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June 2018 - Praying the Catechism

Praying the Catechism

Think back to your confirmation classes.  Did you not think of your catechism as nothing more than a textbook?  Certainly, since the catechism is an organized summary of the Christian faith given through the apostles, it makes a wonderful study tool for learning and retaining the faith handed down to us.  But textbooks are often looked upon as being used for a brief time of learning, and then forgotten or stored on a shelf for quick reference if needed.  This was not what Luther intended when he wrote it.  Yes, it was to instruct us in the faith, but more so, it was intended to be a devotional book – a prayer book.  And prayer books are meant to be used frequently and regularly, even daily.  This month we are studying Luther’s Small Catechism in our Adult Sunday School Class, not only as a fantastic tool to refresh us in understanding the faith into which we were baptized, but also how to use it in our daily devotions.  Several years ago I quoted what Luther had to say about it in the preface to his Large Catechism:

“As for myself, let me say that I, too, am a doctor and a preacher — yes, and as learned and experienced as any of those who act so high and mighty. Yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism. Every morning, and whenever else I have time, I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc.

I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and I do it gladly…In such reading, conversation, and meditation the Holy Spirit is present and bestows ever new and greater light and fervor, so that day by day we relish and appreciate the Catechism more greatly. This is according to Christ’s promise in Matt. 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Nothing is so effectual against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts as to occupy oneself with the Word of God, talk about it, and meditate on it. Psalm 1 calls those blessed who “meditate on God’s law day and night.” You will never offer up any incense or other savor more potent against the devil than to occupy yourself with God’s commandments and words and to speak, sing, and meditate on them. This, indeed, is the true holy water, the sign which routs the devil and puts him to flight.

For this reason alone you should eagerly read, recite, ponder, and practice the Catechism, even if the only blessing and benefit you obtain from it is to rout the devil and evil thoughts. For he cannot bear to hear God’s Word. God’s Word is not like some empty tale, such as the one about Dietrich of Bern, but as St. Paul says in Rom. 1:16, it is “the power of God,” indeed, the power of God which burns the devil and gives us immeasurable strength, comfort, and help.

            I invite you to join us in the Adult Sunday School class to help you make the catechism a part of your regular individual and/or family devotional time.  Take it off that shelf, dust it off (or if you can’t find one – use the one in the hymnal, or the Lutheran Study Bible, or I can gladly provide you with a copy) and take time to prayerfully go over it.  You can do as Luther and pray through it daily in its entirety (though there were times when he didn’t make it all the way as he focused on a particular portion at length), or go over a chief part or smaller portion a day.  For example, as you go over the Commandments, prayerfully meditate on your failings and sin, and need of forgiveness, confessing that you cannot save yourself.  As you mediate on the Creed, you are reminded of all that God the Holy Trinity has and is doing for you, especially through the blessed work of God the Son, Jesus Christ.  In the Lord’s Prayer, you are enabled to live the Holy Life given to you in Christ as it pours from your lips.  And the prayerful mediation upon the Word of God goes on – let the rout of the devil and evil thoughts in your life begin!            



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