Here are a few ideas for teaching the Law and Gospel from the Lord’s Prayer, Petitions 5–7 and Conclusion in Luther’s Small Catechism.
Fifth Petition: And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
What does this mean? We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.
Law: Ever since Adam and Eve’s temptation and fall in the Garden of Eden, mankind has been placing itself in God’s throne. Thus it is when we sinful human beings forget ourselves and dare to withhold forgiveness and instead mete out punishment. This comes in various forms: bringing up past sins, giving the silent treatment, making “small” verbal cuts, forgiving conditionally, and the like. God warns us clearly and sternly that if we will not forgive others, neither will He forgive us (Matthew 6:15).
Gospel: The greatest comfort for us sinners is to know that God forgives not because the Almighty happened to be in a generous mood, for the mere fact of the Father’s benevolence, or because He finds in us something worth redeeming. No, the certainty of our forgiveness is that One has been punished sufficiently in our place. For the sake of Jesus’ blood, death, and resurrection, through faith, God declares sinners justified and forgiven.
Sixth Petition: And lead us not into temptation.
What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, or other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.
Law: Satan seeks not to be worshiped or even recognized, for in his anonymity he does his best tempting as he marshals his wicked power and the influence of the world so we sinners forget about him and discount the very real danger of a pernicious world seeking to draw us away from Jesus. Or, in hapless pride and conceit, we sinners might believe he or she has mastery over sin, when in fact iniquity courses freely through body and mind.
Gospel: Although we sadly retain our sinful nature for the remainder of our days in this vale of tears, we also possess a Christlike nature, given through faith and nourished in Word and Sacrament. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can resist temptation to sin. Jesus Christ, who is both God and man, lived innocently in our place, that through faith we receive the merits of this sinless life. Because Jesus has experienced every temptation and has overcome them, He is perfectly able to minister to us struggling sinners.
Seventh Petition: But deliver us from evil.
What does this mean? We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.
Law: Related to this petition, we sinners do well to pray for two things daily. First, that the Holy Spirit would protect us from the temptation to entangle ourselves in every evil. We sinners are wayward sheep, titillated and charmed by the world’s offer of easy but fleeting pleasure. Second, that this same Spirit would protect us from falling in love with the world. In our sinful nature, we sinners cherish our life in this perverse version of God’s creation. Left to ourself, we sinners will always choose the vain, brief years of this life over the eternal bliss of heaven.
Gospel: Let all Christians rejoice that their salvation is worked out entirely outside of themselves. The Father created us, the Son redeemed us, and the Holy Spirit sanctified us. We need not worry over the temptation of tomorrow, or the vicious, wily assaults of the devil when we are weak, for the Lord has promised to hold, protect, and nurture His sons and daughters. He does so through the Word and Sacraments. As the Lord has been with us each day, so will He continue to be, even on the day of our passing.
Conclusion: For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
What does this mean? This means that I should be certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him; for He Himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us. Amen, amen means “yes, yes, it shall be so.”
Law: There are two dangers here. First, that we would doubt or minimize the Father’s interest and acceptance of our prayers. To doubt the Father’s interest and acceptance is to doubt the sufficiency of Jesus’ work on behalf of us sinners. Second, that we would pray to the Lord, believing that our petitions are pleasing to Him and that He hears them for any reason outside of Jesus Christ, namely, our merits or good works.
Gospel: Our heavenly Father regards our prayers positively for the sake of His Son, our crucified, risen, and ascended Savior, Jesus Christ, and will answer in a manner that is for our ultimate good. Whether His response is “yes,” “no,” or “wait,” He is working all things out for good for those who love Him. If there is any doubt of the Lord’s interest in our good, consider what He sacrificed to give us heaven instead of hell.
Catechism quotations: © 1986 CPH.
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