Millions repeat this prayer daily. But did Christ intend it to be repeated word for word? What is the real meaning and purpose of this prayer? Here are the answers from your own Bible!
DEVOUT parents teach their children from infancy to repeat the "Lord's prayer." Certain religions require their converts to repeat it. In times of distress and turmoil many people turn to this prayer, since they know no other. Multitudes consider this prayer as a sort of good luck prayer and superstitiously look to the words as having some special magical powers. At the other extreme are people who avoid repeating this prayer like the plague, seeming to think that the repeating of these words is "following the way of the heathen." It is time we find from the Bible just what Christ meant by this prayer, and come to understand His instructions about it. This prayer contains Christ's instructions about how we should pray, where we should pray, how often, and WHAT we should pray about.
Three Vital Points
One account of this prayer is recorded in Matthew 6:5-15. Before Jesus gave the words of this prayer he made three vital points clear. First, when we pray we are instructed not to do our praying on the street corners or in public places to be seen by men. "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward" (Matt. 6:5). That is the way hypocrites pray. They want others to see them and hear them when they pray. They like the approbation of men. Have you noticed people making this same mistake today? They try to appear religious and spiritual before others. In reality they are lacking true religion and true spirituality. They have a "form of godliness" (II Tim. 3:5) but deny God's power by their works (Tit. 1:16), and are disobedient to God's plain instructions. We find that Jesus did occasionally pray in public, but it was not on the street corners, nor on the street (Matt. 12:19). When He did pray in public His prayers were very short and for such things as asking God's blessing on the food. Such short prayers, if not said to be seen of men, or for the sake of vanity, do not violate Christ's own instructions of Matthew 6:5. The second point that Christ made concerns where we are to do our praying. "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matt. 6:6). His instructions are plain and clear. And yet, people take this plain and simple instruction and try to make it mean exactly opposite! This teaching shows that we should do our personal praying in private. In the privacy of our inner closet or room, without others present. IF we follow this instruction, Christ promised that when our Father in heaven sees us praying in secret, He will reward us openly! If you expect God to hear your prayers you must follow this simple and clear instruction! The third point that Jesus made clear was that our prayers are not to be "vain repetition as the heathen do" (Matthew 6:7). The "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayers, the "Hail Mary's," certainly violate this clear teaching of our Savior! And, more important, this command of the Living Christ prohibits the daily, or frequent repetition of this very prayer, word for word, as given by Christ! When Luke records this same prayer-example he uses different words. Read it in Luke 11:1-4. Even Jesus did not repeat this prayer word for word! He obeyed His own instructions! Nowhere in scripture will you find that Christ repeated these words exactly again. When Jesus did pray (and there are many other accounts of His prayers) He used different words. We should understand one important point here. In reality this is NOT the "LORD'S PRAYER"! He did not pray this prayer at all. It was given to be an example for the disciples. There is one prayer recorded in the Bible which is correctly called the Lord's Prayer. It is the prayer recorded in John 17. In that long heart-rending prayer, Jesus nowhere repeated His words of Matt. 6:9-13. The vital question, as to whether or not we should repeat this prayer frequently, has already been answered by Christ. It is answered before we even read the prayer! Do you believe that Christ said what He meant and meant what He said? Then you generally should not repeat this prayer word for word. Christ instructed that we should not use vain repetitions. This means useless, purposeless repetitions. Occasionally using these words in heart-felt and meaningful prayer does not mean it is vainly repeated.
Here Is a Prayer Outline!
Another important key to understanding this prayer is explained clearly in Matt. 6:9. Notice: "After this MANNER therefore pray ye." He did not say to repeat His words verbatim. He said this is the manner, or outline for your prayers. Pray about these THINGS! He said, "Pray thus," not "Pray this." Christ forbids us to parrot these words. Christ wants us to pray from the heart. To pray with intensity, feeling, purpose, and sincerity, and not just to repeat words. It should enrich your prayer life. You can learn how to pray a COMPLETE PRAYER and be closer to your Creator each day in private, personal, heart-felt, intense and fervent prayer.
To Whom Should We Pray?
