Heidelberg Catechism Lesson 45

Q. 116. Why is prayer necessary for Christians?
 
Because it is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us:[1] and also, because God will give His grace and Holy Spirit to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of Him, and are thankful for them.[2]
[1] Psalm 50:14–15;   [2] Matthew 7:7–8; Luke 11:9, 13; Matthew 13:12; Psalm 50:15.
 
 
Q. 117. What are the requisites of that prayer, which is acceptable to God, and which He will hear?
 
First, that we from the heart pray to the one true God only, who hath manifested Himself in His Word,[1] for all things, He hath commanded us to ask of Him;[2] secondly, that we rightly and thoroughly know our need and misery, that so we may deeply humble ourselves in the presence of His divine majesty;[3] thirdly, that we be fully persuaded that He, notwithstanding that we are unworthy of it,[4] will, for the sake of Christ our Lord, certainly hear our prayer,[5] as He has promised us in His Word.[6]
[1] John 4:22–23;  [2] Romans 8:26; 1 John 5:14;  [3] John 4:23–24; Psalm 145:18;  [4] 2 Chronicles 20:12;  [5] Psalm 2:12 and 34:18–19; Isaiah 66:2;  [6] Romans 10:13 and 8:15–16; James 1:6, &c.; John 14:13; Daniel 9:17–18; Matthew 7:8; Psalm 143:1.
 
 
Q. 118. What hath God commanded us to ask of Him?
 
All things necessary for soul and body;[1] which Christ our Lord has comprised in that prayer He Himself has taught us.[2]
[1] James 1:17; Matthew 6:33;  [2] Matthew 6:9–10, &c.; Luke 11:2, &c.
 
 
Q. 119. What are the words of that prayer?
 
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Commentary

There is a common saying amongst Christians, that “Prayer changes thing.” This statement has some truth to it, if we see prayer as an intermediate means by which God brings to past His sovereign decree. When the citizen of a nation requests his king to do something on his behalf, and the king finds his request to be reasonable and consistent with his own policy, and accedes to the request, we may say that the request was instrumental in the changes that was made. However, if we think about it carefully, we will realise that it is the king who made the change, not the request or the requestor. Think on the fact that the king could have answered the request negatively! So it is with prayer, God hears and answers our prayers, but He sovereignly determines the unfolding of His providence. Not only so, but God and His providence are in no way contingent upon prayers, unlike the case of the king.
 
Sadly, however, many professing Christians urge prayer because “Prayer changes things,” by which they imply that God is kind of a spinelessly indulgent king or a divine Santa Claus who will not turn down any requests. The Scriptures and the catechism statements we are considering are opposed to that kind of idea about prayer. We must pray not because prayer changes things, but because prayer is a manifestation of gratitude and dependence, and also because God requires that we receive His blessings only through prayer.
 
The Scripture gives us many directions on prayer. The Lord’s Prayer provides us a pattern, which we may follow in our prayer. But more than that, the Scripture teaches us the manner in which we are to pray. For example, we must pray, firstly, according to God’s revealed will, that is, we must pray only for such things He has promised in His Word to give us. Secondly, we must pray with a deep sense of humility and dependence upon God to be our provider. And, thirdly, we must pray in the name of Christ, that is, upon the merit of Christ’s mediatorial work on our behalf, and a reliance upon His intercession for us.