Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2013 6:00 pm
The Messenger, January 3, 2013
By WALLY BUMPAS
Special to The Messenger
One of the most encouraging things said about God in the Bible is that He is able. The longer you live in this world and experience brokenness that is not humanly fixable, the more your praying will fall back on this: “Oh God, I can’t, but You are able.”
There are over 25 different places in scripture where we are told, “God is able” to do something relating to His sovereign rule and our comfort and salvation. It is fitting then, that not only the Lord’s Prayer, but the Heidelberg Catechism end with a reminder that God is able. The great, globe-embracing, true story of redemption is about His glory and ability, not ours.
Question 128 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks: What does your conclusion to this prayer mean? Answer: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” means, We have made all these requests of You because, as our all-powerful King, You not only want to, but are able to give us all that is good; and because Your holy name, and not we ourselves, should receive all the praise, forever.
Question 129 continues: What does that little word “Amen” express? Answer: “Amen” means, This is sure to be! It is even more sure that God listens to my prayer, than that I really desire what I pray for.
It might be noticed that newer English translations of the Bible, in Matthew 6, do not have this last line of the Lord’s Prayer, because most of the oldest manuscripts lack it. It is still thoroughly Biblical, summing up a prayer of David found in I Chronicles 29:11-13: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank You, our God, and praise Your glorious name.”
God is able! The very content of the six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer implies this conclusion. How could we even dream of making the six requests in the body of the prayer if God were not the One with all rule and power and glory? The last line of this model prayer is crying out to us: Pray! God is God. He is able. Don’t just read about prayer or talk about it. Pray!
The final question and answer of this Catechism is beautiful and simple. What does “Amen” mean? It’s a potent little Bible word, one whose power and purpose tend to be lost with familiarity. It doesn’t mean “over and out,” or “I’m stopping now,” or “now we can open our eyes.” It is an expression of humility and confidence. “So be it! Father in heaven, in Your wisdom and in Your way, make it so, for You are able!”
It is even more sure that God listens to my prayer, than that I really desire what I pray for. This is a closing word of comfort perhaps matched only by the Heidelberg’s first question and answer. God the Father, reconciled to us by the work of Christ, is more eager to bless us than we are to ask for it. His desire for our welfare is greater than our own desire for our welfare. He wants us to be conformed to the image of Jesus more than we want it. And He is able. “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
All believers struggle with prayer. Have I prayed enough? Have I prayed rightly? In this as in every area of the Christian life, it is too easy to feel defeated and inadequate. Therefore it is fitting that we end where we began. Looking back over the Heidelberg Catechism, do I understand and defend basic Christian doctrine as I should? Do I obey the Ten Commandments? Do I pray consistently according to the model of the Lord’s Prayer? For the present writer, though striving by God’s grace, the answer is no, no and no. But …
Remember Question 1: What is your only comfort in life and in death? Answer: That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul, in life and in death — to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.
Editor’s note: Wally Bumpas serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Dyersburg.