The Lord Teaches About Prayer
This passage begins with Jesus praying. This was common for him. Luke has already shown us six times Jesus prayed. This time the disciples were watching and listening. Evidently, the disciples were not know for their prayer lives at this point. Back in Luke 5:33, a Pharisee criticized them, saying “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink”.
One of the reasons the disciples did not pray often was that Jesus, the Son of God, was with them 24 hours every day and they talked to him all the time. He explained that to the Pharisee in Luke 5.
At least one of the disciples wanted more, though. He asked Jesus to teach them to pray as John taught his disciples. (1) The Pharisees disciples prayed Old Covenant prayers. John disciples likely learned Old Covenant prayers slanting toward the coming of the Messiah. This disciple wanted a prayer that was for Jesus’ disciples.
This prayer is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer, but you could call it the Disciples’ Prayer. It is a prayer the congregation of believers can pray and pray together in community. It may also be prayed individually.
Another term used today for this prayer is The Model Prayer. The person teaching this will usually say something like this: this prayer is not meant to be recited as a chant, but is a model of how we pray. The version in Matthew does indeed record Jesus saying “pray then like this”. (Matthew 6:9) Luke writes that Jesus said “when you pray, say…”. (2)
They prayer is a good model, but it is more than that. It is a prayer Jesus gave to his followers. We should not chant it without thinking. That is true. But we can pray this prayer together. Notice the prayer uses the word “us”, not “I”. That is another evidence of this being a corporate prayer.
The first thing we see here is that Jesus says to address God as Father. Jesus is thought to have taught in Aramaic, the common language of the area. In Aramaic, the word for Father is “Abba”. In Greek, it is “Pater”. It is a term that acknowledges a loving, caring relationship between disciples and God. The Old Testament prayers do not usually address God as Father. This is, therefore, a significant change in prayer as the disciples had known it.
Jesus addressed God as Father, except once on the cross while he bore our sin. (There he said “my God.) Jesus tells us to pray the same way, as God’s children. John 1:12 tells us that when we receive Christ, and believe on his name, he gives us the right to be called the children of God.
It is not a term of irreverence, however. Adults, as well as children, used the term referring to their fathers. God is still God, though he has allowed us great privilege in our relationship to him in Christ.
Reverence is shown by the next phrase, “hallowed be your name”. (2) In the Bible, the name of God refers to all that he is. It is not that God’s name is a magic word. It represents him. For example, when David said “we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7), he did not mean he trusted that name as a word, but he trusted God.
This is a request that God and God’s name be held in reverence and honored. That is is because God is holy. I don’t know about you, but I am often grieved to hear people use the name of the Lord without reverence. In American, even Christian people can be heard to say “oh my God”, not as a prayer, but as an exclamation of surprise or excitement. Any use of God’s name outside of reverence is, as the Commandments would say, in vain. And so we pray that God’s name would be held in high esteem all over the earth.
The second petition is “your kingdom come”. This can have two parts. First, we pray that the kingdom of God will be spread all over the earth by the preaching of the gospel. Each new believer is a citizen of God’s kingdom. Second, it is to pray for the consummation of the age that results in the visible rule of God. This is what John prayed at the end of the book of Revelation, when he said “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
The third petition turns to our needs. We pray “give us this day our daily bread”. (3) Even though most of us do not count on bread to be the major source of our nourishment, we pray for God to provide for all of our needs. Notice the use of “us”. When we pray this corporately, we not only ask God to provide for us individually, but for the needs of the whole congregation.
We show our trust in him by asking for provision for each day as it comes, not for enough to never want again.The example of this was shown in the wilderness when God provided manna every day and commanded the Israelites to only gather for one day except Friday, when they could gather for that day and the Sabbath. (Exodus 16)
The next petition is for forgiveness of sins. (4) This is not a prayer for salvation. Remember, this prayer is given to believing disciples. Rather it is a relational prayer. We confess our sins and ask for forgiveness daily to keep our close relationship with God. Sin always distances us from God.
1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” You may have heard someone says the Christian life is a life of repentance. This means that we constantly confess our sins to God, repent of them, and ask for forgiveness to stay in fellowship with him.
This petition is different than the others in that it is tied to something we must do. Verse 4 says “for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us”. This sounds like a condition to forgiveness. But, it is more of a fact statement. We forgive who sin against us as people who are forgiven for sinning against God. “Indebted to us” here is a synonym for “sinned against us”. God granted us mercy; we extend mercy to others.
Forgiving others is difficult. I have struggled with it many times. But Jesus said to do it, so I will leave you with that. If you want to obey him, you must forgive. If you want to demonstrate his mercy to sinners, demonstrate mercy to sinners.
Finally, the prayer in Luke’s version asks that the Father not lead us into temptation. What does this mean?
James gave us very clear instruction on this issue. He wrote:
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:12-15)
So, if God does not tempt us to sin, what does the petition “lead us not into temptation” mean? It is a request for mercy. For, although God does not tempt us to sin, he certainly allows us to encounter difficult times that could cause us to sin. This prayer is asking God to mercifully help us to avoid those tests and to help us through them when we must go through them.
Jesus himself asked the Father if he could avoid the cross. He prayed “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”. (Matthew 26:39) Yet, he did not sin, for he also prayed “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will”.
We also know from scripture that God is always faithful to provide a way of escape from sin. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Look back on the times you have fallen and you will see there was a chance to avoid it, a way of escape. You just did not take it because you succumbed to the temptation.
Many churches start their service with a prayer of repentance or a prayer for forgiveness. The congregation prays that prayer together, out loud. It is a corporate prayer.
This prayer first addresses God’s holiness and sovereignty. It then addresses our needs. That is a good way to pray, whether you pray this prayer or use it as a mode.