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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism

John Whitecross

Q. 100. What doth the preface of the Lord's prayer teach us?

A. The preface of the Lord's prayer (which is, Our Father which art in heaven), teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.

1. A child about four years of age would often remark to her mother, with great horror, how Mr G. (a person in the family) swore, and wished to reprove him, but for some time durst not. One day she said to her mother, 'Does Mr G. say, Our Father?' (a term she used to express in her prayers). The mother replied, she could not tell; she then said, 'I will watch, and if he does, I will tell him of swearing so.' She did watch, and heard him say his prayers privately in bed. Soon after this she heard him swear bitterly; upon which she said to him, 'Did you not say Our Father this morning?—How dare you swear? Do you think He will be your Father if you swear?' He answered not a word, but seemed amazed; and well he might. He did not live long after this, but was never heard to swear again. 'Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings God has ordained strength.'

2. Theodorus, speaking of Luther, says, 'Once I overheard him in prayer; but oh! with what life and spirit did he pray! It was with so much reverence as if he were speaking to God; yet with so much confidence as if he had been speaking to a friend.' Perceiving the interest of religion to be low, he be took himself to prayer. Rising off his knees, he came out of his closet triumphantly saying to his friends, 'We have overcome, we have overcome.' At which time it was observed, there came out a proclamation from Charles V that none should be further molested for their profession of the gospel.

3. 'My grandfather,' says Job Orton, 'once solicited a very excellent but modest minister to pray in his family, when there were several others present; he desired to be excused, alleging that he had not thought of it, and, there were so many other ministers present. My grandfather replied, "Sir, you are to speak to your Master, and not to them; and my Bible tells me He is not so critical and censorious as men are."'

4. A missionary to the heathen writes thus: 'Some impressions of the importance and necessity of true religion, were made upon my mind at a very early period. The first particular one that I recollect, was, I think, when I was about five years of age. There happened one day a very violent storm of thunder and lightning in our neighbourhood; on which occasion a few Christian friends, who lived near us, terrified by its violence, came into my father's house. When under his roof, in a moment there came a most vivid flash, followed by a dreadful peal of thunder, which much alarmed the whole company, except my father, who, turning toward my mother and our friends, with the greatest composure repeated these lines of Dr Watts—

"The God that rules on high,
And thunders when He please:
That rides upon the stormy sky,
And manages the seas:
This awful God is ours:
Our Father and our love,
He will send down His heavenly powers
To carry us above."

These words, accompanied with such circumstances, sunk deep into my heart. I thought how safe and happy are those who have the great God for their father and friend; but being conscious that I had sinned against Him, I was afraid that He was not my father, and that, instead of loving me, He was angry with me; and this for some time after, continued to distress and grieve my mind.' He then proceeds to say, that these early impressions were succeeded by others, occasioned by parental admonitions, the death of a sister, the conversation of godly friends, and the reading of useful books, which terminated in his conversion.

5. A wealthy planter in Virginia, who had a great number of slaves, found one of them reading the Bible, and reproved him for the neglect of his work, saying there was time enough on Sundays for reading the Bible, and that, on other days, he ought to be in the tobacco-house. The slave repeating the offence, he ordered him to be whipped. Going near the place of punishment, soon after its infliction, curiosity led him to listen to a voice engaged in prayer, and he heard the poor black implore the Almighty to forgive the injustice of his master, to touch his heart with a sense of his sin, and to make him a good Christian. Struck with remorse, he made an immediate change in his life, which had been careless and dissipated, burnt his profane books and cards, liberated all his slaves, and began to study how to render his wealth and talents useful to others.

6. There was a man in England, whose son was thought to be dying. H went to a curate, requesting prayer to be made for him. The curate desired the disconsolate father to return home, and pray himself for the recovery of his son. He had never prayed before, but now he was very earnest. On rising from his knees, he inquired after his son, who had greatly recovered while he was praying. The father was astonished that God should hear the very first prayer that ever he had offered to Him. The providence was made a blessing to this man; for he became a praying Christian.

7. John Ryland of Northampton, being on a journey, was overtaken by a violent storm, and compelled to take shelter in the first inn he came to. The people of the house treated him with great kindness and hospitality. They would fain have shown him into a parlour, but being very wet and cold, he begged permission rather to take a seat by the fireside with the family. The good old man was friendly, cheerful, and well stored with entertaining anecdotes—and the family did their utmost to make him comfortable; they all supped together, and both the residents and the guest seemed mutually pleased with each other. At length, when the house was cleared, and the hour of rest approached, the stranger appeared uneasy, looking up every time a door opened, as if expecting the appearance of something essential to his comfort. His host informed him that his chamber was prepared whenever he chose to retire. 'But,' said he, 'you have not had your family together.' 'Had my family together? for what purpose? I don't know what you mean,' said the landlord. 'To read the Scriptures, and to pray with them,' replied the guest: 'surely you do not retire to rest in the omission of so necessary a duty?' The landlord confessed that he had never thought of doing such a thing. 'Then, sir,' said Ryland, 'I must beg you to order my horse immediately.' The landlord and family entreated him not to expose himself to the inclemency of the weather at that late hour of the night, observing that the storm was as violent as when he first came in. 'It may be so,' replied Ryland, 'but I had rather brave the storm than venture to sleep in a house where there is no prayer. Who can tell me what may befall us before morning. No, sir, I dare not stay.' Ryland, however, proposed to conduct family worship, to which all readily consented. The family being assembled, he called for a Bible, but no such book could be produced. However he was enabled to supply the deficiency, as he always carried a small Bible or Testament in his pocket. He read a portion of Scripture, and prayed with much fervour and solemnity, acknowledging the goodness of God, that none had been struck dead by the storm, and imploring protection through the night. He earnestly prayed that the attention of all might be awakened to the things belonging to their everlasting peace, and that the family might never again meet in the morning, or separate at night, without prayer. A deep impression was made on the family, and much interesting conversation ensued, when worship was over. Ryland conducted family worship next morning, and obtained from the landlord a promise that, however feebly performed, it should not in future be omitted. This was indeed the beginning of days to the family; most, if not all of them, became sincere followers of the Lord Jesus, and were instrumental in diffusing a knowledge of the gospel in a neighbourhood which had before been remarkably dark and destitute.

8. M'Cheyne of Dundee wrote thus to a youth: 'Pray that the Holy Spirit would not only make you a believing and a holy lad, but make you wise in your studies also. A ray of divine light in the soul sometimes clears up a mathematical problem wonderfully. The smile of God calms the spirit, the left hand of Jesus holds up the fainting head, and His Holy Spirit quickens the affection, so that even natural studies go on a million times more easily and comfortably.'

This material is taken from THE SHORTER CATECHISM ILLUSTRATED by John Whitecross revised and republished by the Banner of Truth Trust edition 1968 and reproduced with their permission.

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