praying the ten commandments

Martin Luther wrote to his barber in 1535, giving him a few simple guidelines for prayer. This was later published as "A Simple Way to Pray". It's brief and practical, especially in how he instructs Peter (his barber) and us in how to use Scripture in prayer. Specifically, Luther gives directions about praying the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles Creed, and the Ten Commandments.

Luther says that the Ten Commandments have a fourfold use -- for instruction, for worship, for confession, and for petition. What he means is this, the Decalogue is in turn a textbook, a hymnal, a confessional, and a prayer book. I have recently enjoyed giving praise to the Lord (second use, worship) for his goodness as revealed in the Ten Commandments. They point us to God's perfect character, his good plan for us, and what the future world will look like, what Jonathan Edwards called "a world of love." There, people will rightly honor God, think well of him, show dignity to one another, be truthful, fully content, care for one another, etc. Our Lord said that he came not to destroy God's law but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17-18).

In thinking through this I was impressed with how our Lord himself perfectly fulfilled all these commandments. And for this you can easily spend time praising and thanking God for the goodness of his Son. Compare the text of Exodus 20:1-17 with these brief notes: 

I.  Jesus honored and served his Father perfectly, doing all his will (Matt 4:10). Jesus alone is the unique Son of God, our Savior, and the only way to the Father (John 14:6). For this we give thanks!

II.  Jesus worshiped no one, or no thing, but his Father in heaven. And he himself is the very image of God -- being not a mere creature, but One who perfectly represents the character of God (John 14:9; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3). For this we praise God!

III.  Jesus is the Word of God, being truth incarnate (John 1:1; 14:6; 17:8ff). He did not give us vain and empty words but words that convey truth and life from God (John 6:63). As well, he teaches us to honor God's name (Matt 6:9). For this we are thankful to the Lord!

IV.  Jesus himself completed his Father's work, the work of redemption. God rested upon completion of creation (Gen 2), and Jesus faithfully observed the Sabbath commandment. But more: he rested on the Sabbath after his death, and rose on the first day of the week to begin a new creation. He himself is our eternal rest (Heb 4:1-10), since he has worked for us a complete salvation (Heb 9-10). We praise God for this!

V.  Jesus not only obeyed his parents (Lu 2:51; Jn 19:26), and other worldly authorities (Matt 17:25-27), but he perfectly obeyed his Father's will (Lu 22:42; Jn 6:38). For this we should give thanks! 

VI.  Jesus came to bring us life (Jn 10:10-11). It is the thief who comes "to steal and kill and destroy," but Jesus comes as the good Shepherd to lay down his life and protect us. For this we worship God!

VII.  Jesus is the loyal and faithful husband who keeps covenant with his bride, the church (Eph 5:25-32). He fulfills all his promises, even laying down his life for her. For this we give thanks to him!

VIII. Jesus destroys the thief who would despoil us (Jn 10:10). He gives each of us our own place in the new creation, and gives us "an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you..." (1 Pet 1:4). We praise God for this!

IX.  Jesus speaks truth to us and about us (Jn 8:40, 44-45). Christ himself is "the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth" (Rev 1:5). He tells us the truth, and for this we should give thanks to God!

X.  Jesus was content in all that the Father provided for him, even willing to take up a humble existence (Matt 8:20; Phil 2:6-7). He did not seek to grasp a greater place for himself on earth than what his Father called him to. We can clearly see Christ's fulfillment of this commandment in how he resisted the devil's temptations (Matt 4:1-10). We praise God for our Lord's perfect fullment of the Law!

I pray that this will bring joy to you as you view the Ten Commandments in a Christ-centered way which leads to worship.

Photo above of the Ten Commandments was taken at the historic Christ Church of Middlesex County, Virginia, last summer. 


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