The Rainbow of Prayer
The Dynamic Activities of the Lord’s Prayer
“Pray then like this…”
Text: Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11: 2-4
Praying the Lord’s Prayer is approaching God in a direct and intimate way; adoring the Creator and the Almighty; acknowledging His work and worth in praise and worship; accepting from God’s one’s own situation as He has shaped it; admitting sin and seeking pardon; asking that needs be met, for ourselves and others; and adhering to God in faithfulness through thick and thin.
I. The Format of the Lord’s Prayer
|The Lord's Prayer is the model of prayer that Jesus taught us, as recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. It is presented here in traditional and modern language:|
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be 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 trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. for ever and ever. Amen
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory.
Now and for ever. Amen
We always assume that the doxology is part of the Lord’s Prayer. However reading Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11: 2-4 shows otherwise.
MT 6:9 "This, then, is how you should pray:
" `Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
MT 6:10 your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
MT 6:11 Give us today our daily bread.
MT 6:12 Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
MT 6:13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. '
LK 11:2 He said to them, "When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
LK 11:3 Give us each day our daily bread.
LK 11:4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation. ' "
Sermon on the mountain
Sermon on the plains
The Righteousness of God supersede our behaviour
The Grace of God to save
“how you should pray” in the Sermon on the Mount
“when you pray” in response to the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray
In some ancient and many later MSS of Mt. 6:13 a doxology follows. In the AV it reads, ‘For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.’ Although the most authoritative MSS do not have the doxology, it has been used in the Christian church from the earliest times (cf. the Didache and the Western Text [Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996). New Bible dictionary (3rd ed.) (696). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.]
II. Comments about the Lord’s Prayer
- the Lord’s Prayer is Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God summarized in prayer form. Tertullian called it the ‘epitome of the whole Gospel’ (breviarium totius evangelii) and St Augustine the source of all other prayers. [Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (2005). The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev.) (1001). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.]
- It should be noted that our Lord (when teaching his disciples this prayer) did not say, ‘we must pray’ but ‘you pray’. The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer which he taught, not one which he used. He does not appear ever to have used the expression ‘Our Father’ in such a way as to include his disciples with himself [Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996). New Bible dictionary (3rd ed.) (696). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.]
- It is in a plural form rather than individual. The first person singular pronoun is not used anywhere in the prayer. We say, “Our Father, … give us … .” This prayer is meant for a community. It may profitably be used by an individual, but it is not meant as an aid to private devotion. It is a prayer to be said by God’s people; it is the prayer of the Christian family.
- The Lord’s Prayer seems to be Jesus’ synopsis of various Jewish prayers of the time. The first two sentences: “Hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come,” echo the language of the Jewish prayer, the Kaddish. It begins: “Magnified and hallowed be his great name in the world … And may He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and in your days … quickly and soon.” The third, “Your will be done,” is similar to a prayer of Rabbi Eliezer (about A.D. 100): “Do Thy will in heaven above and give peace to those who fear Thee below” (Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth). The petitions in the Lord’s prayer also echo ancient Jewish prayers.
- The first, “Give us our bread,” is akin to the first benediction of grace at mealtime. “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who feedest the whole world with thy goodness …; thou givest food to all flesh.… Through thy goodness food hath never failed us: O may it not fail us for ever and ever.”
- The second, “Forgive us,” echoes the Eighteen Benedictions, 6: “Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned against thee; blot out our transgressions from before thine eyes. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who forgivest much.” The accompanying phrase, “as we also have forgiven,” reflects the Jewish teaching found in Sirach 28:2: “Forgive the wrong of your neighbor, and then your sins will be forgiven when you pray.”
- The third petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” is similar to a petition in the Jewish Morning and Evening Prayers. “Cause me to go not into the hands of sin, and not into the hands of transgression, and not into the hands of temptation, and “not into the hand of dishonor.”
- The final words, “Hallowed be thy name,” “Thy kingdom come,” and “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” constitute a prayer for the final victory of God over the devil, sin, and death. It is possible that they were also understood by the early Christians to be a petition for God’s rule in their lives in the here and now. [Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (Rev. ed.].) (414–415). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.]
