The Discipline of Prayer –Part Two

17 10 2009
Truth Matters Newsletters – March 2007 – Vol. 12 Issue 3 – The Discipline of Prayer — Part Two – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Discipline of Prayer — Part Two

By Rev. Bob Liichow

We began to consider the majesty of the Lord’s prayer last month and this month we will briefly look at the remaining six petitions given to us by Jesus in this stunningly rich prayer.

Matthew 6:9-13

 “After this manner therefore pray ye:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. They will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

On the surface what Jesus gave to His disciples is a seemingly simple prayer. Yet the breath of this prayer is astoundingly wide and encompasses the entirety of man’s existence. I will be citing very heavily from Dr. Martin Luther and his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer as found in the Book of Concord. Whatever you may think about Luther. I believe you will agree that he had great insight into the Lord’s Prayer. My comments are in Blue, Luther’s are in Black.

The Second Petition

“Thy Kingdom Come”

But just as the name of God is in itself holy, and we pray nevertheless that it be holy among us, so also His Kingdom comes of itself without our prayer, yet we pray nevertheless that it may come to us, that is, prevail among us and with us, so that we may be a part of those among whom His name is hallowed and His kingdom prospers. [ Luther’s insight flies in the face of a great deal of current teaching concerning the kingdom of God in charismatic circles. It is commonly taught that we the Church, can either hasten or delay the coming of God’s kingdom. This hastening or delaying is done through either our positive or negative confessions or actions. Those who teach a brand of “Dominion Theology” say that it is up to the Church to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. This false doctrine espouses the belief that we are to Christianize every nation and then hand a restored would back to Jesus at His return. This global restoration and dominion will be allegedly led by a large number of “restored” prophets and apostles. Some of the more well know people who teach this false view include: Earl Paulk, Dr. C. Peter Wagner, Kenneth Copeland, Mike Bickle, John Paul Jones, Don Nori, Mahesh Chavda and others.]

But what is the kingdom of God? Answer: Nothing else than what we learned in the Creed, that God sent His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil, and to bring us to Himself, and to govern us as a King of righteousness, life and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience, fro which end He has also bestowed His Holy Ghost, 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.

Therefore we pray here in the first place that this may become effective with us, and that His name be so praised through the holy Word of God and a Christian life that both we who have accepted it may abide and daily grow therein, and that it may gain approbation and adherence among other people and proceed with power throughout the world, that many may fine entrance into the Kingdom of Grace, be made partakers of redemption, being led thereto by the Holy Ghost, in order that thus we may all together remain forever in the one kingdom now begun.

For the coming of God’s kingdom to us occurs in two ways; first, here in time through the Word and faith; and secondly, in eternity forever through revelation Now we pray for both these things, that it may come to those who are not yet in it, and by daily increase, to us who have received the same, and hereafter in eternal life. All this is nothing else than saying: Dear Father, we pray, give us first Thy Word, that the Gospel be preached properly throughout the world; and secondly, that it be received in faith, and work and live in us, so that through the Word and the power of the Holy Ghost Thy Kingdom may prevail among us, and the kingdom of the devil be put down, that he may have no right or power over us, until at last it shall be utterly destroyed, and sin, death, and hell shall be exterminated, that we may live forever in perfect righteousness and blessedness.

From this you perceive that we pray here not for a crust of bread or a temporal, perishable good, but for an eternal inestimable treasure and everything that God Himself possesses; which is far too great for any human heart to think of desiring if He had not Himself commanded us to pray for the same. But because He is God, He also claims the honor of giving much more and more abundantly than any one can comprehend, — like 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 ask much and great things of Him, and again is angry if we do not ask and pray confidently.

The Third Petition

“They Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven”

Thus far we have prayed that God’s name be honored by us, and that His kingdom prevail among us; in which two points is comprehended all that pertains to the honor of God and to our salvation, that we receive as our own God and all His riches. But now a need just as great arises, namely, that we firmly keep them, and do not suffer ourselves to be torn there from.

For no one believes how the devil opposes and resists them, and cannot suffer that any one teach or believe aright. And it hurts him beyond measure to suffer his lies and abominations, that have been honored under the most specious pretexts of the divine name, to be exposed and to be disgraced himself, and besides, be driven out of the heart, and suffer such a breach to be made in his kingdom. Therefore he chafes and rages as a fierce enemy with all his power and might, and marshals all his subjects and, in addition enlists the world and our own flesh as his allies.

