Closing Prayer: H.C. Lord’s Day 52

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 52

Q 127: What does the sixth petition mean? 
A 127: “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one” means:
By ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment.
And our sworn enemies—the devil, the world, and our own flesh—never stop attacking us.
And so, Lord, uphold us and make us strong with the strength of your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle, but may firmly resist our enemies until we finally win the complete victory.
 
Q 128: What does your conclusion to this prayer mean?
A 128: “For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever” means:
We have made all these petitions of you because, as our all-powerful king, you are both willing and able to give us all that is good; and because your holy name, and not we ourselves, should receive all the praise, forever.
 
Q 129: What does that little word “Amen” express?
A 129: “Amen” means: This shall truly and surely be!
It is even more sure that God listens to my prayer than that I really desire what I pray for.
 
The closing of both the Lord’s Prayer and the teaching of the Lord’s prayer represent three things, a recognition of God’s presence in our daily walk, a reiteration of God’s sovereignty, and a trust in God’s faithfulness.
 
First comes the phrase “save us from the time of trial,” an update from the traditional “lead us not into temptation.”  The original texts of Jesus’ teaching on the Lord’s prayer were never meant to give a false indication that God is the one who either prompts or creates temptation.  God’s presence in the midst of our trials and temptations, however, is a gaurantee in Scripture.  He promises to never leave us or forsake us; He walks every step of our lives with us, sustaining us even when He doesn’t approve of our actions or the things we get ourselves into.  Even when we are clearly in over our heads, there is nothing that God cannot save us from.
 
When we find ourselves in the midst of these times, Jesus reminds us of two things.  First, that we are indeed not alone.  We are not caught in temptation because God has left us, but rather because we are walking away from Him.  Even then, however, when we are faithless, He is faithful.  And second, He reminds us that we can always call to Him when we are lost.  There is nothing that we can get ourselves into that discounts us from turning back to God and God receiving us with His full love and open arms.
 
Second in the closing phrases of the Lord’s prayer is a sort of reprise and a reminder of the whole purpose and goal of prayer in the first place.  Prayer is an act of worship, and through it, we see a transformation in us that prompts us toward desiring and enacting God’s will and purposes in the world.
 
This is also a declaration of the state of our hearts.  Saying, “The Kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,” means that, for us, those things belong to God and as such they are not ours to control.  Rather, we are placing our trust once again in Him and recognizing Him for who He is: God.  
 
Finally, the prayer is ended by the word “amen.”  This word is not just a nice Christian word for “prayer done.”  It carries with a very real and very specific meaning: “this is sure to be!”  When Jesus is talking to His disciples about things that are sure to be, He says in the Greek “amen, amen,” or “truly, truly…”  The emphasis here points to the certainty of God’s actions in our lives and in the world.
 
Have you ever prayed and felt like your prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling?  Have you ever felt alone and not sure if what you were praying would even come to be?  The word “amen,” is a statement of trust.  We say this because we believe, deep in our core, that God hears and answers prayer.  In one of the closing statements of his book, Kevin DeYoung says this, “God is so gracious that He is more willing to hear our requests than we are sure that we actually want what we pray for.”  God’s desire that we come to Him, even in the midst of our doubts, is so great that we are assured that no matter the state that we are in, God will always here and answer. 
 
DeYoung finishes by saying this, “How Liberating!  Go ahead and pray to God better than you feel and you may just find that in His mercy you end up better than you deserve.”  How wonderful and true.  God is able and willing to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine, even at our best.  So the invitation of God is to come… no matter where you are or what is going on… go to Him!


Amen: H.C. Question129

What does that little word “Amen” express? 
 
Isaiah 65:24 – Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.
 
2 Corinthians 1:20 – For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
 
2 Timothy 2:13 – if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.


Kingdom, Power, and Glory: H.C. Question 128

What does your conclusion to this prayer mean? 
 
Romans 10:11-13 – As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
 
2 Peter 2:9 – if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.
 
Psalm 115:1 – Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
 
John 14:13 – And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.


