Pray then like this: “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 evil.
Given where we are in our catechism on the topic of prayer, I’m reminded of the way Martin Luther taught his people to pray. He knew he could do no better than point them to that place Jesus where taught his disciples to pray – the Lord’s Prayer. With our great need for prayer today, I thought it might be helpful to summarize some of what the great Reformer taught. Luther said:
Our Father in heaven. With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask of their dear father.
Hallowed by your name. God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also. God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!
Your kingdom come. The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also. It comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also. God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.
Give us this day our daily bread. 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. Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, 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.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 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.
And lead us not into temptation. 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.
But deliver us from evil. 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.
Amen. We say the amen that we might be certain that such prayers are acceptable to our Father in heaven and will be granted, for He Himself has commanded us to pray in this way and thus promises to answer us. Amen means “Yes, let it happen in this way.” Amen and Amen.
May God teach us to pray with such firm confidence and hope.