is nothing that can change or add to that. In this petition, we’re not praying that God’s name be made holy but that it be kept holy in our lives. That’s exactly what we just spoke, “We pray in this petition that it [God’s name] may be kept holy among us also.”[3]

How is God’s name kept holy among us? Two ways. First, when God’s Word is taught among us in its truth and purity. That is to say, God’s name is kept holy when His saving Word is taught, spoken, and preached rightly, without any human doctrine snuck it. Second, God’s name is kept holy among us when we, as His children, lead holy lives according to His Word. Just as unruly children often reflect poorly on their parents, we dishonor God when we – as His children – live contrary to His Word. In this way, the First Petition is asking God to lead us to keep the Second Commandment. The Second Commandment means that we should fear and love God so that don’t lie or deceive by His name, but instead call upon it in every trouble, “pray, praise, and give thanks.”[4]

So far, we’ve learned what it means to pray. Praying is speaking to God in words or thoughts; be they spoken, sung, or simply prayed in silence. We pray because God commands it, but also because He promises to hear and answer – and because of our own great need. In the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, God invites to pray to Him as dear children speak to their own dear father. God, indeed, desires to hear from us – His children. In the First Petition, we ask that God would lead us to keep His name holy by keeping His Word pure and undefiled, and by living our lives according to it. Next week we will continue with the Second and Third Petitions: Thy Kingdom Come and Thy Will Be Done.


[1] Ps. 50:15, English Standard Version.

[2] Lk. 11:2.

[3] Lutheran Service Book, 323.

[4] Ibid., 321.

Book Review, “Has American Christianity Failed?”

Wolfmueller, Bryan. Has American Christianity Failed? 2016. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

When you are surrounded by a smell, you eventually go ‘nose-blind.’ You stop smelling what those outside your environment can smell. Your nose starts to ignore those common everyday smells…Christians in America have gone theologically nose-blind. (pg. 7)

That, in part, is how Pastor Wolfmueller – a pastor of the LCMS congregation Hope Lutheran in Aurora, Colorado – opens his 2016 book. Wolfmueller writes from the perspective of one who’s come out of American Evangelical Christianity to those currently suffering at its hands, burned out by it demands, and broken by its failed promises. Wolfmueller’s chief charge against “American Christianity,” is that it robs the Christian of the Gospel. Instead being concerned primarily about what Christ did for us on the cross, American Christianity places its focus on the individual. Instead of building its hope on the objective reality that Christ has secured the forgiveness of sins for the whole world, in American Christianity this objective reality is replaced by subjective feelings. Certainty from outside oneself is replaced by self-security.

The result is that, in American Christianity, one is always teetering between two extremes: pride and despair. With its emphasis on internal feelings and one’s own fulfilling of the Law, American Christianity grooms its followers into Pharisees. When the Christian faith is all about me: my faith, my testimony, my witness, my repentance, my love for God, my progression in the faith – it’s easy for the me to become so big it blocks out the Son. But, on the flip side, the more one truly focuses on himself, it’s also easy to see how great our sin actually is: our lack our repentance and our constantly repeated failure to cure ourselves of sin. What should be offered to one who realizes these things is the comfort of the Gospel. But, instead, American Christianity urges that we dust ourselves off and start again. This inevitably leads to despair and, eventually, despair of the Gospel – unbelief.

Pastor Wolfmueller writes for those broken by the failed promises of American Evangelicalism, but he also includes those who may have become blind to its influences – even within Lutheranism. He names and answers four characteristic influences of Evangelicalism that, because we also still bear the Old Adam, also affect Lutheranism: revivalism, pietism, mysticism, and enthusiasm. Each of these “isms” moves the focus of the Christian away from the cross and to oneself.

But there is hope. There was hope for Pastor Wolfmueller, and there is for all those broken by the demands of the Law. That hope is Jesus Christ and the complete and totally free forgiveness of sins found in Him. His grace demands nothing in return, only faith. You’ll find this and much more in this wonderful and refreshing book. Pastor Wolfmueller, as expected, is well-versed in the Catechism; His book also serves as a great refresher for those who haven’t been through it in a while. It also covers major topics like good works and the end times (which receives an entire chapter).

If this sounds interesting to you, get hold of me and you can borrow my copy. It’s also easily available through Amazon and CPH, in paper and digitally.

Pastor Swenson

The Mysterious Comfort of the Holy Trinity

** To listen to the sermon, please click here The Feast of the Holy Trinity **

Bulletin: 2016-05-22 The Feast of the Holy Trinity

Text: Is. 6:1-8; Jn. 3:1-17; The Creed

“Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally. And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity – a day set aside to focus not on an event in Christ’s life, but a teaching. Most of the other Church holidays celebrate a part of Christ’s life (such as Christmas, Epiphany, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost), but today we focus on a dogma of the Church, a doctrine that has been held by all Christians since Adam.

Just a few moments ago we recited the Athanasian Creed. It’s probably most well known for being the longest of the three creeds. But, it’s also one of the best and most clear opportunities we get to confess our faith in the Triune God, the Living God of the Bible. In our time, because of its length, this creed usually gets confined to Trinity Sunday, but in times gone by it was the regular creed to be confessed on Sundays. In fact, that’s how Trinity Sunday came to be. It’s not celebrated because a bunch of pastors got together and decided to hammer people with one of the hardest teachings there is, but because the lay people wanted to talk and hear about the Trinity. At first, the pastors resisted, but I’m glad the day took root.

