Todd R. Hains is the editor of The Collected Christian Essentials Catechism: A Guide to the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. This book is perfect for daily devotions, personal study, and prayer with others. The catechism— the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer—has sustained and nurtured every generation of believers, directing their faith, hope, and love. It helps Christians read, pray, and live God’s word. The Collected Christian Essentials: Catechism brings the church’s ancient catechism to a new generation. During our interview below, Hains shares what The Collected Christian Essentials Catechism is about, why it matters, and how to use this excellent resource in daily life.
Lexham Press: What is this book about? What is the catechism?
Todd R. Hains: This book is a book for a life of discipleship in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The great temptation of Christian discipleship is to move on from the simple things the church has always taught: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. These three texts are known as the catechism (not to be mistaken with Luther’s Small Catechism or the Heidelberg Catechism, for example, which are commentaries on the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer). To move on from the catechism is to move on from the Christian life and faith.
And so The Collected Christian Essentials Catechism is a one-book library for a whole life of Christian discipleship. There are wise and simple guides to each part of the catechism: Peter Leithart guides you through the Ten Commandments, Ben Myers guides you through the Apostles’ Creed, and Wesley Hill guides you through the Lord’s Prayer.
LP: How does this book contribute to the Christian life?
Hains: The Christian life isn’t simply a cognitive life—knowing facts and propositions. The Christian life is a life of hearing and praying God’s word, and by hearing and praying God’s word you are yourself read and interpreted by God’s word. “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). “For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9).
That’s why this book also includes an order of prayer to help you order your days around God’s word and prayer. Joey Royal, suffragan bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic, wrote twenty-four prayers, praying through the catechism of the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. This is a practice you can try yourself! Take any part of these texts and turn it into a prayer of instruction, thanksgiving, confession of sin, and a request. This practice can balance spontaneity and structure in your prayers from the heart.
LP: How can someone use this book in their prayer and devotional life?
Hains: Prayer can be an anxious thing. It’s so central to the Christian faith and life, but, let’s face it, it’s strange. In prayer we’re engaged in a conversation, but we can’t see or hear—in the usual sense anyway—the person we’re talking with.
People are looking for help with prayer. That’s why prayer helps are packed into The Collected Christian Essentials: Catechism.
In the front of the book is an order of prayer, simplified from the church’s tradition of praying in the morning and evening. These orders of prayer (known as the Daily Office) can be intimidating—there are multiple options, additional readings, additional prayers, and all this requires a lot of flipping around in something like the Book of Common Prayer or it requires multiple books! But here they are streamlined so that you can just read the text as if you were reading any book.
This pulls readers into the church’s great tradition of praying the Bible (especially the Psalms!). “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Psalm 51:15). The words of the Bible give voice to our own thoughts and desires, joys and sorrows. In this way, the words of the Bible read us as we read them.
LP: How does this book fit into the Christian Essentials series? What inspired the series?
Hains: In addition to my work as an editor, I am a historical theologian. My work focuses on Martin Luther’s preaching and teaching. Luther wanted not merely to give people the right answers; he wanted to teach faithful Christians, in the words of Paul, “to test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess 5:21). For Luther—as well as many pastors and theologians of his day—the Christian life is a life lived according to the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer.
And yet the past several generations of Protestants in America have not been well catechized in these three foundational texts. The Christian Essentials series was commissioned in the hope of reversing this trend. These books are meant to give words to pastors and parents, teachers and everyday Christians, to help us learn these texts and let these texts read our lives. These books aren’t meant to give all the answers or to squeeze out every ounce of meaning, like some giant theological lemon squeezer. They’re meant to lead you into the adventure of the Christian life.
The Collected Christian Essentials Catechism wraps these three Christian Essentials books, together with an order of prayer and a Bible-reading plan, so that readers have this one-book toolbox to carry with them for a life of discipleship.
LP: Share with us something surprising about yourself that only your friends would know.
Hains: Martin Luther and I share a birthday. People usually think I’m joking or making this up—it’s a bit too on the nose, but it’s true!