With these words, God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may with all boldness and confidence come to Him, talk with Him, and ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.
Once we have come to faith in Christ, we are no longer under the power of sin. However, because we still have a sinful nature, we must continually struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. That is why there is nothing more important than regular prayer. We should continually seek the ear of God; call upon Him in every need; and ask Him to give us faith, keep us in faith, and increase our faith. We should also ask Him to remove everything that hinders us, and let His Word reign in our hearts that His commandments might be fulfilled in us. While the Ten Commandments show us how God wants us to live; and the Apostles' Creed summarizes what we are to believe; the Lord's Prayer was given to teach us how to pray.
When teaching people to pray, we must exhort and urge them to pray,
as Christ and the apostles did. Remind them that it is our duty to pray,
because God has commanded it. For when God's Word says, " Thou shalt not
take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.", we are required to use God's
name in a godly way, and that includes giving God praise and thanks while
calling upon Him in every need. Therefore, do not let anyone think that
it is all the same whether he prays or not. Prayer is strictly and earnestly
commanded. Far too many people fall into the habit of never praying because
it is far too easy for our sin-blinded flesh to feel that neglect of prayer
is of little consequence. Many lack assurance that God will answer their
prayers, while others condemn hypocritical prayers or vain repetitions
in order to justify their own neglect of prayer. Those who fall into that
delusion rob themselves of all that God would give them if they would only
It is true that prayer which consists of nothing more than babbling and bawling, or vain repetition, is not really prayer. Recited prayers can be a useful exercise for young children, scholars, and the simple, but they are not what God requires. Devotions that are sung or read have their place, but they should be called singing or reading rather than praying. Praying, as God's Word teaches, is calling upon God in every need. God requires this of us. He has not left it to our choice. It is our duty and obligation to pray, as much as it is our duty to obey our parents and the government. For by calling upon God, the name of God is honored and profitably employed. You need to silence and repel all thoughts that would keep or deter you from prayer. Just as it would be rebellious for a son to say to his father, "Of what advantage is my obedience? I will go and do what I please; it is all the same", it is rebellious to ignore God's command to pray. It is not left to my will to do it or leave it undone. Prayer shall, and must, be offered at the risk of God's wrath and displeasure. For by commanding prayer, God makes it clear that He will not cast us away, even though we are sinners, but will draw us unto Himself so that we might humble ourselves in prayer, confess and bewail our shortcomings, and seek His grace and help. That is why the Bible tells us that He was angry with those who were smitten for their sin, yet did not return to Him assuage His wrath and seek His grace by their prayers.
We should also be motivated to pray by God's promise. He who cannot lie has given us His Word that it shall be done to us as we pray. In Psalm 50:15, He says, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee." Likewise, Christ says, "Ask, and it shall be given you. For every one that asks receives." (Matthew 7:7) Having such promises, it would be foolish for us to neglect prayer or act as if it was of little importance. Instead we ought to be moved and encouraged to pray regularly, while treating prayer as a privilege rather than a chore.
When you pray, rest your faith on these promises. Trust the Word of God, knowing that God's answer does not depend upon your own worthiness or merit, but on His promise. Having been washed in the blood of the Lamb, you can come to Him confidently and say, "Here I come, dear Father, and pray, not of my own purpose, nor upon my own worthiness, but at Thy command and promise which cannot fail or deceive me." Then trust His promise knowing that He wants only what is best for you, and will answer your request according to His wisdom. Those who do not believe this promise dishonor God, reproach Him with falsehood, and excite Him to anger.
Besides all this, we should be motivated to pray because there is no better prayer to be found upon earth than the Lord's Prayer, for God has Himself arranged the words and form of that prayer for us. Because we can be certain that it is in accord with the will of God and that He will hear it, we ought to pray it daily and never surrender it for all the riches of the world.
