THE LORD’S PRAYER
Note: As Christians, prayer is a constant in our life, for we are always in need of God’s mercy. Christ gave us the Lord’s Prayer so that we will both know how to pray and for what to pray. Prayer is a habit for the Christian, but experience teaches that it is a habit easily broken. While mindless and unthinking repetition presents a problem, repeating the same prayer throughout one’s life does not. In his Small Catechism, Luther advises the use of set forms and patterns of prayer and recommends devoting times throughout each day to pray the Lord’s Prayer. Because the prayer Jesus taught us is God’s Word, we know He loves to hear it. True prayer is never offered to earn or merit God’s favor, but rather flows from a heart that is justified through faith. Luther urges the development of good prayer habits that begin in childhood. Prayer is the Christian’s weapon against the devil’s many temptations.
1 We have now heard what we must do and believe, in what things the best and happiest life consists. Now follows the third part, how we ought to pray. 2 For we are in a situation where no person can perfectly keep the Ten Commandments, even though he has begun to believe. The devil with all his power, together with the world and our own flesh, resists our efforts. Therefore, nothing is more necessary than that we should continually turn towards God’s ear, call upon Him, and pray to Him. We must pray that He would give, preserve, and increase faith in us and the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments [2 Thessalonians 1:3]. We pray that He would remove everything that is in our way and that opposes us in these matters. 3 So that we might know what and how to pray, our Lord Christ has Himself taught us both the way and the words [Luke 11:1–4], as we shall see.
4 But before we explain the Lord’s Prayer part by part, it is most necessary first to encourage and stir people to prayer, as Christ and the apostles also have done [Matthew 6:5–15]. 5 And the first thing to know is that it is our duty to pray because of God’s commandment. For that’s what we heard in the Second Commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” [Exodus 20:7]. We are required to praise that holy name and call upon it in every need, or to pray. To call upon God’s name is nothing other than to pray [e.g., 1 Kings 18:24]. 6 Prayer is just as strictly and seriously commanded as all other commandments: to have no other God, not to kill, not to steal, and so on. Let no one think that it makes no difference whether he prays or not. Common people think this, who grope in such delusion and ask, “Why should I pray? Who knows whether God heeds or will hear my prayer? If I do not pray, someone else will.” And so they fall into the habit of never praying. They build a false argument, as though we taught that there is no duty or need for prayer, because we reject false and hypocritical prayers [Matthew 6:5].
7 But it is certainly true that the prayers that have been offered up till now, when men were babbling and bawling in the churches [Matthew 6:7], were not prayers. Such outward matters of prayer, when they are properly done, may be a good exercise for young children, scholars, and simple persons. They may be called singing or reading, but not really praying. 8 But praying, as the Second Commandment teaches, is to call upon God in every need. He requires this of us and has not left it to our choice. But it is our duty and obligation to pray, if we would be Christians, just as it is our duty and obligation to obey our parents and the government. For by calling upon God’s name and praying, His name is honored and used well. This you must note above all things, so that you may silence and reject thoughts that would keep and deter us from prayer. 9 It would be useless for a son to say to his father, “What good does my obedience do me? I will go and do what I can. It makes no difference.” But there stands the commandment, “You shall and must obey.” So here prayer is not left to my will to do it or leave it undone, but it shall and must be offered at the risk of God’s wrath and displeasure.
10 ‹This point is to be understood and noted before everything else. Then by this point we may silence and cast away the thoughts that would keep and deter us from praying, as though it does not matter if we do not pray, or as though prayer was commanded for those who are holier and in better favor with God than we are. Indeed, the human heart is by nature so hopeless that it always flees from God and imagines that He does not wish or desire our prayer, because we are sinners and have earned nothing but wrath [Romans 4:15]. 11 Against such thoughts (I say), we should remember this commandment and turn to God, so that we may not stir up His anger more by such disobedience. For by this commandment God lets us plainly understand that He will not cast us away from Him or chase us away [Romans 11:1]. This is true even though we are sinners. But instead He draws us to Himself [John 6:44], so that we might humble ourselves before Him [1 Peter 5:6], bewail this misery and plight of ours, and pray for grace and help [Psalm 69:13]. Therefore, we read in the Scriptures that He is also angry with those who were punished for their sin, because they did not return to Him and by their prayers turn away His wrath and seek His grace [Isaiah 55:7]›.
12 Now, from the fact that prayer is so solemnly commanded, you are to conclude and think that no one should in any way despise his prayer. Instead, he should count on prayer. 13 He should always turn to an illustration from the other commandments. A child should in no way despise his obedience to father and mother, but should always think, “This work is a work of obedience. What I do I do for no other reason than that I may walk in the obedience and commandment of God. On this obedience I can settle and stand firm, and I can value it as a great thing, not because of my worthiness, but because of the commandment.” So here also, we should think about the words we pray and the things we pray for as things demanded by God and done in obedience to Him. We should think, “On my account this prayer would amount to nothing. But it shall succeed, because God has commanded it.” Therefore, everybody—no matter what he has to say in prayer—should always come before God in obedience to this commandment.
14 We pray, therefore, and encourage everyone most diligently to take this counsel to heart and by no means to despise our prayer. For up to now it has been taught in the devil’s name that no one should think about these things. People thought it was enough to have done the act of praying, whether God would hear it or not. But that is staking prayer on a risk and murmuring it at a venture; therefore, it is a lost prayer. 15 For we let thoughts like these lead us astray and stop us: “I am not holy or worthy enough. If I were as godly and holy as St. Peter or St. Paul, then I would pray.” But put such thoughts far away. For the same commandment that applied to St. Paul applies also to me. The Second Commandment is given as much on my account as on his account, so that Paul can boast about no better or holier commandment.
