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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

Why Should We Pray?

A Catechetical Sermon on the Lord’s Prayer

The 4th Wednesday in Lent, 3/6/2024

Matthew 6:5-14, Thessalonians 5:12-22

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

               

Dear friends in Christ, today we take up the topic of prayer. This is fitting for two reasons. Firstly, it is  a good thing for us to be reminded of the duty and joy of prayer. Secondly, Lent is traditionally a time to focus on prayer and its importance for our lives. In order that we be reminded of and strengthened in our prayer life, there are three things I want to focus on tonight. Firstly, we must discuss what prayer is and what it is not. Secondly, we will look at how to pray. Finally, we will discuss the blessings and joy of prayer.

Prayer is not a complicated thing. It is, simply put, speaking with God either by voice or thought. That is to say, prayers may either be spoken out loud or voiced in one’s own mind. Either way, God certainly hears them. Being the Almighty, He knows all things and sees all things, including our thoughts. And this is a good thing, it means that God is perfectly able to hear our prayers, no matter how quiet or confused they may be. And, more than this, God is able to even understand those prayers that we cannot find adequate words for. St. Paul notes that the Spirit utters groanings too deep for words to our Father, on our behalf.[1] In other words, even when we find ourselves inarticulate in prayer, God still knows what we mean and hears what we ask.

Our prayers are not spontaneous in the sense that they come without external influence. While it is true that our prayers are what we say to God, we only pray because God has first given us His Word and faith with it that prompt us to pray. That is, without God’s work in us, we would not pray as only the believing person would talk to God. Unbelievers, who do not believe in God, would not. This is why it is customary in Lutheran devotions to first hear or read God’s Word, reflect on it, then pray as Portals of Prayer and the Around the Word devotions in the bulletin each week. In other words, prayer is a response to God’s actions in our lives in granting us His blessings which range from daily blessings up to eternal life in the forgiveness of sins.

When we pray, we call on our God. We do for a few different reasons. That is to say, we pray for different kinds of things. Luther reminds us in the explanation to the Second Commandment in the Small Catechism that God gives us the gift of His Name to call on Him in prayer, praise, thanksgiving, and in every trouble. The Bible records several kinds of prayer: confession of sins[2], requests[3], intercession (prayer for others),[4] thanksgiving,[5] lamentation or complaint[6], and praise.[7] In other words, sometimes when we pray, we confess our sins, knowing that we are forgiven in Christ Jesus; we make requests of God for things we need, trusting that God will certainly hear us when we pray; we can request help for others we care about; we can bring our sorrow and complaints to God; we can thank God for all His blessings; and we praise Him for His deeds and qualities.

There is something of a confusion that arises in the matter of prayer. While we are assured in Scripture that God hears our prayers[8] and will grant them,[9] it is also true that God is God and will do what He sees fit.[10] That means that sometimes we ask God for things that He does not  want us to have and will not grant us. God is God and we are not, and He sees a picture of our needs far bigger than we ourselves can. He knows us and our condition even more intimately than we ourselves. As such, we have a tendency as human beings to ask for things we may not need. But as God is God, He gives what we need and what is good for us, even when we ask for other things. This false idea I mentioned a short time ago is that God must give us what we pray for, usually so long as we do it in particular ways. For example, there are those who teach that so long as we end prayers with the words “in Jesus’ Name,” then God will do what we tell Him. This idea also is called “name it and claim it” as if our words were God’s own and could by their own work establish realities in this world apart from God’s own work. Let me be clear: this is not how prayer works. Prayer is us talking to God and humbly asking Him. We who pray trust that God hears our prayers and will answer them well, even if that turns out to be different that what we expect. As our Lord Jesus notes, we want God’s will to be done, not our own.

There is a secular, pagan version of this as well. The idea is out there in society that if we put positive thoughts or vibes or clear intentions out into the world, then the world or universe or whatever will have to give us what we want. This is, quite frankly, superstitious nonsense and is entirely opposed to the Christian confession of faith. We are humble requestors, not entitled demanders.

Prayer is easy enough in concept but can be hard to do. The best way to cultivate a prayer life is to set aside time each day to do it. The Small Catechism’s section on daily prayer recommends prayer when you wake up, when you eat, and when you go to bed. Luther suggests praying the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed every day, multiple times a day in order to keep ourselves grounded in God’s Word. I find that it is easiest to begin regular prayer by praying memorized prayers as it takes some of the pressure off in trying to find the right words. That being said, there is nothing wrong with just saying what you want to God either. The main thing is to just do it and to set aside time each day for it. Mornings work well for us in our house, but any time of day can work just as well. It is a good idea to read some portion of the Bible or do daily devotions with the Around the Word sheet or Portals of Prayer before praying, as prayer is always a response to God speaking to us in His Word.

Finally, prayer is a great blessing to us. It lets us rest our cares and worries on God. It gives us a way to give thanks and praise to God. It allows us to do something useful in otherwise helpless situations, especially tragedies. And God promises to hear all of our prayers. No matter whether the prayer is a single whisper from a solitary Christian or the loud cry of a crowd of praying people, God will hear and respond. Above all, we should always trust that God hears our prayers and cares deeply about those things we bring to Him.

Prayer is an important part of the Christian life. It is not a means of grace, but a response to God’s work in our lives. It brings blesses us with comfort in knowing that God hears our cares. It is important to develop a good habit of prayer rooted in God’s Word. So, dear friends in Christ, let us pray as our Lord taught us and in the way He teaches us.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


[1] Romans 8:26

[2] E.g. Psalm 51

[3] E.g. Psalm 22

[4] E.g. Psalm 82

[5] E.g. Psalm 118

[6] E.g. Psalm 10

[7] E.g. Psalm 136

[8] 1 John 5:14-15

[9] Matthew 21:22

[10] E.g. Jeremiah 36:7

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