If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and reckon upon having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies, who will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where the Word of God is preached, accepted, or believed, and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be wanting. And let no one think that he shall have peace; but he must risk what whatever he has upon earth — possessions, honor, house and estate, wife and children, body and life.

[ Luther taught salvation by grace through faith alone, but it was not a cheap grace, nor was it a faith that does not produce works. Many today hold only to a theology of glory and cannot accept the reality of the theology of the cross. The early evangelicals understood that they would have to suffer attacks fro their stance on the Gospel. Consider well what Luther says here in light of the teachings of Joel Osteen, Paula White or Jesse Duplantis.]

Hence there is just as great a need, as in all the others, that we pray without ceasing: “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.”

Behold, thus we have in these three petitions, in the simplest manner, the need which relates to God Himself, yet all for our sakes. For whatever we pray concerns only us, namely, as we have said, that what must be done anyway without us, may also be done in us. For as His name must be hallowed and His kingdom come without our prayer, so also His will must be done and succeed although the devil with all his adherents raise a great tumult, are angry and rage against it, and undertake to exterminate the Gospel utterly. But for our own sakes we must pray that even against their fury His will be done without hindrance also among us, that they may not be able to accomplish anything and we remain firm against all violence and persecution, and submit to such will of God.

Such prayer, then, is to be our protection and defense now, 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, that their will and counsel may prevail: over and against this one or two Christians with this petition alone shall be our wall against which they shall run and dash themselves to pieces. This consolation and confidence we have, that the will and purpose of the devil and of all our enemies shall and must fail and come to naught, however, proud, secure, and powerful they know themselves to be. For if their will were not broken and hindered, the kingdom of God could not abide on earth nor His name be hallowed.

The Fourth Petition

“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

[In this petition I want to draw your attention to how marvelously Luther expands this simple petition to encompass every aspect that of life that goes into God providing for us daily bread. Also not how Luther often mentions the negative aspect which are wrapped up in our prayer to our heavenly Father].

Here, now, we consider the poor breadbasket, the necessaries 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 and, on the other hand, against everything which interferes with it. Therefore you must open wide and extend your thoughts not only to the oven or the flour-bin but to the distant field and the entire land, which bears and brings to us daily bread and every sort of sustenance. For if God did not cause it to grow, and bless and preserve it in the field, we could never take bread from the oven or have any to set upon the table.

To comprise it briefly, this petition includes everything that belongs to our entire life in the world, because on that account alone do we need daily bread. Now for our life it is not only necessary that our body have food and covering and other necessaries, but also that we spend our days in peace and quiet among the people with whom we live and have intercourse in daily business and conversation and all sorts of doings, in short, whatever pertains both to the domestic and to the neighborly or civil relation and government. For where these two things are hindered [intercepted and disturbed] that they do not proper as they ought, the necessaries of life also are impeded, so that ultimately life cannot be maintained. And there is, indeed, the greatest need to pray for temporal authority and government, as that by which most of all God preserves to us our daily bread and all the comforts of this life. For though we have received of God all good things in abundance we are not able to retain 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 at least checked.

Let this be a very brief explanation and sketch, showing how far this petition extends through all conditions on earth. Of this any one might indeed make a long prayer, and with many words enumerate all the things that are included therein, as that we pray God to give us food and drink, clothing, house, and home, and health of body; also that He cause the grain and fruits of the field to grow and mature well; furthermore, that He help us at home towards good housekeeping, that He give and preserve to us a godly wife, children, and servants, that He cause our work, trade, or whatever we are engaged in to prosper and succeed, favor us with faithful neighbors and good friends, etc. Likewise, that He give to emperors, Kings, and all estates, and especially to the rulers, of our country and to all counselors, magistrates, and officers, wisdom, strength, and success that they may govern well and vanquish the Turks and all enemies; to subjects and the common people, obedience, peace, and harmony in their life with one another, and on the other hand, that He would reserve us from all sorts of calamity to body and livelihood, as lightning, hail, fire, flood, poison, pestilence, castle-plague, war and bloodshed, famine, destructive beasts, wicked men, etc. All this it is well to impress upon the simple, namely, that these things come from God, and must be prayed for by us.

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; and he is not satisfied to obstruct and destroy spiritual government in leading souls astray by his lies and bringing them under his power, but he also prevents and hinders the stability of all government and honorable, peaceable relations on earth. There he causes so much contention, murder, sedition, and war also lightning and hail to destroy grain and cattle, to poison the air, etc. In short, he is sorry that any one has a morsel of bread from God and eats it in peace; and 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, yea, not even our life for an hour, especially those who have the Word of God and would like to be Christians.