16 You should say, “My prayer is as precious, holy, and pleasing to God as that of St. Paul or of the most holy saints. This is the reason: I will gladly grant that Paul is personally more holy, but that’s not because of the commandment. God does not consider prayer because of the person, but because of His Word and obedience to it. For I rest my prayer on the same commandment on which all the saints rest their prayer. Furthermore, I pray for the same thing that they all pray for and always have prayed. Besides, I have just as great a need of what I pray for as those great saints; no, even a greater one than they.”
17 Let this be the first and most important point, that all our prayers must be based and rest upon obedience to God, regardless of who we are, whether we are sinners or saints, worthy or unworthy. 18 We must know that God will not have our prayer treated as a joke. But He will be angry and punish all who do not pray, just as surely as He punishes all other disobedience. Furthermore, He will not allow our prayers to be in vain or lost. For if He did not intend to answer your prayer, He would not ask you to pray and add such a severe commandment to it.
19 In the second place, we should be more encouraged and moved to pray because God has also added a promise and declared that it shall surely be done for us as we pray. He says in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you.” And Christ says in the Gospel of St. Matthew, “Ask, and it will be given to you; … for everyone who asks receives” (7:7–8). 20 Such promises certainly ought to encourage and kindle our hearts to pray with pleasure and delight. For He testifies with His own Word that our prayer is heartily pleasing to Him. Furthermore, it shall certainly be heard and granted, in order that we may not despise it or think lightly of it and pray based on chance.
21 You can raise this point with Him and say, “Here I come, dear Father, and pray, not because of my own purpose or because of my own worthiness. But I pray because of Your commandment and promise, which cannot fail or deceive me.” Whoever, therefore, does not believe this promise must note again that he outrages God like a person who thoroughly dishonors Him and accuses Him of falsehood.
22 Besides this, we should be moved and drawn to prayer. For in addition to this commandment and promise, God expects us and He Himself arranges the words and form of prayer for us. He places them on our lips for how and what we should pray [Psalm 51:15], so that we may see how heartily He pities us in our distress [Psalm 4:1], and we may never doubt that such prayer is pleasing to Him and shall certainly be answered. 23 This ‹the Lord’s Prayer› is a great advantage indeed over all other prayers that we might compose ourselves. For in our own prayers the conscience would ever be in doubt and say, “I have prayed, but who knows if it pleases Him or whether I have hit upon the right proportions and form?” Therefore, there is no nobler prayer to be found upon earth than the Lord’s Prayer. We pray it daily [Matthew 6:11], because it has this excellent testimony, that God loves to hear it. We ought not to surrender this for all the riches of the world.
24 The Lord’s Prayer has also been prescribed so that we should see and consider the distress that ought to drive and compel us to pray without ceasing [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. For whoever would pray must have something to present, state, and name, which he desires. If he does not, it cannot be called a prayer.
25 We have rightly rejected the prayers of monks and priests, who howl and growl day and night like fiends. But none of them think of praying for a hair’s breadth of anything. If we would assemble all the churches, together with all churchmen, they would be bound to confess that they have never from the heart prayed for even a drop of wine. For none of them has ever intended to pray from obedience to God and faith in His promise. No one has thought about any need. But when they had done their best they thought no further than this: To do a good work, by which they might repay God. They were unwilling to take anything from Him, but wished only to give Him something.
26 But where there is to be a true prayer, there must be seriousness. People must feel their distress, and such distress presses them and compels them to call and cry out. Then prayer will be made willingly, as it ought to be. People will need no teaching about how to prepare for it and to reach the proper devotion. 27 But the distress that ought to concern us most (both for ourselves and everyone), you will find abundantly set forth in the Lord’s Prayer. Therefore, this prayer also serves as a reminder, so that we meditate on it and lay it to heart and do not fail to pray. For we all have enough things that we lack. The great problem is that we do not feel or recognize this. Therefore, God also requires that you weep and ask for such needs and wants, not because He does not know about them [Matthew 6:8], but so that you may kindle your heart to stronger and greater desires and make wide and open your cloak to receive much [Psalm 10:17].
28 Every one of us should form the daily habit from his youth of praying for all his needs. He should pray whenever he notices anything affecting his interests or that of other people among whom he may live. He should pray for preachers, the government, neighbors, household servants, and always (as we have said) to hold up to God His commandment and promise, knowing that He will not have them disregarded. 29 This I say because I would like to see these things brought home again to the people so that they might learn to pray truly and not go about coldly and indifferently. They become daily more unfit for prayer because of indifference. That is just what the devil desires, and for which he works with all his powers. He is well aware what damage and harm it does him when prayer is done properly.
30 We need to know this: all our shelter and protection rest in prayer alone. For we are far too weak to deal with the devil and all his power and followers who set themselves against us. They might easily crush us under their feet. Therefore, we must consider and take up those weapons with which Christians must be armed in order to stand against the devil [2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:11]. 31 For what do you imagine has done such great things up till now? What has stopped or quelled the counsels, purposes, murder, and riot of our enemies, by which the devil thought he would crush us, together with the Gospel? It was the prayer of a few godly people standing in the middle like an iron wall for our side. Otherwise they would have witnessed a far different tragedy. They would have seen how the devil would have destroyed all Germany in its own blood. But now our enemies may confidently ridicule prayer and make a mockery of it. However, we shall still be a match both for them and the devil by prayer alone, if we only persevere diligently and do not become slack. 32 For whenever a godly Christian prays, “Dear Father, let Your will be done” [see Matthew 6:10], God speaks from on high and says, “Yes, dear child, it shall be so, in spite of the devil and all the world.”