The Time of Trial: H.C. Question 127

What does the sixth petition mean?
 
Psalm 103:14-16 – for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.  The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
 
Ephesians 6:10-13 – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
 
1 Peter 5:8 – Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
 
John 15:18-21 – “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.
 
Romans 7:23 – but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
 
Galatians 5:17 – For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.
 
Matthew 10:19-20 – But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
 
Matthew 26:41 – “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
 
Mark 13:33 – Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.
 
Romans 5:3-5 – Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
 
1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
 
1 Thessalonians 3:13 – May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
 
1 Thessalonians 5:23 – May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Forgiveness: H.C. Lord’s Day 51

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 51

Q 126: What does the fifth petition mean? 
A 126: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” means:

Because of Christ’s blood, do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are, any of the sins we do or the evil that constantly clings to us.

Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors.
 
The theme of forgiveness is arguably one of the strongest themes that run through Scripture.  It isn’t any wonder, then, that this theme also comes up Jesus’ teaching on prayer too.  If God is all about forgiveness of sin and working that out through history, leading up to Jesus Christ, then it is something that we need to be thinking about in our time and relationship with God.  Simply put, neither would really exist without God’s forgiveness extended to us in Jesus Christ.
 
One of the biggest questions that come out of this petition in the Lord’s prayer has to do with our salvation: “haven’t all of our sins been forgiven already?”  The answer, of course, is yes.  When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He took on the sins of the whole world and His righteousness was imputed to us.  This transaction was a once for all event that took place with lasting impacts and implications throughout the entire universe.
 
However, you and I both know that though our sins have been forgiven, we are not ourselves sinless in this life.  We are made righteous by Christ and yet we continue on in our rebellion against God, sinning all the time, every day.  And, while there is no way for us to lose our Salvation once it is granted to us, we are called to better things in our lives and that is part of what we are acknowledging here.
 
A good way to think about it, suggested by Kevin DeYoung, author of the book The Good News We Almost Forgot, a book that has been our guide through this past year, is the parent-child relationship.  If your child has set chores to do each day, the expectation is that those would be done and that you wouldn’t have to do them.  Let’s say that one day your child didn’t do them and you had to do them yourself.  Obviously, your child has broken the agreement, the relationship you have experiences some strain, but it isn’t something you would disown them for nor would you withdraw your love from them.  But disobedience has occurred, and something must be done.
 
When you decide to confront your child about it, he or she could admit their guilt, sorrowfully apologize, and your relationship would be restored.  This is what you would desire as a parent.  If the child blew you off and/or continued in their disobedience, the relationship you have would experience greater amounts of strain and a distance would be created.  You would never stop loving them, even though they were continually pushing away from you.
 
This is how it is with us and God as well.  God desires that our relationship would be restored.  For us, that means a continual confession of our sins and desire to do better next time.  We aren’t condemned, Scripture assures us of this.  God will not withdraw His love, Scripture assures us of this as well.  But restoration needs to take place and, for that to happen both forgiveness (from God) and repentance (from us) are necessary.
 
When we sin, we feel guilty.  This is often called this a “conviction” of the Holy Spirit.  We needn’t carry that guilt around us as an identity.  Rather, we respond to this conviction by repentance and receive/acknowledge anew the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ.
 
Jesus teaching goes beyond the simple fact of sinning and repenting in our relationship with God though.  As is true with many things in the Christian life, we are called to extend the love and grace that we experience beyond ourselves to those around us.  The forgiven heart is a forgiving heart.  When we experience God’s forgiveness, the deep cleansing and washing that takes place inside of us, and the unmerited grace extended to us in our lives, we cannot help but want to share that love with others as well.
 