Behold, thus God wishes to indicate to us how He cares for us in all our need, and faithfully provides also for our temporal support. Although He abundantly grants and preserves these things even to the wicked and knaves, yet He wishes that we pray for them, in order that we may recognize that we receive them from His had, and may feel His paternal goodness toward us therein.

The Fifth Petition

“And Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

This part now relates to our poor miserable life, which although we have and believe the Word of God, and do and submit to His will, and are supported by His gifts and blessings is nevertheless not without sin. For we still stumble daily and transgress because we live in the world among men who do us much harm and give us cause for impatience, anger, revenge, etc. Besides, we have Satan at our back, who sets upon us on every side, and fights (as we have heard) against all the foregoing petitions, so that it is not possible always to stand firm in such a persistent conflict.

[This insight regarding our sinfulness is also rejected by many in the Church today. Among the charismatic and the so-called modern evangelical community is a negation of the reality of sin. Either some form of incipient perfectionism is taught {which gained a foothold in the Church today through that damnable heretic Charles Finney} or sin is simply not preached about because it is a “negative” confession. Luther correctly understood what it meant to be declared righteous in the sight of God and that our righteousness is in fact an alien righteousness, one that is reckoned to our account due to the work of Christ. Many, especially within the word of Faith cult, teach that the Christian actually becomes righteous and can attain sinless perfection in this life.]

Therefore there is here again 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 ever before our prayer (for He has given us the Gospel, in which is pure forgiveness before we prayed or ever thought about it). But this is to the intent that we may recognize and accept such forgiveness. For since the flesh in which we daily live is of such a nature that it neither trusts nor believes God, and is ever active in evil and omission by which the conscience is thrown into unrest, so that it is afraid of the wrath and displeasure of God, and thus loses the comfort and confidence derived from the Gospel; therefore it is ceaselessly necessary that we run hither and obtain consolation to comfort the conscience again.

But this should serve God’s purpose of breaking our pride and keeping us humble. For in case any one should boast of his godliness and despise others, God has reserved this prerogative to Himself, that the person is to consider himself and place this prayer before his eyes, and he will find that he is no better than others, and that in the presence of God all must lower their plumes, and be glad that they can attain forgiveness. And let no one think that as long as we live here he can reach such a position that he will not need such forgiveness. In short, if God does not forgive without ceasing, we are lost.

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 would deal graciously with us, and forgive, as He has promised, and thus grant us a joyful and confident conscience to stand before Him in prayer. For where the heart is not in right relation towards God, nor can take such confidence, it will nevermore venture to pray. But such a confident and joyful heart can spring from nothing else than the [certain] knowledge of the forgiveness of sin.

But there is here attached a necessary, yet consolatory addition: As we forgive. He has promised that we shall be sure that everything is forgiven and pardoned, yet in the manner that we also forgive our neighbor. For just as we daily sin much against God and ye He forgives everything through grace, so we, too, must ever forgive our neighbor who does us injury, violence, and wrong, shows malice toward us, etc. If, therefore you do not forgive, then do not think that God forgives you; but if you forgive, you have this consolation and assurance, that you are forgiven in heaven, not on account of your forgiving, — for God forgives freely and without condition out of pure grace, because He has so promised, as the Gospel teaches, — but in order that He may set this up for our confirmation and assurance for a sign alongside of the promise which accords with this prayer, Luke 6:37: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Therefore Christ also repeats it soon after the Lord’s Prayer, and says, Matt 6,14: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, etc.

The Sixth Petition

“And Lead us not into temptation”

We have now heard enough what toil and labor is required to retain all that for which we pray, and to persevere therein, which, however, is not achieved without infirmities and stumbling. Besides, although we have received forgiveness and a good conscience and are entirely acquitted, yet is our life of such a nature that one stands today, and to-morrow falls. Therefore, even though we be godly now and stand before God with a good conscience, we must pray again that He would not suffer us to relapse and yield to trials and temptations.

Temptation, however, or (as our Saxons in olden times used to call it) Bekoerunge, is of three kinds, namely, of the flesh, of the world, and of the devil. For in the flesh we dwell and carry the old Adam about our neck, who exerts himself and incites us daily to in chastity, laziness, gluttony and drunkenness, avarice and deception, to defraud our neighbor and to overcharge him, and, in short, to all manner of evil lusts which cleave to us be nature, and to which we are incited by the society, example and what we hear and see of other people, which often would and inflame even an innocent heart.

