Ascension Lutheran Church

Calgary, AB

A Minute With Martin

Martin Luther


Table Talk

The Small Catechism (SC)

  1. The Ten Commandments
  2. The Apostles’ Creed
  3. The Lord’s Prayer
    1. The 1st Petition
    2. The 2nd Petition
    3. The 3rd Petition
    4. The 4th Petition
    5. The 5th Petition
    6. The 6th Petition
    7. The 7th Petition
  4. Daily Prayers



A Minute With Martin

The Lord’s Prayer

The third section of the Luther’s Small Catechism concerns the Lord’s Prayer. ( This prayer is found in the Gospels of Matthew (6: 9-13) and Luke (11: 2-4). It’s important to note not only is this the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, but that Luther also speaks in terms of the head of the family “teaching” this prayer, to the members of the household.

Everyone can benefit from learning the Lord’s Prayer. One can use this prayer, word for word, as the mainstay of their prayer life. As we will see, these petitions cover everything for which we could or should pray. One can also use the Lord’s Prayer as a template i.e. follow the pattern it sets out but using your own words and specifying your own particular petitions. At the end of it, the most important thing is to pray. And to remember that prayer is a conversation—it’s not just us presenting God with a list of petitions, but also us being quiet and listening to Him.

Regarding the opening line of the Lord’s Prayer Luther writes:

Luther highlights here that prayer is about relationship, and that the introduction to this prayer sets out our relationship with God. This is not a relationship of equals, yet it isn’t one of a tyrannical master and a lowly servant—it’s Father and child. A Father who loves and cares for His children eager and willing to provide them with what they need (note, not necessarily what they want but what He knows they need). We are encouraged to come to Him confident in His love for us, trusting that He will answer as is best for us.

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The First Petition

Just as the second of the Ten Commandments concerns the name of God (”Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.”), so too does the first petition. In large part because prayer is about communication and it is vital that we understand to whom we are praying. We are addressing Almighty God, maker of heaven and earth, thus we approach Him with fear and love. His name is holy, because He is holy. This petition recognizes that holiness, but also asks that despite being fallen and frail, we too might acknowledge God’s holiness in how we live our lives. These introductory words, frame the rest of the petitions. That all we ask for and all we receive might reflect God’s glory.

It’s also helpful to remember that the focus of this petition is God. We don’t pray because we need to get stuff, or are looking for particular results. We pray in order to build our relationship with God—trusting that anything and everything else we may need will be taken care of because we are his beloved children.

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The Second Petition

So we pray for God’s kingdom to come but Luther says that it’s coming without our prayers—so why bother praying? Well, we pray not so much for God’s benefit here but ours. We aren’t just praying for the kingdom of God to come, but that the Holy Spirit might make us aware of its coming and then work in us to prepare us to receive it.

Here we see the comforting truth (or uncomfortable, depending on one’s perspective) that prayer is more about God working in us than us asking God to do stuff for us. One of the key functions of prayer is that it helps form us into the men and women God has called and created us to be. God is at work in the world regardless if we participate or recognize it. This petition helps direct our attention to look for and recognize God’s coming kingdom, and to asks Him to work in us that we might not just be able to see the coming of the kingdom but that by God’s grace we might also participate in it. This is literally a life-changing petition as it calls for God to bring our lives into line with the coming kingdom—something we can’t do on our own. God grant us the courage to pray this and the trust to allow the Spirit to do what’s necessary to prepare us for the kingdom of God.

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The Third Petition

Once again we are praying for something that’s happening no matter if we ask for it or not—but we pray the petition to help us be aware of what God is doing, and ask to be included in this work. You’ll notice that Luther takes quite a personal approach in this petition i.e. how God’s will affects us, thwarting the threats of the devil, the world and our flesh, not just allowing but enabling us to stay steadfast in the faith given to us by the Holy Spirit. Further more Luther points out that it is God’s good and gracious will that we be kept in His word and faith unto our end. In this way, praying this petition is a prayer for us and for our salvation, that it might be accomplished according to the good and gracious will of God.

