"Pray then like this: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day 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 evil.'" (Matthew 6:9-13, ESV).
I love prayer but often struggle in it. I can feel my lack of zeal, my sloth, my distraction, while in prayer. Prayer is a battle. Prayer is often a secret struggle for Christians. But, alas, prayerlessness hurts us. God has given us this great gift and opportunity so that we might flourish. We are creatures, which means we need our Creator, for He is infinite while we are finite. We need Him, thus prayer.
From A Warm Relationship With God
"Our Father in heaven..."
In the midst of His “Sermon On The Mount,” Jesus taught of life before our Father in heaven. The concept of God as Father was revolutionary, only a shadow in the Old Testament, but made possible by the blood of Jesus. Through His cross, believers become the children of God. The Holy, righteous, invisible, mighty God becomes their Abba (daddy).
Jesus took care to explain our father-child relationship with God when talking about prayer. Not only does His template prayer for us begin with, “Our Father,” but His introductory comments about this template prayer tell us our Father is listening. We have His ear, for Jesus said our “Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” We are not heard for our “many words,” but for our relationship with Him, for a good father hears even brief words from his children.
It is no wonder, then, that Satan has relentlessly attacked generations of fathers throughout the ages. If he can crush humanity’s vision of what a good father-child relationship, he can more easily distort our concept of God. But we must allow the blood of Christ to set us free, redeem us, from this warped vision. God is the true Father, in whom there is no error or imperfection. In flawless splendor, our God loves us as our Father. When we pray, we pray from a strong position of a healthy relationship with Him.
For The Fame Of God
"...hallowed be your name..."
The first request from the lips of the disciple is almost not a request. Many have moved quickly past it. But it is there: “Hallowed be your name" is the prayer from which all true prayer flows. God is no genie in a bottle, and this first prayer protects the believer from the “genie” mentality.
But what does it mean for God’s name to be hallowed? To hallow is to treat something as sacred or ultimate, as crucial and supreme. So the believer’s first prayer is for God’s name, His reputation, to be held in the highest regard. We want God’s fame to increase, for His honor to expand.
We must pray this way for it protects our souls. The danger is to become concerned about the hallowing of our own name and reputation. Much prayer, in fact, is often a misguided attempt at getting the name of the person praying to be honored. We want to be proved right, proved successful, or proved good. So when we are able, with honesty, to pray for the hallowing of God’s name, it shows we are inwardly healthy before God. In a sense, this first prayer is a transaction. We are saying, “Father, it is not my reputation and name I want to see the hallowing of, but Yours.” It is at precisely this point, the point when wrong motivations melt away, true prayer can begin.
For The Increasing Reign Of God
"Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..."
Jesus knows we are living in the midst of a battle of kingdoms. The world, the flesh, and the devil all vie for our affections. All desire to increase. But Christ and His kingdom must advance, so the believer is to cry out to God for the coming of His kingdom.
This is a prayer for His kingdom to come visibly. Many believers cling to the hope of Christ’s kingdom being manifest here on earth some day, while all believers look forward to His future heavenly kingdom. Here, Jesus shows us to pray for that day to come. “Come, Lord Jesus!” is the prayer of the Christian (Revelation 21:20). Maranatha! We are to keep our eyes on the horizon of history, asking God to establish His eternal rule.
This is a prayer for His kingdom to come invisibly. As we look out at our world, we understand the need for the expanse of His kingdom. “The government will be on His shoulder,” we say (Isaiah 9:6), and when people are set free from sin, when the poor are loved, when the body of Christ grows, His government increases. We are a kingdom inside of kingdoms, a nation inside of nations. We are His holy people, and we long for our people to increase, so we pray for His kingdom to come into the hearts of many more people.
This is a prayer for His kingdom to come personally. Each believer is to see this life as an opportunity for the Spirit to perform sanctification grace in their lives. We are to long for the expansion of God’s kingdom within our own hearts. The moment we stop praying for our own spiritual growth is the moment we enter into danger. We cease to pray for the inward expansion of His kingdom at our own peril.
