The Preface of The Lord’s Prayer

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Day 2 | Preface

Holy Week 2022 Study Series, Episode 2

Welcome to St Johns Papatoetoe Studies. During Holy Week, we will examine portions of our confession that relate to the Lord’s Prayer. This will connect us to an historic faith rooted in the word of God.

We continue with the related question:

Who do we pray for?

We are to pray for the whole church of Christ upon earth;[a] for magistrates,[b] and ministers;[c] for ourselves,[d] our brethren,[e] yea, our enemies;[f] and for all sorts of men living,[g] or that shall live hereafter;[h] but not for the dead,[i] nor for those that are known to have sinned the sin unto death.[j] The Larger Catechism (1648), 183

As you have learned from the previous study, the Reformers have scripture verses supporting each aspect of their statement. When we look at the scriptures they have chosen, we find 8 things we are to pray for and 2 we are not!

  1. We are to pray for the whole church. [a] Eph 6:18; Ps 28:9
  2. We are to pray for government officials [b] 1 Tim 2:1-2
  3. We are to pray for ministers [c] Col 4:3;

You will notice that before you pray for yourself, you are to pray for those in authority. It is a way of reminding us that we are not the centre of God’s universe. Authority is presumed to be God ordained and those in authority need guidance and assistance to exercise God’s will.

  1. We are to pray for ourselves [d] Gen 32:11
  2. We are to pray for our whanau [e] Jas 5:16
  3. We are to pray for our enemies [f] Mt 5:44;

The statement answering for whom we are to pray connects prayers for ourselves with family and enemies. It indicates how prayer is an attitude of submission to God’s will and embracing God’s love. In short:

  1. We are to pray for others [g] 1 Tim 2:1-2
  2. We are to pray for future generations [h]Jn 17:20; 2 Sam 7:29

Somewhat unusual to post-modern Christianity, we are also taught what NOT to pray for!

  1. We are NOT to pray for the dead [i]2 Sam 12:21-23
  2. We are NOT to pray for unrepentant believers [j]1 Jn 5:16

A distinctive of Bible-based Christianity is the refusal to pray for the dead. Ancestral worship, guidance from the departed, and belief in their ability to mediate before God are condemned in scripture. However, what is even a bigger pill to swallow for post-modern Christianity is the concept that there are persons we should not pray for their repentance. It is a very specific scenario and is an exception to the rule that we pray for others and even our enemies.

What do we pray for?

We are to pray for all things tending to the glory of God, the welfare of the church, our own or others good; but not for anything that is unlawful. The Larger Catechism (1648), 184

To summarise,

  1. We pray for all things that give God glory.
  2. We pray for the church’s well being.
  3. We pray for our own well being.
  4. We pray for the well-being of others.
  5. We do NOT pray for anything contrary to scripture.

How do we pray?

We are to pray with an awful apprehension of the majesty of God, and deep sense of our own unworthiness, necessities, and sins; with penitent, thankful, and enlarged hearts; with understanding, faith, sincerity, fervency, love, and perseverance, waiting upon Him, with humble submission to His will. The Larger Catechism (1648), 185

So let’s summarise that answer:

  1. We pray recognising God is holy.
  2. We pray recognising we are not holy.
  3. We pray with thankful hearts.
  4. We pray in patience for God’s answer.
  5. We pray in submission to God’s will.

And now we come to why we pray the Lord’s Prayer.

Why do we pray the Lord’s Prayer?

The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in the duty of prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which our Saviour Christ taught His disciples, commonly called The Lord’s Prayer. The Larger Catechism (1648), 186

We pray the Lord’s Prayer because it is the rule given us to pray by.

How are we to use the Lord’s Prayer?

The Lord’s Prayer is not only for direction, as a pattern, according to which we are to make other prayers; but may also be used as a prayer, so that it be done with understanding, faith, reverence, and other graces necessary to the right performance of the duty of prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer consists of three parts; a preface, petitions, and a conclusion.

What does the Preface of the Lord’s Prayer teach us?

The Preface of the Lord’s prayer (contained in these words, Our Father which art in heaven,) teacheth us, when we pray, to draw near to God with confidence of His fatherly goodness, and our interest therein; with reverence, and all other child-like dispositions, heavenly affections, and due apprehensions of His sovereign power, majesty, and gracious condescension: as also, to pray with and for others.

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