33 Let this be said as encouragement, so that people may learn, first of all, to value prayer as something great and precious and to make a proper distinction between babbling and praying for something. For we by no means reject prayer. We reject the bare, useless howling and murmuring, as Christ Himself also rejects and prohibits long idle talk [Matthew 6:7]. 34 Now we shall most briefly and clearly explain the Lord’s Prayer. Here there is included in seven successive articles, or petitions, every need that never ceases to apply to us. Each is so great that it ought to drive us to keep praying the Lord’s Prayer all our lives.
THE FIRST PETITION
Note: We pray using the name given us in our Baptism, by which God makes us a part of Himself. God’s name is holy among us when we believe, teach, and live according to His Word. In the worst possible way God’s name is profaned among us when men preach and teach contrary to God’s Word and when people live an openly evil life. Luther’s highest concern is that God’s name be kept holy through genuine biblical teaching, in contrast to all the false teaching in the world. Luther’s hymn “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” is a powerful application of these truths.
35 Hallowed be Thy name.
36 This is, indeed, somewhat difficult, and not expressed in good German. For in our mother tongue we would say, “Heavenly Father, help us in every way so that Your name may be holy.”
37 “But what does it mean to pray that His name may be holy? Is it not holy already?”
Answer, “Yes, it is always holy in its nature, but in our use it is not holy.” For God’s name was given to us when we became Christians and were baptized [Matthew 28:19]. So we are called God’s children and have the Sacraments, by which He connects us with Himself so that everything that belongs to God must serve for our use [Romans 8:16–17].
38 Now, here is a great need that we ought to be most concerned about. This name should have its proper honor; it should be valued holy and grand as the greatest treasure and holy thing [Heiligtum; relic] that we have. As godly children we should pray that God’s name, which is already holy in heaven, may also be and remain holy with us upon earth and in all the world.
39 “But how does it become holy among us?”
Answer, as plainly as it can be said: “When both our doctrine and life are godly and Christian.” Since we call God our Father in this prayer, it is our duty always to act and behave ourselves as godly children, that He may not receive shame, but honor and praise from us.
40 Now, God’s name is profaned by us either through our words or in our works. (For whatever we do upon the earth must be either words or works, speech or act.) 41 In the first place, then, God’s name is profaned when people preach, teach, and say in God’s name what is false and misleading. They use His name like an ornament and attract a market for falsehood. That is, indeed, the greatest way to profane and dishonor the divine name. 42 Furthermore, men, by swearing, cursing, conjuring, and other such actions, grossly abuse the holy name as a cloak for their shame [1 Peter 2:16]. 43 In the second place, God’s name is profaned by an openly wicked life and works, when those who are called Christians and God’s people are adulterers, drunkards, misers, enviers, and slanderers [1 Corinthians 5:11]. Here again God’s name must come to shame and be profaned because of us. 44 It is a shame and disgrace for a flesh-and-blood father to have a bad, perverse child that opposes him in words and deeds. Because of that child the father suffers contempt and reproach. In the same way also, it brings dishonor upon God if we are called by His name and have all kinds of goods from Him, yet we teach, speak, and live in any other way than as godly and heavenly children. People would say about us that we must not be God’s children, but the devil’s children [1 John 2:29].
45 So you see that in this petition we pray for exactly what God demands in the Second Commandment. We pray that His name not be taken in vain to swear, curse, lie, deceive, and so on, but be used well for God’s praise and honor. For whoever uses God’s name for any sort of wrong profanes and desecrates this holy name. This is how it used to be when a Church was considered desecrated, when a murder or any other crime had been committed in it. Or a monstrance or relic was desecrated—as though they were holy in themselves—when they became unholy by misuse. 46 So this point is easy and clear if only the language is understood: to hallow means the same as to praise, magnify, and honor both in word and deed.
47 Here, now, learn what great need there is for such prayer. Because we see how full the world is of sects and false teachers, who all wear the holy name as a cover and sham for their doctrines of devils [1 Timothy 4:1], we should by all means pray without ceasing [1 Thessalonians 5:17] and cry out and call upon God against all people who preach and believe falsely. We should pray against whatever opposes and persecutes our Gospel and pure doctrine and would suppress it, as do the bishops, tyrants, enthusiasts, and such [2 Thessalonians 2:3–4]. Likewise, we should pray for ourselves who have God’s Word but are not thankful for it, nor live like we ought according to the Word. 48 If you pray for this with your heart, you can be sure that it pleases God. For He will not hear anything more dear to Him than that His honor and praise is exalted above everything else and that His Word is taught in its purity and is considered precious and dear.
THE SECOND PETITION
Note: In this petition, we are praying to God that the kingdom of Christ will come and remain among us, both in this life and finally on the Last Day. We ask God that we will remain faithful and daily grow in His grace, so that many more will come to Christ’s kingdom. This petition shows that God wants us to ask not only for small cares and needs of life, but also for great things from Him. If God invites us to pray for such great and wonderful things as His kingdom of grace, surely He will provide also for our daily needs.
Thy kingdom come.