Does this mean that if we don’t forgive someone that we will lose our salvation?  Certainly not.  There are all sorts of circumstances in which forgiveness can be difficult due to extensive pain, lack of remorse from the other party, and so much more.  However, the Scriptural call is a trajectory toward forgiveness and restoration and the heart that experiences forgiveness longs to be a heart that forgives as well.  It may take a lot of God’s work on our hearts to get us there, but God’s desire for our lives is that we who are forgiven become forgivers, continuing to break the bondage of sin and encountering a deeper understanding of God’s love and forgiveness to us along the way.


Debts and Debtors: H.C. Question 126

What does the fifth petition mean? 

Psalm 51:1-7 – Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
 
Psalm 143:2 – Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.
 
Romans 8:1 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
 
1 John 2:1-2 – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
 
Matthew 6:14-15 – For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 18:21-35 – Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”



Realizing Dependence: H.C. Lord’s Day 50

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 50

Q 125: What does the fourth petition mean?
A 125: “Give us this day our daily bread” means:

Do take care of all our physical needs so that we come to know that you are the only source of everything good, and that neither our work and worry nor your gifts can do us any good without your blessing;

And so help us to give up our trust in creatures and trust in you alone.
 
 How often do you think about where your next meal is going to come from?  If you are like me, probably rarely.  Even if we don’t have any food in the house (which never actually happens), my family and I could go out to eat at one of any number of restaurants in a 20-mile radius.  We are pretty much never in danger of not having enough food.
 
Not being in danger of this, however, can be a danger in and of itself.  When we are in a place of abundance, a place where our own work seems to be enough for the provisions that we need, not to mention the wants that we often indulge, we far too often forget the true source and provider of all our needs, God the creator, sustainer, and provider for the entire universe.
 
Now, as we have discussed in the past couple of weeks, the catechism is not teaching some magical words that are going to get you more “blessed.”  Neither is it teaching that if you don’t say these things, God is going to somehow pull all of His blessings and provision right out from under you.  Jesus is teaching His disciples to pray and, as such, He is teaching them the importance of both the direction of their prayers and the recognition in their prayers.
 
Praying for the things that you already have seems a bit silly.  This is especially true when you’ve always had them.  Yet the danger in not including this in our prayer life is a plunge into total self-reliance.  Jesus is teaching His disciples to remember the true source of all things and the direction in which their trust should go.  For them this would be even more important in the years that followed Jesus Ascension into heaven, a time of intense persecution of the young Church.
 
Self-reliance, in the face of the trials and tribulations of life, may work for a little bit, but ultimately our strength and our hope come from something much greater than ourselves.  Christians have, far too often, encouraged each other by saying “hang in there” or “you are stronger than this.”  These are certainly good sentiments, but at their core is a very dark and dangerous desire: we want to be in control, we want to support ourselves, we don’t want to have to trust anyone else.
 
The reality for us, however, is that we need to put that trust somewhere else.  What we want is self-reliance but what we need is God-reliance.  This is why Jesus taught His disciples to have this as a vital part of their prayer life.  Excluding it could be a lapse in memory or a simple oversight; it could also reveal a sort of reality of a self-reliant heart that either doesn’t want to or doesn’t feel it needs to look to God for all our needs… even the ones that seem to be already met.
 
Have you ever been at a place in your faith journey where prayer seems to be of relatively little importance?  I know I have.  What is it that shakes you out of that?  Perhaps a crisis… a deep struggle… a significant life event…  We readily go to God when we recognize a need that we cannot meet for ourselves.  Jesus teaches us that, while God will always be there, we should readily go to God for everything, in everything, with everything.  Not only does God invite this, He longs for it!


Provision: H.C. Question 125 (Part 2)

What does the fourth petition mean? 
 
James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
 
Deuteronomy 8:3 – He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
 
Psalm 37:16 – Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked;
 
Psalm 127:1-2 – Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.  In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.
 
1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
 
Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 – This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Hebrews 13:5-6 – Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?”
 


All Our Needs: H.C. Question 125 (Part 1)

What does the fourth petition mean? 
 
Psalm 104:27-30 – All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.  When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.  When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.  When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
 
Psalm 145:15-16 – The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Matthew 6:25-34 – “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
 
Acts 14:17 – Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
 
Acts 17:25 – And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.


