Your Kingdom Come: H.C. Lord’s Day 48

Q. What does the second petition mean?
A. “Your kingdom come” means: Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you.

Preserve your church and make it grow.

Destroy the devil’s work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your holy Word.

Do this until your kingdom fully comes, when you will be all in all.
 
If interesting factoids are your thing, it would probably interest you to know that one of the greatest theologians in the Reformation, John Calvin, began his commentary notes on this phrase by saying, “this is nothing new.”  At first glance, it might seem a bit shocking to use such casual and dismissive language as this in a commentary on the Lord’s prayer.  Yet, when we look a bit deeper, we can see that he is right.
 
Coming to this second petition, we’ve already prayed that God’s name would be made holy and isn’t that, at least in part, what happens as God’s Kingdom comes in our lives and expands in the world?  God is, after all, the antonym of sin, and His will is not just that sin would take a back seat or generally be less bad.  His will is that sin will be completely crushed and entirely eradicated from the hearts of all people and from the world.  There will be no compromise at the end of time, sin will be done away with completely.
 
It can be so easy for us to get caught up in the issues of the day, whether they be social, political, or otherwise.  We have opinions, ideologies, and preferences that are part of the makeup of who we are as human beings for each and every subject or issue that we are presented with.  Make no mistake, God also does as well.  When we pray that to God “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven,” we are laying aside our own will and preference for the sake of God’s work and ultimately God’s glory in our lives and in the world.
 
Remember, Jesus’ teaching on the Lord’s prayer was not meant to be a line-up of words that have some sort of magical ability to get God’s attention.  Jesus wasn’t giving us the passcode to God’s listening ear, He was teaching us about prayer, the content, substance, and direction that He wanted to see it take in His disciples’ lives.  So once again, while this statement can be simply a declaration, it is a phrase that reminds us what our purpose is: we are praying into God’s Kingdom.
 
What this doesn’t mean for us is that if we pray fervently enough all of the sudden good things will happen.  Nowhere in Scripture will you find anything that teaches this.  Unlike the teachings of some, particularly those who tout the prosperity gospel of “name it and claim it,” this is not simply a matter of having the right words with the right intensity.
 
This also does not come as a sort of passive statement that, if we say it, eventually God will make it happen.  While Scripture does teach that God acts on behalf of His people, perhaps in the case of healing diseases or turning the hearts of people toward himself and that the prayer of the righteous person is both “powerful and effective,” we are again no talking about magical incantations that bend God toward our will.
 
In fact, we see right in the wording that Jesus uses that this isn’t about our will, it’s about God’s.  As Jesus is teaching His disciples to pray, He is teaching them that the appropriate posture of God’s people is to see their will bent towards His.  The Heidelberg Catechism’s answer to this Lord’s Day is incredibly telling here: “Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you.
 
As we pray into the will of God, we begin to see our hearts turned toward His.  We begin to see things as He sees them; love people as He loves them.  We even see ourselves more able to forgive others just as God has forgiven us in Jesus Christ.  In all of this, we then see the expansion of God’s Kingdom, His rule, and reign on the hearts of His people, spread outward from our lives into the world around us.  The effects of sin are pushed back… our selfish hearts are softened and our desires are molded and shaped into God’s will both in our lives and in the world.
 
When we take this approach, too, we will see God’s Church expand as well.  The Church is not the Kingdom, but when churches become Kingdom minded, they will give witness to the Kingdom, be heralds of the Kingdom, work to expand the Kingdom, and in turn, see themselves grow as well.  Never in Scripture do we see teaching of prioritizing our church before the Kingdom.  Sometimes it is difficult to see this when our local church is going through difficult times.  We tend to look inward, hoard our resources, and protect ourselves.  That, however, is not the teaching that Christ puts forth in this prayer.
 
God calls us to be about the business of the Kingdom, to be workers in His harvest field.  When we declare “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done…” we are reminded of the priorities that God has for His people.  God’s Kingdom is one of abundance and provision coupled with trust.  Sure, we can be prudent with church finances and expenditures, but never at the expense of Kingdom vision and work.  We are called to “Seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.  Then all of the other things will be added unto you.”


Coming Kingdom: H.C. Question 123

What does the second petition mean? 
 
Psalm 119:5 – Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!
 
Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
 
Psalm 143:10 – Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
 
Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
 
Psalm 122:6-9 – Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure.  May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”  For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.
 
