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Index of Doctrinal Points
As the head of the family should teach it in a simple
way to his household.
Of The Creed (Details from the Large Catechism)
Thus far we have heard the first part of Christian doctrine, in which we have seen all that God
wishes us to do or to leave undone. Now, there properly follows the Creed, which sets forth to us
everything that we must expect and receive from God, and, to state it quite briefly, teaches us to
know Him fully. And this is intended to help us do that which according to the Ten Commandments we
ought to do. For (as said above) they are set so high that all human ability is far too feeble and
weak to [attain to or] keep them. Therefore it is as necessary to learn this part as the former in
order that we may know how to attain thereto, whence and whereby to obtain such power. For if we
could by our own powers keep the Ten Commandments as they are to be kept, we would need nothing further,
neither the Creed nor the Lord's Prayer. But before we explain this advantage and necessity of the
Creed, it is sufficient at first for the simple-minded that they learn to comprehend and understand
the Creed itself.
In the first place, the Creed has hitherto been divided into twelve articles, although, if all
points which are written in the Scriptures and which belong to the Creed were to be distinctly set
forth, there would be far more articles, nor could they all be clearly expressed in so few words.
But that it may be most easily and clearly understood as it is to be taught to children, we shall
briefly sum up the entire Creed in three chief articles, according to the three persons in the Godhead,
to whom everything that we believe is related, So that the First Article, of God the Father, explains
Creation, the Second Article, of the Son, Redemption, and the Third, of the Holy Ghost, Sanctification.
Just as though the Creed were briefly comprehended in so many words: I believe in God the Father, who
has created me; I believe in God the Son, who has redeemed me; I believe in the Holy Ghost, who sanctifies
me. One God and one faith, but three persons, therefore also three articles or confessions. Let us
briefly run over the words.
The First Article: Of Creation.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has
given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still
preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife
and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that
I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me
from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or
worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most
Article I. (Details from the Large Catechism)
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
This portrays and sets forth most briefly what is the essence, will, activity, and work of God
the Father. For since the Ten Commandments have taught that we are to have not more than one God,
the question might be asked, What kind of a person is God? What does He do? How can we praise or
portray and describe Him, that He may be known? Now, that is taught in this and in the following
article, so that the Creed is nothing else than the answer and confession of Christians arranged with
respect to the First Commandment. As if you were to ask a little child: My dear, what sort of a God
have you? What do you know of Him? he could say: This is my God: first, the Father, who has created
heaven and earth; besides this only One I regard nothing else as God; for there is no one else who
could create heaven and earth.
But for the learned, and those who are somewhat advanced [have acquired some Scriptural knowledge],
these three articles may all be expanded and divided into as many parts as there are words. But now
for young scholars let it suffice to indicate the most necessary points, namely, as we have said, that
this article refers to the Creation: that we emphasize the words: Creator of heaven and earth But what
is the force of this, or what do you mean by these words: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker,
etc.? Answer: This is what I mean and believe, that I am a creature of God; that is, that He has given
and constantly preserves to me my body, soul, and life, members great and small, all my senses, reason,
and understanding, and so on, food and drink, clothing and support, wife and children, domestics, house
and home, etc. Besides, He causes all creatures to serve for the uses and necessities of life -- sun,
moon and stars in the firmament, day and night, air, fire, water, earth, and whatever it bears and
produces, birds and fishes, beasts, grain, and all kinds of produce, and whatever else there is of
bodily and temporal goods, good government, peace, security. Thus we learn from this article that
none of us has of himself, nor can preserve, his life nor anything that is here enumerated or can be
enumerated, however small and unimportant a thing it might be, for all is comprehended in the word
Moreover, we also confess that God the Father has not only given us all that we have and see before
our eyes, but daily preserves and defends us against all evil and misfortune, averts all sorts of
danger and calamity; and that He does all this out of pure love and goodness, without our merit, as
a benevolent Father, who cares for us that no evil befall us. But to speak more of this belongs in
the other two parts of this article, where we say: Father Almighty.
Now, since: all that we possess, and, moreover, whatever, in addition, is in heaven and upon the
earth, is daily given, preserved, and kept for us by God, it is readily inferred and concluded that
it is our duty to love, praise, and thank Him for it without ceasing, and, in short, to serve Him
with all these things as He demands and has enjoined in the Ten Commandments.