One reason the Lord's prayer was given to us was to help us see what we ought to pray for, and why we should pray without ceasing. For when we pray we must have a name to call upon and a request to make. if we do not, it cannot be called a prayer. That is why we reject the prayers of the monks and priests who moan and howl all day long without ever asking God for anything. They never bring their requests before God because they are not praying in obedience to God or with faith in His promise. Because they see prayer as a work, they pray hoping that their prayers will put God in their debt, or atone for their sins. They do not even think of asking God for anything, but only seek to give Him something.
True prayer flows from an earnest heart. When men feel their distress, and that distress presses and compels them to cry out to God, their prayer will be spontaneous as it ought to be. They will not require instruction on how to prepare for it and what to say. And those things that should concern us most, driving us to pray both for ourselves and others, are set forth in the Lord's Prayer. Therefore, let that prayer remind you of the same. Lay it to heart, and contemplate what it says.
When people are indifferent or cold to prayer, the devil's work is
being done. Therefore, so the people might learn to pray regularly, and
value prayer, every one of us should accustom himself, from his youth,
to pray daily. Whenever we are aware of anything affecting our interests
or those of others among whom we may live, we should talk to God about
it. We should pray for preachers, the government, neighbors, and workers,
while always holding fast to God's promise and knowing that He will not
break His word. Satan is well aware of what damage and harm it does to
him when prayer is in proper practice. Therefore, be aware of the fact
that our shelter and protection rests in prayer alone. We are far too feeble
to cope with the devil and all his power and adherents that set themselves
against us. Without God's help, they might easily crush us under their
feet. Our true strength is not in the weapons of this world, but in the
spiritual weapons that Christians must be armed with in order to stand
against the devil. Those spiritual weapons have accomplished great things
on our behalf. They have checked or brought to naught the counsels and
purposes of those Papists who want to murder us. The devil would have gladly
used the Papists to crush us, together with the Gospel. However, the prayers
of a few godly men intervened like a wall of iron on our side.* Without
those prayers the devil would have destroyed all Germany in its own blood,
but now our enemies are able to do nothing. They may slander us, deride
the gospel, and mock God's Word, however, through prayer, we shall be more
than a match for them, and for Satan, if we only continue diligently and
do not become slack. For whenever a godly Christian prays, "Dear Father
let Thy will be done,"; God speaks from on high and says, "Yes, dear child,
it shall be so, in spite of the devil and all of his allies in the world."
What I have just said should make it clear that we do not reject prayer just because we reject the useless babbling and vain repetitions that passed for prayer in the past. Everyone ought to esteem prayer as a great and precious privilege, but they need to make a distinction between true prayer and vain repetition. Christ rejects and prohibits useless babbling and long prayers done only for show. The following explanation of the Lord's Prayer presents it as seven successive articles, or petitions, dealing with those needs that never cease to be relevant to our lives, each so important that we ought to want to keep praying it all of our lives.
The traditional wording of this petition is somewhat obscure. Freely
translated, this petition is saying, "Heavenly Father, help that by all
means Thy name may be holy." It should be obvious that we are not asking
God to make His name holy for the first time, but rather that it would
be holy among us and in our use of it. God's name was given to us when
we became Christians, and we want to bring honor, not shame, to that name.
To that end, God has given us His Word, baptism and The Lord's Supper,
and through them incorporates us in Himself that we might be His children,
and all that is His is set aside for our use.
We should regard God's name highly, value it as a great treasure, and seek His help that we might do nothing to dishonor His name. We should be conscientious in wanting that name, which is already holy in heaven, to be and remain holy with us and throughout the world.
God's name is kept holy among us when both our doctrine and life are godly and Christian. In this prayer we call God our Father, therefore, it is our duty to conduct ourselves as His godly children, so that He may receive honor and praise, rather than shame, from us.
