The text today is the Conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer. …
Doctor Luther does not address the words in the conclusion that we usually say with the Lord’s Prayer: “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.” These words provide three strong reasons why we should confidently pray to our Father, and why we can be sure that He is able to give us blessings in answer to our prayers.
First, the kingdom is His. That means that He is not only our Father, but also our King. Since He is both Father and King, He is not like earthly kings who are interested only in power and position and advantage. No, God is a gracious King who wants to protect and help His subjects. He has made royal decrees that promise us great blessings, and He will not break them.
Secondly, the power is His. When we ask Him anything, it cannot be too difficult for Him. We can be confident that we have not exceeded His ability to grant something. Although He may say no to our request, we know that He does not say no because He is unable. Therefore we can ask anything in His Name, and He is able to give it.
Thirdly, the glory is His. The glory of God is that He is concerned about His Church. He has redeemed her with precious Blood. He continues to listen to her prayers because He, the mighty God, does not consider it beneath Him to be concerned about our lowly, human matters. So He especially works to strengthen our faith to life everlasting. Therefore we also will declare His glory, not primarily because He is mighty, but because He considers His greatest glory to be mercy.
This is our God: The almighty and glorious King. We poor beggars come before Him to beseech His blessings. In earthly thinking, a beggar should not approach a king, nor waste His time with petty requests. But the thinking of God is different. He loves to listen to the prayers of His saints. He commands and invites us to pray to Him. He is a Father who loves to hear the voices of His children.
But our minds want to slip back into that earthly mode of thinking. We want to think that God is too big for us, too far above us, too busy for us, too holy for us. The human mind would rather pray to human saints in glory, because we think that they can relate to us better. The Blessed Virgin Mary is a favorite of many. Others prefer departed loved ones. Sometimes even angels seem preferable to praying to the Almighty.
Angels react very strongly when anyone tries to worship them. “Worship only God!” they say. Prayer is an act of worship by which we confess that the One we are praying to is able to hear and able to grant our petitions. Therefore, good angels do not want our prayers.
Contrariwise, if you find that there is an angel who wants your prayers, you know that you are not dealing with an angel of light, but a demon masquerading as one.
As for the saints in glory, they are not able to answer our prayers. As far as we know, they cannot hear us. They do not hold all power in heaven and earth, so how could they grant our prayers?
Even if we assume they can hear and perhaps intercede for us to God, this would be a terrible idea. Remember that God, out of His great love for us, has commanded and invited us to pray to Him. If we then refuse His offer, we are flinging aside the invitation and command of the Most High King. What horrible insolence, and what an insult to His gracious offer! He has stooped down to hear us – will we then turn away from Him as if He is nothing to us?
I think not many of us have been tempted to pray to departed human beings. Our main problem is lack of prayer. But this is really much the same problem as praying to saints. God’s gracious offer is still ignored. How could we only pray occasionally, when God has given us such an amazing privilege and immeasurable gift? Perhaps we pray from time to time, but not nearly what we ought to do. The Lord tells us to pray without ceasing. Yet our prayers have too often faltered.
In our heart of hearts, we undoubtedly do not appreciate His gift of prayer as much as we should. How could we? This is an infinite gift. We ought to be treated as nasty, disgusting beggars who are kept away from the King. His ears should never be disturbed by our voices. Why should He bother to answer the prayers of sinners so undeserving as we are?
But that is not how God sees it. He chooses to open His ears to our prayers because of Christ. The Son of God opened heaven for us, not only for salvation, but also for our voices to reach God. He has not only forgiven our sins, but also made us sons of the heavenly Father. Therefore He listens to us, as every good father listens to his children.
Our confidence for our prayers should be the same as our confidence in Christ and His work. Is there anything wrong with Him? Only a blasphemer could say so. Then we should conclude that God most certainly listens to our prayers. He hears them as if our words were the sweet words from the lips of our dear Lord Jesus Christ. If He is the perfect Son of Man, then our prayers are acceptable.
Therefore we say, “Amen,” at the end of our prayers. “Yes, yes, it shall be so.” The Lord has surely heard my prayer. He will grant to me whatever His will determines is best, because He takes my prayers and well-being most seriously.
This should not be idle speculation on our part. We should know it with absolute confidence. God hears our prayers every time.
But if we are not confident that God hears our prayers, it is most likely because we are not looking at the merits of Christ. That is where our confidence should be. But our natural, fleshly mind wants to measure our worthiness based on our works. That is a horrible sinking sand upon which to build confidence. If our prayers’ worthiness before God is based upon our merits, then He would hear none of them. Realistically, we would come to that conclusion, and soon stop praying altogether. But we might delude ourselves into believing that our prayers are good because we are good. The human mind grasps onto even such a deceptive illusion as this.
Let us trust nothing in us to make our prayers worthy. Let us not trust the wonderful eloquence of our prayers, if such a thing exists. Let us not trust our wisdom to ask for the right things, which is dubious at best. Let us not trust the emotions of our hearts to pour out beautiful prayers.
Instead, let us focus our eyes upon Christ our Lord. His Blood makes our prayers a sweet sound in God’s ears. His death makes our prayers into a pleasing smell like incense to Him. His resurrection assures us that we pray to no dead god, but the immortal One, just as He has also raised us to new life. We, the living saints, pray to the living God, He who has created us and regenerated us and who rose from the dead for us. In His Name alone we pray, the One God in Three Persons, the only gracious Lord who hears our lowly prayers.
All glory be to Him alone to all ages of ages. Amen.
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