Here we could say much if we were to expatiate, how few there are that believe this article. For
we all pass over it, hear it and say it, but neither see nor consider what the words teach us. For
if we believed it with the heart, we would also act accordingly, and not stalk about proudly, act
defiantly, and boast as though we had life, riches, power, and honor, etc., of ourselves, so that
others must fear and serve us, as is the practise of the wretched, perverse world, which is drowned
in blindness, and abuses all the good things and gifts of God only for its own pride, avarice, lust,
and luxury, and never once regards God, so as to thank Him or acknowledge Him as Lord and Creator.
Therefore, this article ought to humble and terrify us all, if we believed it. For we sin daily
with eyes, ears, hands, body and soul, money and possessions, and with everything we have, especially
those who even fight against the Word of God. Yet Christians have this advantage, that they acknowledge
themselves in duty bound to serve God for all these things, and to be obedient to Him [which the world
knows not how to do].
We ought, therefore, daily to practise this article, impress it upon our mind, and to remember it
in all that meets our eyes, and in all good that falls to our lot, and wherever we escape from calamity
or danger, that it is God who gives and does all these things, that therein we sense and see His
paternal heart and His transcendent love toward us. Thereby the heart would be warmed and kindled to
be thankful, and to employ all such good things to the honor and praise of God.
Thus we have most briefly presented the meaning of this article, as much as is at first necessary
for the most simple to learn, both as to what we have and receive from God, and what we owe in return,
which is a most excellent knowledge, but a far greater treasure. For here we see how the Father has
given Himself to us, together with all creatures, and has most richly provided for us in this life,
besides that He has overwhelmed us with unspeakable, eternal treasures by His Son and the Holy Ghost,
as we shall hear.
The Second Article: Of Redemption.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the
Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell;
the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand
of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father
from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost
and condemned creature, purchased and won [delivered] me from all sins, from death, and from the
power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent
suffering and death, in order that I may be [wholly] His own, and live under Him in His kingdom,
and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from
the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
Article II. (Details from the Large Catechism)
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the
Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell;
the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of
God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
Here we learn to know the Second Person of the Godhead, so that we see what we have from God over
and above the temporal goods aforementioned; namely, how He has completely poured forth Himself and
withheld nothing from us that He has not given us. Now, this article is very rich and broad; but in
order to expound it also briefly and in a childlike way, we shall take up one word and sum up in that
the entire article, namely (as we have said), that we may here learn how we have been redeemed; and
we shall base this on these words: In Jesus Christ, our Lord.
If now you are asked, What do you believe in the Second Article of Jesus Christ? answer briefly:
I believe that Jesus Christ, true Son of God, has become my Lord. But what is it to become Lord? It
is this, that He has redeemed me from sin, from the devil, from death, and all evil. For before I
had no Lord nor King, but was captive under the power of the devil, condemned to death, enmeshed in
sin and blindness.
For when we had been created by God the Father, and had received from Him all manner of good, the
devil came and led us into disobedience, sin, death, and all evil, so that we fell under His wrath
and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, as we had merited and deserved. There was no
counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God in His unfathomable goodness had
compassion upon our misery and wretchedness, and came from heaven to help us. Those tyrants and jailers,
then, are all expelled now, and in their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness,
every blessing, and salvation, and has delivered us poor lost men from the jaws of hell, has won us,
made us free, and brought us again into the favor and grace of the Father, and has taken us as His
own property under His shelter and protection, that He may govern us by His righteousness, wisdom,
power, life, and blessedness.
Let this then, be the sum of this article that the little word Lord signifies simply as much as
Redeemer, i.e., He who has brought us from Satan to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness,
and who preserves us in the same. But all the points which follow in order in this article serve no
other end than to explain and express this redemption, how and whereby it was accomplished, that is,
how much it cost Him, and what He spent and risked that He might win us and bring us under His dominion,
namely, that He became man, conceived and born without [any stain of] sin, of the Holy Ghost and of
the Virgin Mary, that He might overcome sin; moreover, that He suffered, died and was buried, that He
might make satisfaction for me and pay what I owe, not with silver nor gold, but with His own precious
blood. And all this, in order to become my Lord; for He did none of these for Himself, nor had He any
need of it. And after that He rose again from the dead, swallowed up and devoured death, and finally
ascended into heaven and assumed the government at the Father's right hand, so that the devil and all
powers must be subject to Him and lie at His feet, until finally, at the last day, He will completely
part and separate us from the wicked world, the devil, death, sin, etc.