On the other hand, we profane the name of God when we speak and act contrary to His will. Those who, in the name of God, preach, teach, and speak what is false and misleading are using His name to promote falsehood. By so doing they greatly dishonor God. When men use God's name in connection with wickedness by swearing, cursing, conjuring, or the like, they also profane that name. Furthermore, when those who are called Christians, are, because of an openly wicked life, viewed by the world as envious men, drunkards, adulterers, slanderers, or misers, God's name is profaned. Just as perverse and rebellious children bring shame to their earthly father, so perverse and wicked "Christians" bring shame to God and to His name. The world is justified in regarding such people as the devil's children.
Understanding this, it should be clear that in this petition we pray that God's name may not be taken in vain. We are not to use God's name in connection with evil, but are to use it aright to the praise and honor of God. Those who use the name of God for any sort of wrong profane and desecrate His name. In the past, a church was considered desecrated when a murder or any other crime had been committed in it. For the same reason, God's name is desecrated when it is used in connection with evil. When our Bible says, "Hallowed be Thy name", it is saying, "May Thy name be praised, magnified, and honored in both word and deed."
Such prayer is of great importance because the world is full of sects and false teachers who all wear the holy name as a cover and sham for their doctrines of devils. For when we pray, "Hallowed be Thy name", we are crying out to God against those who embrace and teach falsehood and everything that opposes and persecutes our Gospel and pure doctrine, and would suppress it, such as bishops, tyrants, and those who claim new revelations. Our prayers should also be directed against those in our midst who have the Word of God, but do not appreciate it or live according to it. Therefore, we ought to pray without ceasing, knowing that when our prayers are opposed to evil God is pleased with them, for He wants His name to be hallowed and the truth of the Gospel to be proclaimed, embraced, and treasured.
The kingdom of God comes without our prayer, but we pray in this
petition that it may come to us also. This is done when our heavenly Father
gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His Holy Word
and lead a godly life here in time and hereafter in eternity. Therefore,
we are asking that we may be numbered with those among whom His name is
hallowed and His kingdom prospers, and that we might be kept by the power
of God, through faith, unto eternal life.
For the kingdom of God is the kingdom of the righteous which consists of all who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and justified through faith in His sacrifice. To establish that kingdom, God sent His Son Jesus Christ, into the world to redeem us and deliver us from the power of the devil. Through the work of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the Word, Christ brings us to Himself and reigns over us as a King of righteousness who gives us life and salvation while delivering us from sin, death, and the condemnation of the law.
Therefore, we pray in this petition that having come to faith in Christ we might abide and grow in faith, lead a life that is consistent with faith, and see others come to faith. We pray that the Holy Spirit might proceed with power throughout the world and bring many to faith in Christ, so that we may all remain forever in the one kingdom now begun. For it is only as the Holy Ghost brings men to faith in Christ that they are made partakers of His redemption and find entrance into His kingdom of Grace.
God's Kingdom comes to us in two ways. First, here in time through the Word and faith, and, secondly, in eternity forever through revelation. We pray for both these things; that God's kingdom may come to those who are not yet in it, and that we who have received it might daily be strengthened and increase in faith unto eternal life. In other words, we are asking God to give us His Word so that the Gospel might be preached throughout the world, be received in faith, and work and live in us. To the end, that through the Word and the power of the Holy Ghost, God's kingdom may prevail among us, and the kingdom of the devil be put down. That Satan may have no power over us, that his kingdom will be destroyed, that sin, death, and hell shall be cast into the lake of fire, and that we may live forever in perfect righteousness and blessedness.
Understanding this, it should be clear that we are not asking for a crust of bread or a temporal, perishable good, but rather for an eternal, inestimable treasure and everything that God Himself possesses. Such a request is far too great for any human heart to even think of desiring if God had not commanded us to pray for it. However, because He is God, He also claims the honor of giving much more, and more abundantly, than any one can comprehend. Every blessing flows forth from God as from an eternal, unfailing fountain, which, the more it pours forth and overflows, the more it continues to give. And He desires nothing more earnestly of us than that we pray for His kingdom to come and ask great and wonderful things of Him. However, let us ask in faith, for His anger is directed at those who doubt His Word and have no confidence in His promises.
