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"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
"For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (ESV)
Why Pray?
Tuesday of Lent 4
8 March 2016
"Why should I pray?" We have all these highfalutin theories as to why we might not need to pray. "God knows everything. Therefore, He knows what we need before we pray for it, so we don't need to pray." "God is so great and powerful, that he can't be bothered with the likes of me. He won't listen to my prayer." "I am too busy to pray." "Even if I had time to pray, I wouldn't know what I should say." "I don't need to pray because I know that the pastors of my church are always praying. I certainly don't need to pray."
In the face of all this subtle thinking, the Lord Jesus comes to us and says, "Pray." He commands that we pray. Perhaps it is not up to us to figure out what it's for, if God has commanded so to pray. What good are our theories in the presence of the God who says to us, "Pray" and even gives us the very words which He desires to hear from us?
How graciously he bends his ear to our plaintive whispers. He Himself invites us to come to Him, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Mt 11:28). Our burdens and troubles are many if we are aware of our standing against the Ten Commandments and the many and dire troubles we face in the world because of our flesh, the devil, and the world. How desperately we need to repair to God's heart in prayer. Our theories lead us to question prayer. God's speaking teaches us to pray, "Lord, teach us to pray!"


Martin Luther

"We are in a situation where no person can perfectly keep the Ten Commandments, even though he has begun to believe. The devil with all his power together with the world and our flesh, resists our efforts. Therefore, nothing is more necessary than that we should continually turn towards God's ear, call upon Him and pray to Him. We must pray that He would give, preserve, and increase faith in us and the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments (2Thess 1:3). We pray that He would remove everything that is in our way and that opposes us in these matters. So that we might know what and how to pray our Lord Christ has Himself taught us both the way and the words (Lk 11:1-4), as we shall see.
"It is most necessary first to encourage and stir people to prayer, as Christ and the apostles have done (Mt 6:5-15). The first thing to know is that it is our duty to pray because of God's commandment. For that is what we heard in the Second Commandment, 'You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain' (Ex 20:7). We are required to praise that holy name and call upon it in every need, or to pray. To call upon God's name is nothing other than to pray (1Ki 18:24). Prayer is just as strictly and seriously commanded as all other Commandments: to have no other God, not to kill, not to steal, and so on. Let no one think that it makes no difference whether he prays or not. Common people think this, who grope in such delusion and ask, 'Why should I pray? Who knows whether God heeds or will hear my prayer? If I do not pray, someone else will.' And so they fall into the habit of never praying. They build a false argument, as though we taught that there is no duty or need for prayer, because you reject false and hypocritical prayers (Mt 6:5).

Martin Luther, Large Catechism, 3.2-6
Our Father, in the Lord's Prayer You tenderly invite us to believe that You are our true Father and that we are Your true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask You as dear children ask their dear father. Amen.
For Christians facing violent persecution at the hands of Muslims, that God the Lord would send His ministering angels to protect them
For all who prepare themselves to receive Christ's body and blood in the sacrament of the altar, that they might receive it in faith
For faith to live by the promises of baptism, especially for our catechumens, that they would look forward with anticipation to their opportunity to confess the triune faith before many witnesses

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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