In the 1520s the Church was in a bad state. Pastor's didn't know the basics of the Christian faith and the Bible was not as widely available as it is today. A Reformer, Dr. Martin Luther, saw the need for a prayer book that would be a teaching tool. This would be not only for pastor's but would be for the father's, the spiritual heads of the household, to teach the basics in a simple way. What came from this desire was the Small Catechism, often referred to as Luther's Small Catechism. Currently for most Lutheran's, this is used for Confirmation or the Affirmation of Baptism for Middle School youth.
Unfortunately, once youth complete Confirmation (if they do at all) the Catechism ends up in a drawer or a shelf and there it stays. The gift of the Small Catechism is its timelessness. The lessons don't get old and can continue to develop one in his or her faith and devotional life. The Catechism has been described as the Bible in a nutshell. As one prays the Catechism, he or she may do so as a supplement to his or her regular devotional Bible reading. For someone just beginning in devotions, the praying the Small Catechism may help him or her gain a deeper understanding of the Scripture being read.
Studies show that, though we live in a time with Bible availability at its highest, we live in a highly biblically illiterate age that is not too disimilar from the time of the Reformation. People can access the Bible anywhere they have access to the internet. Yet, there are many Christians that rarely read the Bible for themselves. Some receive their biblical truths from just listening to their local pastor or favorite televangelist. Unfortunately, that does not always translate into sound biblical understanding much less faithful Christian teaching. The greatest issue of the Christian faith at the time of the Reformation was because of the lack of biblical literacy much of the focus of salvation was the work of the believer and not based upon the work Christ did for all upon the cross. The Catechism places the focus on the basics of the faith reminding us of the Ten Commandments and our inability to keep them fully and leads us through the Apostle's Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Sacraments. Each segment points us to Scripture and reminds us of the promises of God and the work that He has done for us.
The power of the work of Christ and the forgiveness we receive through Him is the central part of our faith and the focus which we should maintain. If our faith becomes too focused on what we do it becomes less focused on the true object of our faith, Jesus Christ. It is a humbling work and one that is meant to be shared with our families and throughout our lives that we may discuss and assist others in their faith journeys.