Matthew 6: 9 – 13 – “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. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from the evil one.”
Everyone knows this passage. It is what we affectionately call “The Lord’s Prayer”. It probably should have been called “The Disciple’s Prayer” because Jesus was teaching His disciples the proper way to pray. This prayer has become an integral part of the liturgy of the church; at my church we pray it during every service. Like most liturgy however this prayer sometimes feels almost like a canned response which is to say that we tend to mindlessly repeat this prayer on cue. My church was just assigned a new Associate Pastor after almost 13 years with our other Associate Pastor. During most services it is the Associate Pastor’s job to handle things like the announcements, the offering, the offertory prayer, children’s time, and of course the time of prayer; all of which was very routine. The congregation had been “trained” as to the proper time to stand, sit, and to bow our heads. Along comes the brand new pastor who had not been “trained” and for the first few weeks we as a congregation found ourselves left standing, or not rising at the proper time, but the one constant was “The Lord’s Prayer”.
How many Christians repeat this prayer outside of church? Do you start your day with it? How many of us follow its format for our daily prayers? Here again is the problem with liturgy; it tends to stay within the church walls. This prayer, I believe, was meant to start every believer’s day. It was meant to teach the disciples how to format every prayer offered up to God; it is a blueprint for our daily prayers. Each and every word should be spoken (I believe aloud) from the heart and lifted up towards God instead of just being mindlessly repeated from memory. When was the last time you actually heard yourself speak the words?
“My Father who is in heaven”; I like to personalize this otherwise corporate prayer; again it is intended as a format for my prayer life. The first thing Jesus says we should do in our times of prayer is to recognize who and where God is. I will often spend a few sentences describing who God is to me; Creator, Almighty, Sovereign, Omnipotent, Master, and whatever other descriptions I can think of. The point is that Jesus wanted us humbly come before God and there is nothing more humbling than acknowledging His awesome reign over us.
“Hallowed be Your name” is the first of three petitions we offer to God. The word “hallowed” can mean holy, so in essence we are to again acknowledge God’s nature. In this case His Holiness. By recognizing His Holiness we are assured in our hearts of God’s ability to not only hear our prayers, but respond to them and answer them. Because He is holy we can turn to God with our every need.
“Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, the second and third petitions. As Christians these should be our only desires; how can I bring Your kingdom, as it is in heaven, here to earth and let me do nothing but Your will Father. Often when we pray we pray selfishly for our “kingdom” to come and for our “will” to be done. Therefore every prayer we pray should start off here; establishing that it is not about me, but all about Him.
“Give me this day my daily bread” “My daily bread” at this point in the pray we pray for God’s provision. As Christians we should understand that it is God who sustains and provides for us; He gives us just what we need. I think that is the whole point behind using the “daily bread” reference. Sometimes I think it would be nice to reach into my freezer and pull out steak anytime I want instead of looking at the empty shelves, but I remember that I am not going hungry every night. I ask and He provides.
“Forgive me of my debts as I forgive my debtors” Wouldn’t it be nice if the word “debts” meant my financial debts? The word is more commonly translated “sins” or “trespasses”; “Forgive me for my missteps as I forgive those who have wronged me.” The key word in this part of the pray is “forgive”. Forgiveness is the cornerstone of any Christian lifestyle. Here we are asking God to “forgive” us (which He already has) and for the ability to “forgive” others. We cannot successfully function as Christians if we are unable to “forgive”.
Finally “lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil” is our last plea to God. Temptation is unfortunately a major aspect of the Christian life. The closer we get to God the more we are tempted. It is the job of the “evil one” to try and separate us from our relationship with God. We are to “stand firm” behind our “shield of faith” as the “fiery darts” are shot at us all day. Personally I spend time just before I pray this prayer mentally putting on the “full armor of God” which includes soaking my “shield of faith” in His living water so that the “fiery darts” are immediately extinguished. Temptation is a very real part of any Christian’s life put by praying this part of the prayer I know that I am protected and am able to walk boldly into battle.
“The Lord’s Prayer” should be a part of every Christian’s morning routine, but it is important to not let this prayer become routine. Personalize it; make this prayer your own. Speak (out loud) each part of this prayer with conviction; think about what each aspect of the prayer means as you pray it. Get on your knees out of respect, in humility, and reverence to our “Father who is in Heaven”. Get up and get busy; you just finished asking for “His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven” so mean it, seek it out. God will provide you with more than enough opportunities. Walk boldly and with confidence knowing that God has got your back.
Finally remember that “The Lord’s Prayer” is the format for every other prayer we make (and we should “pray continually”). Start off with praising and glorifying His holy name. Petition God; beg Him for the ability to do His will and lay your will aside. Then ask for what you need. It is all right to ask; Jesus said “ask and you shall receive”. Never end a prayer without asking for forgiveness or without repenting of those things you may have (ok the things you have) done wrong. Then ask that for help that it not happen again; it is the true Christians desire to “be holy as God is holy”. Just follow the blueprint Jesus laid out and watch your prayer life grow and get stronger.