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The Fourth Petition

“God gives daily bread, even without our prayer…” By now you’ll notice a trend—God does a lot without our prayer. And yet Jesus still commanded us to pray, because it is a primary means through which we grow in faith. For the sake of clarity “grow in faith” isn’t about being able to believe more or believe stronger, but instead means growing or developing our relationship with God. Learning to trust Him, coming to recognize all that He provides, that He is trustworthy and that our welfare and salvation drive a lot of what He does. So in the fourth petition we ask for our “daily bread” (i.e. everything we need for life and salvation). Not because if we don’t ask, we won’t receive, but to bring us to the ongoing realization of all God’s blessings to us, without our having to ask.

This is important because it affects how we live and view all we have. People who understand all they have to be the sole result of their hard work, or who see it as mere chance, or as something they have a right to, will live differently from those who see all they have as a gift from God who loves and cares for them. Try this exercise. Look up from wherever you are reading this and carefully observe what’s around you—but do so remembering that it’s a gift from God, to you. When you finish this piece and go on with the rest of your day, stop to consider everything you see is a gift of God. Now granted you may see some unpleasant things, but remember people don’t always use the gifts they have been given in the way God intended (that’s not God’s fault or an indication His gifts are faulty). See if viewing all that’s around you, as a gift doesn’t affect how you see and experience things—and more importantly remind you of God’s love for you.

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The Fifth Petition

This is the first petition that directly speak to our relationship with others. Yet note that even here it first addresses our relationship with God, because it’s through Him that we relate to everything and everyone. In his explanation, Luther points out that we are unworthy and undeserving of everything God gives, including forgiveness. One of the big challenges people have in dealing with sin is recognizing that they have to trust completely in God’s grace i.e. they can’t fix it, do enough “good things” to make up for what they did, or in some other way earn God’s forgiveness (if you could earn it, it wouldn’t be grace). So in this petition we recognize God’s gracious attitude towards us when we confess our sins and ask forgiveness.

Because we have experienced God’s forgiveness and grace we are called to act in a similar fashion towards those who have sinned against us. Note Luther’s language here: “heartily forgive” and “readily do good” (as opposed to “grudgingly forgive” and “hesitantly do good” which is where we sometimes find ourselves). When we can approach others as God has dealt with us, it’s evidence of how much we realize God has given us. That’s not to say that there are not individuals and circumstances harder to forgive than others. But in those instances we do well to recall all God has blessed us with—rather than focus on how we have been wronged, focus on how God has been gracious to us and then share that grace and forgiveness we have received with others who also need it.

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The Sixth Petition

God never tempts anyone to sin. Yes, we may be tested in ways that challenge our faith and abilities, but God never tempts us to sin. That doesn’t mean that we won’t encounter temptation—it comes from both within (our thoughts and desires) and without (those situations we encounter). As a saint once said, the one thing we can expect until our last breath is to be tempted. However, temptation is not sin—having those tempting thoughts is one thing, it’s when we act on them that we fall into sin. Thus in this petition we call on God to guide, direct, protect and strengthen us that we may not fall into temptation and sin. This means that we are vigilant, not only watching for temptation but, watching for God’s direction to lead us out and away from it. This is not easy—if it was it wouldn’t be “tempting”, so we trust in God to provide what we need when we need it that we won’t fall into sin. And when we fail (and we do, more often than we want to or think), we return to the previous petition about God’s forgiveness.

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The Seventh Petition

As Luther notes this last petition is a summary. Every previous petition focused on God’s goodness to us and here we call on God to deliver us from evil i.e. from everything that is not of Him or from Him. As with the previous petitions, God answers this for us without our having to ask, but we pray it so we might recognize how God is at work in the world and our lives and be able to appreciate and participate as the Holy Spirit enables us.

This is the gift of the Lord’s Prayer. As we pray it carefully and mindfully (which can be a challenge as we know it so well we often rumble through it not really paying attention to what we are saying), Jesus’ words remind us how dearly God loves us and cares for us, without our ever asking. It’s been said that if this was the only prayer we ever prayed, it would be enough—not because it covers all we might ever want to ask for, but because it draws us into a deepening relationship with God and understanding His love for us and the many different ways He works to bring that love to pass for us and our salvation.

God Bless

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