This week we begin with Question 41 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 3 (questions 36-52), which focuses on the Spirit, restoration, and growing in grace.
Question 41: What is the Lord's Prayer?
Answer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today 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.
All Christians should memorize the Lord's Prayer, also known as the model prayer, that Jesus taught his disciples in Matthew 6:9-13. It is a short, fairly simple prayer that is packed with instruction on how to focus our prayers on petitions that are pleasing to God. The prayer consists of six requests, the first three focused on God, and the last three focused on our own needs. We are to pray first with respect to God's name, kingdom, and will, before then asking God to meet our needs for provision, pardon, and protection. We will look more closely at these six requests in subsequent posts this week.
But for today, we will focus on the address: "Our Father in heaven." Jesus teaches us to call upon God as Father. This audacious claim is based on Jesus' own sonship, in which we come to share by adoption when we are united to Christ by faith. Because God is our Father, we have the assurance to call upon him with the knowledge that he loves us and desires to do good to us. Just as a good father is not annoyed when his children call out to him in a time of need but is rather eager to hear them, so can we pray with the confidence that we have God's eager attention to hear us.
But God is not only Father. He is also our Father "in heaven," which is a statement of his transcendent rule, power, and authority. When we call out to God, we call out to the supreme power above all powers. The phrase "in heaven" reminds us that we are praying to a sovereign God who is able to accomplish anything he purposes. Nothing will hinder his will.
So put both ideas together: The God who loves us and desires our good has all authority over creation as he reigns from heaven. In other words, God both wills good to us and is able to accomplish all that he wills. That means the good he has planned for us cannot fail, and we should pray with the confidence that comes from knowing that truth.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Spend this week meditating on Jesus' teaching on prayer from Matthew 6:5-15. What does Jesus teach us not to do in prayer, and why? What do we learn about how we should pray from this passage?