The Foundation of Our Prayer (Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 120)

The Heidelberg Catechism closes with an exposition of the Lord’s Prayer (Q/A 116-129). In Q/A 120 it explains the importance and significance of Christians being able to address God in prayer as “Our Father.” There it says:

Q.120. Why hath Christ commanded us to address God thus: “Our Father”? A. That immediately, in the very beginning of our prayer, He might excite in us a childlike reverence for and confidence in God, which are the foundation of our prayer, namely that God is become our Father in Christ, and will much less deny us what we ask of Him in true faith than our parents will refuse us earthly things.

And so the opening address of the Lord’s prayer teaches us the “foundation” of all true Christian prayer, which consists in at least two (2) things: “childlike reverence for and confidence in God.”

Not just reverence for God, but a “childlike reverence” is a necessity for Christian prayer. As a child normally looks up to his or her earthly father with a reverence as one who is able to provide for their needs, in an even greater way we are to look up to or have a deep reverence for God as our heavenly Father. In the same way, as children are also normally confident in the willingness of their earthly fathers to provide for them and to give them what they ask for, even so in a greater way believers are taught here to look unto God in prayer as our Father in heaven, being confident in His willingness to give good things to His children who ask.

Our Lord Jesus taught the very same thing in Matthew 7:7–11, where He says,

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (ESV)

Jesus here makes the argument from the lesser to the greater. If we who are earthly fathers (“who are evil“!) are disposed to “give good gifts” to our own children, how much more should we have confidence that our heavenly Father’s willingness to “give good things to those who ask him!” (v.11)

Or do we think that we are somehow better than God in that regard? Do we imagine that we are better parents to our own children than God Himself is to those who are His adopted children in Jesus Christ? May we never have such a high view of ourselves, nor such a low view of God!

As a believer in Christ, do you have this kind of confidence in God’s willingness to hear and answer your prayers? Are you approaching God as your Father in Jesus Christ, with childlike reverence and confidence, that He is even more willing to hear and answer than you are to pray? That, as Q/A 120 points out, is the indispensable “foundation of our prayer.” If you lack that childlike confidence in God, you are certain to find prayer difficult, and will not persevere in prayer very long. But if you are approaching Him in prayer as your heavenly Father, and trusting in His goodness and willingness to hear and answer your prayers, that changes everything!

May God be pleased to work in us that which is pleasing in His sight, so that we might learn the lessons of the opening address of the Lord’s prayer, so that when we call upon God as our heavenly Father, we might learn to have great confidence in His goodness and His willingness to “give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11, ESV)

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