Matthew 16:18 – And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
 
Acts 2:42-47 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
 
Romans 16:20 – The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.  The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
 
1 John 3:8 – The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
 
Romans 8:22-23 – We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
 
1 Corinthians 15:28 – When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
 
Revelation 22:17 – The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty
come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Revelation 22:20 – He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.



May Your Name be Holy: H.C. Lord’s Day 47

 Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 47

Q 122: What does the first petition mean? 
A 122: “Hallowed be your name” means: Help us to truly know you, to honor, glorify, and praise you for all your works and for all that shines forth from them: your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth.

And it means, Help us to direct all our living—what we think, say, and do—so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us but always honored and praised.
 
The “petitions” of the Lord’s prayer begin with a phrase: “Hallowed be Your Name.”  This has typically been seen as a declaration that God’s Name is Holy, and that is not necessarily wrong.  God’s Name is Holy, far and above every other name that has ever been or ever will be.
 
However, as we think about the Lord’s prayer, we always should keep in front of us that this isn’t a set of magic words that God gave us to repeat mindlessly so as to earn His favor.  No, in the moment that Jesus speaks these words, He is teaching His disciples to pray.  Like everything else, Jesus doesn’t impose a sort of “law” on them, but instead, it is a lesson on the direction, content, and purpose of our prayers.
 
So, while a statement that God’s name is Holy certainly stands on its own, what this phrase is teaching us flows much deeper.  Beginning here reminds us not just of who we are talking to, our Holy Father in heaven, but it also speaks the purpose of the moment of prayer into our thoughts and minds.  What is that purpose?  To glorify God.
 
It is very easy to come to the Lord in prayer with our requests, our worries, our fears, and our need for forgiveness.  In fact, far too often we treat God as a sort of “cosmic vending machine” that will give us what we think we need when we ask.  The reality, for us, however, is much deeper and much more important than this.  When we come to God in prayer, it should be our desire and ultimate purpose that God’s name is glorified and honored through our words and actions. 
 
Prayer is a worshipful experience.  In all worship, our desire is that the object of our worship is the one person/thing that is receiving all of our attention.  For believers, that one person is always God; there is nothing and no one else.  Anything being worshipped apart from God is an idol.
 
Traditionally, we teach our children that they should “fold their hands” and “close their eyes” when we pray.  There is nothing Scripturally sound about this teaching as far as I know.  God doesn’t listen to us more when we intertwine our fingers or close our eyes.  It is possible, however, that we might listen to Him more when we do.
 
Current trends in Christianity are moving toward a sort of “me and Jesus” mentality, where church and other ‘religious’ things don’t necessarily matter so much.  There are some great things that have come from this, like the idea of prayer as a conversation and relationship builder.  Others have not been so great, like Christian individualism… but we’ll talk about that another time.
 
Prayer as a conversation is a wonderful image.  We aren’t just going to God with our lists, but instead, we are to Him to hear from Him and talk to Him.  In a conversation, the person we are talking to has our full attention; when we are distracted by phones, people, or objects, we both lose focus and dishonor the relationship.  Sadly, this has become normal for us in human-human interaction and these bad habits have crept into our prayer life as well.  Perhaps there is something to a sort of devotional prayer that involves silence, eyes closed and hands folded.
 
In any case, the purpose of the first declaration is both to declare to God our intentions in the moment and to remind ourselves of its purpose as well.
 
We have a tendency to do things out of habit; sometimes we even call it “tradition.”  Have you ever thought about the holidays?  There are so many things that we do during the Thanksgiving & Christmas seasons, but why?  We put lights on our houses and on trees… we buy loads of gifts of things that will probably be discarded within months… but why?  We run from house to house, family to family, worried about seeing all the people but not actually being present with them or our own families… but why?
 
Does all of that honor the coming of our Savior?  Or do we just do it because we’ve always done it that way?  When we come to our Lord in prayer, do we honor Him with that time, worshipping Him and giving our full attention?  In the same way that we need to “remember the reason for the season,” we need to remember the reason we come before our heavenly Father in prayer.  We don’t just come to Him because His Name is Holy, we come before Him to glorify the Holiness of His Name.


Hallowed Name: H.C. Question 122 (Part 3)

What does the first petition [hallowed be your name] mean? 
 

Jeremiah 32:16-20 – “After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord:

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the parents’ sins into the laps of their children after them. Great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord Almighty, great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to the ways of all mankind; you reward each person according to their conduct and as their deeds deserve. You performed signs and wonders in Egypt and have continued them to this day, in Israel and among all mankind, and have gained the renown that is still yours.

