Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
How Should We Then Pray?
Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So He said to them, “When you pray, say ‘Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven…’”
This morning we look at Westminster Larger Catechism Question 186, which asks, “What rule hath God given for our direction in the duty of prayer?” It gives the answer, “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.”
Prayer is so important to the Christian! We are commanded to pray. We are privileged to pray. Thus far in our walk through the Larger Catechism we have looked at many things regarding prayer. We have studied how we are to pray only to God, in the name of Christ, by the help of the Spirit, and only for things lawful, according to what God has revealed in Scripture for His glory and for our good. We have seen that to pray in the name of Jesus means to pray trusting in Jesus’ worthiness and mediation on our behalf in order for God to (favorably) hear us. Likewise we have looked at how we are to pray that God’s will and not our will be done, consciously and humbly submitting to His sovereignty & believing that His plan is the best thing for us. Finally, we have considered the proper attitude we are to have in prayer as we consider God as who He is, our loving and redeeming Father and at the same time the holy and almighty Judge of all creation.
Yet when it comes right down to it, has God given us any specific instruction on how we are to open our mouths and speak to Him in our prayers? The good news for us at this point is, yes, God has given us specific instruction in how we are to pray to Him! First, the whole Word of God, by implication, shows us how to pray to God. We have examples of godly prayers by saints like David, Daniel, Hannah, Paul, and others. Also, we can see how God helps His people according to their needs throughout the stories of the Bible as a guide for things to prayer for. We see how they fell in weakness and temptation, how they were restored through repentance and confession, how they professed their faith, praised, and worshipped God. Plus, in many places God’s commandments to His people reveal to us what He wants for us, which tells us what we should want for ourselves and therefore that we should pray for such things. All of these details and more are found throughout the Bible and they give us a general picture of what our prayers should look like and how and when we should pray.
However, beyond this general picture we have an explicit and direct passage in the Bible that specifically instructs us on how to pray. It is found in Luke chapter 11, the beginning of which is quoted for us at the head of this article. It is the words of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself granting the request of his disciples to teach them how to pray. Christ’s answer has been called “The Lord’s Prayer.” It has been used by theologians for much of the last two millennia since Jesus uttered it as a model for how all Christians everywhere are to pray until Jesus returns. The final section of the Larger Catechism is devoted to unpacking this most important passage on this most important Christian duty of prayer to God. May God grant us much grace as we spend the next few weeks examining it.