III. The Lord's Prayer
Question 120. What is prayer?
Prayer means calling upon God whose Spirit is always present with us. In prayer we approach God with reverence, confidence and humility. Prayer involves both addressing God in praise, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication, and listening for God's word within our hearts. When we adore God, we are filled with wonder, love and praise before God's heavenly glory, not least when we find it hidden in the cross of Golgotha. When confessing our guilt to God, we ask for forgiveness with humble and sorry hearts, remembering that God is gracious as well as holy. When giving thanks to God, we acknowledge God's great goodness, rejoicing in God for all that is so wonderfully provided for us. Finally, when calling upon God to hear our requests, we affirm that God draws near in every need and sorrow of life, and ask God to do so again.
Ps. 48.1 "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised."
Ps. 96:8-9 "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth."
James 5:16 "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective."
1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Ps. 107:8 "Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind."
Ps. 75:1 "We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks; your name is near. People tell of your wondrous deeds."
Ps. 50:15 "Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."
Ps. 145:18 "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth."
Eph. 6:18 "Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints."
Question 121. What is the purpose of prayer?
Prayer brings us into communion with God. The more our lives are rooted in prayer, the more we sense how wonderful God is in grace, purity, majesty and love. Prayer means offering our lives completely to God, submitting ourselves to God's will, and waiting faithfully for God's grace. Through prayer God frees us from anxiety, equips us for service, and deepens our faith.
Ps. 62:8 "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us."
Ps. 139:1 "O Lord, you have searched me and known me."
Phil. 4:6 "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
Matt. 7:7-8 "Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."
Question 122. How does God respond to our prayers?
God takes all our prayers into account, weighing them with divine wisdom, and responding to them by a perfect will. Although for the time being God's answers may seem beyond our understanding, or sometimes even bitter, we know nonetheless that they are always determined by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God answers our prayers, particularly for temporal blessings, only in ways that are compatible with the larger purposes of God's glory and our salvation. Communion with God is finally the answer within the answers to all our prayers.
1 John 5:14 "This is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us."
James 1:17 "Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."
Matt. 6:33 "Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
Question 123. What encourages us to pray each day?
The God who has adopted us as children is the God who encourages and commands us to pray. When we pray, we respond with love to that greater love which meets us from above. Before we enter into prayer, God is ready to grant all that we need. We may turn to God with confidence each day, not because we are worthy, but simply because of God's grace. By praying we acknowledge that we depend on grace for all that is good, beautiful, life-giving and true.
Is. 65:24 "Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear."
Luke 11:12-13 "If the child asks for an egg, will he give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
Phil. 4:8 "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Eph. 3:20-21 "Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
Question 124. What prayer serves as our rule or pattern?
Our rule or pattern is found in the Lord's Prayer, which Jesus taught to his disciples:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.
These words express everything that we may desire and expect from God.
Question 125. What is the design of the Lord's Prayer?
The Lord's Prayer falls into two parts, preceded by an opening address, and concluded by a "doxology" or word of praise. Each part consists of three petitions. The first part concerns God's glory; the second part, our salvation. The first part involves our love for God; the second part, God's love for us. The petitions in part one will not be fulfilled perfectly until the life to come; those in part two relate more directly to our present needs here and now.
Question 126. What is meant by addressing God as "Our Father in heaven"?
By addressing God as "our Father," we draw near with childlike reverence, and place ourselves securely in God's hands. Although God is certainly everywhere, God is said to exist and dwell "in heaven." For while God is free to enter into the closest relationship with the creature, God does not belong to the order of created beings. "Heaven" is the seat of divine authority, the place from which God reigns in glory and brings salvation to earth. Our opening address expresses our confidence that we rest securely in God's intimate care, and that nothing on earth lies beyond the reach of God's grace.
Rom. 8:15 "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!'"
Jer. 23:23-24 "Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord."
Acts 17:24-25 "The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands."
Question 127. What is meant by the first petition, "Hallowed be your name"?
This petition is placed first, because it comprehends the goal and purpose of the whole prayer. The glory of God's name is the highest concern in all that we pray and do. God's "name" stands for God's being as well as for God's attributes and works. When we pray for this name to be "hallowed," we ask that we and all others will know and glorify God as God really is, and that all things will be so ordered that they serve God truly for God's sake.
Jer. 9:23-24 "Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord."
Rom. 11:36 "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen."
