* Local News: To ring in the New Year, the senior high youth of First Presbyterian Church of Jackson are planning a trip to Dallas from December 31 to January 2. To learn more about the trip, visit the First Pres. calendar web page.
This week’s reading from Heidelberg covers the concluding questions and answers of the Catechism, as we’ve come to the end of 2010.
Q. 127. Which is the sixth petition?
A: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”; that is, since we are so weak in ourselves, that we cannot stand a moment; and besides this, since our mortal enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, cease not to assault us, do thou therefore preserve and strengthen us by the power of thy Holy Spirit, that we may not be overcome in this spiritual warfare, but constantly and strenuously may resist our foes, till at last we obtain a complete victory.
In closing, we ask the Lord to preserve us from temptation. This petition is necessary, as Heidelberg reminds us, because “we are so weak in ourselves.” We do not have what it takes to keep ourselves from temptation. The devil, the world, and our own flesh wage constant war against us; without God’s intervention “we cannot stand a moment.” This is why it’s so crucial that we call on God to preserve us by the Holy Spirit’s power.
We cannot deliver ourselves from evil. God’s Law shows us that we, ourselves, are evil. What we most urgently need to be rescued from, therefore, is ourselves. The reason the world and the devil have so much success in wooing us, the reason we are so “prone to wonder” is because our flesh is allied with the powers of darkness; our natural desires are contrary to the will of God. This is why Christianity is not about reform, but rather re-creation. We are not simply attempting to be nicer people; we are made into entirely new creatures through the power of the gospel.
We can have hope that we will not be overcome in this war, but that we will eventually obtain complete victory. There will come a day when Satan can no longer tempt us, and our own sinful nature will have been done away with. As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 3:13: “To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints,” and in 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Q. 128. How dost thou conclude thy prayer?
A: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever”; that is, all these we ask of thee, because thou, being our King and almighty, art willing and able to give us all good; and all this we pray for, that thereby not we, but thy holy name, may be glorified for ever.
The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, not found in some translations, puts the focus back to where it was in the beginning of the prayer—on God’s glory. Our ultimate goal, in all that we pray, should be to magnify God’s kingdom, not our own, his power, not our own, and his glory, not our own. Self-interested prayers run completely counter to the spirit of the Lord’s Prayer.
Q. 129. What does the word “Amen” signify?
A: “Amen” signifies it shall truly and certainly be: for my prayer is more assuredly heard of God, than I feel in my heart that I desire these things of him.
.There’s nothing magical about the word “Amen.” As a child, this writer, thought it was a necessary element of the “formula” of prayer. The word literally means, “Let it be.” In concluding the Lord’s Prayer—or any prayer, for that matter—with “Amen”, we are simply affirming that what we have asked for will be granted. What is our basis for such confidence? God’s promise. He has promised to answer whatever we ask for in Christ’s name.
Why is it so crucial to pray in Christ’s name? Because we are not worthy to approach God or be heard by God for our own sake. God hears our prayers and promises to answer them for Christ’s sake. When Christian ministers offer generic prayers in public that omit Christ’s name, they are sending the mistaken message that we can be heard for our own sake.
We have gone from being enemies of God to children of God, because of Christ. When God looks at his children he sees the righteousness of Christ covering them, and he accepts them on Christ’s behalf. We must never think that we can, in our own right, approach God or pray to him. Were we to try, our prayers would, as the saying goes, get no further than the ceiling.