Luke 1:46-55 – And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
 
Luke 1:68-75 – “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Romans 11:33-36 – Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen.


Hallowed Name: H.C. Question 122 (Part 2)

What does the first petition [hallowed be your name] mean? 
 
 
I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
All your works praise you, Lord;
your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
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.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.


Hallowed Name: H.C. Question 122 (Part 1)

What does the first petition [hallowed be your name] mean? 
 
Jeremiah 9:23-24 – This is what the Lord says:  “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.
 
Jeremiah 31:33-34 – “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,”  declares the Lord.  “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
 
Matthew 16:17 – Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
 
John 17:3 – Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
 
Exodus 34:5-8 – Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
 
Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped.
 
Matthew 5:16 – In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
 
Psalm 115:1 – Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.


Our Father in Heaven: H.C. Lord’s Day 46

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 46

Q 120. Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”? 
A 120. To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer what should be basic to our prayer—a childlike reverence and trust that through Christ God has become our Father, and that just as our parents do not refuse us the things of this life, even less will God our Father refuse to give us what we ask in faith.
 
Q 121. Why the words “in heaven”? 
A 121. These words teach us not to think of God’s heavenly majesty as something earthly and to expect everything needed for body and soul from God’s almighty power.
 
Being a Father has been life-changing for me.  The unquenchable love that I feel day in and day out for this little girl is absolutely mind-blowing.  She hasn’t done anything to earn my love.  As a matter of fact, if left to simple logic, she has done more in her one and a half years to break me of my fondness for her than she has to amplify it.  Yet, my love for her has known no bounds, something I still cannot even fathom within my own mind.
 
One thing that has been a joy to me as a father has been to watch my daughter learn.  It is uncanny what she picks up as she learns to play with toys, to interact with other people, and even to speak.  I’ve had to take a step back and examine my own habit when it comes to such things and here’s why: she copies everything I do.  When she first discovered matchbox cars she would just carry them around.  Then she saw my driving them around on the floor so she started doing that do.  Next, I would run them into each other… suffice to say I am glad she won’t be driving anytime soon.  Later I would crash them and then flip the cars over as if it were a big wreck; she does that as well now.
 
All of Scripture refers to God as the “Heavenly Father.”  This isn’t to say that God is male or female; God is Spirit.  God certainly has many feminine and maternal characteristics.  But Scripture’s revelation of God has Father displays for us an image of who God is to us.  Sadly, today’s culture has twisted that image through both positive and negative movements.
 
As our culture becomes increasingly aware of the equality of gender in the world, a positive movement if ever there was one.  In that, however, there has been considerable pushback against the notion of God as being a masculine reference.  There is some validity to this as God is not a man and men throughout time have used the masculine reference to God as a way of cementing abusive dominance over others.  This is wrong, but it is not itself a reason to abandon the Scriptural witness of God as Father.
 
In a similar, but much more negative way, the breakdown of the family in North America as well as the coming to light of so many destroyed relationships due to abusive fathers & husbands has led to a wholesale questioning of whether “Father” is an appropriate reference to God.  For many who have been hurt in this way, whether by abuse or absence, even the term “Father” can bring up painful, bad memories.  Without being insensitive to this, however, it is important to understand that our pain does not supersede Scripture’s revelation.
 
The reality of God is this: God is our loving Father, the best of what was intended for that position and person in people’s lives.  God created us as His children and loves us in a way that is beyond comprehension to us, despite our disobedience and turning from Him time and time again.  God is overjoyed to see us grow and learn, maturing in our live, our faith, and even in the great gifts and abilities that He has given to us.  God is also the opposite of everything negative that has been infused into the father figure of the 21st century.  He will never abandon us nor is He ever absent; His love is perfect and encourages flourishing within our lives, even healing rather than hurt.
 
More than this, though, is our reaction to this perfect Father figure in our lives.  As we grow from proverbial infants in our faith into more mature individuals, we, like my daughter with me, begin to see how God is working in the world and how He interacts with and loves His children.  The more we see this modeled for us in our lives, the more we begin to follow those patterns, loving others as God loves us.  Our experience with God, when we turn to Him and fully experience His love, molds and shapes us, informing who we become in Christ.
 
Sadly, this too has been soured in the world through the unhealthy actions of people within the church.  God’s people have, often, missed the mark when it comes to modeling this for each other as well.  Because of this, people have blamed God for the actions of His people.  Sadly, parents can experience this too, being blamed as a bad parent for the momentary behavioral lapse of a child.  In any case, we must understand that we must look to Scripture to understand God better, not to the actions of His children which, in some circumstances, are not in line with God’s eternal love and purpose.
 