But to explain all these single points separately belongs not to brief sermons for children, but
rather to the ampler sermons that extend throughout the entire year, especially at those times which
are appointed for the purpose of treating at length of each article -- of the birth, sufferings,
resurrection, ascension of Christ, etc.
Ay, the entire Gospel which we preach is based on this, that we properly understand this article
as that upon which our salvation and all our happiness rest, and which is so rich and comprehensive
that we never can learn it fully.
The Third Article: Of Sanctification.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness
of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?
Answer: I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe
in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened
me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens,
and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true
faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and
at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ
everlasting life. This is most certainly true.
Article III. (Details from the Large Catechism)
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness
of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
This article (as I have said) I cannot relate better than to Sanctification, that through the same
the Holy Ghost, with His office, is declared and depicted, namely, that He makes holy. Therefore we
must take our stand upon the word Holy Ghost, because it is so precise and comprehensive that we cannot
find another. For there are, besides, many kinds of spirits mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, as, the
spirit of man, heavenly spirits, and evil spirits. But the Spirit of God alone is called Holy Ghost,
that is, He who has sanctified and still sanctifies us. For as the Father is called Creator, the Son
Redeemer, so the Holy Ghost, from His work, must be called Sanctifier, or One that makes holy. But
how is such sanctifying done? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion, whereby He wins us, through
His birth, death, resurrection, etc., so also the Holy Ghost effects our sanctification by the following
parts, namely, by the communion of saints or the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection
of the body, and the life everlasting; that is, He first leads us into His holy congregation, and places
us in the bosom of the Church, whereby He preaches to us and brings us to Christ.
For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our
Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching
of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for
us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew
of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be
appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the
Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. Therefore sanctifying is nothing else
than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves.
Learn, then, to understand this article most clearly. If you are asked: What do you mean by the
words: I believe in the Holy Ghost? you can answer: I believe that the Holy Ghost makes me holy, as
His name implies. But whereby does He accomplish this, or what are His method and means to this end?
Answer: By the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life
everlasting. For, in the first place, He has a peculiar congregation in the world, which is the mother
that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God, which He reveals and preaches, [and
through which] He illumines and enkindles hearts, that they understand, accept it, cling to it, and
persevere in it.
For where He does not cause it to be preached and made alive in the heart, so that it is understood,
it is lost, as was the case under the Papacy, where faith was entirely put under the bench, and no one
recognized Christ as his Lord or the Holy Ghost as his Sanctifier, that is, no one believed that Christ
is our Lord in the sense that He has acquired this treasure for us, without our works and merit, and
made us acceptable to the Father. What, then, was lacking? This, that the Holy Ghost was not there to
reveal it and cause it to be preached; but men and evil spirits were there, who taught us to obtain
grace and be saved by our works. Therefore it is not a Christian Church either; for where Christ is
not preached, there is no Holy Ghost who creates, calls, and gathers the Christian Church, without
which no one can come to Christ the Lord. Let this suffice concerning the sum of this article. But
because the parts which are here enumerated are not quite clear to the simple, we shall run over
The Creed denominates the holy Christian Church, communionem sanctorum, a communion of saints;
for both expressions, taken together, are identical. But formerly the one [the second] expression
was not there, and it has been poorly and unintelligibly translated into German eine Gemeinschaft
der Heiligen, a communion of saints. If it is to be rendered plainly, it must be expressed quite
differently in the German idiom; for the word ecclesia properly means in German eine Versammlung,
an assembly. But we are accustomed to the word church, by which the simple do not understand an assembled
multitude, but the consecrated house or building, although the house ought not to be called a church,
except only for the reason that the multitude assembles there. For we who assemble there make and choose
for ourselves a particular place, and give a name to the house according to the assembly.
Thus the word Kirche (church) means really nothing else than a common assembly and is not German
by idiom, but Greek (as is also the word ecclesia); for in their own language they call it kyria, as
in Latin it is called curia. Therefore in genuine German, in our mother-tongue, it ought to be called
a Christian congregation or assembly (eine christliche Gemeinde oder Sammlung), or, best of all and
most clearly, holy Christendom (eine heilige Christenheit).
