Concordia Catechetical Academy Symposium on the Lord's Prayer
✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠
“Your Father knows what you need.” Those words are intended to bring us great comfort. They are also words, however, that must humble us. For too often we can pray as if we’re unsure that He knows what we need. He’s not paying close enough attention, and we need to draw His focus. He’s not getting it right; He doesn’t seem to understand that we need healing, or help in our relationships or our finances, or to set our loved ones back on the right course. After a while of praying like that, we can be tempted to give up.
Or, we may believe that God knows very well, but we become unsure that He cares, that He’ll do anything about what we need. And so we conclude that we need to pray in just the right way or heap up a lot of words or get everyone praying for the same thing, as if this were a tug of war with God on one side and us trying to pull Him over to our side with the right combination of human effort and spirituality. This is how the pagans pray, as if God needs to be appeased, as if His favor has to be earned, as if He’s not on our side until we impress Him sufficiently.
Repent of that, and remember the name that Jesus has given you to call God, “Father.” What an amazing thing that is! Only Jesus can truly call God Father, for He is the only-begotten Son of God. But here, when you pray, Jesus invites you to take His place, to step into His shoes, and to pray as if you were the Son of God Himself saying, Father, our Father. That “our” is not only you and other Christians, but also you together with Jesus. You have the same Father. For you are baptized into Christ. You are in Him who took your place, who stepped into your shoes–you who once were children of wrath. Jesus suffered and died on your behalf, and by His blood He reconciled you to the Father. You are now raised up with Him, and He has brought you home as children of God. The Father hears you the same as He hears Jesus, for Jesus' sake.
So when you pray, you are freed from the need to make a show of it, as if you needed to gain approval from others or from God. You already have that in Jesus. His perfect life, including His perfect praying, is credited to you through faith. As Jesus frequently went off to a secluded place to pray, so you are given to go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, who is hidden. He is the God who hides Himself, but who is revealed as the Father of Mercy in Christ, and who is made known in the unveiling of the secrets of the kingdom, in the mysteries of the sacraments and the preaching of the Gospel.
This hidden God reveals what He is eager to grant you by giving you the very words to speak in the Lord’s Prayer. That in itself is a gift. It gives us confidence to ask; and it shows us what we truly need, lest our prayers devolve into petitions for self-serving desires and pleasures, as James speaks against. We are given to pray for God’s name to be hallowed among us, His kingdom to come to us, His will, not ours, to be done. We are given to pray for daily bread, for forgiveness, for defense against temptation and deliverance from evil. This may not be what our heart naturally wants to pray for. But sometimes it would be to our great harm if the Father would actually give us what we want. He loves you much more than to do that.
Your Father knows what you need, better than you do, even before you ask. But He loves to hear you ask just the same, even as parents love to hear especially their little children put into words what they need and with trusting hearts ask for it. This is how it is with you and the Father in Jesus. He revels in speaking to you His words of life, and He revels in hearing you speak back those words in faith and in prayer. It all begins and ends with Him as your good and gracious God. Jesus is ever drawing you into this holy conversation of the people of God–so that you may be rightly oriented toward Him in faith and in love toward your neighbor.
So offer your hidden prayer to the hidden God, trusting that the Father sees and that He knows and that He is on your side–or perhaps better, that you have been brought to His side. For He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? The One who saw His Son’s secret work on the cross and honored Him in the resurrection will certainly give you to share openly in His glory on the Last Day. This is your great reward, that you may have perfect communion forever with the very One to whom you pray, through His Son Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. To this blessed and Holy Trinity be all glory, honor, and praise, now and forever.