If a wealthy and powerful emperor would tell a poor beggar to ask for anything he desires, and the fool would ask only for a bowl of gruel, he would be insulting his emperor. He would be showing contempt for all that his emperor was willing to give him and would be treating the emperor's command as a joke. Likewise it is an insult to God if we, to whom God offers so many treasures, have no confidence in His promise or no interest in what He offers, and scarcely venture to ask for a piece of bread.
The present neglect of true prayer is the result of unbelief. Men do not even look to God for their daily bread, much less for the eternal treasures of Heaven. Such unbelief must be overcome. So let our first prayer be for faith. Walk in the assurance that God hears your prayer, not because you are worthy, but because your sins have been washed away. Only as you trust in Christ's righteousness can you expect to find the abundance that God offers. As it is written, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33) How could God allow us to suffer distress and be destitute when He promises that which is eternal and imperishable? (James 1:3-4)
The will of God is done without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also. This is accomplished when God strengthens us, preserves us, and keeps us steadfast in faith, while bringing to naught every evil influence of the world, the flesh, and the devil that would keep us from hallowing His name and from His kingdom. This is His gracious and good will.
The first two petitions include everything that has to do with the
honor of God and our salvation. In this petition, we ask God to keep us
in faith and not allow us to fall from grace. Having been brought to faith
by the power of the gospel, the Holy Ghost resides in our heart that Christ
might reign over us in love. Yet we know that it is Satan's will
to destroy us, therefore, we pray for God' s will to be done. Just as a
nation must not only have those who can govern the nation well, but also
those who can defend the nation against its enemies, so we who have been
brought into the kingdom of God here appeal to God's grace to protect us
from those who would destroy us. In this petition, we commit our soul to
His care, knowing that Satan will do all he can to keep us from hallowing
God's name and from abiding in God's kingdom.
You need to realize that the devil is continually at work, earnestly and desperately trying to confuse, distort, and replace the Gospel. Satan is behind every false ideology that sweeps the world and every evil political leader. Nothing hurts him more than seeing the false religion, lies, and abominations that he has convinced generations to accept as the word and will of God exposed, disgraced, and driven out of peoples' hearts. Therefore, he rages as our fierce enemy, sets the hearts of his subjects against us, and enlists the world and our own flesh as his allies. For even though we have accepted the Gospel and trust in the Word of God, our flesh is spiritually indolent and inclined to evil. The world, however, is perverse and wicked; this he incites against us, fanning and stirring the fires of opposition, that he may hinder us, drive us back, cause us to fall, and again bring us under his power. That is his will and that is what he strives for night and day. He never rests a moment, while employing every skill and deceitful trick that he can invent to our destruction.
As Christians, we can count upon having the world, along with the devil and all his angels, as our enemies. Do not expect them to show you any mercy. Without God's help they will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon you. For wherever the Word of God is preached, accepted, believed, and produces fruit; persecution will not be far away. Therefore, do not expect to have peace, and do not set your heart on the things of this world. On the contrary, because of your faith in Christ you might lose your possessions, your honor, your house, your lands, your wife, your children, and your own life. Our flesh recoils at the possibility of such loss. However, the test is to be steadfast and to suffer with patience in whatever way we are assailed and to let go whatever is taken from us.
That is why we need to continually pray, "Dear Father, Thy will be done, not the will of the devil and of our enemies, nor of anything that would persecute and suppress Thy Holy Word or hinder Thy kingdom; and grant that we may bear with patience and overcome whatever is to be endured on that account, lest our poor flesh yield or fall away from weakness or sluggishness."
Thus, the first three petitions deal with those needs that relate
to God, yet are important to us personally. For God's name must be hallowed,
His kingdom will come, and His will shall be done in spite of the devil
and all opposition. Yet these things are important to us personally because
they relate to our salvation. Therefore, we pray for God's sustaining grace
so that, in spite of Satan's opposition, we remain firm against all violence
and persecution, and submit confidently to will of God.