So also the word communio, which is added, ought not to be rendered communion (Gemeinschaft), but
congregation (Gemeinde). And it is nothing else than an interpretation or explanation by which some
one meant to explain what the Christian Church is. This our people, who understood neither Latin nor
German, have rendered Gemeinschaft der Heiligen (communion of saints), although no German language
speaks thus, nor understands it thus. But to speak correct German, it ought to be eine Gemeinde der
Heiligen (a congregation of saints), that is, a congregation made up purely of saints, or, to speak
yet more plainly, eine heilige Gemeinde, a holy congregation. I say this in order that the words
Gemeinschaft der Heiligen (communion of saints) may be understood, because the expression has become
so established by custom that it cannot well be eradicated, and it is treated almost as heresy if one
should attempt to change a word.
But this is the meaning and substance of this addition: I believe that there is upon earth a little
holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy
Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without
sects or schisms. I am also a part and member of the same a sharer and joint owner of all the goods
it possesses, brought to it and incorporated into it by the Holy Ghost by having heard and continuing
to hear the Word of God, which is the beginning of entering it. For formerly, before we had attained
to this, we were altogether of the devil, knowing nothing of God and of Christ. Thus, until the last
day, the Holy Ghost abides with the holy congregation or Christendom, by means of which He fetches
us to Christ and which He employs to teach and preach to us the Word, whereby He works and promotes
sanctification, causing it [this community] daily to grow and become strong in the faith and its
fruits which He produces.
We further believe that in this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought
through the holy Sacraments and Absolution, moreover, through all manner of consolatory promises of
the entire Gospel. Therefore, whatever is to be preached concerning the Sacraments belongs here,
and, in short, the whole Gospel and all the offices of Christianity, which also must be preached and
taught without ceasing. For although the grace of God is secured through Christ, and sanctification
is wrought by the Holy Ghost through the Word of God in the unity of the Christian Church, yet on
account of our flesh which we bear about with us we are never without sin.
Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is ordered to the end that we shall daily obtain
there nothing but the forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our
consciences as long as we live here. Thus, although we have sins, the [grace of the] Holy Ghost does
not allow them to injure us, because we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but
[continuous, uninterrupted] forgiveness of sin, both in that God forgives us, and in that we forgive,
bear with, and help each other.
But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not, there is no forgiveness, as also
there can be no holiness [sanctification]. Therefore all who seek and wish to merit holiness [sanctification],
not through the Gospel and forgiveness of sin, but by their works, have expelled and severed themselves
[from this Church].
Meanwhile, however, while sanctification has begun and is growing daily, we expect that our flesh
will be destroyed and buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously, and arise to
entire and perfect holiness in a new eternal life. For now we are only half pure and holy, so that
the Holy Ghost has ever [some reason why] to continue His work in us through the Word, and daily to
dispense forgiveness, until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness, but only
perfectly pure and holy people, full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death,
and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body.
Behold, all this is to be the office and work of the Holy Ghost, that He begin and daily increase
holiness upon earth by means of these two things, the Christian Church and the forgiveness of sin.
But in our dissolution He will accomplish it altogether in an instant, and will forever preserve us
therein by the last two parts.
But the term Auferstehung des Fleisches (resurrection of the flesh) here employed is not according
to good German idiom. For when we Germans hear the word Fleisch (flesh), we think no farther than
of the shambles. But in good German idiom we would say Auferstehung des Leibes, or Leichnams (resurrection
of the body). However, it is not a matter of much moment, if we only understand the words aright.
This, now, is the article which must ever be and remain in operation. For creation we have received;
redemption, too, is finished. But the Holy Ghost carries on His work without ceasing to the last day.
And for that purpose He has appointed a congregation upon earth by which He speaks and does everything.
