Today in URC Psalmody’s series we enter the last section of the Heidelberg Catechism, which provides a comprehensive devotional model based on the Lord’s Prayer. Lord’s Day 45 begins by explaining why Christians are called to pray—and more than that, why they need to pray.
116 Q. Why do Christians need to pray?
A. Because prayer is the most important part
of the thankfulness God requires of us.
And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit
only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly,
asking God for these gifts
and thanking him for them.
117 Q. How does God want us to pray so that he will listen to us?
A. First, we must pray from the heart
to no other than the one true God,
who has revealed himself in his Word,
asking for everything he has commanded us to ask for.
Second, we must acknowledge our need and misery,
and humble ourselves in his majestic presence.
Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation:
even though we do not deserve it,
God will surely listen to our prayer
because of Christ our Lord.
That is what he promised us in his Word.
118 Q. What did God command us to pray for?
A. Everything we need, spiritually and physically,
as embraced in the prayer
Christ our Lord himself taught us.
119 Q. What is this prayer?
A. Our Father who 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 also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory, forever.
299, “O Lord, Thou Art My God and King” (Psalm 145)
“Prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.” From beginning to end, the Scriptures are replete with commands and encouragements for us to call on the name of the Lord. “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22, ESV). “Pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:6). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). Psalm 145, a lofty song of praise, resounds with the greatness of God and the wondrous privilege of calling on him in prayer. Below are selected stanzas from the Psalter Hymnal’s versification:
O Lord, Thou art my God and King,
And I will ever bless Thy Name;
I will extol Thee every day,
And evermore Thy praise proclaim.
The Lord is greatly to be praised,
His greatness is beyond our thought;
From age to age the sons of men
Shall tell the wonders God has wrought.
Upon Thy glorious majesty
And wondrous works my mind shall dwell;
Thy deeds shall fill the world with awe,
And of Thy greatness I will tell.
Thy matchless goodness and Thy grace
Thy people shall commemorate,
And all Thy truth and righteousness
My joyful song shall celebrate.
The Lord our God is rich in grace,
Most tender and compassionate;
His anger is most slow to rise,
His lovingkindness is most great.
43, “Unto Thee, O Lord Jehovah” (Psalm 25)
“We must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God.” Psalm 25 exalts the Lord as our only strength and refuge:
Unto Thee, O Lord Jehovah,
Do I lift my waiting soul.
O my God, in Thee I trusted;
Let no shame now o’er me roll.
On my enemy be shame,
Oft without a cause transgressing,
But all those who trust Thy Name
Honor with abundant blessing.
Yea, the secret of Jehovah
Is with those who fear His Name;
With His friends in tender mercy
He His covenant will maintain.
With a confidence complete,
Toward the Lord mine eyes are turning;
From the net He’ll pluck my feet;
He will not despise my yearning.
50, “O Lord, to Thee I Cry” (Psalm 28)
“We must acknowledge our need and misery, hiding nothing, and humble ourselves in his majestic presence.” In addition to exalting the Lord, prayer also serves to remind us of how small and weak we are before him. Yet even in the depths of despair we can cry out to God and know that our prayers are heard, as the author of Psalm 28 realized:
O Lord, to Thee I cry;
Thou art my rock and trust;
O be not silent, lest I die
And slumber in the dust.
O hear me when in prayer
Thy favor I entreat;
Hear, while I lift imploring hands
Before Thy mercy-seat.
119, “O All Ye Peoples, Bless Our God” (Psalm 66)
“We must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord. That is what he promised us in his Word.” Psalm 66 proclaims the comforting truth that not only does God hear our prayers, he answers them by working out his all-wise purposes for our lives.
O all ye peoples, bless our God,
Aloud proclaim His praise,
Who safely holds our souls in life,
And stedfast makes our ways.
Thou, Lord, hast proved and tested us,
As silver tried by fire;
Thy hand has made our burden great
And thwarted our desire.
Come, ye that fear the Lord, and hear
What He has done for me;
My cry for help is turned to praise,
For He has set me free.
If in my heart I sin regard,
My prayer He will not hear;
But truly God has heard my voice,
My prayer has reached His ear.
117, “Before Thee, Lord, a People Waits” (Psalm 65)
What can we glean from this Lord’s Day’s study of prayer, the “most important part of the thankfulness which God requires of us”? In short, we serve a faithful God who will provide “everything we need, spiritually and physically.” This is cause for humility, but it is also a cause for joy. Psalm 65 expresses it well:
Before Thee, Lord, a people waits
To praise Thy Name in Zion’s gates,
To Thee shall vows be paid;
Thou Hearer of the suppliant’s prayer,
To Thee in need shall all repair
To seek Thy gracious aid.
How great my trespasses appear;
But Thou from guilt my soul wilt clear,
And my transgressions hide.
How blest Thy chosen, who by grace
Are brought within Thy dwelling-place
That they may there abide.
On Thy sustaining arm depend,
To earth and sea’s remotest end,
All men in every age;
Thy strength establishes the hills,
Thy word the roaring billows stills,
And calms the peoples’ rage.