49 In the First Petition we prayed about God’s honor and name. We prayed that He would prevent the world from adorning its lies and wickedness with God’s name, but that He would cause His name to be valued as great and holy both in doctrine and life, so that He may be praised and magnified in us. Here we pray that His kingdom also may come. 50 But just as God’s name is holy in itself, and we still pray that it be holy among us, so also His kingdom comes of itself, without our prayer. Yet we still pray that it may come to us, that is, triumph among us and with us, so that we may be a part of those people among whom His name is hallowed and His kingdom prospers.
51 “But what is God’s kingdom?”
Answer, “Nothing other than what we learned in the Creed: God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the devil’s power [1 John 3:8]. He sent Him to bring us to Himself and to govern us as a King of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience. For this reason He has also given His Holy Spirit, who is to bring these things home to us by His holy Word and to illumine and strengthen us in the faith by His power.”
52 We pray here in the first place that this may happen with us. We pray that His name may be so praised through God’s holy Word and a Christian life that we who have accepted it may abide and daily grow in it, and that it may gain approval and acceptance among other people. We pray that it may go forth with power throughout the world [2 Thessalonians 3:1]. We pray that many may find entrance into the kingdom of grace [John 3:5], be made partakers of redemption [Colossians 1:12–14], and be led to it by the Holy Spirit [Romans 8:14], so that we may all together remain forever in the one kingdom now begun.
53 For the coming of God’s kingdom to us happens in two ways: (a) here in time through the Word and faith [Matthew 13]; and (b) in eternity forever through revelation [Luke 19:11; 1 Peter 1:4–5]. Now we pray for both these things. We pray that the kingdom may come to those who are not yet in it, and, by daily growth that it may come to us who have received it, both now and hereafter in eternal life. 54 All this is nothing other than saying, “Dear Father, we pray, give us first Your Word, so that the Gospel may be preached properly throughout the world. Second, may the Gospel be received in faith and work and live in us, so that through the Word and the Holy Spirit’s power [Romans 15:18–19], Your kingdom may triumph among us. And we pray that the devil’s kingdom be put down [Luke 11:17–20], so that he may have no right or power over us [Luke 10:17–19; Colossians 1], until at last his power may be utterly destroyed. So sin, death, and hell shall be exterminated [Revelation 20:13–14]. Then we may live forever in perfect righteousness and blessedness” [Ephesians 4:12–13].
55 From this you see that we do not pray here for a crust of bread or a temporal, perishable good. Instead, we pray for an eternal inestimable treasure and everything that God Himself possesses. This is far too great for any human heart to think about desiring, if God had not Himself commanded us to pray for the same. 56 But because He is God, He also claims the honor of giving much more and more abundantly than anyone can understand [Ephesians 3:20]. He is like an eternal, unfailing fountain. The more it pours forth and overflows, the more it continues to give. God desires nothing more seriously from us than that we ask Him for much and great things. In fact, He is angry if we do not ask and pray confidently [Hebrews 4:16].
57 It’s like a time when the richest and most mighty emperor would tell a poor beggar to ask whatever he might desire. The emperor was ready to give great royal presents. But the fool would only beg for a dish of gruel. That man would rightly be considered a rogue and a scoundrel, who treated the command of his Imperial Majesty like a joke and a game and was not worthy of coming into his presence. In the same way, it is a great shame and dishonor to God if we—to whom He offers and pledges so many inexpressible treasures—despise the treasures or do not have the confidence to receive them, but hardly dare to pray for a piece of bread.
58 All this is the fault of shameful unbelief that does not even look to God for enough decent food to satisfy the stomach. How much less does such unbelief expect to receive eternal treasures from God without doubt? Therefore, we must strengthen ourselves against such doubt and let this be our first prayer. Then, indeed, we shall have everything else in abundance, as Christ teaches, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” [Matthew 6:33]. For how could He allow us to suffer lack and to be desperate for temporal things when He promises to give us what is eternal and never perishes [1 Peter 1:4]?
THE THIRD PETITION
Note: By faith we cling to God’s holy name and His holy kingdom. But evil opposes us and tries to snatch God’s kingdom from us. Luther says we pray that God will work His will among us and protect and keep us safe from our old sinful flesh and from all the evil in the world. The devil will spare no effort to make us fall away from God’s kingdom. We Christians bear a holy cross: temptations, dangers, and intense struggle throughout our life. It is foolish for us to think that a Christian’s life is easy. Therefore, we ask God to work His gracious will for us and to provide us with the strength we need.
59 Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
60 So far we have prayed that God’s name be honored by us and that His kingdom triumph among us. In these two points is summed up all that deals with God’s honor and our salvation. We receive God as our own and all His riches. But now arises a need that is just as great: we must firmly keep God’s honor and our salvation, and not allow ourselves to be torn from them. 61 In a good government it is not only necessary that there be those who build and govern well. It is also necessary to have those who defend, offer protection, and maintain it firmly. So in God’s kingdom, although we have prayed for the greatest need—for the Gospel, faith, and the Holy Spirit, that He may govern us and redeem us from the devil’s power—we must also pray that God’s will be done. For there will be strange events if we are to abide in God’s will. We shall have to suffer many thrusts and blows on that account from everything that seeks to oppose and prevent the fulfillment of the first two petitions.
62 No one can believe how the devil opposes and resists these prayers. He cannot allow anyone to teach or to believe rightly. It hurts him beyond measure to have his lies and abominations exposed, which have been honored under the most fancy, sham uses of the divine name. It hurts him when he himself is disgraced, is driven out of the heart, and has to let a breach be made in his kingdom. Therefore, he chafes and rages as a fierce enemy with all his power and might. He marshals all his subjects and, in addition, enlists the world and our own flesh as his allies. 63 For our flesh is in itself lazy and inclined to evil [Romans 7:18], even though we have accepted and believe God’s Word. The world, however, is perverse and wicked. So he provokes the world against us, fans and stirs the fire, so that he may hinder and drive us back, cause us to fall, and again bring us under his power [2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Timothy 3:6–7]. 64 Such is all his will, mind, and thought. He strives for this day and night and never rests a moment. He uses all arts, wiles, ways, and means that he can invent.
