Moving from looking at the commandment as a negative/prohibition to a positive/encouragement, I asked the students what are some ways we practice this commandment in our daily life. How do we demonstrate that God alone is the one whom our heart clings to for all good and in which we find refuge in all need? Their responses were telling—in an affirming way. They listed out prayer, worship/praise, thanks, singing songs/hymns, saying the creed, talking to others about God, etc. As I honed in on prayer specifically, we talked about why we pray, what we pray for, when we pray, where we pray, and how we pray. We looked at Luther’s Evening Blessing included at the end of the Catechism, and what was being said in it—how we thank God for protecting us throughout the day, how we trust that God forgives us of all our sins through Jesus Christ, and how we trust God to protect us as we sleep. In prayer we talk to God—thanking and petitioning God for what God alone can do. Our prayers speak toward our relationship with God—trusting that God remains present with us always, provides for us in our need, cares for us in our pain and suffering, and loves us no matter what. As we pray—at our waking and before we go to sleep, before meals, in worship, together in groups, silently before we do something, in moments of need, in response to blessings received, casually to and fro—our heart clings to God, we “recognize God’s gifts and give him thanks,” and in trust we look to God alone for all good things, comfort, and relief. In praying, we affirm the First Commandment that, indeed, the Lord God is our only God.
In the vein of Luther’s Small Catechism—and its original intention of guiding parents in teaching their children the faith—we: parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, baptismal sponsors, family, and friends need to teach our children to pray. While the church helps give us the words, encouragement, and a weekly opportunity to pray, we cannot relinquish this task to the church alone or leave it for a single day each week. Luther understood, even in the 16th century, that if the faith is not taught in the home it less likely to be picked up at church. The home is the primary classroom; the parents are the most immediate teachers of the faith. I, as a parent, am called by Christ to teach my son to pray. In doing so, I help him form an understanding of who God is and establish a relationship of trust and love with God that is affirmed in prayer. To encourage this in the lives of my confirmands, we each will be taking turns praying at the beginning and end of class each week. Luther reminds us: “Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it, but it is primarily a matter of the heart, which fixes its gaze upon other things and seeks help and consolation” (BC 388.21). A life of prayer demonstrates a deep, confident trust in God above all other things. Share this with your children; give them the tools to trust in the only true God. Pray with and for them regularly. Teach your children to pray so that they may come to trust in God. Teach your children to pray so that they may look for all good in/from God. Teach your children to pray so that they may seek refuge in all need from God alone.