Journey through the Small Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer

As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.[1]

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luther’s intention was for the catechism to be taught in the home as well as at the church. Your family is the first “church” you experience and your parents are your first teachers. This for many can seem like a daunting task, after all, don’t you need some extra education to teach this stuff? How do I know the meaning of what the Lord’s Prayer is? Luther was a father himself as well as pastor and theologian. The catechism is his tool for households to learn the faith together, and to grow together spiritually. We begin with prayer because prayer is simply talking and listening to God. We use what we call the Lord’s Prayer because when Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray, this is what He taught them. (As a side note, the ending of the prayer or doxology was a later edition ‘For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.’) This prayer gives us words to speak to God and also words to pay attention to because they serve to teach us and lead us as well.

Over the next several blog posts we will walk alongside Luther as he breaks down each petition of the prayer and delves into some deeper meaning. Today we begin with the introduction. You will notice that Luther loves the question ‘What does this mean?’ Following Luther’s explanation, I will add in my own commentary and question, ‘What now?’

The Introduction

Our Father who art in heaven.

What does this mean? With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that will all boldness and confidence we may Ask him as dear children ask their dear father. [2]

What now? My first reaction to Luther’s teaching on this is “what an invitational God we have.” We are tenderly invited to believe. It is not forced or coerced. I also remember that because Jesus has come, the Kingdom of Heaven has also come near, so we do not near to fear that God in heaven is some place unreachable. When God invites, he also is ready to come near.

The invitation that God extends to us comes in the way that we need it and are able to hear it. This invitation echoes Matthew 11:28–30.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”[3]

God knows the burdens we bear and desires to give us the peace we seek, as Jesus tells us before he teaches the Lord’s Prayer, “…for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him.”[4]

This language of Father is difficult for some, especially if we do not have a good father to compare God with. It makes everything seem less invitational. In this prayer we are invited to see God as a true father, one who provides, protects, loves, comforts, strengthens, corrects, and who is a constant presence in our lives. We are asked into this relationship for our benefit, so that we may be bold and confident. That is what a good Father does, he allows and desires for his children to be bold and confident. It is this boldness and confidence that in turn strengthens our trust in God and what he will provide for us.

When we teach this at home a great way is by modeling. What can we do each day to model love, strength, and correction that emboldens and gives confidence to those around us? How do we invited people to see God as this Father that Luther describes?

[1] Luther, Martin. “The Lord’s Prayer.” Luther’s Small Catechism, with Explanation. St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1991. 16–17. Print.

[2] Ibid.

[3] BibleGateway. The Zondervan Corporation, L.L.C., n.d. Web. 29 Aug. 2016. <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+8&version=NLT>.

[4] Ibid.