When the disciples watched Jesus pray, for some reason, there was something different about how he prayed ... so much so that they asked him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1-4). Jesus responded by giving them a pattern or model for effective prayer. This teaching on prayer is given in more detail in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt.6:9-15). In this part of the sermon, Jesus addresses three important practices for disciples – giving (6:1-4), praying (6:5-15) and fasting (6:16-18). As a disciple experiences the transformation of their inner world, this change eventually expresses itself externally through these types of activities. However, care must be taken to ensure that our motive for these practices is not to receive applause from people, but rather to please our heavenly Father. It matters why we do what we do.A Model Prayer
Jesus gave his disciples an example of how they should pray. While it is commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer,” it is actually “The Disciple’s Prayer,” because it is a pattern for them to follow. It shows them how (not just what) they should pray. It contains principles of prayer more than a form of prayer. The prayer begins with an opening address and then there are six requests. The first three requests are related to God and the next three are related to us and our needs.“Our Father in heaven”
The prayer begins by calling God “Our Father in heaven.” The term for “Father” is “Abba,” a name used by children for their earthly fathers that expresses warmth and intimacy in the security of a loving father’s care, kind of like our word “Daddy.” Jesus used the phrase “my Father” to address his heavenly Father because He is the unique Son but he also called his disciples to enter into a relationship with his Father as well. Through Jesus we have been adopted into God’s family and we are privileged to be the children of God (see John 1:11-13. Rom.8:14-17. 1 John 3:1-2).“Hallowed be your name”
The first request is directed toward God’s name: “Hallowed be your name,” or “Let your name be made holy.” The purpose of hallowing the name is that God might be set apart as holy among all people and in all actions, that he will be treated with the highest honor. To hallow God’s name means to hold it in reverence and therefore to hold Him in reverence, to honor, glorify, and exalt him. God’s name is the Lord, Jehovah, and the great I AM. His name represents his nature. He is all we need – our full sufficiency. He is our peace, our refuge, our healer, and our provider. With him all things are possible. He is God Almighty, all-powerful, the self-sufficient one. He is eternal, omnipresent, all knowing. He is loving, kind, gracious, holy, righteous and true. Begin prayer with worship. Focus on who God is.“Your kingdom come”
The second request expresses the hope of God’s people throughout all of history: “Your kingdom come.” God’s anointed Messiah is here and at work, bringing the sovereign and saving rule of God. As we pray “your kingdom come,” we align ourselves with Jesus’ own practice of prayer and join his kingdom movement on earth. The kingdom is both present (now) and future (not yet). We live in an in-between time where we are to seek to help bring the manifestation of God’s kingdom and character into every corner of our world.“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
The third request speaks of God’s will coming to pass: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is linked with the preceding request. Wherever the kingdom of heaven is revealed, God’s will is experienced. God reigns in heaven absolutely, which means that all of heaven experiences his perfect will. Jesus prays that earth will experience that same rule of God. As disciples, we are to surrender our will to God’s purpose and desire, just as Jesus did (John 4:34. Matt.26:39, 42).“Give us today our daily bread”
The fourth request focuses on the disciples’ well-being: “Give us today our daily bread.” “Bread” refers to all of the believer’s needs, both physical and spiritual. Disciples are to rely on God for all of their needs – every day, just as the Israelites had to trust God for the manna daily in the desert (Exodus 16). God is our provider.“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”
The fifth request addresses the disciples’ debt of sin: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Sin creates an obligation or “debt” to God that we cannot possibly repay. Through repentance, a disciple’s sins are forgiven but they are also to forgive others as they have been forgiven. Forgiveness of others is proof that a disciple’s sins are forgiven and that he or she possesses salvation. There is no forgiveness for one who is unforgiving. Jesus further explains this in verses 14 and 15, which indicates how seriously he intended us to take forgiving each other. Reconciliation with others is essential. It takes priority over prayer or worship (Matt.5:23-24). Jesus also tells his disciples about the torment that comes on those who don’t continue to forgive from the heart (Matt.18:21-35).“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one”
The final request addresses the disciples’ battle with evil forces. Since God is not one who tempts his people to do evil (James 1:13), and the word translated “temptation” can be used for either temptation or testing (James 1:12-13), this request indicates that the disciples should pray either for relief from testing or for their testing not to become an occasion for temptation (Matt.26:41). The second part of this request, “but deliver us from the evil one,” indicates that disciples must be conscious that life is a spiritual battle. Satan’s influence is behind every attempt to turn a testing into a temptation to evil, so Jesus teaches his disciples that they must rely on God not only for physical provision and forgiveness of sins, but also for victory in all of the spiritual battles of life. The devil is like a roaring lion roaming about seeking whom he can devour. We must be awake and alert. We must not be ignorant of his devices, strategies and plans. We must resist him confident that he will flee from us (1 Peter 5:8).“For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
This closing phrase is generally considered to be a later addition to the text. There is really nothing wrong with using it, though, for it comes from biblical benedictions in Revelation. We ask all of these things in prayer knowing that God is sovereign over all. He has the power to do what we ask him to do. We end prayer with thanks and praise. All glory to God. Amen or “so be it!”
Jesus calls us into a close relationship with him, and through his Spirit, with the Father. Prayer is simply conversation with God. Through prayer, we can become more like Jesus and we can partner with God to bring about his will and purpose on the earth.Sample Discussion Questions
- What are some of your first recollections of prayer growing up as a child?
- What do you think of and how do you feel when you hear the word ‘prayer’ today?
- What was your natural father like? How has this affected your view of God as a father?
- What are some of the names of God? How can praying them be meaningful to us?
- Practically speaking, how can we be people who help to bring about God’s kingdom and will on earth?
- If already God knows our daily needs, why is asking for them important?
- Why is forgiveness so important?
- Discuss the concept of ‘spiritual warfare’? What does this mean for our daily lives?
- Why is prayer necessary? If God is sovereign, won’t he accomplish what he wants anyway? Can prayer actually change things? Can God’s will on earth be frustrated or not accomplished if we don’t pray?