The Prayer of Our Lord
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by Philip Graham Ryken
Description: Philip Ryken reveals the power and truth within each phrase of the Lord's Prayer and helps readers realize the peace, contentment, forgiveness, and hope that this prayer offers.
eBook Publisher: Crossway Books, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: July 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [107 KB]
Reading time: 65-91 min.
1 HOW TO PRAY
This then is how you should pray: "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in 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" (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV).
OUR FAMILY PRAYER
The Lord's Prayer is a family prayer for all God's children. There are three important ways in which this is true. The first is the most obvious: In the Lord's Prayer we pray to our Father. No one can learn to pray who does not learn to call God "Father." That is what prayer is: It is talking with our heavenly Father. Our fundamental identity as Christians is as sons and daughters of the Most High God. Therefore, when we pray, we address God as Father.
There is a second sense in which the Lord's Prayer is a family prayer. The Father to whom we pray is called our Father. This means that when we pray, we are joined by our brothers and sisters. Because this is something we learn from the precise wording of the Lord's Prayer, it is important to realize that there is more to the Lord's Prayer than mere words. Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray, not what to pray. He did not say, "Pray this:" and then give the exact words we always have to use in our prayers. Instead he said, in effect, "Pray like this," or "Pray in this manner."
The Lord's Prayer is a flexible pattern or framework for prayer. Hugh Latimer, an English reformer who was martyred for his faith, said, "this prayer [is] the sum and abridgment of all other prayers. All other prayers are contained in this prayer; yea, whatsoever mankind hath need of as to soul and body, that same is contained in this prayer."
[Footnote 1: Hugh Latimer, quoted in Spiros Zodhiates, The Lord's Prayer, rev. ed. (Chattanooga, Tenn.: AMG, 1991), 28.]
Even though Jesus gave his disciples a prayer to imitate rather than a prayer to memorize, he did give us specific words to use when we pray. Since he undoubtedly chose his words with care, it is important to notice what he repeats over and over again: the first-person plural pronouns "our" and "us." "Our Father." "Give us." "Forgive us." "Deliver us." The Lord's Prayer is for the whole family of God.
Someone has written a clever poem to help remind us that the Lord's Prayer is not for rugged individualists:
You cannot pray the Lord's Prayer
And even once say "I."
You cannot say the Lord's Prayer
And even once say "My."
Nor can you pray the Lord's Prayer
And not pray for another,
For when you ask for daily bread
You must include your brother.
For others are included
in each and every plea--
From the beginning to the end of it,
It never once says "Me!"
[Footnote 2: Zodhiates, vii.]
God does not expect us to maintain the life of prayer in our own strength. Jesus knows how weak we are. Therefore, when he teaches us to pray, he invites us into fellowship. What he has given us is a family prayer, a prayer we must be taught by another Christian. Furthermore, the prayer itself assumes that we will have company when we pray. When we pray to our Father, we will be joined by our spiritual brothers and sisters.
PRAY WITH YOUR BROTHERS
Jesus often took a small group of disciples with him when he went off to pray. To this day, Jesus calls his disciples to come away in small groups to pray, for wherever two or three come together in his name, he is right there with us (Matt. 18:20).
Since the Lord's Prayer is a family prayer, we not only pray with one another, but we also pray for one another. In the last three petitions we do not pray for ourselves primarily but for the whole church.
When we say, "Give us today our daily bread," we are praying for our daily provision. We are asking God to meet the material needs of our brothers and sisters. Jesus taught us to pray for the needs of the family.
We are also to pray for our daily pardon, which is what we do when we say, "Forgive us our debts." Some sins are private sins. They are committed by an individual within the privacy of the heart. While every Christian needs to confess his or her own personal sin, other sins are corporate sins. They are committed by nations, cities, churches, or families. They are no one's fault in particular, but they are everyone's fault in general. When we pray the Lord's Prayer, we confess not only our individual sins, but especially the corporate sins of the church. What are the prevailing sins of your church? Pride? Hypocrisy? Prejudice? Greed? These are the kinds of sins that require corporate repentance.