- There are two components in the Prayer. One is directed towards God, and the other is directed towards ourselves and others.
- The ‘thou’ petitions of the Lord’s Prayer focus on God and implore God to act so as to achieve his purposes in the world. The first petition (hallowing God’s name) is further explicated by the second (coming of God’s Kingdom) and the third, found only in Matthew (doing God’s will). God’s ‘name’ is synonymous with God himself; the first petition invokes God to make his holiness manifest to the world by ushering in the final day of salvation. To concretize this, the disciples pray, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ and, ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ Here, God is called upon, as part and parcel of his holiness, to establish his kingly Rule in splendor over all nations and (in Matthew) to exercise his will here on earth with as much freedom from opposition as he presently exercises it in the sphere of his heavenly abode.
- The ‘we’ petitions focus on the physical and spiritual needs of the disciples. The petition for bread is a request for the necessities of life. Traditionally translated (in Matthew), ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ it is more accurately rendered, ‘Give us today our bread for the morrow.’ At the basis of this petition is the notion that the disciples pray for the necessities of life that they require ‘today’ in view of the fact that ‘tomorrow’ God’s splendid Kingdom will come. The petition for the forgiveness of debts, or sins, is an appeal that God, as Father of the disciples, will graciously forgive them their sins and so enable them to forgive one another. The final petition in Luke (not being led into temptation), which is supplemented in Matthew by the petition for deliverance from evil, is a plea that God so guide the disciples through life that their relationship to him as Father may never come into jeopardy and that they may be preserved from Satanic evil of every kind. [Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row, P., & Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). Harper's Bible dictionary (1st ed.) (576). San Francisco: Harper & Row.]
- In its original form, the Lord’s Prayer probably comes from the earthly Jesus himself. One indication of this is that the version in Luke essentially reappears in Matthew. Another is the Jewish and Aramaic character of the prayer.
- the Lord’s Prayer parallels in important respects the Kaddish and the Eighteen Benedictions—Jewish prayers apparently in use, in their oldest forms, in the synagogue worship of Jesus’ time
- behind the Greek word for ‘Father’ is the Aramaic abba. Jesus himself apparently addressed God as abba (cf. Mark 14:36), thus establishing a custom that was continued even by Greek-speaking Christians (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15).
- behind the Greek for ‘debts’ and ‘sins’ is choba. Choba means ‘debt’ or, in a religious context, ‘sin’ or ‘guilt’; thus, in Aramaic, forgiveness of ‘debts’ (Matt. 6:12) is the same as forgiveness of ‘sins’ (Luke 11:4). [Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row, P., & Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). Harper's Bible dictionary (1st ed.) (575). San Francisco: Harper & Row.]
III. The Seven Dynamic Activities in the Lord’s Prayer
Jesus meant the Lord’s Prayer to be a template or pattern of all types of prayers. Hence we can learn much from this prayer. J.I.Packer, a well known theologian identifies seven distinctive activities in the prayer.
“As analysis of light requires reference to the seven colors of the spectrum that make it up, so analysis of the Lord’s Prayer requires reference to a spectrum of seven distinct activities: approaching God in adoration and trust; acknowledging his work and his worth, in praise and worship; admitting sin, and seeking pardon; asking that needs be met, for ourselves and others; arguing with God for blessing, as wrestling Jacob did in Genesis 32 (God loves to be argued with); accepting from God one’s own situation as he has shaped it; and adhering to God in faithfulness through thick and thin. These seven activities together constitute biblical prayer, and the Lord’s Prayer embodies them all.” [Packer, J. I. (1996). Growing in Christ (157). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.]