For The Practical Provision Of God
"Give us this day our daily bread..."
Jesus knew, especially due to the incarnation, the needs of humanity. He would quote from Deuternomony when tempted, “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). But He also knew of hunger and need. Though His prayer launches in the spiritual dimension, He fully expects heaven to meet earth, so He tells us to pray for our daily bread.
This simple prayer releases the believer into prayer for the physical and practical provision of God, the daily affairs of life. Our Father is not too important to be bothered with. He is high and exalted, but also infinite, omnipresent, and personal, meaning He has every interest, but also all ability to help us in our personal and daily experience. He loves for us to run to Him, for He has already run to us.
We might think it foolish to pray for the practical and physical before God. He is spiritual, we say, forgetting that He became flesh and dwelt among us. He cares for the souls of men, we say, forgetting that He came loving, partly by feeding and healing. He only does the critical things, we say, forgetting that even in the important work of atonement He took steps to secure His mother’s future. Jesus shows us the Father’s heart, and Jesus shows us a God who cares for our daily bread.
For The Spiritual Cleansing Of God
"...forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors..."
Jesus knows we will need the experiential, practical, daily experience of the Father’s forgiveness, so He tells a positionally forgiven people to ask God for more forgiveness. This is not a prayer to become born-again again, but to be cleansed from the filth of sin we are bound to expose ourselves to. We will accumulate the debt of consequences and the debt of discipline because of our sin, so we are to ask Him to forgive us that debt.
In a sense, this is a prayer for sanctification, spiritual growth. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, announcing they were already clean, but their feet had been dirtied (John 13). As we walk through life, though officially clean before God, our feet are dirtied. We need Him to come along and cleanse us. We need His forgiveness, which He is faithful and just to dispense upon those who confess to Him (1 John 1:9).
But this portion of Christ’s prayer is often neglected. Though it is a gift, a lifeline, a life preserver thrown to a drowning soul, we often run from it. We think a lack of confession means the issue does not exist, that the sin is not there unless we say it is. But we cannot hide even one thought from God. Let this not terrorize you; let it remove your inhibitions before Him. Run to Him, fearless but in fear, and ask for Him to wash and cleanse you from sin. Don’t worry. He is an merciful Father who knows how to release us from ourselves.
For The Overall Protection Of God
"...lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil..."
Jesus knows temptation is a constant threat to the believer. It is a prominent part of the human experience. He knows this, for He experienced it to a higher degree than you and I ever will. When He was brought into the wilderness, He bore forty days of an intensity of temptation no man will ever experience. The world, quite literally, was in the balance, and Satan brought his worst.
So it is interesting to see Jesus tell believers to ask the Father to lead them not into temptation. The wording might make us think of the possibility of God leading us into temptation, but we don’t need God’s help with that, for we lead ourselves into temptation just fine all by ourselves. Instead, what we are to ask, is for God to lead our lives. When He does, He will lead us out of temptations which will surely come.
The way of escape is there for all of us (1 Corinthians 10:13). But we often won’t take it. This prayer asks God the Father to take leadership of our lives and to enable us to escape when the temptation inevitably comes. Think of the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested before going to the cross. He knew the disciples would be tempted to deny Him, so He told them to watch and pray, lest they enter into it. The temptation would come, but they needed to pray for the Father to lead them out of it.
So believers spend time in prayer. How can we expect power without prayer? How can we expect victory without Him?
Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). From secret prayer flows the blessing of God. It is all of grace.
From prayer flows His help or encouragement. From prayer flows an increased trust from us toward Him. Our worry is replaced with confidence in God. In prayer, our hearts change, and a heavenly focus is regained. In prayer, we receive His friendship and counsel. Our passion develops, and we become who we were meant to be. Jesus used the word “reward,” for prayer is just that: rewarding.