The Lord's Prayer: A Commentary
Part of Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 5-7 is known as the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord’s Prayer is found in Matthew 6, in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus was teaching His disciples about many things. Jesus taught them the example they should follow not if they pray but when they pray.
About The Lord's Prayer
Jesus "was praying at a certain place, and when He ceased praying, one of His disciples said to Him, "‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." In response to that request, the Lord taught His disciples this fundamental Christian prayer of hope.
The Lord’s Prayer is also known as the Model Prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to use as an example for other prayers. However, we have come to know this as the Lord’s Prayer even though Jesus did not pray this prayer Himself.
According to the scriptures, the prayer that Jesus prayed is found in John 17 when He prayed for Himself, His disciples and those who would believe. Because most people refer to this as The Lord’s Prayer, I will do the same to avoid confusion.
It Should Take One Hour To Pray the Lord's Prayer
The book Could You Not Tarry One Hour by Larry Lea and The Hour that Changes the World by Dick Eastman have a detailed explanation of the Lord's Prayer. Both authors agree it should take one hour to pray and meditate on the Lord’s Prayer when we pray it in private.
Surely, it takes us only a minute or less to recite it in corporate worship, but when we really sit down to pray the Lord’s Prayer, it should take us exactly one hour to do so if we meditate on each line before moving on. If it takes you only one minute to pray the Lord’s Prayer, every time you do you, you are cheating God out of 59 minutes.
The Lord's Prayer Used Often
Of all the prayers that people have written and spoken, the one used most often by Christians is the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer appears twice in the New Testament: the longer version in Matthew 6:9-13 and in a shorter version in Luke 11:2-4. Luke presents a brief text of only five petitions, while Matthew gives a more developed version of seven petitions.
In Matthew, the prayer is composed of an invocation and seven petitions, the first in reference to God, the last four requesting divine help and guidance for ourselves . And The Lord's Prayer concludes with a doxology
The Lord’s Prayer is the comprehensive type of the simplest and most universal prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is by far the best-known prayer among Christians worldwide, and it has been translated into hundreds of different languages. It is worth remarking, however, that while Jesus Himself specifically instructs His followers to pray in private, this prayer is frequently recited in public, and has been incorporated into the services and liturgies of many Christian denominations.
In corporate worship or when praying as a group the word “Our” is appropriate. This means everyone is included. The word “Our” shows that God has no favorites, but He is God of the just and the unjust. “Our” is the right personal plural pronoun to use. In The Lord’s Prayer there in not one “I” “Me” or “My.” However, the word “our” is used four times and the word “us” is used three times. That should tell us that The Lord’s Prayer is not a private personal prayer but a corporate inclusive prayer.
You are admitting that you are not the only one in the world who has a concern to bring to God. To begin with the word "our" means that you are in a fellowship and a community of God’s children around the world. This is an important insight because it is very easy to become "Me" oriented when you pray. But when you pray "Our Father," you are confessing that your problems are not the only problems in the world. You are admitting that there are millions of people around the world who have concerns just as great as yours. To pray like this imparts a bigness and expansiveness to your prayer because it includes all of God’s children everywhere.
When we pray "Our Father" as a congregation, we cease to be individuals coming to church with our own particular burdens and our own agendas. Instead, we become part of a family with a common heritage and with shared values. And that family of brothers and sisters is even more decisive than a biological family. It is a family created by the new birth and made possible by the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ for our redemption.
"Our Father" is the direct address of the prayer. When you say, "Our Father," you acknowledge the intimate relationship of Jesus and believers to the family of God. When we address God as "our" Father, we personally address the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Grammatically, "our" qualifies a reality common to more than one person. Finally, if we pray to Our Father sincerely, we leave individualism behind, because the love that we receive frees us from thinking of ourselves. The "our" at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, like the "us" of the last four petitions, excludes no one.
The bottom line is that we can invoke God as "Father" because Jesus did.
By saying "Our Father" we are revealing the fact of the brotherhood of men. We are acknowledging that we are truly members of just one body.
Even though The Lord’s Prayer is short, every single word is important. Every single word is crucial. "Our" opens us up to a big view of the universe. "Father" encourages us to believe that God cares.
Jesus called God "Father" more than 60 times in the New Testament. That proves to us the deep relationship Jesus had with His Father.
Jesus did not say "My Father," or "Your Father," but "Our Father." In those two words Jesus included everyone, despite their sex, their ethnic or racial background, or their life history. In these two words, "Our Father" Jesus included us.
The word "father" in the Bible means three basic things:
- First, it refers to thesource or origin. God is the source of all that you have.
- Second, the word Father speaks of parental authority. He is God and you are not. He is a father; you are his child. Because He is our Father "in heaven," he has the right to do as He pleases even if His ways do not always make sense to us.
- Third, when you call God "Father," you confess that He is a God of tender loving care. He is a God who loves His children with an everlasting love that is faithful and loyal no matter what happens.
The Lord’s Prayer begins with a direct address: "Our Father." Jesus invites us to say "Our Father" when we pray.
"Our" speaks of Community; that we do not pray alone. Instead, we pray WITH others and FOR others.
"Father" speaks of Family; that we are not left alone. Instead, we pray to the One who cares for us.
Every prayer should be addressed to God. Here God is addressed as Father in acknowledgment of His sovereignty over the universe. Prayers should be prayed to God in the name of Jesus, who mediates. We can say "Father" because we are relationship with God as Jesus was.
Remember this is the model prayer which means that we use it as an example. We can use other names of God as a direct address.
Which Art in Heaven
After you give the direct address, you give an identifying statement about the God whom you have addressed. Here the identifying statement about God is where He dwells . . . "Which art in heaven."
