The Model Prayer

prayer-bible

To Christians, prayer is that vital link of communication we have with God our Heavenly Father. When believers pray through the name of God’s Son, they have an advocate who acts in the role of High Priest—he mediates between the person who is praying and God, his Father. So, through Christ, we have direct access to God. [1]

Onetime, according to Luke’s account, (Luke 11:1-4), Jesus was asked a question about prayer. After Jesus was finished praying in certain place, one of his followers requested, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John [John the Baptist] also taught his disciples.” Somehow, this disciple was impressed with the power in which Jesus prayed and he wanted to it, too. So, Jesus proceeded to instruct him on how he should pray.

In Matthew’s account, (Matt. 6:9-13), a disciple’s request on how to pray isn’t mentioned. After initially making some comments about prayer [2], Jesus then goes right into what one should say. This is widely known as the Lord’s Prayer. It is spoken by most Christians of all faiths. And it is used more than any other prayer in both personal and public worship.

Having said this, however, we must be careful not to assume that everyone knows the Lord’s Prayer even though they think they do as this story illustrates…

Mike and Lefty grew up together in Chicago. They both became lawyers. Then, much to the amazement of Mike, Lefty became a Sunday School teacher. “I bet you don’t know the Lord’s Prayer,” said Mike.
“Everybody knows that,” replied Lefty. “It goes, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep….’”
“You win,” said Mike. “I didn’t know you knew so much about the Bible.”

Even though believers call it the Lord’s Prayer, it’s probably more accurate to call it, the Lord’s Model Prayer. For Jesus was giving his followers a fitting pattern for their prayers.

When Jesus taught us how to pray, he wasn’t intending this to become part of a religious ritual. Just like anything else quoted in the scriptures, these words can be recited like a robot. They can become repeated over and over again until they lose their meaning. Going by what he said in Matthew 6:7, “…do not use meaningless repetition…”, I don’t believe Jesus intended his model prayer to be used like this.

There may also be a tendency to use his model prayer as though it were a magical way to feel religious or reach a higher plane of contact with the Cosmos. Even though one may be sincere when reciting it, it does not make one any holier than anyone else. That’s not to say the prayer can’t be meaningful. But it’s not a mystical form of meditation such as the kind you find in Eastern cults.

Jesus’ model prayer can be misunderstood, as well, from a child’s perspective. When kids hear things, sometimes their little minds can’t quite connect with the King James style speech grown-ups are familiar with.

There’s a cute story about a new Sunday School teacher who had to iron out some problems with the Lord’s Prayer. One child had to be corrected after repeating, “Howard be thy name.” Another youngster prayed, “Lead us not into Penn Station.” Still another surprised the teacher with, “Our Father, who art in heaven, how’d you know my name?”

The prayer Jesus taught must be understood in a correct way. And it should be the way we correctly address our heavenly Father. The proper attitude we have toward it is about the way we humbly come before God’s throne. After all, it starts out with….

• “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

Our very first thoughts in this prayer are upon God our Heavenly Father. We are his children adopted into his family through our entrance into Christ. As our Father, he loves us, corrects us, and teaches us how to live. We, in turn, respect him, love him, and obey him. And because he is our Father, we honor him in worship and praise. For his name is sacred. It stands for his almighty power and existence. It is not to be used and abused in vain. Rather, it is to be treated so reverently, one is behooved to even try to speak it. Interestingly, Jesus is never recorded in the scripture to verbally call his Father by his holy name. Neither did he ever instruct his church to verbalize God’s name. Just as we respect our earthly fathers by not calling them by their given name, we want to treat our Father in heaven with the same respect.

• “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Sadly, the reality is that many do not fully understand what God’s kingdom is all about. Yes, it is prayed but do Christians know what it really means? Jesus says it’s God’s kingdom, not a world-wide church movement like some imagine. So many times we hear persons equate the church with bringing in the kingdom. They confuse God’s redemptive kingdom, the church, which is being added through Christ in this present age with the future providential kingdom on earth that is coming in due time. God will establish his providential kingdom on earth in the age to come. It will commence when Jesus physically and visibly returns from heaven to earth. [3] And it will cover the entire planet. The coming kingdom is God’s will for completing his plan of salvation. Our privilege and responsibility is to do God’s will for our lives in preparation for his glorious kingdom. [4]

• “Give us this day, our daily bread.”

