We have now heard what we should do and believe; in which things the best and happiest life consists. Now the third part follows, teaching how we should pray. For since we see that no one is able to keep the Ten Commandments completely, even if he has begun to believe; and since the devil strives against it, with all his powers, together with the world and our own flesh, there is nothing so necessary as to call incessantly upon the Divine name, invoking and entreating God to grant us faith and the fulfilment of the Ten Commandments, to preserve and increase this faith and fulfilment, and to remove from us all that obstructs and retards our progress. But in order that we might know what and how we should pray, Christ our Lord himself has taught us the manner and the words, as we shall see.

Before we proceed, however, to illustrate the Lord's Prayer successively, it is very necessary, indeed, to admonish the people and urge them to prayer in the outset, even as Christ and the Apostles did. And our first object should be to know that we are under obligation to pray by the command of God. For we have heard in the second commandment– Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain– that it is required by that commandment, to praise the holy Name, and in every time of need to call upon it, or to pray. For, to invoke is nothing else but to offer up prayer to God; consequently, this is as strictly and earnestly ordered, as we are forbidden to have other gods, to kill, or to steal, least any one should think that the consequences are all the same, whether he prays or not, as the rude are accustomed to act under these conceits and imaginations, saying: "Why should I pray? Who knows whether God hears or regards my prayers? If I do not pray, another will pray;"– and thus they fall into the custom of never praying, excusing themselves by the pretext that because we reject false and hypocritical prayer, we teach that people should not or dare not pray.

It is true, however, that the prayers heretofore delivered, vociferated, and sounded in clamorous words in the church, were undoubtedly no prayers. For external things of this kind, if conducted properly, may be an exercise for young children, pupils, and the inexperienced, and may be styled singing or reading, but they cannot be properly called praying. To pray, however, as the second commandment teaches, is– to call upon God in every time of need. This he desires us to do; and it is not left to our own choice, but we should pray and ought to pray, if we wish to be Christians, as well as we should and must obey our father and mother, and the civil government; for through this invocation and entreaty the name of God is employed with due reverence. This above all things you should observe, in order to repress and repel such thoughts as would prevent and deter you from prayer. For even as it would avail nothing, if a son should say to his father, "Of what advantage or consequence is my obedience? I will go on, and perpetrate what I can, it avails equally as much," for here stands the command of God, that you should and must do it; so likewise it is not left discretionary with me to pray, or not to pray, but we should and must pray* [unless we wish to incur the wrath and indignation of God. Now, this we should above all things observe and remember, so as to silence and repel the thoght, that it makes but little difference if we do not pray, or that those only are commanded to pray who are more holy and acceptable in the sight of God than we are; for these thoughts prevent and deter us from prayer. The heart of man is so perverted by nature, that it ever shrinks from God, and thinks God is averse to our prayers, because we are sinners, and have merited nothing but wrath. Opposed to these thoughts, I say, we should take into consideration this commandment, and turn to God, in order that we may not provoke him to a greater extent, through this disobedience. For by this commandment, he lets us sufficiently understand, that he will neither reject nor repel us from himself even if we are sinners, but that he desires to draw us to himself, so that we may humble ourselves before him, and lay open our distress, entreating him for grace and assistance. To this effect we read in the Scripture, that God is angry with those also who have been oppressed and chastised on account of their sins, because they have not returned unto him, appeased his wrath through prayer, and implored his grace.]

*Although the portion of this paragraph embraced in brackets, is not contained in the original Dresden edition of 1580; yet in asmuch as it appears in the Leipsic edition of 1790, from which we have made the translation, and since it belongs to the Larger Catechism of Luther, it was deemed proper to retain it here.–[Trans.

From this you should think and conclude,– since you are so earnestly commanded to pray,– that you should by no means despise your own prayer, but highly and greatly esteem it, always drawing similitude from the other commandments. For instance, a child should not, by any means, scorn his duty of obedience towards his father and mother, but he should reflect: "Whatever I do, I do from no other motive than obedience, and from submission to the command of God, upon which I can sustain myself, and highly value these duties, not on account of my worthiness, but for the sake of the commandment." So also here, what we pray and that for which we pray, we should view as required of God, and done in obedience to him; and thus we should think: "On my account it would be nothing, but because God has commanded it, it must avail." Therefore, every one, for whatever he may have occasion to pray, should always come before God in obedience to this commandment.

We, therefore, entreat, and most earnestly admonish every one to take this matter to heart, and by no means disregard his own prayer; for heretofore, the doctrines which were taught, were so perverse that no one was concerned about these things, thinking the mere utterance of prayer sufficient, whether God heard it or not. This is a vague and indefinite offering up of prayer; and consequently, it is ineffectual. For we permit thoughts like these to lead us astray and to perplex us: "I am not holy and worthy enough; if I were as pious and as holy as Sts. Peter or Paul, I would pray." But away with such thoughts; for even the command which ordered St. Paul to pray, orders me also; and the second commandment was instituted equally as much for my sake as for his; so that he has neither a better nor a more holy commandment to boast of than I have. For this reason, you should say, "My prayer which I make is as precious, indeed, and as holy, and as acceptable in the sight of God, as that of St. Paul, or the most holy saint. I will freely admit that greater holiness belonged to his person, but by no means to the commandment; because God regards prayer, not for the sake of the person, but on account of his word and the obedience manifested towards it; for upon that commandment upon which all saints base their prayers, I also base mine: besides, I pray even for what they all pray, or have prayed. Consequently, it is as highly necessary for me to pray as it was for those eminent saints." The first and most necessary point is, to base all our prayers on obedience towards God, regardless of our persons,– whether we be sinners or pious, worthy or unworthy. And we should know that God will by no means suffer it to pass as a jest, but that he will become angry and inflict punishment if we do not pray, as well as he punishes all other disobedience; and besides, that he will not permit our prayer to be vain and ineffectual. For, if he were not pleased to hear you, he would not command you to pray, and he would not have enjoined it so strictly.