The Trinity is not something that we’re going to fully understand this side of heaven. It’s just not going to happen. In the new creation our minds will be restored to what they were created to be in Eden and we will know God fully even as we are fully known, like St. Paul says. Nevertheless, we can still believe and confess the doctrine of the Triune God from Scripture, which is vitally important. It’s important, because as the Creed said, you cannot be saved without believing in the Triune God. It doesn’t say you must totally understand it, but we must believe it, for the Triune God is who is revealed to us in the Scriptures. But, I think there’s another reason why the doctrine of the Trinity is important, and it’s what I’d like for us to take away today. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the foundation of our faith and it comforts us in every distress.


It is true, however; you will not find the word “trinity,” in the Bible. Not because the doctrine isn’t there, but because the word “trinity,” simply didn’t exist. There were no false teachings floating around that called the Triune God into question, so the Church never had to say anything other than, “We believe in one God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” But, after Christ, many false teachers popped up – just like He said would happen – and they began to call our belief in God into question, particularly how Jesus was God, and then also the Holy Spirit. This is when the language of trinity started to appear; the word simply means “three.” Or, in the context of the Creed, “three-in-one.” We believe in one God, who exists eternally in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – The Triune God. We get this from Jesus when He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The First Person of the Trinity is the Father. Though all three persons are to be prayed to, we most often pray to the Father. We call Him Father because that is the language that Jesus gives us. For a number of weeks we were in John 15 and 16, where Jesus repeatedly taught that He was going to the Father. Jesus also says after the resurrection, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” There are many other places we could go, but for the sake of time we will leave that ‘till later. As I said in the beginning, the mystery of the Trinity is the foundation of our faith and it comforts us in every distress; so how does our understanding of God the Father comfort us?

As we confess in the Small Catechism, we ascribe to the Father the work of creation and preserving creation. That isn’t to say that the Son and Holy Spirit aren’t involved in those, just that when we talk about the Creator we are often talking about the Father. We confess that it is God our Father who forms us in our mother’s womb. Psalm 139 says that God knits together our inward parts. The Father is the one who provides us with food and drink, house and home, land and animals, and all that we need to support this body and life. Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount that we don’t need to be anxious about these things, for our Father in heaven knows what we need and will provide. Why does God the Father provide these things for us? Because He loves us. That is the comfort of believing in God the Father – we have a God that we can call, and truly is our Father, who loves us and takes care of us.


We also believe in God the Son. The Son is Jesus, our Lord and Savior. In our Gospel today we have one of the verses that teaches us about the Second person of the Trinity. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” We have a clear picture of Christ and His work in the New Testament. Repeatedly, He calls God His Father, and teaches that He and the Father are together one God with the Holy Spirit. In John’s Gospel Jesus even shows that He was the one who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. King David speaks the Father’s words to Jesus in the psalms when he wrote, “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool,’” and again,  “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’” Those words we know from Jesus’ Baptism.

How does the doctrine of God the Son comfort us? Hopefully you answered that question before it finished. We believe that God created all that there is, both visible and invisible. He created everything perfect, but creation rejected Him and fell into sin through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. As a result of the Fall, each and every human being is born corrupted by sin, with the desire to sin and despise the things of God. Since God is holy and righteous and cannot tolerate sin, He has vowed to judge sin and pour out His wrath against all sinners at Christ’s Return. But if God is a God of righteousness, then He is also a God of love and mercy. That is why He sent His Son.

We recognize the Son of God as our redeemer. The Second Person of the Trinity took our human nature upon Himself – not by turning from God into man, but by bringing humanity up into Himself. By becoming man Jesus took upon Himself our frailties and weaknesses, our sinfulness and the wrath and displeasure of God against our sin, and He died on the cross for us. This is our comfort, for because of Christ, we are at peace with God. Our sins are forgiven, and through His blood we will enter eternal life. The doctrine of the Second Person of the Trinity also comforts us because it teaches us that when we suffer in this life, we don’t suffer alone. Our God suffers with us. He is with us in every affliction and trial, every distress and tribulation. And, rather than sit off in the heavens doing nothing about human pain and suffering, our God does something about it. He took on flesh to be one with us in our suffering, so that we can be one with Him in His life.


We also believe in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not just a power, energy, or force, but is fully God and Lord with the Father and the Son. One God in Three Persons. The Spirit should be fresh in our minds. Last week we celebrated the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles to preach in many different languages and to the ends of the earth. Before that, we spent half the Sundays in Easter in the chapters of John where Jesus speaks most clearly about the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. The Holy Spirit is spoken of in the Old Testament as being present at Creation, “hovering over the face of the waters,” and speaking through the prophets. King David said on his deathbed, “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; His word is on my tongue.” St. Peter says that all of the prophets spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And, what did the prophets prophesy about? Jesus.

That’s what the Holy Spirit’s job is, to point us to Christ and God our Father. The Holy Spirit is the one poured out on the Apostles’ to preach the Gospel and on every Christian through the preaching of the Word and in the Holy Sacraments. It’s His job to continually direct us to the Son of God who died for our salvation, and to help us by pointing us to the same. St. Paul wrote these familiar words to the Romans, “The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us…the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Today is the Feast of the Holy Trinity, an opportunity to confess and praise the name of our Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This mystery is the foundation of our faith and a great source of comfort. For, we do not have a God who is distant or uninvolved or uncaring. We have a God and Father who creates all things and provides for us in every need. We also have His only Son, our Lord, who has redeemed us from our sins and is with us in all trial. We also have God the Holy Spirit who speaks to us and points us to Jesus in the Word, and who comforts us through the Word and the Sacraments. So, as we sang, we have one God in three persons, the blessed Trinity. Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity: Let us give glory to Him because He has shown His mercy to us. Amen.