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A Hymn Festival Using the Heidelberg Catechism to Reflect on the Lord's Prayer - Matthew 6, Luke 11

A worship service of music and prayer structured around and informed by the Lord's Prayer and the Heidelberg Catechism.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Prayer is the major theme of this service. The service will illustrate the privilege of prayer, the practice of prayer and the content of prayer.

Two documents from church history will aid in this: The Lord's Prayer as taught by Jesus during his ministry, and the Heidelberg Catechism which instructs us in the understanding of the Lord's Prayer.

This service takes the form of a hymn festival in order to celebrate the life of prayer and in particular the prayer that Christ gave us. If a sermon is to be included it can be inserted in a number of places. See the Liturgy Notes for suggestions.

This service was crafted by Emily Brink, Senior Research Fellow at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. It was conducted with the Calvin Seminary Choir on tour in 1990 at four Christian Reformed churches: Central Ave. CRC of Holland, MI; Shawnee Park CRC of Grand Rapids, MI; Immanuel CRC of Ripon, CA; and Walnut Creek CRC of Walnut Creek, CA. More recently the service was slightly revised and conducted at the Twelfth Ave. CRC of Jenison, MI.

(Note: All the readings of this service are taken from the Heidelberg Catechism [as found in the Psalter Hymnal] in Lord's Days' 46-52. Their location is noted by the Q/A, the specific question and answer where they are found.)


Prelude: Settings of "Vater Unser" [see Music Notes]

*The Call to Worship: "Built on the Rock" PsH 503, TH351 (5 vv.), TWC705 (4 vv.)

v. 1 - choir
v. 2, 3 - all

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:

Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.


Choir: "Our Father, Clothed with Majesty" (PsH 562:1)

Why did Christ command us to call God "our Father"?

At the very beginning of our prayer Christ wants to kindle in us what is basic to our prayer-the childlike awe and trust that God through Christ has become our Father. Our fathers do not refuse us things of this life; God our Father will even less refuse to give us what we ask in faith. (Q/A 120)

Why the words "in heaven"?

These words teach us not to think of God's heavenly majesty as something earthly, and to expect everything for body and soul from his almighty power. (Q/A 121)

Song: "Children of the Heavenly Father" PsH 440, RL585, TH131 (6 vv.), TWC84


Choir: "Our Father, Clothed with Majesty" (PsH 562:2)

What does the first request "Hallowed be your name" mean? Together we pray

Our Father in heaven, help us to really know you, to bless, worship, and praise you for all your works and for all that shines forth from them: Your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth. Help us to direct all our living-what we think, say, and do-so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us but always honored and praised. Amen. (Q/A 122)

Song: "Holy God, We Praise Your Name" PH460, PsH504, RL619, TH103, TWC3


Choir: "Our Father, Clothed with Majesty" (PsH 562:3)

What does the second request mean?

Our Father in heaven, rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you. Keep your church strong, and add to it. Destroy the devil's work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your Word. Do this until your kingdom is so complete and perfect that in it you are all in all. Amen. (Q/A 123)

Song: "O Christ, the Great Foundation" PH443, SNC177, TWC709


Song: "Our Father, Clothed with Majesty" (PsH 562:4)

What does the third request mean?

Our Father in heaven, help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk. Your will alone is good. Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven. Amen.(Q/A 124)

Song: "Breathe on Me, Breath of God" PH316, PsH420, TH334, TWC295


Song: "Our Father, Clothed with Majesty" (PsH 562:5)

What does the fourth request mean?

Our Father in heaven, do take care of all our physical needs so that we come to know that you are the only source of everything good, and that neither our work and worry nor your gifts can do us any good without your blessing. And so help us to give up our trust in creatures and to put our trust in you alone. Amen (Q/A 125)

Song: "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread" (PsH 290)
or: "Variation on 'Vater Unser' "

(During the singing/playing our offering will be received. See Liturgy Notes.)


Song: "Our Father, Clothed with Majesty" (PsH 562:6)

What does the fifth request mean?

Our Father in heaven, because of Christ's blood, do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are, any of the sins we do or the evil that constantly clings to us. Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors. Amen. (Q/A 126)

Song: "Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive" PH347, PsH266, RN184, TH494


Song: "Our Father, Clothed with Majesty" (PsH 562:7)

What does the sixth request mean?

Our Father in heaven, by ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment. And our sworn enemies-the devil, the world, and our own flesh-never stop attacking us. And so, Lord, uphold us and make us strong with the strength of your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle, but may firmly resist our enemies until we finally win the complete victory. Amen. (Q/A 127)

Song: "Lead Me, Guide Me" PsH 544, RN176


Song: "Our Father, Clothed with Majesty" (PsH 562:8)

What does your conclusion to this prayer mean?

Our Father in heaven, 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. Amen.