For He has not yet brought together all His Christian Church nor dispensed forgiveness. Therefore we
believe in Him who through the Word daily brings us into the fellowship of this Christian Church,
and through the same Word and the forgiveness of sins bestows, increases, and strengthens faith in
order that when He has accomplished it all, and we abide therein, and die to the world and to all
evil, He may finally make us perfectly and forever holy; which now we expect in faith through the
Behold, here you have the entire divine essence, will, and work depicted most exquisitely in
quite short and yet rich words wherein consists all our wisdom, which surpasses and exceeds the
wisdom, mind, and reason of all men. For although the whole world with all diligence has endeavored
to ascertain what God is, what He has in mind and does, yet has she never been able to attain to
[the knowledge and understanding of] any of these things. But here we have everything in richest
measure; for here in all three articles He has Himself revealed and opened the deepest abyss of his
paternal heart and of His pure unutterable love. For He has created us for this very object, that
He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven
and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Ghost, by whom to bring us to Himself.
For (as explained above) we could never attain to the knowledge of the grace and favor of the Father
except through the Lord Christ, who is a mirror of the paternal heart, outside of whom we see nothing
but an angry and terrible Judge. But of Christ we could know nothing either, unless it had been revealed
by the Holy Ghost.
These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and separate us Christians from all other people
upon earth. For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and
hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards
them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and
damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts
of the Holy Ghost.
From this you perceive that the Creed is a doctrine quite different from the Ten Commandments; for
the latter teaches indeed what we ought to do, but the former tells what God does for us and gives to
us. Moreover, apart from this, the Ten Commandments are written in the hearts of all men; the Creed,
however, no human wisdom can comprehend, but it must be taught by the Holy Ghost alone. The latter
doctrine [of the Law], therefore makes no Christian, for the wrath and displeasure of God abide upon
us still, because we cannot keep what God demands of us; but this [namely, the doctrine of faith]
brings pure grace, and makes us godly and acceptable to God. For by this knowledge we obtain love
and delight in all the commandments of God, because here we see that God gives Himself entire to us,
with all that He has and is able to do, to aid and direct us in keeping the Ten Commandments -- the
Father, all creatures; the Son, His entire work; and the Holy Ghost, all His gifts.
Let this suffice concerning the Creed to lay a foundation for the simple, that they may not be
burdened, so that, if they understand the substance of it, they themselves may afterwards strive to
acquire more, and to refer to these parts whatever they learn in the Scriptures, and may ever grow
and increase in richer understanding. For as long as we live here, we shall daily have enough to do
to preach and to learn this.
The Lord's Prayer
As the head of the family should teach it in a simple
way to his household.
Of Prayer. (Details from the Large Catechism)
The Lord's Prayer.
We have now heard what we must do and believe, in which things the best and happiest life consists.
Now follows the third part, how we ought to pray. For since we are so situated that no man can perfectly
keep the Ten Commandments, even though he have begun to believe, and since the devil with all his power
together with the world and our own flesh, resists our endeavors, nothing is so necessary as that we
should continually resort to the ear of God, call upon Him, and pray to Him, that He would give, preserve,
and increase in us faith and the fulfilment of the Ten Commandments, and that He would remove everything
that is in our way and opposes us therein. But that we might know what and how to pray, our Lord Christ
has Himself taught us both the mode and the words, as we shall see.
But before we explain the Lord's Prayer part by part, it is most necessary first to exhort and incite
people to prayer, as Christ and the apostles also have done. And the first matter is to know that it
is our duty to pray because of God's commandment. For thus we heard in the Second Commandment: Thou
shalt not take the name of the lord, thy God, in vain, that we are there required to praise that holy
name, and call upon it in every need, or to pray. For to call upon the name of God is nothing else
than to pray. Prayer is therefore as strictly and earnestly commanded as all other commandments: to
have no other God, not to kill, not to steal, etc. Let no one think that it is all the same whether
he pray or not, as vulgar people do, who grope in such delusion and ask Why should I pray? Who knows
whether God heeds or will hear my prayer? If I do not pray, some one else will. And thus they fall
into the habit of never praying, and frame a pretext, as though we taught that there is no duty or
need of prayer, because we reject false and hypocritical prayers.
But this is true indeed that such prayers as have been offered hitherto when men were babbling
and bawling in the churches were no prayers. For such external matters, when they are properly observed,
may be a good exercise for young children, scholars, and simple persons, and may be called singing
or reading, but not really praying. But praying, as the Second Commandment teaches, is to call upon
God in every need. This He requires of us, and has not left it to our choice. But it is our duty and
obligation to pray if we would be Christians, as much as it is our duty and obligation to obey our
parents and the government; for by calling upon it and praying the name of God is honored and profitably
employed. This you must note above all things, that thereby you may silence and repel such thoughts
as would keep and deter us from prayer. For just as it would be idle for a son to say to his father,
"Of what advantage is my obedience? I will go and do what I can; it is all the same"; but there stands
the commandment, Thou shalt and must do it, so also here it is not left to my will to do it or leave
it undone, but prayer shall and must be offered at the risk of God's wrath and displeasure.
