The Lord’s Prayer is the next portion of Luther’s Small Catechism we will be thinking through for ideas on how to teach Law and Gospel.
Introduction: Our Father who art in heaven.
What does this mean? With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.
Law: As challenging as this concept may be to understand, without Jesus Christ, unbelievers are not saved children of God. The unsaved are God’s people, but they do not see Him as their father. Jesus shed His blood for the sins of all, but we can call God Father only through faith in God’s Son. Use this as an opportunity to stress the need to share Christ with others, so that they too would be able to call God their heavenly Father.
Gospel: Great care must be taken in connecting earthly fathers to our Father in heaven. This sad world is full of absent, felonious, unstable, and abusive fathers. Even the best are plagued with divided priorities, inconsistent love, and selfishness. On the other hand, our Father in heaven is ever-present, righteous, stable, slow to anger, full of mercy, and the provider of all good things. His nature is seen most clearly in His giving of His own Son to make His enemies sons and daughters.
First Petition: Hallowed be Thy name.
What does this mean? God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.
Law: Aside from the fundamental fact that we ought to hallow God’s name because our heavenly Father is deserving of all honor and obedience, doing so also increases the stature of God’s name in our minds. It can be likened to standing for the national anthem or giving up one’s seat to an older person. Honoring God in our actions elevates our appreciation of who He is in our thoughts. Certainly, this is the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
Gospel: The more we honor God’s name in our actions, the more we will appreciate His ability to care for all our needs. A God who can care for our needs is worth honoring. This hallowing of God’s name also takes place through regular reading of God’s Word. The more that the Holy Spirit teaches and reminds us of what God has done, the more apt we will be to come to God in prayer.
Second Petition: Thy kingdom come.
What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.
How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
Law: As the Holy Spirit has brought the kingdom of God to us through the creation of saving faith in the Son, Jesus Christ, we are obliged to avoid anything that would hamper or endanger this precious gift, such as any sin or availing ourselves of any place or person who would lead us away from Jesus. On the other hand, we welcome the work of the Holy Spirit to sustain and grow our faith through reading the Bible, worship, and regular reception of the Lord’s Supper.
Gospel: By bringing the kingdom of God to us, the Holy Spirit has removed us from the kingdom of Satan. That is, while we struggle with temptation from the world, Satan, and our own sinful nature, the devil is no longer our lord. Instead, as part of God’s kingdom, we are forgiven of sin, empowered by the Holy Spirit to resist sin, freed from guilt and shame, granted Christ’s victory over death, and promised an everlasting place in heaven.
Third Petition: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
What does this mean? The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.
How is God’s will done? God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.
Law: This petition flows naturally from “Thy kingdom come.” God’s kingdom comes when He hampers and destroys the efforts of the world, the devil, and our sinful nature, and likewise when He calls sinners to Himself through faith. Therefore, we must take inventory of the ways our behavior rejects the kingdom of God and promotes sin. Certainly, God will accomplish all that He intends. Yet, we should constantly petition the Lord to use meager years to bring His divine plans to fruition.
Gospel: Our comfort is the assurance that God is doing His will on earth as it is in heaven. Our Father in heaven thwarts the plans and efforts of the world, the devil, and our sinful nature. At the same time, He brings the benefits of His Son’s obedient life, innocent death, and victorious resurrection to sinners through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.
Fourth Petition: Give us this day our daily bread.
What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
Law: In daily bread, God gives us every good thing despite our many sins and wholly for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ. We, therefore, consider our work as stewards of this daily bread. What have we wasted in time, food, financial resources, and energy? To what degree have we worked to promote the provision of others? Have we given where there is need? Have we worked to equip others with the means to care for themselves? Most importantly, have we shared the bread from heaven, Jesus Christ, and what He has done for the world?
Gospel: We can be sure that God will provide all that is needed for this body and life. Even in times of scarcity, we know that God is using this trial for our good—to increase our reliance on Him, to turn our hearts from sin, or as a witness to others. Even more vital than bread and water, God provides for our spiritual welfare through the creation and nurturing of faith in Jesus Christ.
Multiple versions of Luther’s Small Catechism are available to help you teach your students the timeless truths of the Christian faith.