from Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC) – Questions 98-107

Teaching about Prayer using the Fortress Edition (modern English) with ESV scripture proofs from biblegateway.com links, and study notes provided by Pastor W. David Milligan.

Pastor recommends three good commentaries on The Westminster Confession of Faith:  R. C. Sproul’s Truths We Confess; Robert Shaw, An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith; and A. A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith.

Catechisms are a wonderful way for Christians to grow in knowledge of their Faith and to be able to profess what they believe publicly.

Questions & Answers from 98-107 teach us about prayer:

  • What is prayer?
  • How does God direct us to pray?
  • What does the beginning of the Lord’s prayer teach us? 
  • What do we pray for in the first-sixth petition requests?
  • What does the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teach us?

Q. 98.  What is prayer?  A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God,1 for things agreeable to His will,2 in the name of Christ,3 with confession of our sins,4 and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies.5

1 Ps. 62:8 “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

2 1 Jn. 5:14 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”

3 Jn. 16:23“In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”

4 Ps. 32:5-6 & Dan. 9:4

5 Phil. 4:6 “. . . do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God.”

Q.99. How does God direct us to pray?  A. The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in prayer;1 but the special rule of direction is the form of prayer that Christ taught His disciples, commonly called “the Lord’s Prayer.”2

1 1 Jn. 5:14 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”

2 Mt. 6:9-13 “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.’”

Questions to bring what we believe home where we live:

  1. G. I. Williamson, in his study on the WSC, says that “nothing shows the difference between true and false religion as does prayer” (p. 310).  Why do you think he says that?  Do you agree?  Where do you see the difference?  He goes on to explain: “For in true religion alone is prayer ‘an offering up of our desires unto God . . . in the name of Christ.’”  Do you know other religions which offer prayers to someone/something other than God in the name of Christ?
  2. Which part of true prayer do you struggle with in your daily prayers?  Even though we know that God knows all things, and sees even the intentions of our hearts, do you find it difficult to confess your sins?  Why is that such an important part of prayer?  How often do we go through our day forgetting to recognize and give thanks to God for His mercies (even in mundane things)?  Unless our hearts and minds are filled with God’s Word, we will find it very hard to pray for things “agreeable to His will”—do we even consider this in asking for things?
  3. What a blessing that the disciples saw Jesus praying one day and said to Him: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk. 11:1)!  We regularly say The Lord’s Prayer, but are our daily prayers patterned after it?  Do we understand it as a rule to direct and teach us how we are to pray all the time?

Q.100. What does the beginning of the Lord’s prayer teach us? A. The preface of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, “Our Father in heaven,”1 teaches us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us;2 and that we should pray with and for others.3  

1 Mt. 6:9 “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

2 Lk. 11:13 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  Rom. 8:15 “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

3 Acts 12:5 “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”  1 Tim. 2:1-2 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

Q. 101.  What do we pray for in the first petition? A. In the first petition, which is, “Hallowed be your name,”1 we pray that God would enable us, and others, to glorify Him in all the means by which he makes Himself known,2 and that he would arrange all things to His own glory.3

1 Mt. 6:9 “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’” 

2 Ps. 67:2-3 “. . . that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!”

3 Psalm 83

Questions to bring what we believe home where we live:

  1. We pray the Lord’s Prayer as a church family almost every week; do you every use it in your own or family devotions?  How do we keep the words from becoming meaningless phrases and empty forms?  Here is where the Shorter Catechism is so helpful in making us slow down and understand what we are praying!
  2. Q. 100 reminds us that how we approach the Lord in prayer matters and we are reminded how God has revealed Himself to all who are His—as our heavenly Father who is ready and willing and able to help us!  We are also reminded (with the little plural pronoun “Our”) that we are united to brothers and sisters in Christ and should pray with and for them.  How shall we put these things into practice?  Are there ways you can grow in your prayer life based on these things?
  3. The first petition is perhaps for us the one we most likely don’t even see as a petition; we may skim over it as some kind of religious mumbo-jumbo if we’re not careful.  We more easily resonate with bread and being delivered from temptations than this.  But being placed first in the Lord’s Prayer gives it both prominence and importance; we really do need to take this petition seriously in our lives as well as in our prayers.  How does the WSC help us here?  Do your daily prayers reflect this emphasis?  If not, why not?  If so, how so?

Q.102. For what do we pray in the second request?  A. In the second petition, which is, “Your kingdom come,”1 we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed,2 and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced,3 ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it,4 and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.5  

1 Mt. 6:10 “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

2 Ps. 68:1, 18 “God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate him shall flee before him!  …  You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.”