In the second place, we should be the more urged and induced to pray, since God has given us a promise, and declared, that whatever we pray for, shall be sure and certain; as he says, Psalm 50, 15: "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee." And Christ, Matt. 7, 7, 8, says: "Ask, and it shall be given you," &c. "For every one that asketh, receiveth," &c. These promises should excite and stimulate our hearts to pray with love and desire,– since he testifies by his Word, that our prayer is well-pleasing to him, and besides, that it shall be assuredly heard and granted,– lest we should slight or neglect it, or pray in uncertainty.

These promises you can refer to, and say: "Here I come, beloved Father! and I pray, not from my own designs, nor induced by my own worthiness, but incited by thy command and promise, which can neither mislead nor deceive me." Whoever, then, disbelieves these promises, should know that he provokes God to wrath, by dishonoring him in the highest degree, charging him with falsehood.

We should, moreover, be persuaded and constrained to pray, since besides giving the command and promise, God interposes, prescribing the words and manner of prayer himself, and placing in our mouths how and what we should pray; so that we see how earnestly he is concerned about our welfare, and doubt not that such prayer is acceptable before him, and will be assuredly heard; which is an advantage surpassing by far all commandments which we might devise of ourselves. For on this point the conscience would ever remain in doubt, and say: "I have prayed, but who knows how it pleases him, or whether I have attained the legitimate mode and measure of prayer." Therefore, there cannot be found on earth a nobler prayer than the Lord's Prayer, since it has this excellent testimony, – that God so affectionately hears it,– a thing which we should not exchange for the riches of the world.

It is likewise prescribed in certain words, in order that we may perceive and consider the necessity which should urge and constrain us to pray without ceasing. For whoever wishes to pray, must refer to, propose, or mention something which he desires; if he does not, it cannot be called a prayer. We have, therefore, justly rejected the prayer of the monks and priests, who moan and murmur dolefully day and night, but not one of them thinks of praying for the least thing; and if all the churches, with their ecclesiastics, were convoked, they would have to confess that they have never prayed from their hearts, not even for the least thing; for no one of them was induced through obedience to God, or actuated by faith in the promise, to pray, nor perceived any necessity; but they thought no further, (when it was executed in the best manner,) than that they were performing a good work; by which they presumed to compensate God, as those who would not receive from him, but only give to him.

But wherever prayer is to be genuine, there must be earnestness and sincerity, so that we feel our need– such need as urges and impels us to supplicate and to entreat: then prayer proceeds spontaneously from the heart, as it should, without requiring any previous instruction to prepare us and to create devotion for prayer. But we may discern in the Lord's Prayer abundant need of that which should concern us, both with respect to ourselves and our fellow creatures. Therefore, it should also serve to remind us of our wants, and to cause us to perceive them, and deeply to reflect on them, in order that we may not become remiss in prayer. For we all have necessities sufficiently numerous; but the fault consists in this, that we neither feel nor see our state of need. Therefore, God wishes us to present and to declare this need and solicitude, not that he does not know them, but that thereby our hearts may be encouraged the more earnestly to implore God, and to be prepared the better to receive his bountiful blessings.

Wherefore, we should accustom ourselves daily to pray from our youth up, each one for himself in every time of need, if he but feels something threatening him, and also for other persons among whom he resides– for ministers, magistrates, neighbors, families, &c.– ever, as we have already said, bringing up before God his command and promise, and knowing that he will not have them despised. These things I mention, seriously wishing them to be impressed on the minds of the people, so that they may learn to pray devoutly, and not lead a rude and careless life, in consequence of which they daily become more incapable of praying,– a thing which the devil wishes, and to which he directs all his powers; for he truly feels the injury and harm which result to him, when prayer is fervently and diligently offered.

We should know, that all our protection and defence depend on prayer alone; for we are much too weak to resist Satam with his power and his adherents who assail us, and who could readily trample us under foot. We must, therefore, think of, and lay hold on the weapons with which Christians should be equipped to withstand Satan. For what do you suppose could have hitherto accomplished things so great,– defeating the counsels of our enemy, disclosing their plots, checking their murderous designs, and suppressing their seditions, in which the devil hoped to involve us together with the Gospel,– if the prayers of certain pious persons had not interposed a shield, and had not defended us? Otherwise, our adversaries themselves would have witnessed a far more cruel tragedy, namely, how the devil would have submerged all Germany in her own blood. But now they may deride it presumptuously, and enjoy their insolent triumph; we shall, however, be sufficiently able for them and the devil, through prayer alone, if we only continue diligent and do not become indolent. For wherever a pious Christian prays, "Beloved Father, let thy will be done!" immediately from on high God responds: "Yes, beloved child, it shall be even so, and come to pass, in defiance of the devil and all the world."

Now, these things are said for admonition, that we may above all things learn to esteem prayer greatly and preciously, and to perceive a distinction between verbose babbling and a prayer petitioning for something. For we do not reject prayer, but this loud, senseless moaning and murmuring we reject, as Christ himself also rejected and prohibited vain repetitions, Matt. 6, 7. Now we shall treat the Lord's Prayer in the briefest and clearest manner possible. Here then, in seven articles or petitions succeeding each other, all the distresses are comprehended which continually befall us; and each one of these is so great, that it should urge us to pray while we exist in this life.


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