65 If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and count on having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies [Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9]. They will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where God’s Word is preached, accepted, or believed and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be missing [Acts 14:22]. And let no one think that he shall have peace [Matthew 10:34]. He must risk whatever he has upon earth—possessions, honor, house and estate, wife and children, body and life. 66 Now, this hurts our flesh and the old Adam [Ephesians 4:22]. The test is to be steadfast and to suffer with patience [James 5:7–8] in whatever way we are assaulted, and to let go whatever is taken from us [1 Peter 2:20–21].
67 So there is just as great a need, as in all the other petitions, that we pray without ceasing, “Dear Father, Your will be done, not the devil’s will or our enemies’ or anything that would persecute and suppress Your holy Word or hinder Your kingdom. Grant that we may bear with patience and overcome whatever is to be endured because of Your Word and kingdom, so that our poor flesh may not yield or fall away because of weakness or sluggishness.”
68 Look, we have in these three petitions, in the simplest way, the needs that relate to God Himself. Yet they are all for our sakes. Whatever we pray concerns us alone. As we have said before, we pray that what must be done without us anyway may also be done in us. As His name must be hallowed and His kingdom come whether we pray or not, so also His will must be done and succeed. This is true even though the devil with all his followers raise a great riot, are angry and rage against it, and try to exterminate the Gospel completely. But for our own sakes we must pray that, even against their fury, His will be done without hindrance among us also. We pray so that they may not be able to accomplish anything and that we may remain firm against all violence and persecution and submit to God’s will.
69 Such prayer, then, is to be our protection and defense now. It is to repel and put down all that the devil, pope, bishops, tyrants, and heretics can do against our Gospel. Let them all rage and attempt their utmost and deliberate and resolve how they may suppress and exterminate us, so that their will and counsel may prevail. Over and against this one or two Christians with this petition alone shall be our wall [Ezekiel 22:30], against which they shall run and dash themselves to pieces. 70 We have this comfort and confidence: the devil’s will and purpose and all our enemies shall and must fail and come to nothing, no matter how proud, secure, and powerful they know themselves to be. For if their will were not broken and hindered, God’s kingdom could not remain on earth nor His name be hallowed.
THE FOURTH PETITION
Note: “Daily Bread” encompasses everything we need for our life here on earth. Luther explains in this petition that our greatest need is good governing authorities. Through them God provides us with what we need for this body and life. Nothing in this life will be “good” unless we live in peace and security; history readily proves Luther’s point. The devil is intent on thwarting good government and causing unrest and turmoil. Yet God gives daily necessities even to the wicked. God wants us to pray for them too, so that we recognize that He gives us all good things as a gracious gift.
71 Give us this day our daily bread.
72 Here, now, we consider the poor breadbasket, the necessities of our body and of the temporal life. It is a brief and simple word, but it has a very wide scope. For when you mention and pray for daily bread, you pray for everything that is necessary in order to have and enjoy daily bread. On the other hand, you also pray against everything that interferes with it. Therefore, you must open wide and extend your thoughts not only to the oven or the flour bin, but also to the distant field and the entire land, which bears and brings to us daily bread and every sort of nourishment. For if God did not cause food to grow and He did not bless and preserve it in the field, we could never take bread from the oven or have any to set upon the table.
73 To sum things up, this petition includes everything that belongs to our entire life in the world, for we need daily bread because of life alone. It is not only necessary for our life that our body have food and clothes and other necessaries. It is also necessary that we spend our days in peace and quiet among the people with whom we live and have dealings in daily business and conversation and all sorts of doings [1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 Timothy 2:2]. In short, this petition applies both to the household and also to the neighborly or civil relationship and government. Where these two things are hindered so that they do not prosper as they should, the necessaries of life also are hindered. Ultimately, life cannot be maintained. 74 There is, indeed, the greatest need to pray for earthly authority and government. By them, most of all, God preserves for us our daily bread and all the comforts of this life. Though we have received from God all good things in abundance, we are not able to keep any of them or use them in security and happiness if He did not give us a permanent and peaceful government. For where there are dissension, strife, and war, there the daily bread is already taken away or is at least hindered.
75 It would be very proper to place on the coat of arms of every pious prince a loaf of bread instead of a lion or a wreath of herbs. Or one could impress it on money. This would remind both princes and their subjects that by their office we have protection and peace. Without them, we could not eat and keep our daily bread. Therefore, princes are also worthy of all honor. We should give to them for their office what we ought and can, as to people through whom we enjoy what we have in peace and quietness. Otherwise we would not keep a farthing. In addition, we should also pray for them [1 Timothy 2:1–2] that through them God may bestow on us more blessings and goods.