And what does that little word "Amen" express?

"Amen" means, this is sure to be! It is even more sure that God listen to my prayer, than that I really desire what I pray for.(Q/A 128, 129)

*Doxology: "To God Be the Glory" My Tribute: PsH 632, TWC46; To God Be the Glory: PH485, RN258, TH55, TWC72; Montgomery: RL355

*The Benediction with congregational Amen!

Postlude: Variation on "Vater Unser"

* you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

Several options are available when considering a sermon for this service. We'll identify a few and you can select the one appropriate to your situation.

  1. The sermon can be placed at the beginning of the service, immediately after the opening, and before the address and petitions of the Lord's Prayer are considered. In this case, the sermon might focus on the general matter of prayer as the disciples made their request to Jesus.
  2. The sermon might be placed in any one of the sections of the service and treat the subject of that particular request.
  3. Multiple brief messages might be included as a running commentary on each petition as it is read.
  4. The sermon might be placed at the end of the service and focus on the doxology and "Amen" pointing to the intent and confidence of our praying.
  5. If this is intended as a hymn festival on a special occasion, and not a formal worship service, you may choose not to include a sermon.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

  1. We are recommending use of the tune "Vater Unser" for all service music-that of prelude, [possible] offertory and postlude. Doing so centers the entirety of worship on the Lord's Prayer and serves as a unifier. If your congregation is not familiar with this hymn tune, the service music will introduce and teach the tune. Here are some possible settings for you to select from:
    - J.S. Bach, "Orgelb├╝chlein" Concordia 97-5774 (E-M)
    - A.W. Leupold, "An Organ Book" Chantry Music Press 603 (E)
    - Paul Manz, "Ten Chorale Improvisations" set 2 Concordia 97-4546 (E)
    - Felix Mendelssohn, Sonata No. 6 from Organ Works Schirmer 227 (M-D) [The first movement of this sonata is a set of variations based on "Vater Unser". They are most effectively played together, but some also could stand alone. You could conceivably separate them and play only this movement for the service music.]
    - Helmut Walcha, "Choral Preludes" book 3 Peters 11307 (M).
  1. We are also suggesting the use of a choir or smaller ensemble to aid the congregation in their song throughout the service. In other words, the choir will only be involved in assisting congregational song; they will not be involved in singing anthem settings. They can help the congregation by supporting their song, by providing variety in the singing of particular stanzas of "Vater Unser" and by adding descants to selected hymns. [Several hymnals include "Our Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth," which uses the same tune (Vater Unser) with a more concise text of only two verses; see note 5 below.] Contact CRC Publications for permission to use the text of "Our Father, Clothed with Majesty" [(616) 224-0819, 1-800-333-8300 or].
  1. While all of the hymns can be accompanied by either organ or piano, we are recommending the use of piano on "Lead Me, Guide Me" and "To God Be the Glory." In addition we recommend the option of unaccompanied congregational song on selected stanzas, particularly on "Breathe on Me, Breath of God" and "Forgive Our Sins, as We Forgive". Your choir or smaller ensemble can provide the support needed for this if your congregation is unaccustomed to singing a cappella.
  1. The suggestions given for offertory reflect the time needed for the offering to be collected. If the process is brief, have the congregation sing PsH 290. If that is not sufficiently lengthy, use the song as a response to the Catechism and have the musician play another variation on the chorale tune Vater Unser used throughout the service.
  1. You may wish to consider incorporating a sung setting of the complete Lord's Prayer for the congregation to sing at the close of the service. Additional settings can be found in PH571, PH589, PH590, PsH207, PsH208, RN178, RN179, SFL48, SNC196, TH725, TWC626, and TWC632, as well as the classic setting of Albert Malotte, traditionally sung at weddings. This can be sung well by a congregation, if given support by a choral ensemble.

Liturgy Notes:

  1. Be sure to take note of the "Theme of this service" for background on the origin of this service and where it has been held.
  1. Throughout the service, readings from the Heidelberg Catechism are included (as found in the Psalter Hymnal). We suggest that lay readers be included to lead these. One person may read them all, or multiple persons may be used for leadership. In any case, care should be given to coach them so they are familiar with their readings and can lead the congregation fluently and clearly. For copyright permission, please contact CRC Publications at (616) 224-0819, 1-800-333-8300 or
  1. Each of the readings taken on the lips of the congregation is a prayer. It would be wise to draw their attention to this so it is not overlooked. Because of these multiple prayers a separate Pastoral Prayer or Prayers of the People is not included. If you desire to include one because of special needs within the congregation, you may place it in any part of the service that seems appropriate.
  1. We are suggesting that the offering be received in the section of the service that focuses on "Our Daily Bread". It is appropriate, then, to receive an offering for some benevolent cause in which we share our material resources with others in need.