This is therefore to be understood and noted before everything else, in order that thereby we may
silence and repel the thoughts which would keep and deter us from praying, as though it were not of
much consequence if we do not pray, or as though it were commanded those who are holier and in better
favor with God than we; as, indeed, the human heart is by nature so despondent that it always flees
from God and imagines that He does not wish or desire our prayer, because we are sinners and have
merited nothing but wrath. Against such thoughts (I say) we should regard this commandment and turn
to God, that we may not by such disobedience excite His anger still more. For by this commandment He
gives us plainly to understand that He will not cast us from Him nor chase us away, although we are
sinners, but rather draw us to Himself, so that we might humble ourselves before Him, bewail this
misery and plight of ours, and pray for grace and help. Therefore we read in the Scriptures that He
is angry also with those who were smitten for their sin, because they did not return to Him and by
their prayers assuage His wrath and seek His grace.
Now, from the fact that it is so solemnly commanded to pray, you are to conclude and think, that
no one should by any means despise his prayer, but rather set great store by it, and always seek an
illustration from the other commandments. A child should by no means despise his obedience to father
and mother, but should always think: This work is a work of obedience, and what I do I do with no
other intention than that I may walk in the obedience and commandment of God, on which I can settle
and stand firm, and esteem it a great thing, not on account of my worthiness, but on account of the
commandment. So here also, what and for what we pray we should regard as demanded by God and done
in obedience to Him, and should reflect thus: On my account it would amount to nothing; but it shall
avail, for the reason that God has commanded it. Therefore everybody, no matter what he has to say
in prayer, should always come before God in obedience to this commandment.
We pray, therefore, and exhort every one most diligently to take this to heart and by no means
to despise our prayer. For hitherto it has been taught thus in the devil's name that no one regarded
these things, and men supposed it to be sufficient to have done the work, whether God would hear it
or not. But that is staking prayer on a risk, and murmuring it at a venture, and therefore it is
a lost prayer. For we allow such thoughts as these to lead us astray and deter us: I am not holy
or worthy enough; if I were as godly and holy as St. Peter or St. Paul, then I would pray. But put
such thoughts far away, for just the same commandment which applied to St. Paul applies also to me;
and the Second Commandment is given as much on my account as on his account, so that he can boast
of no better or holier commandment.
Therefore you should say: My prayer is as precious, holy, and pleasing to God as that of St.
Paul or of the most holy saints. This is the reason: For I will gladly grant that he is holier in
his person, but not on account of the commandment; since God does not regard prayer on account of
the person, but on account of His word and obedience thereto. For on the commandment on which all
the saints rest their prayer I, too, rest mine. Moreover I pray for the same thing for which they
all pray and ever have prayed; besides, I have just as great a need of it as those great saints,
yea, even a greater one than they.
Let this be the first and most important point, that all our prayers must be based and rest upon
obedience to God, irrespective of our person, whether we be sinners or saints, worthy or unworthy.
And we must know that God will not have it treated as a jest, but be angry, and punish all who do
not pray, as surely as He punishes all other disobedience; next, that He will not suffer our prayers
to be in vain or lost. For if He did not intend to answer your prayer, He would not bid you pray and
add such a severe commandment to it.
In the second place, we should be the more urged and incited to pray because God has also added
a promise, and declared that it shall surely be done to us as we pray, as He says Ps. 50:15: Call
upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee. And Christ in the Gospel of St. Matthew, 7:7:
Ask, and it shall be given you. For every one that asketh receiveth. Such promises ought certainly
to encourage and kindle our hearts to pray with pleasure and delight, since He testifies with His
[own] word that our prayer is heartily pleasing to Him, moreover, that it shall assuredly be heard
and granted, in order that we may not despise it or think lightly of it, and pray at a venture.
This you can hold up to Him and say: Here I come, dear Father, and pray, not of my own purpose
nor upon my own worthiness, but at Thy commandment and promise, which cannot fail or deceive me.