76 Let this be a very brief explanation and sketch, showing how far this petition extends through all conditions on earth. On this topic anyone might indeed make a long prayer. With many words one could list all the things that are included, like when we ask God to give us food and drink, clothing, house and home, and health of body. Or when we ask that He cause the grain and fruit of the field to grow and mature well. Furthermore, we ask that He help us at home with good housekeeping and that He give and preserve for us a godly wife, children, and servants. We ask that He cause our work, trade, or whatever we are engaged in to prosper and succeed, favor us with faithful neighbors and good friends, and other such things. 77 Likewise, we ask that He give wisdom, strength, and success to emperors, kings, and all estates, and especially to the rulers of our country and to all counselors, magistrates, and officers. Then they may govern well and vanquish the Turks and all enemies. We ask that He give to subjects and the common people obedience, peace, and harmony in their life with one another. 78 On the other hand, we ask that He would preserve us from all sorts of disaster to body and livelihood, like lightning, hail, fire, flood, poison, plague, cattle disease, war and bloodshed, famine, destructive beasts, wicked men, and so forth. 79 It is well to impress all this upon the common people [Deuteronomy 6:7]: these things come from God and must be prayed for by us.
80 But this petition is especially directed also against our chief enemy, the devil. For all his thought and desire is to deprive us of all that we have from God or to hinder it. He is not satisfied to obstruct and destroy spiritual government by leading souls astray with his lies and bringing them under his power. He also prevents and hinders the stability of all government and honorable, peaceable relations on earth. There he causes so much contention, murder, treason, and war. He also causes lightning and hail to destroy grain and cattle, to poison the air, and so on. 81 In short, he is sorry if anyone has a morsel of bread from God and eats it in peace. If it were in his power and our prayer (next to God) did not prevent him, we would not keep a straw in the field, a farthing in the house, yes, not even our life for an hour. This is especially true of those who have God’s Word and would like to be Christians.
82 You see, in this way, God wishes to show us how He cares for us in all our need and faithfully provides also for our earthly support. 83 He abundantly grants and preserves these things, even for the wicked and rogues [Matthew 5:45]. Yet, He wishes that we pray for these goods in order that we may recognize that we receive them from His hand and may feel His fatherly goodness toward us in them [Psalm 104:28; 145:16]. For when He withdraws His hand, nothing can prosper or be maintained in the end. Indeed, we daily see this and experience it. 84 How much trouble there is now in the world only on account of bad coins, daily oppression, raising of prices in common trade, and bargaining and labor by those who greedily oppress the poor and deprive them of their daily bread! This we must suffer indeed. But let such people take care so that they do not lose the benefits of common intercession. Let them beware lest this petition in the Lord’s Prayer speak against them.
THE FIFTH PETITION
Note: God forgives our sins, even if we do not realize it. In this petition, we pray for forgiveness so that we recognize and accept this gift from God. We need this petition so that our conscience will be strengthened in the struggle against sin. The phrase “as we forgive those who sin against us” is added so that we will extend God’s gracious forgiveness to others who sin against us. By doing so we exhibit God’s forgiveness to us.
85 And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
86 This part now applies to our poor miserable life. Although we have and believe God’s Word, do and submit to His will, and are supported by His gifts and blessings, our life is still not sinless. We still stumble daily and transgress because we live in the world among people. They do us much harm and give us reasons for impatience, anger, revenge, and such. 87 Besides, we have the devil at our back. He attacks us from every side and fights—as we have heard—against all the previous petitions. So it is not possible to stand firm at all times in such a constant conflict.
88 There is here again great need for us to call upon God and to pray, “Dear Father, forgive us our trespasses.” It is not as though He did not forgive sin without and even before our prayer. (He has given us the Gospel, in which is pure forgiveness before we prayed or ever thought about it [Romans 5:8].) But the purpose of this prayer is that we may recognize and receive such forgiveness. 89 The flesh in which we daily live is of such a nature that it neither trusts nor believes God [Romans 7:14–18]. It is ever active in evil lusts and devices, so that we sin daily in word and deed [Genesis 6:5], by what we do and fail to do [James 2:15–16]. By this the conscience is thrown into unrest, so that it is afraid of God’s wrath and displeasure. So it loses the comfort and confidence derived from the Gospel. Therefore, it is always necessary that we run here and receive consolation to comfort the conscience again.
90 But this should serve God’s purpose of breaking our pride and keeping us humble. God has reserved this right for Himself: if anyone wants to boast of his godliness and despise others, that person is to think about himself and place this prayer before his eyes. He will find that he is no better than others [Romans 12:3] and that in God’s presence all must tuck their tails and be glad that they can gain forgiveness. 91 Let no one think that as long as he lives here he can reach such a position that he will not need such forgiveness [1 John 1:8]. In short, if God does not forgive without stopping, we are lost.
92 It is, therefore, the intent of this petition that God would not regard our sins and hold up to us what we daily deserve. But we pray that He would deal graciously with us and forgive, as He has promised, and so grant us a joyful and confident conscience to stand before Him in prayer [Hebrews 10:22]. For where the heart is not in a right relationship with God, or cannot take such confidence, it will not dare to pray anymore. Such a confident and joyful heart can spring from nothing else than the certain knowledge of the forgiveness of sin [Psalm 32:1–2; Romans 4:7–8].
93 There is here attached a necessary, yet comforting addition: “As we forgive.” He has promised that we shall be sure that everything is forgiven and pardoned, in the way that we also forgive our neighbor. 94 Just as we daily sin much against God, and yet He forgives everything through grace, so we, too, must ever forgive our neighbor who does us injury, violence, and wrong, shows malice toward us, and so on. 95 If, therefore, you do not forgive, then do not think that God forgives you [Matthew 18:23–25]. But if you forgive, you have this comfort and assurance, that you are forgiven in heaven. 96 This is not because of your forgiving. For God forgives freely and without condition, out of pure grace, because He has so promised, as the Gospel teaches. But God says this in order that He may establish forgiveness as our confirmation and assurance, as a sign alongside of the promise, which agrees with this prayer in Luke 6:37, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Therefore, Christ also repeats it soon after the Lord’s Prayer, and says in Matthew 6:14, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” and so on.
