Catechism lesson 41: Prayer (LD 45, 46)

Prayer is the way in which we have fellowship with our Father in heaven, who will give us all that we need.

LD 45 q&a 116.

Why is prayer necessary for Christians?

Because prayer is the most important part
of the thankfulness
which God requires of us.

Moreover, God will give
his grace and the Holy Spirit
only to those who constantly
and with heartfelt longing
ask him for these gifts
and thank him for them.

LD 45 q&a 117.

What belongs to a prayer
which pleases God
and is heard by him?

First,
we must from the heart
call upon the one true God only,
who has revealed himself in his Word,
for all that he has commanded us to pray.

Second,
we must thoroughly know
our need and misery,
so that we may humble ourselves
before God.

Third,
we must rest on this firm foundation
that, although we do not deserve it,
God will certainly hear our prayer
for the sake of Christ our Lord,
as he promised us in his Word.

LD 45 q&a 118.

What has God commanded us
to ask of him?

All the things we need
for body and soul,
as included in the prayer
which Christ our Lord himself taught us.

LD 45 q&a 119.

What is the Lord’s prayer?

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom
and the power
and the glory, forever. Amen.

LD 46 q&a 120.

Why has Christ commanded us
to address God as our Father?

To awaken in us
at the very beginning of our prayer
that childlike reverence and trust
toward God
which should be basic to our prayer:

God has become our Father
through Christ
and will much less deny us
what we ask of him in faith
than our fathers would
refuse us earthly things.

LD 46 q&a 121.

Why is there added, “in heaven”?

These words teach us
not to think of God’s heavenly majesty
in an earthly manner,
and to expect from his almighty power
all things we need
for body and soul.

When we pray, we speak directly with our God. It is a personal, practical way to have fellowship with him. Jesus taught us to think of prayer as talking to Father. Good parents love it when their children talk to them, even if their stories and ideas are sometimes silly. In the same way, our “Father in heaven” loves to communicate with us.

Read Mat. 6:5-8. What are two ways in which we should not pray?

We don’t have to jump through hoops to pray. We don’t need special rituals to establish the connection. The door is wide open. This is especially true because of Jesus’ work; he is now in heaven and close to his Father, and if we belong to him we are equally close.

To whom do we pray?

The Bible speaks of God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. To whom do we pray?

What answer does Jesus give in Mat 6:9? John 14:14? How did Stephen pray in Acts 7:59? What does Paul say in Eph 6:18?

Sometimes we simply pray to “God”. This is not wrong; but as New Testament believers we know more about him. We know Jesus Christ as the Son who saves us; we know the Father who loves us as his own children; we know the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Because of that, I would encourage you to pray to the Triune God. As Jesus said, “When you pray, say: Father…”

It is not wrong to address the Lord Jesus directly, especially when you praise him for the things he has done. But in his whole ministry, including his teaching about prayer, Jesus always pointed people to God the Father. If we are mindful to address the Father, but pray in Jesus’ name and ask for his Spirit, it helps us to be more aware of how wonderful it is that God is Three-in-One.

Often, people pray to “God” or the “Father” and end their prayer with “in your name, amen.” What do you think of that?

In what ways do we pray?

There are different kinds of prayer. The Bible uses many different words, such as petition, supplication, thanksgiving, praise. It is helpful to think about the different ways in which you can pray (acronym: ACTS):

  • Adoration or praise. Tell the Father how great he is and praise him for what he has done, especially for sending Jesus Christ into the world.
  • Confession. Humble yourself by telling God that you need him, because you are weak and a sinner. You need his grace and mercy. It is not easy, but very important, to be real and concrete about your sin. “I did this and that, Father, and I am sorry.”
  • Thanksgiving. Thank the Lord for all that he has given you. Again, make it concrete. The Father gave you your life, health, home, work, energy, food. Jesus Christ gave himself and saved you by his death, and now he gives you the life of his resurrection. The Holy Spirit has given you faith and strength to live like a Christian.
  • Supplication. Ask the Father for all that you need, not only for your physical health but also for your spiritual well-being.

There is a very simple practical reason why “Supplication” comes last in this list. We often approach God with a long wish list, focused on the comforts of life rather than on our true needs. If we first spend time admiring the Lord himself and humbling ourselves, it will help us also to think of our needs in the right perspective.

Why pray?

When you pray, can you tell God anything that he does not already know? Can you change his mind? We confess that God is all-knowing and has a perfect plan for the universe; in that sense he does not need our prayers. Jesus said in Mat 6:8: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

But that same all-knowing, eternal God has a living relationship with us. He wants you to ask him; he enjoys giving. If we don’t ask him, we should not be surprised if we miss out. “You do not have because you do not ask God,” says James 4:2. The Lord does not need our prayers, but we certainly do!

The catechism says this very clearly. “God will give his grace and the Holy Spirit only to those who constantly and with heartfelt longing ask him for these gifts and thank him for them.” You cannot expect your faith to grow without praying. Not that prayer is a magical tool; but just like the proclamation of God’s Word and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, it is the way God has set out for blessing us.

Discussion

Homework

Younger students: Memorize q&a 116.

Older students: Memorize q&a 116 and 117.

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