QUESTION 99. What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer?

ANSWER: The whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; but the special rule of direction, is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called The Lord's Prayer.

Q. 1. Why do we need direction in prayer?

A. Because man is naturally a stranger, both to God and himself; being ignorant both of the glorious perfections of God, Rom. 3:11; and of his own sins and wants, Rev. 3:17.

Q. 2. From whence are we to take direction in prayer?

A. From the whole word of God which is of use to direct us therein.

Q. 3. Is every part of the word of equal use for our direction in prayer?

A. Though "all things in the scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all;"[177] yet there is no part of the word from whence an intelligent person in the due use of the ordinary means, may not gather something that may be proper matter either for petition, confession, or thanksgiving in prayer, 1 John 5:14.

Q. 4. Of what use in prayer, are the sins of which we read in scripture, that other churches before us have been guilty of, and the judgments which have been inflicted for the same?

A. They are of use to direct us to pray, that the Lord would keep his church and people, in the day in which we live, from running into the same snares, and thus exposing themselves to the same judgments, 1 Cor. 10:11.

Q. 5. Of what use in prayer are the doctrines of the word in general?

A. They are of use to instruct us in the principles of religion, or chain of divine truth; without some knowledge of which, it is impossible to pray to the edification, either of ourselves or others, Rom. 10:14.

Q. 6. Of what use is the doctrine of the blessed Trinity, in particular, for our direction in prayer?

A. It is of singular use, to point out the method in which we are to hope for the blessings we pray for; namely, from the Father, through Christ, by the Spirit, according to Eph. 2:18 -- "Through him (that is, through Christ), we have access by one Spirit unto the Father."

Q. 7. Of what use are the offices of Christ, for our direction in prayer?

A. They are of use to us to direct us to pray, that, of God he may be made unto us wisdom, as a prophet; righteousness, as a priest; sanctification, as a king; and complete redemption, as being all the three in one person, 1 Cor. 1:30.

Q. 8. Of what use are the promises for this end?

A. They contain the very matter of prayer; and the pleading of them by faith, as also the right manner in which the duty should be performed, James 1:6.

Q. 9. What is the special rule of direction for the duty of prayer?

A. It is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called, The Lord's Prayer.

Q. 10. Why is this called the special rule of direction?

A. Because, there is not any one portion of scripture, where the petitionary part of prayer is so comprehensively and methodically laid down, as in the Lord's prayer.

Q. 11. Could Christ use this prayer for himself?

A. No; he could not put up the fifth petition, "Forgive us our debts;" because he had no sins of his own to forgive, being "separate from sinners," Heb. 7:26.

Q. 12. Why then is it commonly called the Lord's Prayer?

A. Because it was dictated by him to his disciples, in answer to their request, Luke 11:1 -- "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples."

Q. 13. Did Christ prescribe this prayer as a form, or as a pattern?

A. He prescribed it as a PATTERN, for direction in the duty of prayer, Matt. 6:9 -- "After this MANNER pray ye."

Q. 14. What is the difference between a form and a pattern of prayer?

A. A form of prayer is a certain mode of expression, which must be used without the least variation; whereas a pattern is only a directory as to the matter, leaving the suppliant himself to clothe his desires with such words as are most adapted to his present circumstances.

Q. 15. Why then is the Lord's prayer called, in the answer, that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples?

A. Because the words of this prayer, "may be used as a prayer" to God, equally with other scriptures, "so that it be done with understanding, faith, reverence, and other graces necessary to the right performance of the duty of prayer."[178]

Q. 16. How does it appear, that this prayer is not designed for a form to the precise words of which Christ's disciples and followers are to be tied strictly down, in all after ages?

A. This plainly appears, from its not containing expressly all the parts of prayer; and from its not being related by Matthew and Luke in the same manner.

Q. 17. What are those parts of prayer which are not expressly contained in the Lord's prayer?

A. They are the confession of our sins, and the thankful acknowledgment of God's mercies: neither of which are in express terms, but by consequence only, contained in the said prayer.

Q. 18. From what part of this prayer may confession of sins be deduced?

A. From the fifth petition; for, when we pray, "Forgive us our debts," we, by consequence, confess that we have debts to be forgiven.

Q. 19. How is a thankful acknowledgment of mercies included in the Lord's prayer?

A. When we pray, "Hallowed be thy name," we, of consequence, make a thankful acknowledgment of all those known instances, in which God's name has been glorified; and when we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," we acknowledge the bounty of his providence, which has hitherto so kindly supplied our wants.

Q. 20. How do the evangelists, Matthew and Luke, differ, as to the manner in which they relate this prayer?

A. Though there be a perfect harmony between them, as to the sense or matter of the prayer; yet there is some difference as to the mode of expression, particularly in the fourth and fifth petitions.

Q. 21. How do they differ in the fourth petition?

A. Matthew has it, "Give us this day our daily bread," chap. 6:11; Luke, "Give us day by day our daily bread," chap. 11:3.

Q. 22. What is the meaning of "give us this day?"

A. It is a petition of what we want at present.

Q. 23. What is imported in "give us day by day?"

A. The expression imports, that the wants, which need to be supplied, will daily recur.

Q. 24. How do the two evangelists differ, as to their manner of expressing the fifth petition?

A. Matthew says, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," chap. 6:12; Luke expresses it, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive every one that is indebted to us," chap. 11:4.

Q. 25. How do they differ as to the conclusion?

A. Matthew has it; Luke leaves it out.

Q. 26. What is the argument from all this, against the Lord's prayer being designed for a set form?

A. The argument is, that if it had been designed for a set form, the two evangelists would have expressed it in the very same words, without the least variation.

Q. 27. What argument is there from the practice of the apostles against its being a set form?

A. That though several prayers of theirs are recorded in the New Testament, yet none of them use the express words of the Lord's prayer.

Q. 28. Would it not seem that this prayer is commanded to be used as a form, from our Lord's prefixing these words to it: "When ye pray, SAY, Our Father," &c.? Luke 11:2.

A. No more can be intended by this expression in Luke, "When ye pray, SAY ," than what is meant in the parallel place, Matt. 6:9:"A FTER THIS MANNER pray ye;" namely, to use the Lord's prayer as a directory; otherwise, Luke's form, and not Matthew's, should be followed.

Q. 29. May none, at any rate, use set forms, however sound?

A. If set forms are sound, or agreeable to the will of God, they may be used by children, or such as are weak in knowledge, till they acquire some insight in the principles of religion; and then they ought to be laid aside, and extemporary prayer practised and improved.

Q. 30. But may not they, who are weak in knowledge, read sound forms as their prayers to God?

A. No; they ought to repeat them, because the committing of them to memory will tend to imprint the matter of them more deeply on the mind, than the bare reading can possibly do: besides, there is not the least shadow of an example in scripture, for reading prayers to God on any account whatsoever.

Q. 31. Why is the continued practice of set forms unwarrantable?

A. Because the case and circumstances of the church in general, and every member of it, in particular, are so exceedingly various, that it is impossible any set form can correspond to them. Moreover, the continued practice of a set form, as it encourages sloth, so is an overlooking the aid of the Spirit, whose office it is to help our infirmities, when "we know not what we should pray for as we ought," Rom. 8:26.

Q. 32. "Of how many parts does the Lord's prayer consist?"

A. The Lord's prayer consists of three parts, a "preface, petitions, and a conclusion."[179]

[177] Confession of Faith, chapter 1 ยง 7

[178] Larger Catechism, Question 187.

[179] Larger Catechism, Question 188.

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