Well, we’ve finally reached it: the last installment in URC Psalmody’s Heidelberg Catechism series. After its opening question, “What is your only comfort in life and death?” we’ve progressed with the Catechism through the Bible’s clear teaching regarding man’s sin and God’s work of salvation, concluding with a large section on the redeemed Christian’s grateful life of service. Lord’s Day 52 completes the Catechism’s treatment of prayer by considering the sixth request and conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, finishing with an explanation of that final word: “Amen.”
127 Q. What does the sixth request mean?
A. And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil means,
By ourselves we are too weak
to hold our own even for a moment.
And our sworn enemies—
the devil, the world, and our own flesh—
never stop attacking us.
And so, Lord,
uphold us and make us strong
with the strength of your Holy Spirit,
so that we may not go down to defeat
in this spiritual struggle,
but may firmly resist our enemies
until we finally win the complete victory.
128 Q. What does your conclusion to this prayer mean?
A. For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory, forever means,
We have made all these requests of you
because, as our all-powerful king,
you not only want to,
but are able to give us all that is good;
and because your holy name,
and not we ourselves,
should receive all the praise, forever.
129 Q. What does that little word “Amen” express?
A. Amen means,
This is sure to be!
It is even more sure
that God listens to my prayer,
than that I really desire
what I pray for.
69, “With Firm Resolve I Held My Peace” (Psalm 39)
“By ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment.” As Jesus said to his disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). Realizing the frailty of his fleeting life, David cries out in Psalm 39, “Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow!” (vv. 5, 6 ESV). Apart from God’s provision, not one of us has the strength to sustain his own life for a single minute. With this understanding, it becomes clear that David’s response to his own feebleness is the only viable answer: “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you” (v. 7). The blue Psalter Hymnal includes a beautifully poetic setting of this psalm:
Make me, O Lord, to know my end,
Teach me the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am
And turn from pride and sinful ways.
My time is nothing in Thy sight,
Behold, my days are but a span;
Yea, truly, at his best estate,
A breath, a fleeting breath, is man.
Man’s life is passed in vain desire
If troubled years be spent for gain;
He knows not whose his wealth shall be,
And all his toil is but in vain.
And now, O Lord, what wait I for?
I have no hope except in Thee;
Let not ungodly men reproach,
From all transgression set me free.
105, “O God, Be Merciful to Me” (Psalm 57)
“And our sworn enemies—the devil, the world, and our own flesh—never stop attacking us.” Not only do we face spiritual threats from Satan and the hostile plans of a world that take counsel together “against the LORD and against his Anointed” (Psalm 2:2 ESV), but our own sinful flesh wars against our redeemed natures (cf. Romans 7). In such straits we can only cry out for God’s help, as David does in Psalm 57:
O God, be merciful to me,
My soul for refuge comes to Thee;
Beneath Thy wings I safe will stay
Until these troubles pass away.
To God Most High shall rise my prayer,
To God who makes my wants His care;
From heaven He will salvation send,
And me from every foe defend.
Great foes and fierce my soul alarm,
Inflamed with rage and strong to harm,
But God, from heaven His dwelling-place,
Will rescue me with truth and grace.
Be Thou, O God, exalted high,
Yea, far above the starry sky,
And let Thy glory be displayed
O’er all the earth Thy hands have made.
26, “Since with My God with Perfect Heart” (Psalm 18)
“And so, Lord, uphold us and make us strong with the strength of your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle, but may firmly resist our enemies until we finally win the complete victory.” Talk about comfort! No matter how fiercely the battle may rage around us, our ultimate victory is sure, because Christ our Savior has already won it. Psalm 18 gives exuberant voice to this confidence. “The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness,” says David in v. 20. Although we are no more righteous than David was, we have been granted the righteousness of Chrirst, and the final triumph along with it. “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (v. 30).
From God the victory I receive;
Most perfect is His holy way;
His Word is tried, they who believe
Will find the Lord their shield and stay.
For who is God, and strong to save,
Beside the Lord, our God of might?
‘Tis He that makes me strong and brave,
The Lord who guides my steps aright.
Thy free salvation is my shield,
My sure defense in every strait;
Thy hand upholds me, lest I yield;
Thy gentleness has made me great.
121, “O God, to Us Show Mercy” (Psalm 67)
“We have made all these requests of you because, as our all-powerful king, you not only want to, but are able to give us all that is good…” In confidence that God will hear and answer our prayers, we eagerly await the day when his saving power will be known among all nations (Psalm 67:2).
O God, let people praise Thee,
Let all the nations sing,
For earth in rich abundance
To us her fruit shall bring.
The Lord our God shall bless us,
Our God shall blessing send,
And all the earth shall fear Him
To its remotest end.
310, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” (Psalm 150)
“…and because your holy name, and not we ourselves, should receive all the praise, forever.” Not only does this beautiful statement capture the essence of the Lord’s Prayer, it also serves as the capstone of the entire Heidelberg Catechism. “In reckless disobedience” (Lord’s Day 4, Q&A 9) we rebelled against the good commands of God. Yet in his great mercy, God provided “our Lord Jesus Christ, who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God” (Lord’s Day 6, Q&A 18), enabling each of his elect to say, “By faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in his anointing” (Lord’s Day 12, Q&A 32). While we “confidently await as judge the very One who has already stood trial in [our] place before God” (Lord’s Day 19, Q&A 52), we are comforted and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, who produces in us “wholehearted joy in God through Christ and a delight to do every kind of good as God wants us to” (Lord’s Day 33, Q&A 90). Indeed, “his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (II Peter 1:3)—and therefore his holy name, and not we ourselves, should receive all the praise forever.
Magnify Jehovah’s Name;
Praise the living God, your Maker,
All that breathe, His praise proclaim.
488, “Now Blessed Be Jehovah God” (Psalm 72)
“This is sure to be!” With that one little word, “Amen,” we express our unshakable confidence in God’s promises to us. Even when our faith falters and our comfort wanes, it is sure—as sure as we really desire what we pray for—that we belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ. Because we belong to him Christ, by his Spirit, assures us of eternal life and makes us wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him. To that one triune God be the glory forever and ever. Amen!
Now blessed be Jehovah God,
The God of Israel,
Who only doeth wondrous works
In glory that excel;
Who only doeth wondrous works
In glory that excel.
And blessed be His glorious Name
To all eternity;
The whole earth let His glory fill;
Amen! so let it be;
The whole earth let His glory fill;
Amen! so let it be.