With Heidelberg’s section on the 10 Commandments concluded, the Catechism now shifts gears to discuss the Lord’s Prayer. From a devotional viewpoint, this is one of Heidelberg’s richest sections, by far.
Q. 116. Why is prayer necessary for Christians?
A: Because it is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us: and also, because God will give his grace and Holy Spirit to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of him, and are thankful for them.
Most of us, when we think of prayer, think first and foremost, of petitions—asking God to meet our needs. However, Heidelberg rightly points out that prayer is necessary, more importantly, because it is “the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us.” We are to see prayer, more than anything else, as a way to thank God for what he has done for us.
Secondly, though God could certainly act and do whatever he determined without the aid of our prayers, he has so orchestrated the universe that our prayers do impact the course of events. Christianity is not fatalistic. Though God is sovereign and has the end mapped out from the beginning, we still have the responsibility to ask God for what we need. Heidelberg draws attention to the fact that, regardless of what our “felt” needs may be, what we truly need the most is God’s grace and his Holy Spirit. God will give us the desires of our heart if we petition him with sincerity, trusting him to know what we need even better than we know it ourselves.
Q. 117. What are the requisites of that prayer, which is acceptable to God, and which he will hear?
A: First, that we from the heart pray to the one true God only, who has manifested himself in his word, for all things, he has commanded us to ask of him; secondly, that we rightly and thoroughly know our need and misery, that so we may deeply humble ourselves in the presence of his divine majesty; thirdly, that we be fully persuaded that he, notwithstanding that we are unworthy of it, will, for the sake of Christ our Lord, certainly hear our prayer, as he has promised us in his word.
The most important part of prayer is that it be offered to the true God—the God revealed in Scripture and by our Lord Jesus Christ. In order to pray rightly, it’s necessary for us to know the extent of our neediness before God. If we’re to approach God as humbly and as awe-stricken as we ought to, we must know how desperately dependent we are on him at every moment. Finally, we need to trust that God will, as he has promised, answer our prayer, even though we don’t deserve it.
Q. 118. What has God commanded us to ask of him?
A: All things necessary for soul and body; which Christ our Lord has comprised in that prayer he himself has taught us.
Q. 119. What are the words of that prayer?
A: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer is, as Heidelberg will show in the weeks ahead, the best of all prayers imaginable, as it came from Christ himself and encompasses everything a prayer should include. We can know, when we pray after this manner, that our prayer is acceptable to God.
* Today is All Saints’ Day. To learn more about this holiday, visit the web site of Ridgeland’s Holy Trinity Anglican Church, where information about this and other Church Calendar events is available.