Praying Against Ourselves?

Text: First, Second, and Third Petitions of the Lord's Prayer

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

What are we praying when we pray the Lord’s Prayer?

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, one of the things we are actually praying against is the old sinner in each of us.  Yes, we are praying against the old Adam – the sinful flesh – the sinful nature – who would rather die than do what is good, right, and true according to the Lord.  We are praying against the old Adam whose whole mission in life is to work and lie and cheat and steal on behalf of what we desire and what we want and what we think is needed.  We are praying against the old Adam who daily attempts to build our own kingdoms.[1]   Simply stated my friends, in the Lord’s Prayer (especially in the first three parts) we are praying against ourselves.  That’s right, we are praying for God’s name to be glorified, not the glorification of our own names.  We are praying for God’s kingdom to be realized in us, not the realization of our own insignificant kingdoms.  We are praying that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven, not the doing of our own wills. 

The harsh reality is that we have this sinful old nature until the day we die; we carry the old Adam around our necks from birth to death.  Yes, even we Christian have this sinful nature, for we are simultaneously sinners and saints (Sinners at birth; saints by our baptismal rebirth).  This means that we are at war with ourselves – a civil war – where we experience the struggle between the old Adam and the new life we have in Christ.  Indeed, from the time that we are joined to Christ in baptism until the day we die, we will always be in conflict with ourselves – the civil war within will never end, which means that we are people of prayer; praying against ourselves – praying against our sinful nature. 

We can really thank our first parents, Adam and Eve, for this most un-blessed gift of our sinful nature, for it was Adam and Eve who believed the lies of Satan, resulting in them being coated with this muck of sin, which then resulted in this sinful condition being passed down to each and every one of us.     

Make no doubt about it, we are born addicted to sin; once addicted, always addicted, until death.  Even our best of intentions are marred by this disease – this viral infection of sin that has corrupted our thoughts, words, and deeds. 

More specifically, this sin condition that we all have is much like ancient Israel in the Old Testament.  Like ancient Israel, we are stiff-necked people who are stubborn.  We do not easily budge and are prone to wander and prone to leave the God that we love, while wanting what we want and wanting it right now! 

And so, we pray. 

We ask the Lord to teach us to pray.  And He does when we are invited into the Lord’s Prayer. 

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are praying that God’s name would remain holy among us.  We pray that God’s name would be kept holy in our Christian teaching and preaching.  We pray that God’s name would be kept holy in our Christian living as well.  We pray the same thing that God demands in the Second Commandment: that his name should not be taken in vain, but used rightly to the praise and glory of God. 

With that stated though, we sinners like to misuse God’s name.  We profane God’s name when we teach about God incorrectly – when we say things about God’s character and actions that are simply not true.  We also disgrace God’s name when we openly live an evil life, when we live in a way that is contrary to the name that was applied upon our head in our baptism.  Because of this, not in spite of it, we pray.  Yes, because of our this sinful nature we pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name!”  Our prayer is then heard as a constant shout and cry against all – includes ourselves – who preach and believe falsely; it is a prayer against all who would attack, persecute and suppress our gospel and pure doctrine. 

We also pray in the Lord’s Prayer that the Lord’s kingdom may come among us – that God’s kingdom, rule, and authority would invade our world and invade us, rather than having the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I be the ruler and king of our small petty individualized kingdoms.  Indeed, we pray that the Lord’s kingdom would be realized in us that the Lord may permeate us, through the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.  We pray that the Lord would have His way with us, so that the devil’s kingdom may be destroyed and so that our stiff-necks and stubborn wills would be recreated anew and softened. 

Dear friends, we pray the Lord’s Prayer, because by our own strength we cannot do or fulfill the will of God, nor can we do that which has been taught to us.[2]  Yes, we pray because our wills and abilities are weak; we pray that the Lord would give us strength to do the good things that are according to His will.  We pray that the Lord would create in us a new heart, that He would take away our stony heart, and subdue and abolish our sinful nature.  We pray that the lusts and sinful desires of our old Adam would be crucified daily.  We pray that we would be conformed to the will of God.  We pray that we would be moved to desire and covet that which is well pleasing and approved by God. 

The Lord’s Prayer is and must be our protection and defense today, tomorrow, and until our death.  Thus, let the world rage and try their worst.  Let the heretics, worldly governments, and flaky culture, plot and plan how to oppress the Lord God.  Let the evil one growl and hiss his pathetic and cowardly message.  Against all of this and against our sinful nature, we pray and all is dashed to pieces, for the Lord is good and He hears our cries for mercy and care.[3] 

Yes, in the face of the devil, the ideologies of the world, and our sinful nature, we pray; not out of fear, but because our heavenly Father has invited us into prayer; He has invited us to respond to Him with all of our needs because He cares for us.

Most certainly, we pray because of God’s character, graciousness, strength, and steadfast love.  We pray because the Lord is for us today and until the end of our lives.  We pray because prayer is the voice of faith, faith that is created by and clings to the Word and Sacraments that are given and shed for you and for me.

Lord, teach us to pray as your kingdom continually comes, as your will is continually done, and as you name is glorified among us:  Amen.

[1] James Nestingen, The Lord’s Prayer In Luther’s Catechism (Word & World Volume 22, number 1, Winter 2002), 41.

[2] Martin Chemnitz, Enchiridion, The Lord’s Prayer. Translated by Luther Poellet (Concordia Publishing, 2007), 43.

[3] Martin Luther, The Large Catechism: The Lord’s Prayer.

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