by Rev. E.B. Holschuh
The Calibration Prayer
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your 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 if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:7-16 ESV)
Jesus tells us “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them…”
My father was an alcoholic and during my childhood I can remember hearing the Lord’s Prayer at the close of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings—in fact, that’s where I learned to recite it by heart as a little kid. AA members—in a very Christian vein, though obviously not in the soteriological sense—are reminded to admit daily that they cannot help themselves, but to “Let go and Let God.” In my entire life I cannot think of a time that I did not believe in a God who was responsible for everything in my world, but it was not until my adult life that I began to converse with him. My personal prayer time occurs every morning before my feet hit the floor, in the quiet of the new day.
Martin Luther believed that all Christians to some extent are theologians. In 1539 he wrote about “the way taught by King David (and doubtlessly by all the patriarchs and prophets) in the one-hundred-nineteenth Psalm. There you will find three rules, simply presented throughout the whole Psalm. They are Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio.” (that is, prayer, meditation, and trial). In Psalm 119, David cries out to God for understanding of his Word (prayer); he himself tries to understand God’s Word (meditation); and he is faced with repeated difficulty (trial). Today’s Christian and the Christian of Luther’s day are really no different. God knows who we are and what we go through, which is why He provided us a simple and straightforward means of communication with Him through Christ in the Lord’s Prayer.
I have taught the Lord’s Prayer in Sunday school class and I am fond of referring to it as the “calibration” prayer—when not recited rotely, it truly can help the helpless (i.e. us sinners) not just dialogue with God, but refocus and re-center the relationship between us (God as Creator, Benefactor, and Protector—we as self-centered, disobedient, and undeserving of even a glance from God in our direction), as well as strengthen our resolve to endure life’s trials knowing that through faith in Christ God has our back.
The Lord’s Prayer as we recite it in the Lutheran Church (as in many other Protestant churches) has the added conclusion: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.” This “doxology” appeared in the 17th century King James version (once the “standard” Protestant Bible).
Additionally, many folks don’t know how to pray, not to mention why to pray and for what. The Lord’s Prayer is a great place to start a conversation with God in repentance, gratitude, and exaltation!
Pastor E.B. Holschuh serves at Zion Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Alamo. He is a retired Navy Senior Chief and former English and Russian teacher.