Such prayer, then, is our protection and defense. Through prayer we repel and put down all that the devil, Pope, bishops, tyrants, and heretics can do against our Gospel. They may rage, scheme, plot, and devise ways to exterminate us, but one or two Christians with this petition alone shall be a wall of protection.* Those who run against that wall may dash themselves to pieces, but they will not prevail. This is our comfort, and the source of our confidence. We know that the will and purpose of the devil, along with all of our enemies, must fail; no matter how proud, secure, and powerful they seem to be. For if their will prevailed, the kingdom of God could not abide on earth nor His name be hallowed.
God gives daily bread even without our prayer. He makes the rain
to fall on both the just and the unjust, but we pray in this petition that
He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
Our daily bread consists of all that is needed in this life. That would
include food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, field, cattle, money,
goods, a godly spouse and children, honest employees, pious and faithful
rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor,
good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
When you pray for daily bread, you pray for everything that is necessary in order to have and enjoy daily bread. On the other hand, you pray against anything that would keep you from having and enjoying your daily bread. Therefore you must extend your thoughts beyond the flour-bin to the distant field and the entire land. For if God did not cause the grain to grow and bless and preserve it in the field; you could never bake bread in your oven or have it upon your table.
For that reason, this petition includes everything that has to do with our life in this world. The only reason we need bread is to sustain our life, and for our life we need more than food alone but also quiet and peaceful days among those with whom we live, and have dealings both in the home and in the community. For where we are denied a peaceful existence, our access to the necessities of life are also impeded, and, ultimately, life cannot be maintained. For that reason it is important to pray for temporal authority and government. For a nation can only prosper when crime is held in check, when the people are free to engage in honest business, and when those who work can enjoy the fruits of their labor. Without the peace, law, and order that comes with good government we would not be able to be enjoy any of God's blessings. Nor could we be secure and happy, for where there is dissension, strife, and war, the daily bread is taken away, or at least limited.
Because good government is so important to our well-being, it would be fitting if a loaf of bread were placed on every coin and national seal as a reminder of the fact that good government provides the peace and safety necessary for us to earn our bread. Wise and godly rulers are worthy of honor, and earn their salaries, for without freedom secured by law and order we would not be able to enjoy anything we have or even keep a dime of it. Therefore, we pray for them so that through them God might make it possible for us to enjoy even greater blessing.
In order to show how far reaching this petition is, let me enumerate the many things covered by the words, "daily bread". Understand that a long prayer could be made for each one of these things which would go into detail about what they include. In this petition we ask God to give us food and drink, clothing, house and home, and health of body. We also ask that He cause the grain and fruits of the field to grow and mature well, that He help us to maintain our house, and that He give and preserve to us a godly wife, children, and employees. Furthermore we ask that He cause our work, trade, or whatever we are engaged in to prosper and succeed, and that He favor us with faithful neighbors and good friends, and so forth. Likewise, we ask that He give to the rulers of our country wisdom, strength, and success that they may govern well, and vanquish Moslems, Communists, and all other enemies. We pray that all citizens might live together in peace and harmony, and that He would preserve us from all sorts of calamity to body and livelihood, such as lightning, hail, fire, flood, poison, pestilence, cattle-plague, war, bloodshed, famine, destructive beasts, wicked men, and so forth. May these words impress upon you the fact that all of these things come from God and must be prayed for by us.