Some people claim that we should pray to Jesus only. Jesus taught us to pray to the Father by saying, "Our Father which art in heaven" (verse 9). Jesus always addressed the Father. He set us an example to follow! The New Testament Church followed Christ's instruction. "And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to GOD with one accord, and said, LORD, thou art God, which has made heaven, and earth, and the sea and all that in them is" (Acts 4:24). Since Jesus made all things some people jump to the conclusion that this prayer is addressed to Him, but Paul wrote to the Ephesians that "God... created all things by Jesus Christ" (Eph. 3:9). Continuing in Acts 4:26, "The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. For of a truth against THY holy child (Greek: servant) Jesus..." This makes it plain that the prayer was directed to the FATHER, just as Christ instructed His disciples! In addressing our prayer to the Father we are recognizing the source of all things! God the Father is the source of life and all our needs. Just as the physical father provides for his children, so does God the Father supply our needs as His begotten sons. This father-son relationship is very personal. Such a private and intimate relationship is much closer and should be more real than the physical relationship we have with our own fathers or our sons of the flesh. This close relationship is stressed by Paul when he mentioned that we may cry out "Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:14-18). The word "Abba" means father, showing that the meaning of the intimate relationship of father and son is doubly emphasized in our relationship with God. That relationship can be very wonderful to those who are truly the begotten sons of God! Realize that when you address the Father in your own personal private prayer that you have a personal audience with the ruler of the universe. People value very highly a private audience with one of this world's rulers. Think how much greater is the privilege for us to go daily to the throne room of the universe and talk with the ruler over all! Should we have reason to be exalted or puffed up because of this personal relationship? The very first word of the prayer should answer that question. It is "OUR Father." We skipped over that rather quickly to stress first to whom we should address our prayer. By addressing Him as our Father we acknowledge that there are others who have this same intimate and personal relationship with God. In fact, all those who have repented of their sins, have been forgiven, have received God's Holy Spirit and are growing in the character of God have this same relationship. This means that multiple thousands of people throughout the world are acknowledged when we address God as our Father. Remember this important point! We are not the only ones who have need of God's daily help. The very next words that Christ gave are also most important. "Our Father which ART IN HEAVEN." By this statement we should recognize where God is. He is in Heaven, the Capital of the universe. Here is where the whole universe is governed. Here ALL THINGS are controlled by the word of His power, by His Holy Spirit and through physical and spiritual laws. It is here that God's throne is located, with Jesus Christ seated at His right hand. In addition to Jesus there are twenty-four elders seated in thrones round about. The Cherubim and Seraphim, the living creatures, multitudes of Holy angels are also present. Here also is the heavenly temple of God, and the Holy City, New Jerusalem. With such magnificence which is beyond human imagination, we are still able, through the name of JESUS CHRIST, to approach daily unto God. This marvelous place is described in several places in your Bible including Revelation, chapters 1, 4 and 21. Addressing our prayer to heaven and realizing what this really means should make us very humble, very thankful and grateful. It should help us to ask ourselves as Paul did, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him?" (Heb. 2:6) Right after addressing the Father in our prayer is an appropriate time to give our thanks to God for hearing our prayer and for blessing us with so many spiritual and physical blessings. We must realize some of these important points so that we might have a proper attitude toward God, as we address Him in prayer.
The Seven Petitions
There are SEVEN different requests or petitions listed in Christ's prayer outline. Seven is the number of completeness and since these are Christ's instructions concerning what we are to pray about, it should be obvious that this is a COMPLETE PRAYER outline. It includes all major points that we should include in a complete prayer. God puts important things first, so notice what He puts first. Notice the order of this prayer.
1) Hallowed Be Thy Name
God's name is holy above all names. Why then should we pray that His name might be hallowed? People in the world do not hallow or hold sacred the many names of God mentioned in your Bible. They desecrate His name, they take it in vain! Our prayer should be that all men might come to hallow God's name. If all men were properly hallowing God's names then they would all be converted! This world would be a wonderful, happy and joyous place in which to live. Everyone would be obedient to God and peace would cover the earth. This is the most important thing to pray about, so Jesus put it first. Can't we pray with fervor and ask God to cause all men to finally come to real repentance so that they will hallow God's name? Can't we pray that our friends, relatives, and loved ones will also come to hallow God's name? We should also pray that we personally might hallow God's name as we should and that we might truly reverence and respect His Holy Names! We should also pray that all the people of God might hallow God's name. By hallowing God's name we will not bring reproach on Him, on Jesus Christ, or on His Church.
2) Thy Kingdom Come!