NOTICE…Jesus now moves from his recognition of God our heavenly Father, his coming kingdom, and will in heaven and on earth, to our physical and spiritual human needs. Daily bread takes into context how God supplies us physically—not only food but shelter, clothing, and the like. Of course, we can enjoy these things because he uses the natural resources to produce them—rain, rivers, oceans, sun, seasons, soil, seeds, livestock, trees, and so forth. God feeds and clothes us in even more abundant ways than he does in everything else he has created. [5]

• “And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.”

From the request to provide for our physical needs comes the request for restoring our spiritual needs. Forgiveness is both vertical and horizontal. Vertically, there’s the need for God’s forgiveness of our sins. Horizontally, there’s the need for us to forgive one another. Why? Because it all comes down to the way we must deal with sin. [6]

Once there was a Sunday School teacher who was very knowledgeable about religious ceremonies. The teacher spent an entire session talking to the young pupils about the correct way to pray. “Now,” she said finally, “suppose we want to pray to God for forgiveness. What must we do first of all?” One little boy suggested, “Sin?”

Speaking of sin and the need for forgiveness, perhaps we need to simply look at it like this one four-year-old who prayed, “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.”

Without forgiveness from God and forgiveness of one another, we cannot survive the wrongs and provide the healing necessary for spiritual growth and development. When we forgive others like God forgives us, then we are able to go on building better relationships. [7] It is written that forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the high cost of hatred, and the waster of energy.

• “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

After asking for forgiveness, Jesus jumps into temptation. Why? Because once we call upon God’s forgiveness for bringing cleansing and healing, we need to ask him to help us whenever we’re tempted to revert back to sin. We remember that through Jesus, we can overcome temptation for he was likewise tempted but without falling into sin. [8] He is our highest example for though he did not sin, he took our sins on the cross and died in our place so that we would be spared eternal death when God’s Day of Judgment comes Someday. [9] Through Christ, we receive power to face our own temptations and overcome them. Since evil is all around us, we are vulnerable seeking that we are naturally weak due to our sinful nature. But with Jesus in our lives, the evil that is constantly trying to tempt us, will not be able defeat us for gives us strength to live victoriously as we serve him. [10]

• “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”

The prayer ends with this doxology but it is absent in Luke’s account. It does occur in various numbers of early manuscripts and versions of Matthew’s account while other versions do not add it. Whether or not these words are part of the original Model Prayer of Jesus, it can be taken in the context of our Lord’s teachings and scripture in both Old and New Testaments. Interestingly, these words are very similar to 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, “Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all,” (King James Version, KJV).

Whenever we call on the LORD, it is fitting to use this as a pattern for our prayers. This doesn’t mean we have to recite it word-for-word. But we can paraphrase it in our own words, in a meaningful and sincere way. This has been a good guiding way I’ve been able to present my prayers.

The Lord’s Model Prayer will help make our prayers to be stronger and effective. With this in mind, someone wrote,

I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself.
I cannot say “Father” if I do not endeavor each day to act like his child.
I cannot say “who art in heaven” if I am laying up no treasure there.
I cannot say “hallowed by thy name” if I am not striving for holiness.
I cannot say “thy Kingdom come” if I am not doing all I can to be ready for it.
I cannot say “thy will be done” if I am disobedient to his Word.
I cannot say “on earth as it is in heaven” if I’ll not serve him here and now.
I cannot say “forgive us our debtsif I harbor a grudge against anyone.
I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path.
I cannot say “thine is the kingdom” if I do not give the King the loyalty due him from a faithful subject.
I cannot attribute to him “the power” if I fear what people may do.
I cannot ascribe to him “the glory” if I’m seeking honor only for myself, and I cannot say “forever” if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by time.
(author unknown)

Here’s the classical song, “The Lord’s Prayer,” by Charlotte Church: http://youtu.be/z7aWC7E2Fec

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

References:
[1] See Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1-2
[2] In Matt. 6:5-8, instructs his disciples how they should pray in contrast to the hypocritical way the scribes and Pharisees—two radical Jewish groups—prayed.
[3] Systematic Theology, Dr. Alva G. Huffer, p. 517.
[4] Daniel 7:13-14; Galatians 5:21; 2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 19:11-16
[5] Philippians 4:19; Matt. 6:25-34
[6] Ephesians 4:31-32
[7] Mark 11:25; Ephesians 4:32; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9
[8] Heb. 4:15
[9] John 3:16; Romans 5:8-11; 1 Peter 3:18
[10] John 16:33; Rom. 8:37; 2 Cor. 2:14; 4:7-18

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