Jan Young

A study on Matthew 6:9-13

What does the Lord's Prayer mean to you? Is it to be memorized and repeated, or is it an example, or both? What does it teach about prayer? What is the purpose of prayer? Is it to get God to do what we want? Is it really possible that our plan is better than His? Should our prayers be short and general, like the Lord's Prayer, or might this be a set of guidelines for our specific requests? What does it teach us about prayer? Let's look at each phrase and think about what it might mean.

Our Father, who art in heaven: If we are Christians, we have a relationship with God our heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ. He is not just "my" Father, He is "our" Father; Christians are not to function alone, but as members of the body of Christ--the church. Reminding ourselves that He is our Father keeps us humble as we remember we are His children, yet also encourages us as we are reminded of our privileged position as children of the true and living God, the sovereign God, the Creator, the God who raised Jesus from the dead.

HALLOWED be Thy name. God is holy--high above all other gods. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me," Exodus 20:2. Contrary to popular belief, all people do not merely worship the same God by different names. The God of the Bible has a Son--Jesus Christ. The God of the Bible is a trinity: three equal persons yet one--Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Hallowed be THY name--not my name. My focus is not to be on ME but on God. Prayer is not so much about me bringing my wants and needs to God for Him to fulfill, but rather, humbling myself before Him and yielding to His will regarding each of those concerns.

Hallowed be Thy NAME. Even His name is holy. We are not to use His holy name glibly or irreverently, as in "gawd" or "oh god." We are not to take His name lightly by calling ourselves "Christ-ians" and then not living as though Christ is our Lord and Savior.

Thy kingdom come. We often say in one breath, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done." But these are two separate thoughts. Christ came to offer Himself to Israel as the promised King, the Messiah, and to offer them the promised kingdom. Although they rejected Him, God will deal with Israel during the seven years of tribulation, then will fulfill His promise to them of the earthly kingdom. But now it is off in the future. His kingdom cannot come until Christ returns at the end of the seven years of tribulation. And the tribulation cannot begin until Christ has caught up the church to meet Him in the air, to remove them safely from God's wrath which is to be poured out on the earth for seven years. Jesus teaches us here to long for His return, to pray that the rapture would be soon. Also, some believe His kingdom is already here in a spiritual sense, in the lives of all believers, as we yield to his kingship/lordship in our lives. Here we might pray for the salvation of others, so that God might be their King also. So when we pray, "Thy kingdom come," we are saying a mouthful!

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus says that God's will is to bring in His prophesied kingdom. We can thank Him and praise Him that His kingdom WILL come, and that His plan WILL be fulfilled! Will God's will ever be done on earth like it is in heaven? Not today, but in that future kingdom, under the righteous reign of Christ, it will be done.

We are to pray that we and others will live in accordance with God's revealed will, as found in His written Word. We learn here that God's sovereign will is indeed being done in heaven, where the angels carry out His will, and we can thank Him that this is so. We are to ask that things in our lives, and in the lives of those we are praying for, will happen according to His "Big Plan."

Here we could insert our requests: not praying that our will be done in each situation, not demanding or even suggesting how God should work out each situation. Surely our plan could not be better than what God already has planned! So we acknowledge that we are trusting Him to do His will, to work it out in the way that best fits into His big plan. We are yielding our will to His will. Acknowledging our trust in His sovereignty, that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, that He is completely in control, results in peace and confidence. Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God to them who are the called according to His purpose." That "good" might not necessarily be what feels good to us, from our limited point of view, but would be what God sees as good--that which draws people to Himself, that which matures and refines believers.

So we see that Jesus teaches us to start our prayer by focusing on God, on who He is, on His sovereign plan that is unfolding. Notice the word each of these phrases have in common: "Hallowed be THY name, THY kingdom come, THY will be done." Ephesians 1:11 tells us that God works all things after His own will, so why does He want us to ASK Him to do this? Obviously, not to get Him to do it; rather, it's to get us to recognize that He is doing it! This helps us to start viewing all of life as under the control of God's sovereign will, His mighty hand, which gives us confidence in God and helps us to trust Him even more. It's our confession that we want His will to be done, that we are willing to give up our will in each situation. By starting our prayer this way, we acknowledge that it is all about Him, not about ME. Compare the beginnings of these prayers: II Kings 19:14-15, Jeremiah 32:17-22, Daniel 4:34-35 and 9:4.

