And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
This, then, is how you should pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (NIV)
God knows what we need before we even ask him, which means that the Creator of the universe has his ear inclined to listen to us. The Lord desires, even longs for us to pray to him. Since this is God’s disposition every day, Jesus communicated to us a model way of prayer. This prayer exemplifies the values of Christ’s Beatitudes and reflects the priorities of God’s kingdom. The Lord’s Prayer is meant to be prayed often, mindfully, and with flavor.
Jesus gave us six petitions to guide us in our prayers: The first three petitions are priorities of God that set the tone for the next three petitions, which are centered in our problems of living in this fallen world.
Jesus gave us instruction of how to address God: “Our Father in heaven.” All the pronouns in the Lord’s Prayer are plural, not singular. We are to be concerned for both our own individual issues, and for the needs of the community, of the problems and situations of the world.
“Father” is an endearing and relational word. “In heaven” balances the closeness and nearness of our heavenly Father with his sovereign and transcendent nature. Our God is both near and far – a close friend as well as a holy king. So, we address him with a proper understanding of who he is.
- First Petition: “Hallowed be your name.”
“Hallow” comes from the root word for holiness; it is to sanctify, to set apart. God is concerned that his creatures revere him and treat him as the Holy One.
Notice the use of the verb: not hallowed “is” your name, but hallowed, or holy “be” your name. That is, Jesus guides us to pray that God’s name would be shown as holy through us by the way we live. The world sees a holy God when his people walk in holiness, reflecting his benevolent nature.
After Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the Apostle Peter encouraged a struggling band of young Christians:
So, you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better back then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So, you must live in reverence of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” (1 Peter 1:14-17, NLT)
- Second Petition: “Your kingdom come.”
We live in a fallen world that has come under the domain of dark forces. The unfolding drama of Holy Scripture is that God himself is on a mission to restore his creation to a benevolent rule and gracious reign. Jesus is the King, we are the subjects, and God’s realm exists wherever his subjects go. And where his subjects go, they are to pierce the darkness by embodying the good news that King Jesus has overcome the demonic realm and brought us into God’s kingdom. The prayer and proclamation of this good news is of utmost priority to God.
- Third Petition: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
God’s ethical will has been revealed to us by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes as the cornerstone of his teaching (Matthew 5-7). God’s will is that Christ’s followers be humble; grieve over personal and communal sin in the world; act with gentleness instead of prideful condescension toward others; hunger after true righteousness instead of legalistic self-righteousness; show mercy; be pure in heart; pursue peace; and, rejoice when persecuted. All of this results in being salt and light in this dark world.
Furthermore, we are to reconcile with others instead of hold grudges; deal with our lust through accountability instead of making excuses for our mental adultery; cherish our spouse instead of taking the easy way out when problems arise in marriage; tell the truth at all times instead of shading it; and, love, not retaliate when personally hurt or insulted. This is God’s will, and if it seems an impossible task, that is because we need divine resources to live our Christian ethic. In other words, we need to pray!
These three petitions are priorities for God. They are three ways of essentially asking the same thing – that the full manifestation of God’s reign on earth be realized. Thus, our prayers are not primarily to receive goods and services from God, but for us to render service to God. The priority of prayer given by Jesus centers in the advancement of God’s merciful rule, and the doing of God’s will. These prioritized prayers are a burning desire to see God honored on earth as he is already honored in heaven.
- Fourth Petition: “Give us today our daily bread.”
It is our bodies that enable us to do God’s will, and so we must be concerned for them. We must have the necessities of life and daily sustenance to carry out God’s priorities for the church and the world. This is not a prayer for long-term luxuries, but daily needs.
In the ancient world, people were paid at the end of each day. Folks also shopped every day at the marketplace for their food (no fridge!). When there was a flood or a drought, it did not just mean high grocery prices; people faced starvation and death. They needed to trust God for today, and not worry about tomorrow. Even though we do not always readily perceive our great dependence on God, we still are in divine hands and need faith.
- Fifth Petition: “Forgive our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Sin is pictured as a debt. If someone has sinned (trespassed) against us, we must forgive them, thus releasing them from their debt. To forgive does not mean to forget. Rather, we are not to hold the debt or the sin over someone’s head for the rest of their life.
The simple truth is that the person who is forgiven by God is a forgiving person. Our own forgiveness implies that we have done the hard work of repentance through identifying our sin and renouncing it. So, if we fail to forgive, it demonstrates a lack of change on our part. We cannot, then, be forgiven if we are avail ourselves of the grace which is freely offered.
The practice of forgiveness is of utmost importance to Jesus. Living the Beatitudes of Jesus and being a peacemaker means we are to squarely face our bitterness. Simply sweeping our hurt under the rug and not extending forgiveness only gives the demonic realm a foothold into our lives – which is why we are to pray the final petition….
- Sixth Petition: “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”
Just as we have real physical necessities we must trust God for, we also have genuine spiritual needs which hinge on the issue of forgiveness – our forgiveness from God through Christ, and the forgiveness we extend to others who have hurt or offended us.
An unforgiving heart is the primary reason for the temptation to hate, seek revenge, and retaliate. If we have spent days, weeks, months, years, or even decades harboring an unforgiving spirit through anger, bitterness, and avoidance of facing our past trauma, we have embraced the dark side and need deliverance from evil.
The path to deliverance is through acknowledging the offense, receiving grace and forgiveness from God, and passing that same forgiveness and grace to those who hurt us. This is not about whether they deserve it or not; it is a matter of what I need to do.
A desire to see God’s agenda accomplished through the first three petitions leads us to seek grace and forgiveness, not giving ground to the devil. The truth sets us free; telling our secrets brings freedom. Apart from naming our shame, we will remain bound and in need of liberation. Tell your secrets to God in the prayer closet, and then tell them to a trusted friend(s). We pray, and we act on what God tells us in prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer is a model prayer. That means we use the six petitions of Jesus to frame our prayers in our own words, as well as say the words in our favorite translation of the Bible.
We are to pray this prayer continually, for in doing so it will shape our everyday lives, serve as a guide for how to live, and provide discernment in making life’s many decisions. To be the church is to pray. To be a Christian is to pray. So, let us daily and in every way make use of our Lord’s Prayer.
Our Father in heaven,
The One who is both near and far,
May your Name be shown as holy,
through us, your people.
May others submit to your lordship,
and become holy, too.
Help us to know your will,
and to do it.
We need you God,
so, provide our necessities for today.
Forgive us of our great and many sins,
just as we forgive those
who have sinned egregiously against us.
Lead us in paths of righteousness,
which will shoo the devil away.
For you are the Ruler,
the Mighty One,
full of glory and grace.