Whoever, therefore, does not believe this promise must know again that he excites God to anger as
a person who most highly dishonors Him and reproaches Him with falsehood.
Besides this, we should be incited and drawn to prayer because in addition to this commandment
and promise God anticipates us, and Himself arranges the words and form of prayer for us, and places
them upon our lips as to how and what we should pray, that we may see how heartily He pities us in
our distress, and may never doubt that such prayer is pleasing to Him and shall certainly be answered;
which [the Lord's Prayer] is a great advantage indeed over all other prayers that we might compose
ourselves. For in them the conscience would ever be in doubt and say: I have prayed, but who knows
how it pleases Him, or whether I have hit upon the right proportions and form? Hence there is no nobler
prayer to be found upon earth than the Lord's Prayer which we daily pray because it has this excellent
testimony, that God loves to hear it, which we ought not to surrender for all the riches of the world.
And it has been prescribed also for this reason that we should see and consider the distress which
ought to urge and compel us to pray without ceasing. For whoever would pray must have something to
present, state, and name which he desires; if not, it cannot be called a prayer.
Therefore we have rightly rejected the prayers of monks and priests, who howl and growl day and
night like fiends; but none of them think of praying for a hair's breadth of anything. And if we would
assemble all the churches, together with all ecclesiastics, they would be obliged to confess that they
have never from the heart prayed for even a drop of wine. For none of them has ever purposed to pray
from obedience to God and faith in His promise, nor has any one regarded any distress, but (when they
had done their best) they thought no further than this, to do a good work, whereby they might repay
God, as being unwilling to take anything from Him, but wishing only to give Him something.
But where there is to be a true prayer there must be earnestness. Men must feel their distress,
and such distress as presses them and compels them to call and cry out then prayer will be made spontaneously,
as it ought to be, and men will require no teaching how to prepare for it and to attain to the proper
devotion. But the distress which ought to concern us most, both as regards ourselves and every one,
you will find abundantly set forth in the Lord's Prayer. Therefore it is to serve also to remind us
of the same, that we contemplate it and lay it to heart, lest we become remiss in prayer. For we all
have enough that we lack, but the great want is that we do not feel nor see it. Therefore God also
requires that you lament and plead such necessities and wants, not because He does not know them, but
that you may kindle your heart to stronger and greater desires, and make wide and open your cloak to
Therefore, every one of us should accustom himself from his youth daily to pray for all his wants,
whenever he is sensible of anything affecting his interests or that of other people among whom he may
live, as for preachers, the government, neighbors, domestics, and always (as we have said) to hold up
to God His commandment and promise, knowing that He will not have them disregarded. This I say because
I would like to see these things brought home again to the people that they might learn to pray truly,
and not go about coldly and indifferently, whereby they become daily more unfit for prayer; which is
just what the devil desires, and for what he works with all his powers. For he is well aware what
damage and harm it does him when prayer is in proper practise. For this we must know, that all our
shelter and protection rest in prayer alone. For we are far too feeble to cope with the devil and all
his power and adherents that set themselves against us, and they might easily crush us under their
feet. Therefore we must consider and take up those weapons with which Christians must be armed in
order to stand against the devil. For what do you think has hitherto accomplished such great things,
has checked or quelled the counsels, purposes, murder, and riot of our enemies, whereby the devil
thought to crush us, together with the Gospel, except that the prayer of a few godly men intervened
like a wall of iron on our side? They should else have witnessed a far different tragedy, namely, how
the devil would have destroyed all Germany in its own blood. But now they may confidently deride it
and make a mock of it, however, we shall nevertheless be a match both for themselves and the devil
by prayer alone, if we only persevere diligently and not become slack. For whenever a godly Christian
prays: Dear Father let Thy will be done, God speaks from on high and says: Yes, dear child, it shall
be so, in spite of the devil and all the world.
Let this be said as an exhortation, that men may learn, first of all, to esteem prayer as something
great and precious, and to make a proper distinction between babbling and praying for something. For
we by no means reject prayer, but the bare, useless howling and murmuring we reject, as Christ Himself
also rejects and prohibits long palavers. Now we shall most briefly and clearly treat of the Lord's
Prayer. Here there is comprehended in seven successive articles, or petitions, every need which never
ceases to relate to us, and each so great that it ought to constrain us to keep praying it all our