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Then we pray about our daily needs, confessing our sin, humbly recognizing that we are sinful and prone to sin. Even if life looks really scary right now, we exercise faith by looking to Him to meet our day-to-day, moment-to-moment, needs. What if your daily needs are being met, and you don't feel the need to ask for that? Then thank Him and praise Him; recognize that our needs are not met because of US, but because of Him. Thank Him for your many blessings. When you confess sins, also take this opportunity to thank Him that He has forgiven you and given you the gift of eternal life.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Here we ask for leading and guidance and protection. Is this suggesting that God may lead us into temptation, and so we must ask Him not to? No, He does not, James 1:13. The tempter is Satan, Matthew 4:1-3. But God tests us, I Peter 1:7 and 4:12, and in those situations, we may be tempted to sin instead of obey. Every situation can be looked at as both a test and a temptation, depending on how we respond. Matthew 26:41, I Cointhians 10:13, James 1:12-15. God is always leading us by His Holy Spirit, but we are not always listening or following. Even though He leads us, the Bible does not guarantee we won't have any problems. As long as we are on this earth, in these mortal bodies, living among other mortals--all of which have been tainted by the Fall, as per Genesis 3--we will be touched by temptation and by evil. But God can lead us through those situations if we rely on Him. The indwelling Holy Spirit gives us the ability to obey, Acts 1:8. The ideas in the Lord's Prayer are capsulized; restate them in your own words as you pray them. Thank and praise Him that He does lead you and protect you, that no matter what happens He is still in control.

For Thine is the kingdom...Jesus ends by again praying about the kingdom, so we know this is an important part of God's plan, and something we need to focus on. Before, He prayed, "Thy kingdom come," focusing on the "coming" of the kingdom. "Thine is the kingdom" seems to focus on "Thine." The kingdom is about God's plan for Israel and for the church, but it is all about Him. When we think about heaven, do we think mostly about how WE will finally be rid of OUR bodies, OUR earthly problems, OUR sin nature, and how nice it will finally be for ME? Or are we eagerly anticipating being in His presence, to seeing God's plan finally being fulfilled? Do we love and praise God only because there is something in it for us, or because He is worthy of our praise and devotion (even if there is nothing in it for us)? Do we love Him for His sake or just for Self's sake? Jesus points out, again, that the focus is on God, not ME.

...and the power... God is a powerful God, I Chronicles 29:11-12, Isaiah 46:9-10, Romans 1:20, Hebrews 4:13, Revelation 19:6. Every time we pray this prayer, we are confessing that God is all-powerful: sovereign, omnipresent, omniscient, onmipotent. We are to recognize God's power and to tell Him so--not because God needs to hear this, but because we need to remind ourselves frequently.

...and the glory... Human nature is concerned with our own glory, with SELF, with ME. We are self-absorbed, self-centered. The Bible condemns pride perhaps more than any other sin; it was Satan's sin. The Bible also refers to it as boasting, arrogance, and self-exaltation. Is this life really about ME? Is salvation really even about ME? Colossians 1:16 says all things were created for Him. Ephesians 1:1-14 says repeatedly that our salvation is "for the praise of His glory." II Thessalonians 1:10-12 tells us that what God is doing in our lives is for the purpose of glorifying Him. John 17:24 says that our going to be with Him in heaven is ultimately for His glory. Compare also John 15:8 and 17:4-5. Jesus is teaching us in this prayer to recognize this fact and to tell God so.

...forever. What does this tell us about God and His plans? God is eternal, without beginning or end. Past, the present, and future are all the same to Him. His name is "I Am," Exodus 3:14. His big plan encompasses all eternity, past and future. God is infinite, which is impossible for our finite human pea-brains to grasp, but as we accept it in faith, it comforts and encourages us.

Amen. What is the meaning of the word "Amen"? Is it just a word that we are to tack on at the end of a prayer? Does it mean, "the end," or "I'm done praying now"? In both the Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament), it means "so be it." If we aren't sure God will do what we want Him to, we may end our prayers with the attitude of "I hope." But if we know we are praying in God's will, we can confidently say "Amen" to our prayer: "so be it!" Yes!