Ps. 115:1 "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness."
Question 128. What is meant by the second petition, "Your kingdom come"?
We are asking God to come and rule among us through faith, love and justice -- and not through any one of them without the others. We pray for both the church and the world, that God will rule in our hearts through faith, in our personal relationships through love, and in our institutional affairs through justice. We ask especially that the gospel will not be withheld from us, but rightly preached and received. We pray that the church will be upheld and increase, particularly when in distress; and that all the world will more and more submit to God's reign, until that day when crying and pain are no more, and we live forever with God in perfect peace.
Ps. 68:1 "Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee before him."
2 Thess. 3:1 "Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you."
Rev. 22:20 "The one who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"
Rom. 8:22-24 "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?"
1 Cor. 15:20,28 "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all."
Question 129. What is meant by the third petition, "Your will be done, on earth as in heaven"?
Of course, God's will is always done, and will surely come to pass, whether we desire it or not. But the phrase "on earth as in heaven" means that we ask for the grace to do God's will on earth in the way that it is done in heaven -- gladly and from the heart. We thus ask that all opposition to God's will might be removed from the earth, and especially from our own hearts. We ask for the freedom to conform our desires and deeds more fully to God's, so that we might be completely delivered from our sin. We yield ourselves, in life and in death, to God's will.
Ps. 119:34-36 "Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain."
Ps. 103:20,22 "Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word. Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul."
Luke 22:42 "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done."
Rom. 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Question 130. What is meant by the fourth petition, "Give us today our daily bread"?
We ask God to provide for all our needs, for we know that God, who cares for us in every area of our life, has promised us temporal as well as spiritual blessings. God commands us to pray each day for all that we need and no more, so that we will learn to rely completely on God. We pray that we will use what we are given wisely, remembering especially the poor and the needy. Along with every living creature we look to God, the source of all generosity, to bless us and nourish us, according to the divine good pleasure.
Prov. 30:8 "Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need."
Ps. 90:17 "Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands--O prosper the work of our hands!"
Ps. 55:22 "Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved."
Ps. 72:4 "May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor."
Ps. 104:27-28 "These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things."
Question 131. What is meant by the fifth petition, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us"?
We pray that a new and right spirit will be put within us. We ask for the grace to treat others, especially those who harm us, with the same mercy that we have received from God. We remember that not one day goes by when we do not need to turn humbly to God for our own forgiveness. We know that our reception of this forgiveness can be blocked by our unwillingness to forgive others. We ask that we will not delight in doing evil, nor in avenging any wrong, but that we will survive all cruelty without bitterness, and overcome evil with good, so that our hearts will be knit together with the mercy and forgiveness of God.
Matt. 18:33 "Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?"
Matt. 6:14-15 "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Ps. 51:10 "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me."
1 John 2:1-2 "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."
Question 132. What is meant by the final petition, "Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil"?
We ask God to protect us from our own worst impulses and from all external powers of destruction in the world. We ask that we might not yield to despair in the face of seemingly hopeless circumstances. We pray for the grace to remember and believe, despite our unbelief, that no matter how bleak the world may sometimes seem, there is nonetheless a depth of love which is deeper than our despair, and that this love -- which delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt and raised our Lord Jesus from the dead -- will finally swallow up forever all that would now seem to defeat it.
2 Cor. 4:8 "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair."
Eph. 3:19 "To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
Matt. 26:41 "Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Question 133. What is meant by the closing doxology, "For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever"?
We give God thanks and praise for the kingdom more powerful than all enemies, for the power perfected in the weakness of love, and for the glory that includes our well-being and that of the whole creation, both now and to all eternity. We give thanks and praise to God as made known through Christ our Lord.
Rev. 5:12 "Singing with full voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!'"
Rev. 4:11 "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."
1 Chron. 29:11,13 "Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name."
Question 134. What is meant by the word, "Amen"?
"Amen" means "so be it" or "let it be so." It expresses our complete confidence in the triune God, the God of the covenant with Israel as fulfilled through our Lord Jesus Christ, who makes no promise that will not be kept, and whose steadfast love and mercy endures forever.
Rev. 22:20 "The one who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"
2 Cor. 1:20 "For in him every one of God's promises is a 'Yes.' For this reason it is through him that we say the 'Amen,' to the glory of God."
2 Tim. 2:13 "If we are faithless, he remains faithful--for he cannot deny himself."