Do Protestants Have the "Fullness of the Faith"?
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Do Protestants Have the "Fullness of the Faith"?

Pray for Holiness {Lord’s Day 52}

This article is the final installment in our weekly series, “Our Life’s Comfort: One Year of Being Shaped by the Scriptures.” Find the whole series here.

(127) Q. What does the sixth petition mean?
A.“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” means: We are so weak that we cannot stand on our own for a moment, and our sworn enemies—the devil, the world, and our own flesh—never stop attacking us. And so, Lord, uphold us and make us strong by the power of your Holy Spirit, so that we may not be defeated in this spiritual fight,but may firmly resist our enemies until we finally win the complete victory.

(128) Q. How do you conclude this prayer?
A. “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” This means we have made all these petitions of you because, as our all-powerful king, you are both willing and able to give us all that is good;and because your holy name, and not we ourselves, should receive all the praise, forever.

(129) Q. What does that little word “Amen” express?
A. “Amen” means: This shall truly and surely be! For it is much more certain that God has heard my prayer than I feel in my heart that I desire such things from him.

The end of the Lord’s Prayer reinforces our calling as Christians: we must be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). We must “strive for … holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). If we’re thankful that God has forgiven our debts, we won’t want to accrue more.

The problem is, without his help we can’t give our great King the obedience he deserves. But he will help us. The God who commands holiness promises the power for holiness. Jesus concludes his model prayer by teaching us to seek help and stay confident in our fight against sin.

Seek Help

Believers want to honor God. But “we are so weak that we cannot stand on our own for a moment.” And our enemies are strong. Outside enemies—the devil and the world—collude with an internal enemy, our flesh, to lead us astray. We “have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom. 7:18). Without Christ we can do nothing (John 5:15). So we need God to help us face temptation.

Temptations are opportunities to either sin or prevail against sin. God does lovingly lead us into situations where the right choice is not always the one our heart wants to make. But God does not tempt anyone; his intention is never for us to sin. “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires” (James 1:13–14). Jesus was tempted (Matt. 4:1). But he did not sin because his desires were upright.

So in the sixth petition we’re not asking God to keep us from every situation in which we might stumble. Rather, we need him to conquer the evil desires of our hearts and restrain external temptations so that they do not have free reign over us. We need God to demonstrate his faithfulness by providing an honorable escape from moral trials. “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (I Cor. 10:13).

The very act of prayer is part of God’s help in our fight against sin. Most of us behave better in good company; prayer is keeping company with God. It’s being drawn into the pure intentions of a holy God. Listen to how one songwriter put it: “I need Thee every hour. Stay Thou nearby. Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.” Communion with God is essential for conformity to God’s holy will.

Of course, Jesus isn’t suggesting that prayer is an excuse for lack of effort. We’re in a spiritual fight. We must watch and pray that we enter not into temptation (Matt. 26:41). And we keep on “resist[ing] our enemies until we finally win the complete victory.” Let the promised victory over sin energize your prayers and piety. Here’s how John Calvin put the sixth petition into practice: “May … we daily make more … progress in true piety and righteousness, until at length all the corruptions of the flesh may be abolished, and we may be partakers of that eternal glory which thine only-begotten Son has acquired for us.”[1]

And don’t overlook the “us” in this prayer. We don’t only pray for ourselves but for all God’s people. As interceding priests, seek moral help for yourself and your spiritual family.

Stay Confident

The traditional ending of the Lord’s Prayer bolsters our confidence not only for this request but for “all these petitions.”[2]

Why do we pray for deliverance from sin? Why do we pray at all? Because the great, eternal King is powerful and glorious! “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” Prayer should end where it begins—with joyful adoration of the God upon whose help we rely. We pray to God “because, as our all-powerful king, [he is] both willing and able to give us all that is good.” God’s kingdom is a sign of his authority to answer our prayers. His power proves his ability to do so. His glory—his dignity and honor—draws us away from all other helpers.

Even the last little word of Jesus’s prayer strengthens our confidence that God will do what we need. “Amen” isn’t like a verbalized punctuation mark indicating that our prayer is over. It is a stamp of authenticity on our communication with God, our affirmation that we have prayed sincerely. “Amen” cautions us against praying anything that we don’t mean or believe. Don’t pray for help against temptation while remaining fully committed to sinning (Ps. 66:18).

But “amen” isn’t only our statement of sincerity. With this word, we seal our heartfelt conviction that God will answer. If we pray according to God’s will, we have confidence that he will hear us (1 John 5:14). He is more willing to answer than we are to pray! And as we work and pray, we trust that he will answer well. After all, God chose believers to be saved “through sanctification by the Spirit” (2 Thess. 2:13). Through the Spirit, God will keep us from all evil (Ps. 121:7). God’s demand for holiness keeps us from laziness. God’s promise of holiness keeps us from despair.

Even more basically, our “amen” expresses our acceptance of everything that God says in Scripture. So it is a good word to conclude our year of being shaped by the Scriptures with help from the Heidelberg Catechism. Are we sinners? Amen! But the life of Jesus gives us hope; he proves that sin is not almighty. Scripture promises that the Lord is our salvation. In Jesus, our sin has been paid for. As the Spirit begins a work in us, we truly desire a life of gratitude. We resolve to hate sin and love God in true holiness. We have only a small beginning of holiness but we are sure that it’s real. We believe that we will win the complete victory. To the whole counsel of God, and all the doctrine it helps us confess, we can say a heartfelt “Amen.” The whole Bible and all Christian theology direct our faith to Jesus. “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:20 NKJ).

[1] John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Twenty Chapters of the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 271.

[2] This ending is not included in some Bible translations because it is not found in the family of Greek manuscripts that support those translations. Without question, the longer conclusion of the prayer, as preserved in one manuscript family which was followed by the authors of the catechism, is theologically appropriate and spiritually encouraging.

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William Boekestein

William Boekestein is the pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He has written several books and numerous articles. He and his wife, Amy, have four children.