3 Rev. 12:10-11 “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.’”

4 Jn. 17:9, 20 “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.  …  I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”  Rom. 10:1 “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”

5 Rev. 22:20 “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

Q.103. For what do we pray in the third request?  A. In the third petition, which is, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,”1 we pray that God, by His grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey and submit to His will in all things,2 as the angels do in heaven.3

1 Mt. 6:10 “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” 

2 2 Sam. 15:25 “Then the king said to Zadok, “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place.”  Job 1:21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Ps. 67  Ps. 119:36“Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!”  Mt. 26:39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

3 Ps. 103:20-21 “Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers who do his will!”

Questions to bring what we believe home where we live:

  1. The Lord’s prayer teaches us how to address God when we come to him in prayer, directs us to six comprehensive petitions, and gives us a significant conclusion; but what is a petition anyway?  Have you ever stopped to consider why Jesus taught His disciples to request these things?  And if God already knows what we need, why do we need to ask? See Douglas Kelly’s book If God Already Knows Why Pray? The question posed by Douglas F. Kelly in “If God already knows, Why Pray?” is answered, in its most basic form, as that of what religious leaders have instructed for millennia and is nothing new or plot revealing – prayer is commanded of us by God and it changes us.
  2. When we pray the second petition, we are acknowledging the reality of the spiritual realm and implicitly praying against Satan’s deceptive rule as well as explicitly asking that the kingdom of God would advance (the kingdom of grace through the proclaiming of the Gospel and the making of disciples) and we also eagerly anticipate the consummation/final arrival of His kingdom (the kingdom of glory coming when Jesus Christ returns!).  What is your role in all this?  Are you actively seeking to be used by God in fulfilling this request?
  3. We often run the 2nd and 3rd petitions together when we pray, but the Shorter Catechism helps us think carefully about each one.  The question for us is this:  are we serious when we pray this?  If we are, then how specifically would God’s working in our lives look?  How would our daily decisions and activities change if our obedience to God’s revealed will was as prompt and steadfast as the angels in heaven?

Q.104. For what do we pray in the fourth request? A. In the fourth petition, which is, “Give us this day our daily bread,” 1 we pray that, of God’s free gift, we may receive a sufficient portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy His blessing with them. 2 

1 Mt. 6:11  “Give us this day our daily bread.”

2 Prov. 30:8-9  “Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”

1 Tim. 4:4-5 “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”

Q. 105.  For what do we pray for in the fifth petition? A.  In the fifth petition, which is, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,” 1 we pray that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; 2 which we are more encouraged to ask because by His grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others. 3

1 Mt. 6:10  “. . . and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

2 Ps. 51:1-2, 7, 9  “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!  …  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  …  Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.”

Dan. 9:17-19 – 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord,[a] make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

3 Mt. 18:21-35

Eph. 4:32  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Questions to bring what we believe home where we live:

  1. As we come to the end of the catechism, we also come to the end of the year and the two holidays in our culture which are often known for their excess—Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  There is the temptation to over-indulge in a culture which has little restraint and is focused on material abundance and doing whatever feels good at the moment.  Have you seriously considered the impact of this fourth petition on our daily lives as really quite counter-cultural?
  2. Even as there are seasons of feasting by God’s grace, how do you continue to acknowledge and share your dependence and hope of God’s blessing for true and lasting enjoyment of the things God has given you to sustain your daily life?
  3. We say the Lord’s Prayer together every week, but we must put it into practice every day!  We need God’s forgiveness and we need to forgive others daily; how does this look in your public and private life and prayers? 
  4. Do you resist forgiving others when they have sinned against you? Jesus’ words of Matthew 6:14-15 are plain: “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.”  Heed the warning!  (see also The Westminster Larger Catechism #194 for further help and hope as we pray)

Q.106. For what do we pray in the sixth request? A. In the sixth request (And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one) we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin or support and deliver us when we are tempted.

Q.107. What does the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teach us? A. The conclusion of the Lord’s prayer (for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever) teaches us to be encouraged only by God in our prayers and to praise Him by acknowledging that kingdom, power, and glory are His. To show that we want to be heard and have confidence that we are, we say “Amen”.

See the complete Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC)

See also the Westminster Larger Catechism (1647)

Prayer Q178-196 from the Confession of Faith: from Westminster Larger Catechism

Q196: What doth the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teach us? A196: The conclusion of the Lord’s prayer (which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.)

[1] teaches us to enforce our petitions with arguments,

[2] which are to be taken, not from any worthiness in ourselves, or in any other creature, but from God;

[3] and with our prayers to join praises,

[4] ascribing to God alone eternal sovereignty, omnipotency, and glorious excellency;

[5] in regard whereof, as he is able and willing to help us,

[6] so we by faith are emboldened to plead with him that he would,

[7] and quietly to rely upon him, that he will fulfil our requests.

[8] And, to testify this our desire and assurance, we say, Amen.[9]

1. Matt. 6:13
2. Rom. 15:30
3. Dan. 9:47-916-19
4. Phil. 4:6
5. I Chr. 29:10-13
6. Eph. 3:20-21Luke 11:13
7. II Chr. 20:611
8. II Chr. 14:11
9. I Cor. 14:16Rev. 22:20-21


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