Today the governments and kingdoms of this world are run according to the ways of Satan and not according to God's laws. God is permitting mankind to have his own way during this 6,000-year period. Man has chosen to rule himself contrary to God's ways and has chosen Satan's ways instead. He has rejected the Government and the Law of God. He has rejected the Gospel of the Kingdom of God that is soon to rule the whole earth with a rod of iron! Today, as a result of man's disobedience, the world is in chaos. On every side are wars and rumors of wars. Crime and corruption, juvenile and parental delinquency are very great problems for our time, and are bringing trouble of an increasing magnitude. Sickness is increasing. Unhappiness and trouble of every kind are snowballing to the end of this age. The land, the sea and even the air is becoming terribly polluted as a result of the waste, greed, and lack of planning by the world's inhabitants. Even nature is crying out for deliverance. The animals are becoming increasingly diseased or rabid. Even the plaintive cry of the animals calls out for deliverance. All of these things along with the trembling of the earth in convulsions and earthquakes should remind us of Paul's statement, "that the whole creation groaneth in pain together until now," looking forward to the revealing of the sons of God. In other words, these things should remind us of the resurrection and soon coming of God's Kingdom to this earth. All this rebellion against God is going to cease soon. Jesus Christ will soon return literally to this earth and will set up the government, kingdom and ruler-ship of God. Rebellious people will be put down, righteousness and equity will prevail. All people will then know God and will be filled with the knowledge of God and His ways. There will be no more religious confusion and division but there will be one true religion. Even nature will work for man instead of against man as it is doing today. When we see all this trouble in the world and also read of the wonderful world tomorrow when all this will be changed, we should be able to also cry out with every fiber of our being, "THY KINGDOM COME!" God speed that day of happiness! Before that Kingdom can come, Jesus said that the advance news of its coming must be proclaimed as a witness to all nations (Matt. 24:14). Here is a wonderful opportunity to pray for the broadcasting and publishing of this really GOOD NEWS to the world in ever increasing power and authority. After this news is given sufficiently as a witness then Christ will come and not until then.
3) Thy Will Be Done
God's will is done in heaven. His commands are instantly and completely obeyed. Are they obeyed in this manner in your life and in those you know? Are the people of the world acting according to the will of God? Of course not! Here is your opportunity to pray fervently that the will of God shall be done in our own personal lives for this day. We can pray for His will to be done in the lives of all His saints, brethren in Christ throughout the world. Pray that His will might be done with the nations of the world. Pray that God's will shall be done for those who need guidance and strength. Here is the occasion to pray that we will be a proper example and light to our employers, to our friends, relatives and acquaintances. We should want God's will to be done in carrying out His work on this earth. The broadcast and the publishing of literature need to expand so that more people will hear this end-time warning to the world. God's will must be done in His true Church and the people in that Church. There is so much to pray about that concerns God's will on this earth. Let's pray that God's will shall be done in all these and all other things.
4) Give Us Our Daily Bread
This fourth request or petition is the first one where we ask for our personal needs! Jesus put the big things, the spiritual and important things concerning God, FIRST! Just as in the Ten Commandments, where our relationship to God is mentioned in the first four commands, so in this case the spiritual things are listed first. The fact that this concerns our daily bread, or as Luke states, "day by day" (Luke 11:3), implies that this is a daily PRAYER. Jesus did not say that we are to ask for tomorrow's bread. God supplies us our needs oftentimes on a day-to-day basis and not for a long time in the future. This ought to show us that we should not expect more than what is required for today. If God gives us provisions for a longer time we should be very thankful and grateful. At this time all our physical needs for the day such as shelter, food, clothing and other needs may be mentioned. God knows of these needs even before we ask. However, He has not said that He will automatically supply what we do not ask for. James tells us that some people do not receive things because they do not ask for them, and then sometimes when they do ask for things they do so for reasons of lust and greed (James 4:2-3). We should ask for our real needs, and not just what we would like to have. An important point that we should not overlook is that this request concerns OUR, not my daily bread. Ask God to supply the physical needs of all His begotten children. There is usually always someone, somewhere, who is following God's ways who has need. We may not know the person ourselves, but we can pray for those people whether we know them or not. Jesus also said: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). Pray that God will supply the spiritual food that you and all His children need for this day.