Next comes the world, which offends us in word and deed, and impels us to anger and impatience. In short, there is nothing but hatred and envy, enmity, violence and wrong, unfaithfulness, vengeance, cursing, raillery slander, pride and haughtiness, with superfluous finery, honor, fame, and power, where no one is willing to be the least, but every one desires to sit at the head and to be seen before all.

Then comes the devil, inciting and provoking in all directions, but especially agitating matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs, namely, to induce us to despise and disregard both the Word and works of God to tear us away from faith, hope and love and bring us into misbelief, false security, and obduracy, or, on the other hand, to despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and innumerable other shocking things. These are indeed snares and nets, yea, real fiery darts which are shot most venomously into the heart, not by flesh and blood, but by the devil.

Great and grievous, indeed, are these dangers and temptations which every Christian must bear, even though each one were alone by himself, so that every hour that we are in this vile life where we are attacked on all side, chased and hunted down, we are moved to cry out and to pray that God would not suffer us to become weary and faint and to relapses into sin, shame, and unbelief. For otherwise it is impossible to overcome even the least temptation.

This, then is leading us not into temptation, to wit, when He gives us power and strength to resist, the temptation, however, not being taken away or removed. For while we live in the flesh and have the devil about us, no one can escape temptation and allurements; and it cannot be otherwise than that we must endure trials, yea, he engulfed in them; but we pray for this, that we may not fall and be drowned in them.

Therefore we Christians must be armed and daily expect to be incessantly attacked, in order that no one may go on in security and heedlessly, as though the devil were far from us, but at all times expect and parry his blows. For 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 desists nor becomes tired, so that when one temptation ceases, there always arise others and fresh ones.

Accordingly, there is no help or comfort except to run hither and to take hold of the Lord’s Prayer, and thus speak to God from the heart: Dear Father, Thou hast bidden me pray; let me not relapse because of temptations. Then you will see that they must desist, and finally acknowledge themselves conquered. Else if you venture 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, which if it gain an opening into which he can slip, the whole body will follow without check. But prayer can prevent him and drive him back.

The Seventh Petition

“But Deliver Us From Evil”

In the Greek text this petition reads thus: Deliver or preserve us from the Evil One, or the Malicious One; and it looks as if He were speaking of the devil, as though He would comprehend everything in one so that 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 the name or honor of God, God’s kingdom and will, our daily bread, a cheerful good conscience, etc.

Therefore we finally sum it all up and say; Dear Father pray, help that we be rid of all these calamities. But there is nevertheless also included 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. For since the devil is not only a lair, but also a murderer, he constantly seeks our life, and wreaks his anger whenever he can afflict our bodies with misfortune and harm. Hence it comes that he often breaks men’s necks or drives them to insanity, drowns some, and incites many to commit suicide, and to many other terrible calamities. Therefore, there is nothing for us to do upon earth but to pray against this arch enemy without ceasing. For unless God preserved us, we would not be safe from him even for an hour.

Hence you see again how God wishes us to pray to Him also for all the things which affect our bodily interests, so that we seek and expect help nowhere else except in Him. But this matter He has put last; for 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 finally preserve us from sin and shame, and besides, from everything that may hurt or injure us.

Thus God has briefly placed before us all the distress which 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, that is, that we do not doubt that our prayer is surely heard and [what we pray] shall be done. For this is nothing else than the word of undoubting faith, which does not pray at a venture, but knows that God does not lie to him, since He has promised to grant it. Therefore, where there is no such faith, there cannot be ture prayer either.

It is, therefore, a pernicious delusion of those who pray in such a manner that they dare not from the heart say yea and positively conclude that God hears them, but remain in doubt and say, How should I be so bold as to boast that God hears my prayer? For I am but a poor sinner, etc.

The reason for this is, they regard not the promise of God, but their own work and worthiness, whereby they despise God and reproach Him with lying, and therefore they receive nothing. As St. James says [1,6]: But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering; for he that wavereth 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. Behold, such importance God attaches to the fact that we are sure we do not pray in vain, and that we do not in any way despise our prayer.

I believe it is possible to spend many months mediating on this prayer and all its ramifications and Dr. Luther’s insights have certainly broadened my understanding and increased my appreciation of the Lord’s Prayer. Now during our Sunday services when we as a congregation pray the Lord’s Prayer it mean so much more to me and I hope that this brief exposition on it gie you a solid foundation upon which to build a rich life of prayer.

End Notes

1. Luther, Martin The Book of Concord, This text was prepared by Allen Mulvey for Project Wittenberg. The entire text is in the public domain and can be downloaded or read in its entirely at http://www.icinet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/catechism/web/cat-12.html.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid

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