Martin Luther wrote on the Lord’s Prayer. A lot — it was his favorite guide to a richer prayer life, as I recently wrote in a guest post on Anita Mathias’ blog, and as I spent a chapter exploring in my book, Kneeling with Giants. But there is one line of the prayer he never commented on, at least in the texts I’ve found. In your King James Bible it is Matthew 6:13b,
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.”
Unlike Luther, the Heidelberg Catechism discusses this line in Question 128.
I find this fascinating.
Of course there are certain things that are totally interesting to me that most of you might find just a teensy weensy bit boring. A lot of them have to do with the details of 16th century theology. What can I say? I’m a historian.
The explanation is simple: Luther grew up with a Bible that didn’t have Matthew 6:13b. It is not in the Latin Vulgate, the official Bible of the Middle Ages. If you are a Catholic, or ever attend a Catholic Mass you are probably used to saying the Lord’s Prayer without this little concluding riff.
On the other hand, English-speaking Protestants pretty much always say it — even if the NRSV and the NIV both agree with the Vulgate and leave it out. (Apparently it doesn’t appear in the earlier manuscripts of Matthew. O well.)
Even if this line was not originally part of the Lord’s Prayer it is a fitting and useful conclusion. It is what you really ought to be thinking, or saying, as you come to the end of all the topics Jesus said to pray for.
The Heidelberg Catechism does a great job of showing why.
Wrapping up our prayers by saying that the kingdom power and glory belong to God alone does two very important things:
- First it reminds us of who the God is to whom we pray.
- Second it reminds us of what our motives in praying really ought to be.
We have confidence to pray at all, and to pray for these particular things, because of who God is. God is king of all, with the right to do anything he wants. God has all the power needed to answer any prayer we could come up with. This God actually loves us and wants to give us these things — otherwise, this sovereign, powerful God would never have, in Jesus, invited and commanded us to pray for them.
In the words of the Catechism,
“We have made all these petitions of you because,
as our all-powerful king,
you are both willing and able
to give us all that is good;”
And if we really think about who we are as subjects of this great king, we should be asking for what brings God glory — not just for what pleases us. That is why the Lord’s Prayer began, not with our needs but with God’s holy name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. Now at the end we put all of our needs and requests in the greater context those terms define.
As the Catechism puts it,
“and because your holy name,
and not we ourselves,
should receive all the praise, forever.”
If it does not build God’s kingdom, lead us to humbly acknowledge that only God’s power can do it, and bring God’s glory to a greater shine, then we probably shouldn’t pray for it.
What do you find helpful — or problematic — about ideas of God’s kingdom, power, and glory today?
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