What About the Lord’s Prayer?

Posted: June 8, 2011 by Nathan in What About...
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The disciples of Jesus asked Him how they should pray, in His reply He teaches them what we now know as the Lords Prayer. So, what is this teaching all about? These disciples ask Jesus how to pray and what they get in return is one prayer? Or do they get a template on how to pray? So what do we have? He had been in close communion with His Father and he knew the right way to approach and communicate with Him. The Lord’s prayer is a template on how to commune with the Father. So, let’s have a look…

Our Father

Approach Him with respect recognising the right relationship between God and us.

In heaven

Let’s make no mistake who we’re talking to here, we are approaching the creator God of Heaven who made all that exists. Heaven is out of sight, and a world of spirits, therefore our conversation with God in prayer must be spiritual; it is on high, therefore in prayer we must rise above the world, and lift up our hearts.

Hallowed be your name

Hallowed – to make holy. Holy be your name, Holy is your name. A statement of Worship and statement of Praise. Psalm 100 tells us that we

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. “

Basically worship, praise, thanksgiving draws us into the presence of God. If we want to get God’s attention there is no better way than to praise Him.

Let Your Kingdom come

Let your rule, your reign, commence. Have your way with me. I am your servant. I am willing to be submissive to all you want to do in and through me. I acknowledge you are the King and ruler of my life.

Let your will be done

Not my will Lord, not my agenda, but yours. I want to know your will. I want to pray that Your will in all situations, whether I like it or not, be done. Now, I think this is a massively important point and one we continually pass over. We are so busy telling God what we want Him to do for us and those we know we miss what He might be wanting to do. We come with our shopping lists asking God to heal this person and help that person and give this person money and that person a job etc. etc. and we don’t stop to ask God what he would like to do in any given situation. We need to step back, say God this is the situation, what do YOU want to do in it? Seek God for His will and then ask Him to do it. When we find God’s will and then pray that into a situation we suddenly find God answers. Funny that!!

On Earth as it is in Heaven

We long for Christ to return and for God’s perfect rule to begin. Until then we are told that the Kingdom of God is at hand and we want to experience as much of that reality as possible. We are in the world but not of the world. We live here but are not under its rule. We want to usher in the Kingdom of God, we believe it starts in the here and now and we want that Kingdom on earth to expand.

Give us today our daily bread

So much can be taken from this one little line, in fact you can take it word by word.

Give

We are asking for the kindness of God. We’re not asking for a loan or for something we deserve or have earned we are asking for an unmerited gift from God.

Us

It is a term of inclusion. We’re not just asking for ourselves but for those around us. For those we love and care for.

Today

Here is our sense of urgency. As a new day is upon us we recognise the need for God’s provision. We need God’s provision for each day of our lives whether we recognise it or not.

Our

Here we recognise that we want God’s provision for us – we do not want the bread coming from others or due for others. We acknowledge that there is enough to go round and we don‘t want more than our share. We’re asking God to help us not to be selfish or greedy but to want what God wants to give us.

Daily

Thinking not of tomorrow, but trusting God for that, we ask for what is needed for today. We are aligning ourselves with our parts of the Bible that urge us not to worry about tomorrow but to stay focused on the here and now.

Bread

Here we are asking God for what is needed. Nothing fancy, simply bread. Yes, food to sustain us but also other everyday needs. God knows what we need and He is more than willing to provide that – we don’t need to spell out all our needs we simply need to acknowledge our need of God’s provision.

Forgive us our debts

An acknowledgement of our fallen, sinful nature; that we can be forgiven, redeemed and that God is the one who can forgive us. Taken in conjunction with the previous section the implication being that this is a daily request to continuously and constantly be forgiven. When this is prayed our slate is wiped clean once again.

As we also have forgiven our debtors

A call to duty. What good is it for us if we are forgiven but cannot forgive those who have wronged us? It is a great call to hope that if we can find it in our hearts to forgive those that have done wrong to us – how much more will God, whose forgiveness is perfect, readily forgive us.

And lead us not into temptation

We’ve admitted our sin, asked and received forgiveness and so it is natural that having a clean slate we ask for God’s help to keep it clean and not to err again. We are not saying that we believe God leads us into temptation but acknowledging the guiding hand and power of the spirit to lead us away from situations that may cause us to sin.

But deliver us from evil

We’ve asked for God to guide us away from situations that may cause us to sin. Now we are asking Him for His protection from the one who hounds us, the devil and all his agents. We are also asking for his deliverance from sin itself.

For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever Amen

And so we return to praise and adoration. Telling God what He has already told us. Affirming our hope that God can do all that we have asked of Him and so much more besides.

So Jesus was asked by His disciples how to pray and he gave them the Lord’s prayer. Now I don’t for one minute think that this was something that he came up with on the spare of the moment. We’re not told but my guess is that Jesus had been perfecting this prayer for years. Moulding it, perfecting it and using it as His own.

If you look at each petition they are all petitions that will receive a YES from God. Does God want to give us what we need – YES. Does God want to forgive us – YES. Does God want to deliver us for the devil – YES. God will always answer our prayers. However He will not always answer them in the way we would want. God will usually answer with a yes, a no or a wait! The Bible teaches us that God will give us what we need and whatever we ask, according to His will He will give us. Now, many people translate this as God will give us whatever we ask. So when they pray for a Ferrari and don’t get one they become disappointed and disillusioned. Their translation misses out the important part “according to His will”. The Lord’s prayer gives us a template to use in prayer helping us to pray according to the will of God. When we sincerely pray the Lord’s Prayer God will answer us in the affirmative. God is a God who provides for our needs but not necessarily for our desires. So when we pray we need to bear in mind our needs, not our wants and also have in mind what God may will for a situation.

