St. Paul speaks of prayer in very stark terms when he describes it as a weapon. After giving us the “armor of God” catalog, we are directed to pray. This reminds us that this Christian life is one engaged in battle, not with “flesh and blood” enemies, but “against the rulers, against authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). This is not a battle that can be won with any self-reliance whatsoever. No, these are the sort of enemies that come out only through prayer (Mark 9:29). Prayer – that is, the voice of dependence on God – is the chief weapon we have against the schemes of the devil (Eph 6:11).
Luther captures this understanding of prayer quite well. As he explains each petition of the Lord’s Prayer in both his Small and Large Catechism, he helps us understand the Lord’s Prayer as being both a faith-filled appeal to God while at the same time a battle cry against all that opposes God and his gracious plan for his children: namely, the devil, the world, and our flesh.
God’s name is the most precious gift we have from him. It is the holiest name above every name.
When we arrive at the first petition, we are both praying for God’s name to be kept holy among us in word and deed while, at the same time, praying that God would protect us from speaking and acting in any way that would disgrace our dear Father. Satan’s goal is like that of any political party during an election year: besmirch the name of his opponent. We are praying here that we wouldn’t play politics with God’s name, but trust it with our hearts, faithfully proclaim it with our words, and joyfully love others under its banner on earth as it is in heaven.
God’s name is the most precious gift we have from him. It is the holiest name above every name. “It is certainly holy in itself,” as Luther says in The Small Catechism, “but we pray here that it would be kept holy among us also.” It is an overwhelming wonder that God has given us this most precious of gifts for our use! This petition calls to mind our baptism, where God crucified you with Christ and raised you to a new life. There, through the preacher’s mouth and with some water, he proclaimed his triune name over you, marking you as his own. You are now one who bears the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are graciously chosen and marked. You carry a very precious gift, one that is holy in itself and one that marks you with its holiness.
So Luther can say, “God’s name was given to us when we became Christians and were baptized, and so we are called children of God and have the sacraments, through which he incorporates us into himself with the result that everything that is God’s must serve for our use.” (Martin Luther, The Large Catechism) Think on that! God has given you his name so that you will use it! It is like turning 16 and having your dad throw you the keys to his newly restored ’66 Mustang and saying, “Use it whenever you like!”
Because this is a name given to us in baptism, we know we can pray it with confidence because we pray it as God’s beloved children who are covered in the righteousness of Christ.
Now, of course, it is Satan who shows up with a plastic bottle of cheap vodka and says, “Let’s take her for a spin!” You know it’s tempting, but what a foolish and shameful waste of a gift. You’ll wreck the gift and disgrace the Giver! So, this petition is prayed to prevent us from abusing this baptismal gift. In fact, we are asking here “for exactly the same thing that God demands in the Second Commandment: that his name should not be taken in vain by swearing, cursing, deceiving, etc. but used rightly to the praise and glory of God” (The Large Catechism). That is to say, the right way to use this gift is to “call upon [our Father] in every trouble, to pray, praise, and give thanks” (The Small Catechism).
Our prayer, then, is that we are not found with Satan, besmirching the name of God. Instead, we pray that our teaching and preaching would proclaim the truth of who God is and what he’s done for us, and that our lives would be found to reflect the mercy and kindness of our God. What is more, because this is a name given to us in baptism, we know we can pray it with confidence because we pray it as God’s beloved children who are covered in the righteousness of Christ.
Christ perfectly hallowed God’s name on our behalf in his preaching, teaching, dying, and rising. He hallowed God’s name when he took all your sin and made it his own and took all his righteousness and credited it to you, according to God’s will. Thus, God loves to hear the prayers of his righteous, blood-bought children. He loves to hear your prayers! “If you ask such things from your heart, you can be sure that God is pleased. For there is nothing that he would rather hear than to have his glory and praise exalted above everything else and his Word taught in its purity, cherished and treasured” (The Large Catechism).
It is in the name of God--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--that you were baptized. The triune God gave you his name as a gift so that you can call upon him in all circumstances. It is this name that causes the demons to tremble. So that, in praying for God’s name to be kept holy in your doctrine and life, you will find that God has granted you victory over his adversary.