Let us not overlook the fact that this petition is also directed against our chief enemy -- the devil -- because he wants nothing more than to deprive us of or spoil all that we have from God. He is not satisfied just to lead souls to hell by using lies and false religious leaders to bring them under his power, but he also undermines the stability of government, destroys peace, and corrupts honorable relationships. He is at the root of contention, murder, sedition, and war as well as the lightning and hail that destroys grain and cattle, the selfishness that poisons the air, plague, and so forth. In short, he is sorry that any one has a morsel of bread from God and eats it in peace. If he had his way, we would not have a single plant in our garden or a dime in our house, nor would we even be alive. This is especially true of those who have the Word of God and want to be Christians
Through this petition God reveals His care for us, and the fact that He provides for our needs. While He also provides for the wicked and ungrateful, He wants us to acknowledge our dependence upon Him by coming to Him for help and asking Him for those things we need, so that when we receive them we might recognize the fact that they have come from Him. Through such prayer we come to know His goodness and learn to trust in Him. For when He withdraws His hand nothing can prosper nor be maintained, as experience clearly shows. Much of the suffering in the world comes from dishonesty and theft. The greedy have no desire for honest competition, especially when competition cuts into their profits. They pay low wages while asking high prices, and then wonder why their wares do not sell. The entire economy suffers at the hands of such people, therefore, let them beware lest this petition of the Lord's Prayer be against them.
In this petition we pray that our Father in heaven would not look
upon our sins, nor on their account deny our prayer. For we are not worthy
of any of the things we request, nor do we deserve anything from God. Therefore,
we ask His forgiveness that our requests might be granted by His grace,
for without forgiveness we deserve nothing but punishment. And we show
our confidence in His mercy by our willingness to forgive and do good to
those who sin against us.
This request relates to our wretched condition and the fact that, even with the Word of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, we are not without sin. Even though we submit to the will of God, we daily stumble and transgress because we live in a sinful world, among men who do us harm and give us cause for impatience, anger, revenge, and so forth. We also have Satan looking for any opportunity he can find to snare us or deny us God's blessing. Against such persistent opposition it is not always possible to stand firm.
Therefore, we have a great need to call upon God and to pray, "Dear Father, forgive us our trespasses." Not as though He did not forgive sin without and even before our prayer, for He has given us the Gospel and will not impute sin to our account as long as we walk by faith. But we are to pray for forgiveness that we may recognize and accept such forgiveness. For our sinful flesh does not by nature trust God or believe His Word, and it is ever active in evil lusts and excuses for evil behavior. As a result, we continually fall short of the mark, and sin daily in word and deed, both by commission and omission. Such sin disturbs our conscience and robs us of the comfort that comes from the gospel. Therefore, we run to God in prayer, acknowledge our need for His mercy, and receive from Him comfort and the clean conscience that comes with assurance of forgiveness.
This petition also serves to break our pride and keep us humble. Anyone who is prone to boast of his own goodness and despise others should place this petition before his eyes and learn from it that he is no better than others. In the presence of God all must humble themselves and be glad that they can receive forgiveness. And as long as we are in the world, let no one think that he can reach a point where he will not need forgiveness. In short, if God does not forgive without ceasing, we are lost.
Thus the intent of this petition is that God would deal with us graciously and forgive us as He has promised, while granting to us, through forgiveness, a joyful conscience and the confidence to come boldly before Him in prayer. For when the heart is not right, and we do not have a right relationship with God, we cannot stand before Him with confidence, or even venture to pray -- but a confident and joyful heart springs from the sure and certain knowledge of forgiveness in Christ.
However, this petition contains a necessary addition wherein God assures us that He will forgive as we forgive. Just as we daily sin much against God, and yet He forgives everything through grace, we too must forgive our neighbor for Christ's sake. If you are not willing to forgive then do not expect God to forgive you. But if you forgive, you have God's assurance that you are forgiven, not because of your forgiving, but freely for Christ's sake. For God forgives us freely without any conditions being attached, and your willingness to forgive is an expression of your faith in Christ and your trust in His forgiveness. God attaches a promise of forgiveness to that expression of faith as an extra assurance of His mercy. As it is written, "Forgive, and you shall be forgiven," "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." (Luke 6:37, Matthew 6:14)
Just as God in one place attaches His forgiveness to baptism, here He attaches His forgiveness to our forgiveness. This is not because our act brings forgiveness, but rather because our act is an expression of our faith. It is by that faith, not by what we do, that we have access to God's grace. Therefore, when you pray do not imagine that you can make any satisfaction for your own sins, or even think that your works are worthy of anything other than damnation. Instead look to Christ for mercy and, as you forgive others for His sake, be confident that He forgives you for He has said that He does.