How can we know God's will? By reading the Bible. The things that God desires and are pleasing to Him are His will. Finding God's will is not a matter of getting some kind of "vibes" or seeking special knowledge about this situation or that decision. God's will is clearly laid out in the Bible. Everything that the Bible tells us to do is God's will. The Bible does not tell us to listen for an audible voice; He has already spoken to us in His written Word. We listen to what He has said as we read and study His Word, and we speak to Him in prayer. It is a two-way conversation. When we bring Him our questions and concerns, His Holy Spirit enlightens us as we spend time in His Word. When you read the Bible, ask God to help you to hear what He has to say to you. As you read, stop and ask yourself, "what is God trying to teach me here?" Look for commands, for lessons, for principles, for information about what God is like and how He acts in our lives.

Prayer is merely talking to God. We can do it while we are driving, working, resting. It is good to have a daily time when you pray, but it is also good to talk to God during the day about whatever is going on or is on your mind. We are to pray "without ceasing," I Thessalonians 5:17; in other words, we should be speaking to God throughout our day.

We see that this model prayer is full of Bible shorthand, brief words and concepts that are packed with meaning. Is it OK to pray this prayer as a memorized prayer? Yes, if it is not just meaningless rote words coming out of your mouth; say it thoughtfully, t hinking about what each phrase is saying and making it your own. Or use it as a model and expand it by inserting your own words. Here is a sample to get you started:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name: Heavenly Father, help me, and everyone, to recognize who You really are and to honor Your name. Help me to live in a way that will honor You and draw people to You. Thank you for saving me; thank you that you are my heavenly Father.

Thy kingdom come: Help me to acknowledge today that You are indeed King of every part of my life. Thank you that You are working in my life, and in the lives of [name unsaved people]. May You be King in their lives also and may they to come to know you. Thank You that one day You will return and rule on this earth and make everything right. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven: Thank you that Your Word says that You are working out Your will in my life and in the lives of those I am concerned about [name them] and in these situations [name them]. Help me, and help those people, to learn to trust You more in these situations. Help me to learn to know Your will; give me a greater hunger for Your Word and to want to apply it.

Give us this day our daily bread: Here are my needs [name them] and the needs of these people [name them]. I give them to You. Thank You that You will take care of me and of them in the way that You see fit; [or] Thank You that You are meeting my/their needs. Thank You for Your many blessings [name them].

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors: I confess that I have sinned [name sins]. Thank you that You have forgiven me because You sent Your Son Jesus to die in my place and pay the price for my sins on the cross. Thank You for eternal life. Help me to forgive [name] who has sinned against me; help me not to hold onto feelings of bitterness and resentment, even though I want to. May You be working in that person's life. [spell out the situations] Help me to become more aware of my own sinfulness and my specific sins, so that I may repent of them and be free of them; help me to desire to be more pleasing to You.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: Thank You that You are leading me [and others--insert names]. Help me/them to want to go Your way, not my/their way. Help me/them to want to know Your Word better so that I/they will know what You want me/them to do. Help me/them to be pleasing to You in what I/they do, say, and think. Protect me/them from Satan's traps and snares, from evil people, and from danger. Thank You that I can trust You.

For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen: Help me to focus more on You, and to remember that everything is about YOU, not me. Thank You that You are all-powerful and that You know everything, and that none of my needs or problems or sins are too much for You to handle. Thank You that You have a plan for this world, and that everything that is happening is fitting into Your plan, even though I don't get it or see how You are working. Thank you for sending Your Son Jesus. Thank you that He died on the cross for me, that He is alive, that I have a personal relationship with Him, and that the Holy Spirit indwells me, giving me the ability to obey You, and is working every day to change me. Thank you for your Word and for everything it teaches me about You. Help me to hunger more for it, to understand it and apply it. Thank You that You love me, that You saved me, that You forgive me, that You meet all my needs in the way You know is best for me, and that You are in control. I pray these things in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

This is not the only Bible teaching on prayer, so be sure to compare other passages, such as: Matthew 26:39-41, John 14-16, Romans 1:8-12, 10:1, 11:36, I Corinthians 1:4-8, Ephesians 1:15-19, Philippians 1:4-5, 9-11, Colossians 1:1-12, 3:17, 4:2-4, 12, I Thessalonians 1:2-4, 2:13, 5:16-18, II Thessalonians 1:3, 11-12, 3:1, I Timothy 2:1-2, Philemon 4-6, James 5:13, I Peter 4:7. Note what sorts of things the Bible teaches we should be praying about. There are many instructive prayers in the Old Testament, and the book of Psalms is full of prayers, but keep in mind that in the Old Testament, the righteous were operating under the Law of Moses. We, the church, are now operating in the age of grace; the New Testament epistles are the instructions to the church.

Copyright 2016 Jan Young

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