Sermon for Wednesday of Oculi, 2021

Text: The Lord’s Prayer; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Matthew 8:5-13

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he did them one better. He gave them the actual words to pray. While the Lord’s Prayer is certainly not the only prayer that we pray, it is the best prayer that we could possibly pray. This is not a matter of calling other prayers “bad” or saying that we shouldn’t pray any other prayers. This is simply the fact that the very words that Jesus gives us to pray are always going to be better than anything that we could come up with on our own.

The Lord’s Prayer starts off with an address. It’s simple. We begin with the words, “Our Father.” While only two words long, there’s a lot going on here. First of all, we are acknowledging that God is, indeed, our Father. A relationship was created between our heavenly Father and us in our baptism. It was there that we were claimed as his own. He put his name on us and gave his name to us that we might pray to him. This is what God bids us to do in the Second Commandment where he says “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” There are lots of ways to use the name of God incorrectly, but he wants us to use it rightly. He wants us to call upon him in the day of trouble, for he has promised to answer us. He wants us to cry out to him just as we cry out to our earthly Fathers in this world. That is, he desires us to be bold in our prayers, not timid. Consider the way that the Canaanite woman came to Jesus seeking deliverance for her demon-possessed daughter. She didn’t let anything deter her from asking Jesus for what she needed. She knew that he would listen. She knew that he would do what was right. Our fathers here on earth don’t always give us what we want right away. Sometimes they don’t give it to us at all because they know that what we’re asking for isn’t the thing that we need or that’s best for us. God our heavenly Father is the same way, but better. While our fathers on earth sometimes make mistakes, God doesn’t. He always gives us what is right, even if that means not giving us what we ask for in prayer.

The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer establishes a pattern. We are praying for things that God already promises or that are already true. God’s name is already holy. It doesn’t depend on our prayer. But by praying that God’s name be kept holy, we’re praying that God’s Word would be taught in all of its truth and purity. We’re praying that we might lead holy lives that bear witness to the name of God because, again, he put his name on us. Anything that we do reflects on him.

The second petition prays that God’s Kingdom would come. Again, whether you pray that God’s kingdom comes or not, it’ll come. When we pray this petition, we’re praying for two things: First, that God’s kingdom would come among us, now. That is, we want the preaching of the Word of God to continue among us. We want the sacraments to continue to be administered faithfully among us. These means of grace bring the benefits of the cross to, forgiveness, life, and salvation, to us right now. The second thing is related to the first. Because God’s kingdom comes to us now, it prepares us for the second coming of Jesus when the full and complete Kingdom of God will come.

The third petition prays that God’s will would be done. God’s will is going to be done no matter what. We’re praying against the devil here, though. For the devil doesn’t want God’s name to be kept holy or the kingdom of God to come. He doesn’t want the Word of God to be taught rightly and he doesn’t want the sacraments to be administered according to the institution of Christ. These are the things that bring forgiveness and salvation – two things that Satan wants to prevent from happening.

The Fourth petition prays for our daily bread. This is about more than food, though. Daily bread includes a whole laundry list of blessings. It certainly includes literal bread, that is, food and drink. But it also includes all those things that we like to call “First Article Gifts.” First article gifts are all the things that God gives us to support our bodies and lives. And he gives them all to us freely. He even gives them to evil people, that is, unbelievers. We don’t pray the fourth petition out of fear that if we don’t we’ll starve to death. Rather, we pray the fourth petition confidently as a petition of thanksgiving that God gives us abundantly all that we need to support our bodies and our lives.

The fifth petition has us praying for forgiveness. This is where we confess not only the sins that we’re aware of, but also the sins that we’ve committed that we don’t even know about. We know that God forgives us for the sake of Christ. At the same time, we’re praying that God would aid us in the sometimes difficult task of forgiving those who sin against us. When we come to the full knowledge and understanding of God’s forgiveness for us, we also sincerely forgive those who sin against us.

In the sixth petition, we pray that God would not lead us into temptation. Again, we know that God is not the source of temptation. God tempts no one. But Satan does. This is a prayer that we would stand firmly on the Word of God, just as Jesus did when he was tempted, and thus turn back all that Satan tries to hurl at us.

The seventh and final petition is a summary petition. We are praying for deliverance from the evil one, that is, the devil himself. The devil doesn’t want any of the things that you prayed for to happen. He doesn’t want God’s name to be kept holy. He doesn’t want the kingdom of God to come. He doesn’t want God’s will to be done. He doesn’t want you to have your daily bread. He wants you to feel guilt for your sins without forgiveness and doesn’t want you to forgive others. And he wants you to fall into temptation. The devil want your faith to be destroyed and for you to suffer eternally in hell with him. That’s what he wants. But you can be certain that that won’t happen. For he has been defeated by Christ at the cross. His head is crushed. When Christ returns to judge the living and the dead, you can be certain that you will be raised to immortality and incorruption because just as you died with Christ, you will be raised with him, too.

Amen is a small word, but a very powerful one. We say it as a word that says that everything that just came before it is true. We say it knowing that God has promised to hear us when we pray and has promised what is best for us, even if that’s not what we want.

Consider St. Paul. He prayed that God would take the “thorn in his flesh” away. He didn’t though. Instead, he said, “my grace is sufficient for you.” God’s power is made perfect in weakness. When we pray, it might seem as if nothing happens. It may seem as if nothing changes. But know that God’s power is alive and active in this world. Know that God hears your prayer for the sake of Christ. Know that the will of God is always best. Have confidence, just as the centurion did, that God will do the right thing at the right time.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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