God does not tempt anyone, but we pray in this petition that He would
keep us from temptation. For the devil, the world, and our flesh continually
seek to deceive us, lead us away from the faith, and bring us to shame,
vice, and despair. Therefore, we ask God to guard us that we may overcome
and obtain victory, even though we are assailed on every hand.
Even though we have been delivered form the power of sin, we are constantly assailed by the difficulties of the world and the snares that Satan places in our way. Without God's help we could never prevail. Therefore, we appeal to God for help, and commit the well-being of our soul to His care while relying on His wisdom and strength to guide us, sustain us, and keep us -- through faith -- unto eternal life.
The three major sources of temptation are: the world, the flesh, and the devil. The flesh is a constant enticement to sin, for the old Adam daily entices us with the lure of sexual desire, laziness, gluttony, drunkenness, greed, and deception. The inclination to such sins cleaves to us and is rooted in the corruption of our nature. Our society, and the example of those we see and hear, further incites us to evil often wounding and inflaming those who sincerely desire to do the right thing.
Next comes the world which offends us in word and deed, and impels us to anger and impatience. The world chases madly after wealth, fame, and power. People go to great lengths to impress others by flaunting their finery and denying their faults. No one is willing to be the least, but every one desires to sit at the head and to be seen before all. Such self-seeking produces hatred, envy, enmity, violence, cheating, unfaithfulness, vengeance, cursing, teasing, ridicule, slander, pride, and haughtiness.
Then comes the devil inciting hatred, provoking trouble, agitating
controversy over the words of Scripture, stirring up suspicion and distrust
of faithful pastors, and leading people astray in matters of conscience.
His aim, as always, is to tear us away from faith and lead us to despise,
ignore, and neglect the Word of God. To that end he raises up false prophets
and cult organizations that harden people against the truth, while leading
them into false security, despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and innumerable
other shocking things. These are indeed snares and nets, yea, real fiery
darts that are shot most venomously into the heart, not by flesh and blood,
but by the devil.
These are the temptations that every Christian must bear, and we all bear them even when we are alone. Every hour we are in this vile life we are attacked on all sides, chased, lured, and hunted down by the forces of evil. That fact should move us to cry out to God, asking Him to help us and strengthen us lest we become weary and relapse into sin. For without His help it is impossible to overcome even the least temptation.
Thus, when we pray, "Lead us not into temptation", we are asking God to give us the strength and power to resist temptation, while helping us to avoid and escape from situations where temptation is especially intense. We are not praying for the temptation to be taken away entirely, for while we live in the flesh and have the devil about us no one can escape temptation and allurements. Until our life in this world ends, our flesh will itself be a source of temptation. Therefore, we must endure trials, but we pray that we may not fall and be overwhelmed by them.
Feeling temptation is a far different thing from consenting or yielding to it. We all feel it, but not always in the same manner. Some are tempted to a greater degree and more severely than others. The young suffer especially from the flesh. Those who have attained to middle or old age are tempted most strongly by the world. While those who are occupied with spiritual matters must deal with the devil and his deception. However, as long as the temptation is against our will, and we would rather be rid of it, it will not harm us. But when we consent to it, give it the reins, and do not resist or pray against it we are in league with the devil.
Therefore, let us be armed with the Word of God, and daily expect to be attacked. Let no one fall into a false sense of security, as though the devil were far from us, but at all times expect and parry his blows. For though you are for the moment chaste, patient, kind, and in firm faith; the devil may assault you this very hour. He is an enemy that never becomes tired or gives up, so when one temptation ceases others always arise.
When temptation does arise, remember the words of the Lord's Prayer and quickly turn to God, asking Him to strengthen you, forgive you wrong thoughts, and deliver you from temptation. Look to God for victory! Resist the devil thus, and he will flee from you. But if you try to help yourself by your own thoughts and counsel, you will only make the matter worse and give the devil more space. For, like a serpent, Satan will enter wherever he finds an opening, but prayer can stop him and drive him back.
