What an incredible thing to know that Jesus Himself taught us how to pray. So often we stutter and mumble while praying, unsure of the “right” thing to say to God, wondering if what we are saying truly expresses our hopes, desires, and needs to our Father. How many of us simply turn to the “Lord’s Prayer” of Matthew 6:9-13? These are words of perfection — words that somehow encompass all that we would ever need or want to say to God.
“Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed by Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy 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 do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
The opening of the Lord’s prayer (“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name”) rightly expresses worship of our heavenly Father. We should enter into prayer expressing our praise and adoration of the one true God of the universe. But here’s the catch — Jesus is introducing a relationship here. A relationship with a God who is also our Father — someone we can approach with the love and adoration that we would approach our earthly father. I have known people who have not had the gift of an earthly father, and the realization that they have a heavenly father who can fulfill the same role (and infinitely more) is an unbelievable blessing.
The next phrase (“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”) expresses both allegiance and submission, which naturally flow from worship. We have first expressed praise for the one sovereign God and, in coming to know who He really is, we naturally bow our knee in front of Him and acknowledge that our greatest desire is to see His kingdom fulfilled on earth. Arthur points out that this portion of the prayer “has the effect, then, of drawing us into intercession for those outside the kingdom of God…we are praying that Jesus’ lost sheep would hear His voice, come to Him, and receive eternal life.” (p 147) We are also submitting to the will of God above all else and recognizing that submission to God’s ultimate purpose-plan must come before any of our own needs and desires.
Note that the next phrase (“Give us this day our daily bread”) only comes after we first express worship, allegiance, and submission to God. Jesus is teaching us here that there is an order to prayer that puts our needs and desires into the context of who God is, and who we are in relation to God. Yes, our needs are important to God — but our needs must be expressed in accordance with the character of God. We can only understand the character of God by delving into His Word. The petition here is for a daily need to be fulfilled — the “daily bread” — in other words, daily and even momentary sustenance. What we need for now, with the full knowledge that God will provide according to His will.
The next phrase (“And forgive us our debts, and we also have forgiven our debtors”) is a confession and cry for forgiveness that also includes a recognition of the need to forgive others. Jesus had already expressed in the Beatitudes “blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Here He is saying the same thing in a different way — our own forgiveness is undeniably linked to our forgiveness of others. As Arthur states so accurately, “Failing to forgive others shows that we have no comprehension of what we are really asking for, or of the magnitude of our own debt to a holy God.” (p 149) Many people resist the truth and implications of this part of the Prayer. I think Jesus knew this, because he immediately follows the Prayer with a further explanation: “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15). Plain and simple.
The next phrase (“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil”) is a cry for deliverance that only comes after our confession and forgiveness of others. Jesus is not saying here that any temptation could come from God (cr. James 1:13-14), but He is leading us to acknowledge that we are always vulnerable to sin and need constant vigilance to not stray into evil behavior. The flesh is weak and we need God’s daily protection and deliverance if we are to live righteous and holy lives.
The final phrase (“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen”) is a return to worship and is a rightful reminder that it is only because of God’s kingdom, power, and glory that we can approach him on our knees in the first place. In this prayer we have given worship, allegiance, and submission. We have petitioned for our daily needs to be fulfilled according to God’s character. We have confessed our sin and asked forgiveness. We have asked for deliverance and protection. And we have come full circle, worshipping again.