Study 2 THE FAMILY PRAYER, OR “THE LORD’S PRAYER”
GREAT PRAYERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Matthew 6: 9-13
The simplest and most comprehensive example of prayer came from the lips of our Lord at the request of His disciples (Luke 11:1). In studying this prayer it will help us to consider the following points:-
- (1) The title of this prayer. We call it “The Lord’s Prayer” because our Lord gave it, but “The Disciple’s Prayer” or “The Family Prayer” are better terms; for our Lord did not pray this prayer, nor could He, for He had no sins to confess. It is His prayer only because He composed it.
- (2) It is a universal prayer. It is meant for all Christians, everywhere and at any time. All who love the Lord may pray this prayer.
- (3) It is a model, or pattern, prayer. It is meant to be a sample of the kind of prayer we should pray. It tells us how to pray and what to pray for. Spurgeon describes it as “a model on which to fashion our prayers”, and Jesus said we are to pray in this way (Matthew 6:9).
In this study let’s sit at His feet and learn how to pray and what to pray for.
1. THE ADORATION OF GOD THE FATHER
Prayer begins when we approach God and we must come before Him with adoration and worship. Before we begin asking for things, we are to pray “Our Father in heaven”. Two truths are emphasised here:-
- (1) Relationship. The upward relationship is indicated by the word ‘Father’. This prayer is only for children of God, for those who are believers and have become members of His family (John 1:12-13; Galatians 3:26). The outward relationship is indicated by the words ‘Our Father’. We are not only children of God but brothers and sisters in His family – Ephesians 3:15.
- (2) Reverence. This is indicated in the words, ‘Our Father in Heaven’. He is no earthly father, but our Father who is in heaven, and while it is wonderful that we have been brought into a holy and intimate relationship with Him, we must always come before Him with due reverence, and not in a careless or casual fashion.
2. THE PETITIONS OF GOD’S CHILDREN
The first three petitions are prayers for God’s glory and for the progress of His kingdom, and the last four are prayers for ourselves: in the first three the repetition of the word ‘your’, referring to God, and in the last four the repetition of the words ‘us’ and ‘our’, referring to ourselves.
- (1) The petition respecting God’s name – “hallowed be your name”. The name of God stands for His person and includes all His attributes – His power, wisdom, holiness, justice, mercy and truth. To pray that God’s name may be hallowed is to pray that He may be made known and glorified. Our first petition should be for the glory of God (John 12:28; 1 Peter 4:11).
- (2) The petition concerning God’s kingdom – “your kingdom come”. There are two aspects of God’s kingdom. There is the present aspect. His kingdom, which is spiritual, is being set up now in the hearts and lives of men and women, and entrance to it is through the new birth (John 3:3). Our Lord is at present receiving this kingdom to Himself, and when it is complete He will return (Luke 19:12). There is also a future aspect of His kingdom: we pray for the King to come again and for the setting up of His kingdom on earth, for His rule when all will know Him (Hebrews 8:11).
- (3) The petition for God’s will to be done – “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. God’s ultimate purpose is that His will, which is done perfectly in heaven, will be done perfectly on earth, and as we approach Him we pray for His will to be done. This petition teaches us what true prayer is – it is not a way of getting God to do something we want, but is a means of enabling Him to do what He wants, that is, His will!
- (4) The petition for our daily needs – “Give us today our daily bread”. We are dependent on the Lord for everything we need here on earth – life itself, food, shelter, clothing and strength; and this is a prayer which God will graciously answer (Philippians 4:19). He tells us not to be worried about our needs (Matthew 6:8, 25-34). The words, “Give us today” also remind us that we are to learn to live a day at a time.
- (5) The petition for pardon – “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”. We are sinners needing forgiveness and we can pray this with assurance (1 John 1:9). But notice that this prayer for forgiveness is conditional on our forgiving others, for we are asking God to forgive us “as we have forgiven…” Failure to forgive is to forfeit the joy of fellowship with our Heavenly Father which we should be experiencing all the time. Our salvation will not be affected, but our fellowship with God will be affected.
- (6) The petition for strength – “lead us not into temptation”. The word ‘temptation’ may refer to the enticement of sin which is the Devil’s work, or the testing which God plans or permits in the lives of His children and which is always for their good as well as for His glory (Hebrews 12:6-11). The prayer, “Lead us not into temptation” is the prayer that God will not allow us to be overcome by Satan’s evil enticements or by God’s purposeful testings (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- (7) The petition for deliverance – “deliver us from the evil one”. While we are in the body we are constantly struggling with our evil nature. Jesus believed in the Devil and He told us to pray that we might be delivered from his powerful attacks – look up 2 Timothy 4:18.
3. THE CLOSING DOXOLOGY
This is in praise to God, indicated in the words, “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen”. When we finish our prayer in this way we are affirming our belief that the kingdoms of this world are in fact the rightful property of our Father, that to Him alone belong all authority and power, that He alone deserves to receive all glory and honour and that He is the eternal King. We conclude with a hearty “Amen”, which means “So let it be!”