In this petition we call upon our heavenly Father to deliver us from every evil of body and soul, and finally, when our last hour has come, grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven.
In the Greek text this petition reads, "Deliver us from the Evil
One." Therefore, it looks as if Christ here sums up the entire substance
of our prayer as deliverance from Satan and all the evil that he has produced.
For Satan, our chief enemy, hinders everything that we pray for. He does
not want us to honor God, nor does he want God's kingdom to come or God's
will to be done, and he would gladly deny us both our daily bread and a
Since the devil is not only a liar, but also a murderer, he constantly seeks our life, and, whenever he can, brings us pain and misfortune -- driving some insane while inciting others to suicide. Therefore, we call upon God for deliverance from all that would happen to us if the devil had his way; such as poverty, shame, death, and all the agonizing misery and heartache which is so plentiful in this world. We cannot stand against the devil so we look to God in prayer, knowing that without God's help we would not be safe from him even for an hour.
Understanding this, it should be clear that God wants us to trust in Him, look to Him for help, and pray to Him for all the things that affect our bodily interests. However, He has put this request last because if we are to be preserved and delivered from all evil, the name of God must first be hallowed in us, His kingdom must be with us, and His will be done. After that, He will preserve us from sin and shame, as well as from everything that may hurt or injure us.
Having been reminded of all the misfortune that could be our lot we have no excuse for not praying. But, when we pray we must believe that God has heard us and will answer our request. The word "Amen", which means "yes" or "it shall be so", is intended to be an expression of such faith. However, the confidence that God has heard our prayer does not come from self-delusion, but from the sure knowledge that our sins have been washed away. Since we are trusting in Christ's righteousness; we can be confident that God cares for us, wants only the best for us, and hears our prayer as a loving father hears the request of a dear child. We know that all prayer that is in accord with the Lord's Prayer also is in accord with the will of God. Therefore, we know that God, who does not lie, will grant our request according to His wisdom, love, and grace. Where such faith does not exist, true prayer cannot exist either.
Those who attire themselves in a false humility by denying that anyone can know that his prayer has been heard are under a delusion. Because they trust in their own righteousness and have no confidence in God's promise, they lack faith. Then, instead of asking God for faith, they proclaim their lack of faith as a virtue. By so doing, they show only contempt for God, imply that He is a liar, and, therefore, receive nothing. As it is written, "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering; for he that wavers is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord." (James 1:6) If you lack faith, talk to God about it, and ask Him to strengthen your faith, lest you pray in vain and, as a result, come to despise prayer.
We should be certain that these petitions are acceptable to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him, for He has instructed us to make these requests, and has promised to hear us. Amen, (that is, Yea, yea, it shall be so).
[The above is based upon, and closely follows, Martin Luther's explanation of the Lord's Prayer.]
*Martin Luther here explains why he prevailed while others were being burned at the stake. By yielding inasmuch as freedom in Christ would allow, he did not get bogged down in side issues, but kept the gospel in the forefront of the controversy. As long as those who opposed him were attacking the gospel he had access, through prayer, to the power of God, and by the power of God was able to stand firm.
"When Luther undertook the Reformation of the Church and his eyes were opened to the fact that in Christ alone, but in Him completely, every believer has the forgiveness of his sins, it became his all-consuming object in life to exalt the atoning Savior, to preach the crucified, sin-destroying Christ, the risen, life- bestowing Redeemer; and because he humbly dedicated his marvelous mentality and tireless energies to teach Christ, preach Christ, exalt Christ, write Christ, sing Christ, love Christ, live Christ, always as God's Son and the world's Savior, there was not enough power on earth or in hell, among men and devils, to restrain his work. Nor can the churches today ever hope to be used of the Spirit in saving men's souls unless they, too, concentrate their efforts on Jesus." (Walter A. Maier 1943)