Finally, when we say, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," we pray for our daily protection. As a pastor, I offer this kind of prayer on behalf of my congregation: "Some of us will be tempted to sin today, Lord. Keep us from falling. Provide a way of escape. Save us from sin and from Satan!" Daily provision, daily pardon, daily protection--these are the things we ask for in our family prayer.
PRAY LIKE YOUR OLDER BROTHER
There is one final sense in which the Lord's Prayer is a family prayer. It is a prayer we learn from our Older Brother.
If we are the children of God, then Jesus Christ is our Older Brother. It only makes sense. Since Jesus is God the Son--the unique, eternally begotten Son of God (John 1:18; 3:16)--God the Father is his Father. But God the Father is also our Father by adoption. When we accept the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins, we become the children of God. Therefore, we share the same Father with Jesus, which makes us his younger brothers and sisters.
What does this have to do with the Lord's Prayer? It means that Jesus prays the Lord's Prayer with us and for us. When Jesus prayed "Our Father," he meant our Father, the God who is our Father as well as his. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is also our Father in heaven. The Lord's Prayer, therefore, is the family prayer that we learn from our Older Brother.
Consider how many of these petitions were first uttered by Jesus Christ. "Our Father which art in heaven ." This is how Jesus always prayed. Whenever we overhear him praying in the Gospels, he addresses God as Father: "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth" (Luke 10:21); "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me" (Matt. 26:39). Sometimes he even says, "Holy Father" (John 17:11), which is another way of saying, "Hallowed be thy name."
"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven ." This was the prayer of Jesus' whole life. "I have come down from heaven not to do my will," he said, "but to do the will of him who sent me" (John 6:38). Jesus came to do his Father's will on earth, as he had done it in heaven, even when it included suffering and dying for our sins on the cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus was "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (Matt. 26:38). He even asked if the cup of suffering could be taken away. "Yet," he prayed, "not as I will, but as you will" (Matt. 26:39). In other words, "Thy will be done." And God's will was done! It was the will of heaven that the Son should die on the cross for sins. Therefore, when Jesus was crucified, God's will was done on earth as it had been decreed in heaven.
"Give us this day our daily bread ." This, too, was Jesus' prayer. He knew that man does not live on bread alone (Matt. 4:4), and yet he still needed to eat his daily bread. Thus we find Jesus praying at mealtimes. He looked up to heaven and prayed before he fed the five thousand (John 6:11). He did the same thing before he gave bread to his disciples at the Last Supper (Matt. 26:26). Jesus did not provide daily bread without first praying for it.
But what about "Forgive us our debts "? It is true that Jesus did not have any debts of his own. Yet the reason Christ came into the world was to assume all of our debts upon the cross: "The LORD laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6b); "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21). When Jesus died on the cross, was he not asking his Father--at least with his actions, if not with his words--to forgive us our debts? Furthermore, even while he was asking God to forgive our debts, Jesus forgave his debtors. While they were hurling insults at him, he said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
Jesus also taught his disciples to say, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Jesus prayed that we would be delivered from Satan, saying to his Father, "protect them from the evil one" (John 17:15). Jesus prayed this way for Simon Peter, knowing that he would fall under spiritual attack and deny him three times. Jesus said, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail" (Luke 22:31-32a).
Finally, Jesus prayed for God's kingdom, power, and glory. The kingdom of God is what Jesus came to bring. It is what he preached and what he promised, perhaps even what he prayed for. He certainly prayed for God's power and glory: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.... Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name" (John 17:1, 11b).
In one way or another, Jesus prayed nearly every petition in the Lord's Prayer. He taught his disciples to pray this way because it was the way he prayed. Think of the Lord's Prayer as a "pre-owned prayer." It comes to us second-hand, tried and tested by our Older Brother. And when Jesus made these petitions, his prayers were answered. God's name was hallowed, his kingdom has come, and his will is being done. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God the Father forgives our debts and delivers us from the Evil One.
If God has answered the prayers of our Lord, he will answer us when we pray the Lord's Prayer. If you are a child of God, use your family prayer. Pray with your brothers and sisters, the way your Older Brother always did. Your Father is ready to listen.