97 This sign is therefore attached to this petition. When we pray, we remember the promise and think, “Dear Father, for this reason I come and pray for You to forgive me, not so that I can make satisfaction or can merit anything by my works. I pray because You have promised and attached the seal to this prayer that I should be as sure about it as though I had Absolution pronounced by You Yourself.” 98 For Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—appointed as outward signs—work as seals [Ephesians 1:13]. In the same way also, this sign can serve to confirm our consciences and cause them to rejoice. It is especially given for this purpose, so that we may use and practice forgiveness every hour, as a thing that we have with us at all times.
THE SIXTH PETITION
Note: In this petition, Luther sets forth the three-fold source of temptation: our sinful human flesh, the world around us, and the devil. Luther identifies our sinful human nature as the “old Adam,” a biblical metaphor for our sinful flesh, as opposed to the “new man,” which we have been given by the new Adam, Christ. Luther distinguishes between feeling temptation to sin and giving in to sin. We all are tempted in various ways, according to our age and situation in life. We pray in this petition that the Lord will provide a way out of temptation and graciously help us so that we do not sin.
99 And lead us not into temptation.
100 We have now heard enough about what toil and labor is needed to keep all that we pray for and to persevere. This, however, is not done without weakness and stumbling. Although we have received forgiveness and a good conscience and are entirely acquitted, yet our life is of such a nature that we stand today, and tomorrow we fall [Isaiah 40:6–8]. Therefore, even though we are godly now and stand before God with a good conscience, we must pray again that He would not allow us to fall again and yield to trials and temptations.
101 Temptation, however, or (as our Saxons in olden times used to call it) Bekörunge, is of three kinds: of the flesh, of the world, and of the devil. 102 For we dwell in the flesh and carry the old Adam about our neck. He exerts himself and encourages us daily to unchastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, greed and deception, to defraud our neighbor and to overcharge him [Galatians 5:19–21; Colossians 3:5–8]. In short, the old Adam encourages us to have all kinds of evil lusts, which cling to us by nature and to which we are moved by the society, the example, and what we hear and see of other people. They often wound and inflame even an innocent heart.
103 Next comes the world, which offends us in word and deed. It drives us to anger and impatience. In short, there is nothing but hatred and envy, hostility, violence and wrong, unfaithfulness, vengeance, cursing, railing, slander, pride and haughtiness, with useless finery, honor, fame, and power. No one is willing to be the least. Everyone desires to sit at the head of the group and to be seen before all [Luke 14:7–11].
104 Then comes the devil, pushing and provoking in all directions. But he especially agitates matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs. He leads us to despise and disregard both God’s Word and works. He tears us away from faith, hope, and love [1 Corinthians 13:13], and he brings us into misbelief, false security, and stubbornness. Or, on the other hand, he leads us to despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and innumerable other shocking things. These are snares and nets [2 Timothy 2:26], indeed, real fiery darts that are shot like poison into the heart, not by flesh and blood, but by the devil [Ephesians 6:12, 16].
105 Great and grievous, indeed, are these dangers and temptations, which every Christian must bear. We bear them even though each one were alone by himself. So every hour that we are in this vile life, we are attacked on all sides [2 Corinthians 4:8], chased and hunted down. We are moved to cry out and to pray that God would not allow us to become weary and faint [Isaiah 40:31; Hebrews 12:3] and to fall again into sin, shame, and unbelief. For otherwise it is impossible to overcome even the least temptation.
106 This, then, is what “lead us not into temptation” means. It refers to times when God gives us power and strength to resist the temptation [1 Corinthians 10:13]. However, the temptation is not taken away or removed. While we live in the flesh and have the devil around us, no one can escape his temptation and lures. It can only mean that we must endure trials—indeed, be engulfed in them [2 Timothy 2:3]. But we say this prayer so that we may not fall and be drowned in them.
107 To feel temptation is, therefore, a far different thing from consenting or yielding to it. We must all feel it, although not all in the same way. Some feel it in a greater degree and more severely than others. For example, the young suffer especially from the flesh. Afterward, when they reach middle life and old age, they feel it from the world. But others who are occupied with spiritual matters, that is, strong Christians, feel it from the devil. 108 Such feeling, as long as it is against our will and we would rather be rid of it, can harm no one. For if we did not feel it, it could not be called a temptation. But we consent to it when we give it the reins and do not resist or pray against it.
109 Therefore, we Christians must be armed [Ephesians 6:10–18] and daily expect to be constantly attacked. No one may go on in security and carelessly, as though the devil were far from us. At all times we must expect and block his blows. Though I am now chaste, patient, kind, and in firm faith, the devil will this very hour send such an arrow into my heart that I can scarcely stand. For he is an enemy that never stops or becomes tired. So when one temptation stops, there always arise others and fresh ones.
110 So there is no help or comfort except to run here, take hold of the Lord’s Prayer, and speak to God from the heart like this: “Dear Father, You have asked me to pray. Don’t let me fall because of temptations.” Then you will see that the temptations must stop and finally confess themselves conquered. 111 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 he has a serpent’s head [Revelation 12:9]. If it finds an opening into which it can slip, the whole body will follow without stopping. But prayer can prevent him and drive him back.
