When I was 16, I swore to myself I would never be the kind of parent that says “because I said so”. Then I tried to argue with a 3-year-old about how to use a public toilet. Reason sometimes fails. “Don’t touch that. Get off the floor. Because I said so.” 16-year-old me was very disappointed.
One reason God gives us His law is because sin makes us stupid. 10 commandments. Thou shalt not, because sin always breaks stuff. Sometimes you see the damage because it’s right in front of you and unavoidable. Sometimes you don’t, because the damage was passed on to someone else to carry in secret. Either way, sin is illogical, destructive, and always seems like a great idea at the time. Reason sometimes fails.
So God commands us to do what is not just good, but profitable. The law is a light to our path. Prayer makes the list by the 2nd commandment. He commands us to pray in the same way He commands us to obey our parents and not murder each other. Life goes better that way. God works through these things, even when sinners are involved. God calls us to obey parents, even when they’re sinners, because He works through them. He calls us not to hurt or harm each other. We still do. It always seems like a great idea to fight at the time. Still, it almost never works out. But God’s commands are coupled with promises. He is at work behind the scenes within our families and communities, even the ones broken by sin.
He commands you to pray and attaches a promise to it. Call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks. Because He works there too. We need to be reminded that God’s name is profitably employed, even by sinners. In the Large Catechism, Luther writes, “the human heart is by nature so despondent that it always flees from God and imagines that He does not wish or desire our prayer, because we are sinners and have merited nothing but wrath.”
My dog hides in the basement when she does something wrong. Adam and Eve hid in the bushes from God after eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Jonah hid in the bottom of the boat because He didn’t want to go to Nineveh. We usually aren’t so dramatic. Still, we shrink back from God. It’s hard to come to worship when we feel like trash. We don’t want to kneel before Him in the Sacrament when we can’t put aside anger and shame. It’s hard to pray to God when we don’t feel worthy.
That’s why God commands you to pray. It’s not about how you feel, it’s about His command. You. Sinner. Pray. God loves you so much He calls you out of your despair and tells you to pray this way. “Our Father who art in heaven”, because you have a Father who loves you no matter what you’ve done. You are not known by your sins, but by your baptism, through which God has adopted you as His own.
God commands you to do what’s good for you, not because He likes making you dance to a song you hate, but because it’s healthy for you. Maybe you don’t understand it. That’s ok. Maybe God’s smarter than you. I kind of hope so. Maybe I know what I’m talking about when I don’t want my kids to sit on the floor of the bathroom at the gas station. Maybe because I said so was never about winning a fight, but helping sinners who can’t help themselves, which is sort of our religion anyway.