Additionally, it is vitally important to mention then second part of this week’s question: God’s location.  We are not looking to some local offical, a governmental authority, or even the clergy of a church for help, advice, or anything else.  No, our Divine Father is in Heaven, unconfined by the limits of mortal and material existence, God reigns from His throne, holding the entire universe in the palm of His hand.  Yet, despite God’s infinite magnitude, He concerns Himself with each one of us so much that, as the 1st Question and Answer reminds us: “not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven.”


“In Heaven” H.C. Question 121

Why the words “in heaven”? 
 
Jeremiah 23:23-24 – “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away?  Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord.  “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.
 
Acts 17:24-25 – “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

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.
 
Romans 8:31-32 – What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?


“Our Father” H.C. Question 120

Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”? 
 
Matthew 7:9-11 – “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
 
Luke 11:11-13 – “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
 
Romans 8:14-17 – For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
 
Galatians 4:1-7 – What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.


Concerning Prayer: H.C. Lord’s Day 45

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 45

 Q 116. Why do Christians need to pray? 
A 116. Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.  And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking God for them.
 
Q 117. What is the kind of prayer that pleases God and that he listens to? 
A 117. First, we must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, revealed to us in his Word, asking for everything God has commanded us to ask for.
Second, we must fully recognize our need and misery, so that we humble ourselves in God’s majestic presence.
Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord. That is what God promised us in his Word.
 
Q 118. What did God command us to pray for? 
A 118. Everything we need, spiritually and physically, as embraced in the prayer Christ our Lord himself taught us.
 
Q 119. What is this prayer? 
A 119. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.* For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.
 
This Lord’s day begins the final section of the Heidelberg Catechism which focuses specifically in on the Lord’s Prayer.  It is fitting, I think, to end the teaching about how we are called to live here.  We have talked about our sin, our Savior, and our response to that.  First, the gratitude that comes from us for our salvation, then the specifics of what we believe.  Next we talked about the Law, a guide for our lives that ultimately points us back to our need for a Savior and the reason for our faith.  Finally, now, we will talk about our connection to God which is prayer.
 
The first Lord’s day that talks about prayer starts off, rightly, by showing us some of the whys and whats of prayer.  Given the recent events in Texas, and the subsequent negative reactions about prayer that have taken place, these teachings are now, more important than ever.
 
So why pray?  I think, at least for those who are believers, the appropriate counter question is “why not?”  We believe that God is the creator of the universe, that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift including our lives, and that God loves us so much the He has saved us from our sins through His Son, Jesus.  He also invites us into a relationship with Him, one that is connected to Him through prayer and the Holy Spirit.  Through prayer, we bring praise, worship, gratitude, and all sorts of requests.
 
It isn’t, however, so much about what we bring in prayer as it is what God brings in those moments too.  When we approach God, we are shown His love and grace, His welcoming arms are open and He is present there more than any person in our lives ever is to us.  In these moments, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are also built up in our trust of God, humility of ourselves, and in our identity before Him in Jesus Christ.
 
God also invites us to bring anything and everything to Him in prayer.  In a close relationship, you would talk to your friend about the happenings of your day.  You would most likely also share some of your concerns and frustrations.  Our Heavenly Father desires this with us as well.  He wants to hear about our struggles at work, the joy we get from our children, our frustration in not being able to find our keys.  More than that, though, He wants to be a part of those things in our lives.
 
What this doesn’t mean, however, is that whatever we ask God for we will get.  God is not some sort of cosmic vending machine.  That is why the “How” of this teaching is so important.  Jesus teaches us how to pray and in following this teaching, we begin to get a sense of what is most important.  While God certainly cares about the things that you want, what He has promised you is the things that you need.  He is the ever-present, always providing Father who gives us everything we stand in need of.  The teaching of the Lord’s Prayer reveals to us what those needs actually are.
 
As we look to this, and the teaching that will follow, we will begin to see unfolded before us, God’s deep desire for intimacy in our lives, and also His unending love for us, and His unfailing provision and presence in our lives.


The Lord’s Prayer: H.C. Question 119

What is this prayer? 
 

Matthew 6:9-13 – “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
 

Luke 11:2-4 – He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”


For What do We Pray? H.C. Question 118

What did God command us to pray for? 
 
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.
 
Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
 
Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.


Pleasing Prayer: H.C. Question 117

What is the kind of prayer that pleases God and that he listens to?
 
Psalm 145:18-20 – The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.  He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.  The Lord watches over all who love him,  but all the wicked he will destroy.
 
John 4:22-24 – You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
 
Romans 8:26-27 – In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
 
James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
 
1 John 5:14-15 – This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
 
2 Chronicles 7:14 – if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
 
Psalm 2:11 – Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.
 
Psalm 34:18 – The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
 
Psalm 62:8 – Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
 
Isaiah 66:2 – Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord.  “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.
 
Revelation 4 – After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. 
 
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”

Daniel 9:17-19 – “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
 
Matthew 7:8 – For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
 
John 14:13-14 – And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
 
John 16:23 – In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
 
Romans 10:13 – for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
 
James 1:6 – But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.


Prayer: H.C. Question 116

Why do Christians need to pray? 
 
Psalm 32:5 – Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”  And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
 
Romans 3:19-26 – Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
 
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his
righteousness,
because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
 
Romans 7:7 – What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

Romans 7:24-25 – What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
 
1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
 
1 Corinthians 9:24 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
 
Philippians 3:12-14 – Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
 
1 John 3:1-3 – See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.


Contentment: H.C. Lord’s Day 44

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 44

Q 113. What is the aim of the tenth commandment?
A 113. That not even the slightest desire or thought contrary to any one of God’s commandments should ever arise in our hearts.

Rather, with all our hearts we should always hate sin and take pleasure in whatever is right.
 

Q 114. But can those converted to God obey these commandments perfectly? 
A 114. No. In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience.

Nevertheless, with all seriousness of purpose, they do begin to live according to all, not only some, of God’s commandments.
 

Q 115. Since no one in this life can obey the Ten Commandments perfectly, why does God want them preached so pointedly? 
A 115. First, so that the longer we live the more we may come to know our sinfulness and the more eagerly look to Christ for forgiveness of sins and righteousness.

Second, so that we may never stop striving, and never stop praying to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, to be renewed more and more after God’s image, until after this life we reach our goal: perfection.
 
 Of all the commandments we’ve just worked through, the 10th one is more than likely the one that everyone looks at and can say they need some work on it.  Coveting, a word that is not used much at all these days, is something we likely do on a daily basis.  In fact, advertisers have picked up on that idea and now seek to touch on those unhealthy desires so as to sell you their product.  They know in part what God is fully aware of: our hearts are not content.  More than that, though, is the fact that we will look everywhere and anywhere to find that contentment… and most of the time we don’t look to God for it.
 
Whether we are looking at our neighbor’s possessions, another person’s spouse, or the things that they get to do (like grandiose vacations every year), wanting them as a pursuit of happiness and fulfillment is both coveting and a sign of discontentment.  Augustine, one of the great church Fathers, once wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  He recognized the reality that we are indeed made to desire, but the ultimate end of that our desires must be God.  True fulfillment cannot be found anywhere else.
 
This truth, however antiquated it might be, is part and parcel to how this section on the 10 Commandments ends.  Realistically, there is no way that we can keep these commands perfectly… or at all.  But the point here is not to shame us or to show us how bad we are, but rather to point our hearts in the right direction.  For us, that requires the revelation of the sin in our lives and its effects on both our hearts and our minds.  More than that, however, is that in doing so, it also points us to our need for a Savior and the ultimate source of all our provision and therefore our contentment as well.
 
It is abundantly true that we will search for things in our lives to make us happy.  On the surface, this is a good thing.  In fact, if we didn’t have this desire, we probably wouldn’t search for God or salvation in the first place.  But sin, and
it deleterious effects,
have twisted this good desire into a selfish want for more things in an effort to satisfy our hearts.  Unfortunately, this leads to a good number of the sins which are revealed in these commandments, all of which fall under the umbrella of idolatry, putting something ahead of God in our lives.
 
Our reality is simply this: we need a Savior.  If we’ve learned anything in the past 10 weeks it is that.  Yes, we covet, we murder, we steal, and we do many other things.  Yet, even in the midst of our wretched actions, we are introduced to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  When we realize how broken we are, that by rights we should be left in our own misery, but that in our time of greatest need God has turned His face toward us and lifted us up, we can shout and rejoice!  God’s salvation is for us and, there is nothing that can take it away from us once we’ve accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
 
Paul’s words in Romans 7 sum up this section so beautifully:

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment,deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 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. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.