God’s Will Be Done: H.C. Lord’s Day 49

Q 124. What does the third petition mean? 

A 124. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means:
Help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk. Your will alone is good.
Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
 
Language about the “will of God” can be very confusing.  This is due in part to the variety of ways that this language is used in Scripture, but also finds it’s puzzlement in how Christians use the term to talk about what is going on in their lives.  We readily dismiss negative events in our lives, even those related to the presence and impact of sin, as being God’s will.  A tragic death, a fatal illness, and even injustice that we experience in the world around us is all chalked up to and dismissed as “the will” of God.
 
Yet, even in that rather dispassionate response, there is something unsettling that stirs in us.  The question of how a good God can allow for such evil arises.  When we dismiss sin as the “will of God,” we even begin to walk the line of blaming God for sin and potentially see Him as the cause of it.  Thoughts such as this are contrary to what we know about God; He cannot sin and is wholly separate from sin.  How can these two things be reconciled?
 
There are really two sides of God’s will that Scripture reveals to us: His will of decree and His will of Desire.  God’s will of decree has to do with His continual governing and provision of the entire universe.  His divine sovereignty covers everything from the orbits of planets and galaxies to the number of hairs on your head and the color of your eyes.  Most of all, God’s unthwartable will is the ultimate redemption and restoration of Creation and the annihilation of sin.
 
God’s Will of desire is what the Lord’s prayer is pointing toward.  God’s will of desire has to do with what God wants for His people and for the world, but it is a will that can be disregarded by His rebellious creatures.  This is where human freedom comes in.  While it is God’s desire that everything on earth be as perfect as it is in heaven; perfect worship, perfect obedience, perfect service, perfect holiness.  He has, however, instilled freedom in the human heart.  It is this freedom that ultimately led to sin entering the world and it is this freedom that continues to allow God’s creatures to turn from Him and reject Him.
 
Ultimately, this is why we pray that God’s will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”  As we have been talking about already, the Lord’s prayer is about teaching us to pray.  Clearly, praying these exact words does not enact God’s will of desire here on earth instantly.  If that were true, everything would be perfect once again.  Instead, this once again reminds us of who we are praying to and what He desires for us.
 
First, by praying this we are reminded that it is indeed God’s will, not our own will, that we are to desire.  For us, that also means that we are putting our own will aside.  Scripture describes this as “dying” to ourselves.  There are many examples of human desires and will taking center stage and God’s will being put aside.  Whether it is that time when we littered while we were driving in the country or the concentration camps of the Nazis in World War 2, when human will is allowed to run free, it always runs to sin.  Clearly, we need a Savior, and one of the results of God’s salvation is the changing of the heart; we desire that God’s will would be done, not our own.
 
For this to take place, a second thing needs to happen: we need to trust God’s will.  It isn’t enough to just want God’s will to happen, we need to trust that how He is working and what He is doing is the right thing too.  Often this is where Christians start to say things like “it’s God’s will.”  Certainly, nothing in the world happens without God allowing it to happen.  However, it is not God’s will that people would die, that people would abuse or kill, or that sin would continue to have all of the horrible impacts on the world that it does.  In the midst of this, however, God is at work.  As we desire His will over ours, and as we trust in Him, we begin to see things change in our lives.  Our faith grows, our trust grows, and we look to Him in the good times and the bad, recognizing God’s faithfulness and His love, even in the midst of our pain.
 
Finally, as we desire God’s will and trust His will, we must also carry out His will.  This is the ultimate end of transformation in our hearts; it overflows into and out of our lives.  As we learn to pray and learn from this prayer, we begin to see things as God sees them, to feel about people the way God feels about them, and our hearts begin to beat in sync with His.  In essence, God’s will of desire becomes the desire of our will!  It is to that end, then, that we begin to desire that heaven would come to earth and we work to that end, spreading God’s love and working God’s will in the world around us.