Christ Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

The Lord's Prayer

“We are all beggars, this is true…”

Those words were crumpled on a piece of paper in Luther’s hand as he died.  This becomes the starting point and realization of all prayer and for the 3rd chief part of the Catechism: prayer must come from beggars.  Want to have a better prayer life?  Learn to first be a beggar who needs everything.

Which means, by nature as fallen creatures, we do not like prayer.  A need to pray is a need to realize that we are powerless, that we are deficient, that we have lack.  We are Americans, we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, supply our own need, solve our own problems!  It is why many mock and laugh when Christians offer prayers after various shootings and acts of violence.  “Why don’t you do something?”  Prayer is realizing that we can’t, and that there is no answer to our current dilemma.  So we turn to one who can supply what we can’t do for ourselves.

The tricky thing is that we do not know what we lack.  We certainly have lack, but our sinfulness hides the reality from our eyes.

This is why the disciples come to Jesus and ask him, “Teach us to pray.”  Prayer must be taught.  Prayer is not offering up wishes to some genie.  Prayer is not coming up with great amount of words.  Prayer is being taught the words to say and to say them back.  Which is why I love old prayer books, you learn best by watching and reading others pray Scripture.

But that makes prayer seem pointless.  If prayer is just repeating words that God has said back at him, what is the point?  But that is exactly the point, this is how we learn to pray.  The Psalter, the 150 prayers in the book of Psalms is a great way to learn how to pray.  I once read that the Lord’s prayer is but the summary of the book of Psalms, and I find myself agreeing.  So lets go through the Lord’s Prayer.

We begin by calling God, “Our Father.”  Luther picks up the language of the beggar again, “as dear children ask their dear Father.”  Children have lack that they know their parents can fill.   Same with us, we come before God as children, giving thanks that the Spirit groans within us praying for us.

And we pray for God’s name to be holy.  Seems like an odd thing to pray for but understand that God’s name is holy without our prayer.  Rather we ask that God’s name be holy among us.  How is it holy?  Through our words and actions.  Think back to the 10 commandments here.
Then we ask for God’s kingdom come.  It is certainly coming, his kingdom doesn’t need our prayer to come, but we pray, as beggars, that we may receive his reign of forgiveness and love.  This happens already in worship, thanks be to God!

Thy will be done.  This makes the inverse true:  May my will not be done.  Make my will want what you will.  As things are in heaven, so make them on earth.  Here you ask for God to crush your rebellion and make God have the final say.  God, be in charge, subjugate me, make me submit to you.  Help me be powerless.  Those four little words are quite the prayer.  Take them seriously.

Then we ask that he provide us with daily bread.  Just enough to get through today.  This has profound implications that I cannot get into here.  This means that we will not take it into our hands to steal from others to provide our own needs, but whatever comes our way is to be received in thankfulness because it is given to all people, good and bad, without our merit.  We don’t deserve daily bread, and here we trust him to provide for all our days.

Forgive us as we forgive others.  What a prayer for patience, endurance, and suffering.  Because God no longer demands satisfaction from your failures (thanks to Jesus!) you can now let your no good neighbor off the hook for his crimes, even if it means you will be hurt by him again.

 Our culture would scream insanity and individual suicide.  The Christian calls it love and grace.
And finally.  Keep us from temptation and deliver from evil.  Beggar language again.  You can’t keep yourself from temptation or evil.  You can only pray to God that he will.

All prayer is a prayer for God to make us holy.  And he does indeed through the promises of his son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen!

  • Pastor Andrew