In any situation that we face, in any situation that we pray about it is always worth praying first to try and discover God’s will for that situation. It is all too easy for us to try to force our will on God when His will is what really matters. If we can discover God’s will for a situation we can then go on to pray with confidence and certainty that He will answer us in the affirmative. Next week we’ll look at this in a little more depth but I just want to leave you with an example to help illustrate what I’m talking about…

 Your best friend gets very ill. Now, it’s our natural reaction to pray for healing. However, God knows the end from the beginning. He knows what is going to happen and what He wants to do in this situation. If it is not God’s will to heal your friend no amount of prayer for healing is going to change his mind. Therefore, it is better to seek God’s will for your friend and pray accordingly. It might be that God will is for your friend to learn something through this experience before God heals Him. Our prayers can help our friend learn that thing quicker and then God can bring about his healing. It may be for some reason or other that healing won’t take place immediately and what your friend really needs are prayers for patience, energy, peace etc. and not prayers for healing. It may be that God, in His wisdom, knows that your friend will not be healed and will in fact die (let’s face it we all die sometime). God’s will may be for you to pray for a strengthening of their faith or for a peace of mind or for their family in this difficult time. There is no point in us continuing to pray for healing when it is not God’s intention to heal. We are just banging our head against a wall which will never move. All it will serve to do is make us disappointed and disillusioned with God. However, if we can discover His will and pray accordingly we will see wonderful results and be encouraged and strengthened in our faith.

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Comments
  1. Great teaching on the Lord’s Prayer. I heard a more in-depth version of this 20 years ago and have taught it wherever opportunity has allowed myself. The prayer itself, of course, is entirely valid in its ow n right and hard to beat but agree that Jesus intended it as much more than just the content of the words themselves.

    I do have a couple of niggles however:

    I can’t go with the idea that Jesus spent time perfecting this as though he went through various trial and error situations with it first. Whilst he was limited to a human body and subject to the natural laws that come with that, i do believe he was and is the inerrant God. I think he always knew the perfect prayer to be honest.

    secondly, I am not sure I entirely agree with your example at the end. The whole of the Lord’s prayer is ultimately not about what we ‘get’ from God but about our relationship with him. Pray for healing. It is fine. But, like you say, don’t try to force God’s hand (you can’t) and be assured that His will cannot be stopped. As we deepen our relationship with him though, we gain a better understanding of who he is and how we should pray in any given moment. It is for this reason that Habbakkuk is able to pray as he does in 3: 17, 18. Here there is no sense of praying to ‘get’ from God but merely to ‘be’. Pray for healing, but listen to God and learn to ‘be content’ in all situations guided by his spirit.

    • Nathan says:

      Ken, Thank you for your comments. I guess we’ll probably have to agree to disagree on these points. I agree that Jesus was fully God (but by no means inerrant – if he were inerrant he would have been incapable of sin – there is a world of difference between being incapable of sinning and not sinning. The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was tempted but did not sin), but I also believe he was “fully” human at the same time. I believe that just as we humans have to work out our relationship with God so did Jesus. Just like us humans he learnt, discovered and grew. We can read this in Luke 2: 52 that sates that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men”. If Jesus was growing in wisdom it implies that at some point He had less wisdom and was therefore not all knowing.

      I agree with much you say in your second point except for the part about “there is no sense in praying to ‘get’ from God but merely to ‘be’. I personally believe there is very much room for both. The Bible clearly tells us to ask. Luke 11: 9, John 15: 7, James 1: 5. God is a God who loves to lavish things on His creation. God wants to know what we want (even though He already knows). Yes, you are right that there are times when we need to just ‘be’ and listen and just dwell in the presence of God, asking, as I imply in the example, shouldn’t be the first thing on our minds. However, God does have a desire to give us what we want – in accordance to His will.

      • Thanks for your reply Nathan – like you say, I am sure on points we will agree to disagree as is healthy in all Christian discussions. Debate is always good of course as it sharpens our minds helps look again at our beliefs.

        I think you can hold to a fully human Jesus, who therefore learned through natural experience like any child would and was not, in human form, omniniscient or all powerful and still maintain inerrancy. He could sin but did not as you say, but that he did not makes him inerrant. I don’t think you can conjecture too freely about his experimenting with ideas before preaching them or you are in danger with joining the liberal camp of theology where Jesus the man far outweighs Jesus as God instead of holding both in equal respect.

        As for the second point, I am not sure you understood me, or maybe I don’t understand you! I felt your post suggested that we should ‘give up praying’ a certain way if we are ‘banging our heads against a brick wall’ and then you talked of the benefits for us if we ‘seek God’s will’. That still seems to suggest that the ‘getting’ the key importance.

        I feel the opposite is true. We SHOULD pray for the things we want – if it is the honest truth – even for healing of a loved one. But not for ‘getting’ but because it is what is in our hearts. But at the same time, as we deepen our relationship with God, he changes us inside and our hearts and minds become more in tune with us. Our prayers in turn reflect more accurately the heart of God. As C S Lewis apparently said, we pray because through prayer God changes us, not the other way round. My point being that relationship with God and honesty with God is by far the most important and that may well mean praying prayers that are ‘banging our heads’ if our relationship is not yet that deep. But seek deeper relationship and know that heart of God and you find your prayers changing. I know that in my short time as a Christian (in my third decade) my prayers have changed considerably. It is no surprise that most of the ‘heroes’ of faith I have known have been around a lot long than that! They ‘get’ such great results from God not because they have ‘fine-tuned’ their prayers but simply because God has changed them as they prayed (probably awful prayers to begin with) and brought them more in line with his thinking.

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