THE SEVENTH AND LAST PETITION
Note: Luther rightly notes that the original Greek says, “Deliver us from the evil one.” The devil is the sum of all evil. In this petition, we pray that God will rescue us from any and all forms of the devil’s tricks and plots to make us sin and fall away from God. Luther had a very vivid and realistic view of the devil’s active presence and power in this world. The Bible speaks of the devil prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking people to devour. We should note that Luther does not offer an explanation for the common conclusion to the Lord’s Prayer familiar to most Protestant Christians: “For Thine is the kingdom …” (1 Chronicles 29:11–13). These words are not necessarily part of the original text of the Lord’s Prayer and may have been inserted into later copies of the Gospel (perhaps in the second century). Nevertheless, they are fine and appropriate words. But the Lord’s Prayer, as prayed in Luther’s time and still often among Roman Catholics today, concludes simply with this Seventh Petition. Amen is a hearty “Yes! May it be so!” that we say in faith, believing that God will hear and answer our prayer in and through Christ.
112 But deliver us from evil. Amen.
113 In the Greek text this petition reads, “Deliver or preserve us from the evil one,” or “the hateful one.” It looks like Jesus was speaking about the devil, like He would summarize every petition in one. So the entire substance of all our prayer is directed against our chief enemy. For it is he who hinders among us everything that we pray for: God’s name or honor, God’s kingdom and will, our daily bread, a cheerful good conscience, and so forth.
114 Therefore, we finally sum it all up and say, “Dear Father, grant that we be rid of all these disasters.” 115 But there is also included in this petition whatever evil may happen to us under the devil’s kingdom: poverty, shame, death, and, in short, all the agonizing misery and heartache of which there is such an unnumbered multitude on the earth. Since the devil is not only a liar, but also a murderer [John 8:44], he constantly seeks our life. He wreaks his vengeance whenever he can afflict our bodies with misfortune and harm. Therefore, it happens that he often breaks men’s necks or drives them to insanity, drowns some, and moves many to commit suicide and to many other terrible disasters [e.g., Mark 9:17–22]. 116 So there is nothing for us to do upon earth but to pray against this archenemy without stopping. For unless God preserved us, we would not be safe from this enemy even for an hour.
117 You see again how God wishes for us to pray to Him also for all the things that affect our bodily interests, so that we seek and expect help nowhere else except in Him. 118 But He has put this matter last. For if we are to be preserved and delivered from all evil, God’s name must first be hallowed in us, His kingdom must be with us, and His will must be done. After that He will finally preserve us from sin and shame, and, besides, from everything that may hurt or harm us.
119 So God has briefly placed before us all the distress that may ever come upon us, so that we might have no excuse whatever for not praying. But all depends upon this, that we learn also to say “Amen.” This means that we do not doubt that our prayer is surely heard and that what we pray shall be done [2 Corinthians 1:20]. 120 This is nothing else than the word of undoubting faith, which does not pray on a dare but knows that God does not lie to him [Titus 1:2]. For He has promised to grant it. Therefore, where there is no such faith, there cannot be true prayer either.
121 It is, therefore, an evil deception on those who pray as though they could not dare from the heart to say “Yes!” and positively conclude that God hears them. Instead, they remain in doubt and say, “How can I be so bold as to boast that God hears my prayer? For I am but a poor sinner,” and other such things.
122 The reason for this is, they do not respect God’s promise, but they rely on their own work and worthiness, by which they despise God and accuse Him of lying. 123 Therefore, they receive nothing. As St. James says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” [1:6–7]. 124 Behold, God attaches such importance to this fact that we can be sure we do not pray in vain, so that we do not despise our prayer in any way.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 408-423 (Large Catechism III)
How young is too young?
A Christian holds it dear that God takes us and makes us His children through Baptism.
Why do some parents delay baptizing their babies?
Wrong reasons for withholding baptism include that the baby won't remember it, should decide for himself, or isn't sinful; and that the Bible never says to baptize babies, baptism is just superstition, or people have been saved without baptism before.
Does God say baptism is for babies?
When it says, "Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them," "Let the little children come to Me," and "Whoever welcomes a little child in My name welcomes Me," God's Word invites everyone, even infants, to be baptized.
Deuteronomy 11:18-19; Matthew 28:19-20; Matthew 18:5; Mark 10:14
Are there examples of infant baptism in the Scriptures?
Eight-day-old infants were circumcised in Israel, and baptism replaces circumcision; people brought infants two years old and under to Jesus to have him touch them, and the apostles baptized entire households when the parents became Christians.
Genesis 17:12; Colossians 2:11-12; Luke 18:15; Acts 16:15
Why do infants even need to be baptized?
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, every inclination of the heart is evil from childhood, even from birth the wicked go astray, and surely I was sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Romans 3:23; Genesis 8:21; Psalm 58:3; Psalm 51:5
Aren't babies too young to become Christians?
Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; God promises specifically to "gather in your little ones;" before the Lord formed you in the womb He knew you; and the promise is for you and your children.
Numbers 14:31; Jeremiah 1:5; Acts 2:38-39; 1 John 2:2
How are we all like infants before God?
All sinners are like little children helplessly depending upon the mercy of the Heavenly Father; without His grace we will not be saved, and anyone who does not receive the kingdom of God like a baby – born anew of water and the Spirit – will never enter it.
1 John 3:1; 1 Peter 2:2; John 3:3-5; Ephesians 2:8-9
Can infants really have faith?
No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit, and faith comes from the Word of Christ, not by intellectual ability; the Scriptures speak of little ones who believe, praise from the lips of infants, and the unborn baby leaping for joy at the Lord's voice.
1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 10:17; Matthew 18:6; 2 Timothy 3:15; Luke 1:44