"Which art in heaven." After you address God, you can use your own identifying statement. Some examples include All Wise and Eternal God, the God of Abraham,
- All Wise and Eternal God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
- "Heavenly Father, the God of David, Moses, Solomon, Ethan, Asaph and the other psalmists"
- Our Father, the maker of heaven and earth
We are not locked into what to say, but a model is to give a direct address and an identifying statement about the God to whom we are praying. "Which art in heaven" does not only refer to a place but also to God’s majesty and His presence in the hearts of believers. Heaven, the Father’s house, is the true homeland toward which we are heading and to which, already, we belong.
First Petitions Are About God
Let’s look at the first three of the seven petitions. Keep in mind that the first three are about God.
The first series of petitions carries us toward God, for His own sake. In none of the three petitions do we mention ourselves. It is Thy name, Thy kingdom, Thy will!
Hallowed Be Thy Name
It is only at this point that we can go into petitions. There are seven petitions, but notice the order of the petitions. The first three petitions have to do with God. God is given His supreme place and then and only then should we go into the four petitions for ourselves. It is only when God has been given His proper place that all other things fall into their proper place.
"Hallowed be thy name." “Hallowed” means “honored.” Holy is the name which should be hallowed or honored,. We should begin our prayer with worship, ascribing praise and honor to Him who is worthy of it. We should treat God’s name as no other name. We should give God the uniqueness that no other name deserves. When we say, “Hallowed be thy name” we are rearranging the words and we are really saying, “Thy name, be hallowed.”
Beginning with this first petition to our Father, we are asking the Father that His name be made holy. When we say "hallowed be thy name," we ask that it should be hallowed in us, who are in Him; but also in others whom God’s grace still awaits, that we may obey the precept that obliges us to pray for everyone, even our enemies.
Thy Kingdom Come
After worship, we should pray for the advancement of God’s cause, putting His interests first. Specifically, we should pray for the day when God will set up His kingdom here on earth and reign in righteousness. We can rearrange the words into the way we speak. When we say, “Thy kingdom come” we are really petitioning “Come, thy kingdom.” When we say, "Thy kingdom come," we are calling forth God’s perfect plan for us here on earth.
Thy Will Be Done
After we say, "Thy kingdom come" we should acknowledge that God knows best by saying, “Thy will be done.” Let’s rearrange those words and say, “Be done, thy will.” When we do that, we are surrendering our will to God’s will. It also expresses a longing to see His will in us and throughout the world.
This is the end of the three petitions concerning God: "Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be one."
On Earth As It Is In Heaven
The next line is “on earth as it is in heaven.” This explains all three preceding petitions. The worship of God, the sovereign rule of God, and the performance of His will are all reality of heaven that we pray for on earth.
Now that we have made our petitions concerning God, we are ready to go into the four petitions concerning ourselves and our own personal needs. Even though we are praying for ourselves, we are also praying for others as well. Hear, the “us” and “our” in the next three petitions.
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
"Give us this day our daily bread." Jesus teaches us this petition because it glorifies our Father by acknowledging how good He is, beyond all goodness."Give us" also expresses the covenant. We are His and He is ours, for our sake. But this "us" also recognizes Him as the Father of all men and we pray to Him for all on a daily basis. We pray for daily bread for ourselves and for others. No one is excluded. "Our bread" is the "one" loaf for the "many."
This acknowledges our dependence on God for our daily food, both spiritual and physical. That’s why we should pray this prayer every day. We should pray for daily bread; never for bread in the future. This first petition for ourselves is for our sustenance so we can be strong enough to do other things. Now that we are able to continue, we make the next petition.
And Forgive Us Our Debts
"And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Some people say "forgive us our trespasses as we those who trespass against us." Know that "debts" and "trespasses" both mean "sins." It depends on the version of the Bible you are using.
We pray for forgiveness because forgiveness from God is necessary if fellowship is to be maintained. We need to forgive others so God can forgive us. Notice on the cross, the first thing Jesus asked for was forgiveness for those who sought to do Him wrong. Forgiveness paves the way for blessings to follow.
And Lead Us Not Into Temptation
"And lead us not into temptation." God does allow His people to be tested and tried. We should distrust our own ability to resist temptation. Therefore, we pray and depend completely on God not to allow us to go into temptation. In classical Greek, the word translated "temptation" means "a test," and refers to any experience that tries our health or our will. An illness, a death, a financial crisis, any hardship is a "test," or a temptation.
But Deliver Us From Evil
"But deliver us from evil" is the last of the four personal petitions. When we ask to be delivered from the evil, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future. We pray that God will deliver us from hurt, harm, and danger. We pray to be delivered from every evil. And in so doing we also pray that God will grant us peace as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
That ends the four petitions pertaining to our needs and the needs of others.
We now come to the last part of The Lord’s Prayer. This final part is a doxology. A doxology is simply a short prayer of praise to God. A doxology has five distinct characteristics.
1. It is about God.
2. It contains praise.
3. It has Creation language
4. It has Eternal language
5. And it ends with Amen
For Thine Is The Kingdom
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen." This doxology acknowledges the ending of the prayer attributing all power and glory to God forever through all eternity.
"Amen" in this prayer and in any other prayer means "And it so" indicating being in agreement with what has been just been said.
Things To Remember About The Lord's Prayer
- Notice the use of the plural pronouns "our," and "us."
- Prayers to God should have a direct address, "Our Father."
- There is an identifying statement about our Father: "Who art in heaven."
- Petitions to God: Hallowed be the name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done
- This is the turning point in prayer to yourself.
- Give us daily bread.
- Forgive debts.
- Lead us not into temptation
- Deliver us from evil
Let Us Pray
Will you pray the Lord's Prayer along with me now? As you do so, think about what you are saying. Let’s pray that prayer that Jesus taught His disciples.
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen
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