5) Forgive Us Our Debts
This fifth request is to "forgive us our SINS" (compare Luke 11:4). If we have sinned, we have incurred a great debt to God. Here is the first opportunity to ask God to forgive our sins that may have been committed since we last asked for His forgiveness. Remember, to ask that OUR, not my, sins might be forgiven. Learn to be concerned for others, to have proper love and compassion for them. Otherwise God will have no mercy or consideration toward us. This principle is brought out in the very next statement which says "as we forgive our debtors." Only if we forgive those who may sin against us, will God forgive us of our sins against Him. If someone sins against us, it is a very small matter compared with the enormity of the sins we commit against God, since the penalty of sin is death. Therefore, we ought to have a completely forgiving attitude toward someone who sins against us and who then asks that forgiveness.
6) Lead Us Not Into Temptation
This request is one of the hardest for most people to understand. The scriptures state that God does not tempt any man (James 1:13). That would seem to contradict this statement of Jesus in Matt. 6:13. How can we reconcile these texts? The word translated from the Greek into the English word temptation in Matthew 6:13 is the same word used in Matthew 26:41, and again in Revelation 3:10. The word is sometimes translated TRIAL in various versions. It means simply sore trial. We are to pray that we will not enter into sore trial. The time of trouble to come is mentioned in Revelation 3:10 as a time of sore trial that will come on the whole earth. Those who have part in God's end-time work are described as the Philadelphia Church in Rev. 3. They are promised protection from this terrible time of trial. The final Laodicean Church is not promised that same protection. All of God's servants are going to have trial and tribulation. It is through much tribulation that we must enter into God's kingdom. All of these things happen for our good to train and teach us vital spiritual lessons. God teaches us many things in various ways. When we do not learn these lessons as we should, when we are unresilient and not pliable in the hands of the Almighty Creator, He must take more drastic action. That drastic action may be to lead us into a situation where we are sorely tried in severe trial. We need training, chastening, molding and fashioning. We must ask God for this chastening, for this training, and we should ask for it DAILY. However, let us also ask God that we will LEARN the necessary lessons NOW so that He will not find it imperative to lead us into sore trial either now, or during the terrible period of severe trial immediately prior to Christ's return. One important way to escape such sore trial is to pray daily, and earnestly, so that we will be spiritually strong and learn these important lessons.
7) Deliver Us from Evil
This is the seventh and last request. Evil and trouble of every kind are all around us, and yet this is referring primarily to an even greater evil. In the Greek text the word here means evil one. The meaning is to ask for God's protection against Satan, and from his demons. Occasionally a person will become fearful and in terror of unclean spirits. We need to understand their power and influence, be able to recognize their work, but we should never fear them. We are to fear GOD! If we resist Satan then he will flee from us; therefore, there is nothing to fear (James 4:7). Your main prayer should not be for God's protection as this is selfish. Remember, this prayer is not for you only but for all of God's people. You are to pray, deliver us, not deliver me from evil. Ask God's protection for all His people, for His ministers and others who may be in danger or who must travel a great deal in God's service.
"For Thine Is The Kingdom..."
At the beginning of our prayer we acknowledge God and address our prayer to Him. This reminds us of His greatness and love as well as His many blessings to us. Then we may in great detail ask the seven separate petitions. Then, as a conclusion, we again acknowledge the great power and rulership of the Almighty Creator. This conclusion should remind us that God is concerned for us and He has the power to ACT in our behalf. Some critics want to leave out this conclusion, but it is a part of the INSPIRED SCRIPTURE. It is those who don't want to acknowledge God's Kingdom who want to leave it out. God is the ruler of His Kingdom. He has the POWER and the GLORY. Not just for the present but FOREVER! We must realize and believe this! All of these requests should be made in Jesus' name (John 14:13), or by His authority, as He instructed us to do. Finally, we may affirm that what we have prayed is so, and that we really mean it by concluding with AMEN. Amen simply means "be it so." Now you should have more than enough things to pray about each day. You should have many important things to pray about that you were neglecting before. Now your prayers can be complete without becoming vain repetition. In addition to this complete prayer you should be in a constant attitude of prayer to God at all times. When problems arise you will have instant access to God in fervent and sincere prayer. God will hear and answer! There may be many other questions you have about prayers. Prayer is a very important and large subject. If you wish further information write today for our free article, "The Answer to Unanswered Prayer."