J.I. Packer has suggested seven activities. However I would like to modify them and suggest these distinctive dynamic activities as the seven As of the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, (Matt.6:9b; Lk.11:2b)
God in a direct and intimate way
hallowed be your name. (Matt.6:9c)
Creator and Almighty
Your Kingdom come, (Matt. 6:10a; Lk.11:2c)
his work and his worth, in praise and worship
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven (Matt. 6:10b)
from God one’s own situation as he has shaped it
Give us today our daily bread. (Matt 611; Lk. 11:3)
that needs be met, for ourselves and others
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us. (Matt. 6:12; Lk.11:4a)
sin, and seeking pardon
Lead us not into temptation, (Matt. 6:13a; Lk. 11:4b)
but deliver us from evil. (Matt. 6:13b)
to God in faithfulness through thick and thin
- Approaching God in a direct and intimate way
Some hold that the prayer should be understood in the spirit of Ezekiel 36:23: “I will honor my great name that you defiled, and the people of the world shall know I am the Lord.” In this view God himself is asked to ensure that his name is honored. But it seems more likely that we have here a prayer that men will come to have a proper reverence for God. A change in the attitude of sinners is in mind, rather than an action of God.
- Adoring of the Creator and Almighty
- Acknowledging his work and his worth, in praise and worship
- Accepting from God one’s own situation as he has shaped it
- Admitting sin, and seeking pardon
The petition about forgiveness differs slightly in the two accounts. In Matthew it is “Forgive us our debts,” while Luke has “Forgive us our sins.” Without question it is the forgiveness of sins that is in mind, but the Matthean form sees sin as an indebtedness. We owe it to God to live uprightly. He has provided all we need to do this. So when we sin, we become debtors. The sinner has failed to fulfill his obligations, what he “owes.” Matthew goes on to say, “as we also have forgiven our debtors,” and Luke, “for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.” The tense in Matthew indicates that the person praying is not only ready to forgive but has already forgiven those who have sinned against him; in Luke, that he habitually forgives. Further, he does so in the case of every debtor
- Asking that needs be met, for ourselves and others
The traditional understanding, “daily,” seems most probable. But however we translate it, the prayer is for the simple and present necessities of life. Jesus is counseling his followers to pray for necessities, not luxuries, and for what is needed now, not a great store for many days to come. By confining the petition to present needs Jesus teaches a day-by-day dependence on God.
- Adhering to God in faithfulness through thick and thin
IV. Lessons for us
- Prayer depends on a relationship with God
We need to have a knowledge and attitude about God if we are to pray to Him. If we do not believe that He exists or that He is not good, why should we pray to Him? If we do not believe that He listens and answers, why bother to pray?
Prayer develops out of intimacy with God. As Teresa of Avila has shown us in her book, The Interior Castle, each level of intimacy with God brings on a deeper intimacy of prayer.
“Say …” Did Jesus just intend that they should repeat the words, parrot fashion? No; but that they should enter into the sense. “Say,” we might say, means “mean!” This prayer is a pattern for all Christian praying; Jesus is teaching that prayer will be acceptable when, and only when, the attitudes, thoughts, and desires expressed fit the pattern. That is to say: every prayer of ours should be a praying of the Lord’s Prayer in some shape or form.
[Packer, J. I. (1996). Growing in Christ (156). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.]
- Prayer is a ‘natural’ action
Prayer should be as natural to us as breathing. Every breath we take brings in life saving oxygen into our bodies. Our bodies need oxygen if we are to survive. We not need to think about breathing because it is so natural to us. Prayer should be like breathing. It should be so natural to us that we do not even think about praying. We just do it.
J.I. Packer again comments:
“It is not too much to say that God made us to pray; that prayer is (not the easiest, but) the most natural activity in which we ever engage; and that prayer is the measure of us all in God’s sight.” [Packer, J. I. (1996). Growing in Christ (156). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.]
- The Lord’s Prayer is a useful template for our prayer life
There will not be much development in our prayer life unless we understand the Lord’s Prayer. Until we understand each lines of the prayer, we will not be able to make progress. J.I.Packer urges:
“So the Lord’s Prayer should be put to service to direct and spur on our praying constantly. To pray in terms of it is the sure way to keep our prayers within God’s will; to pray through it, expanding the clauses as you go along, is the sure way to prime the pump when prayer dries up and you find yourself stuck. We never get beyond this prayer; not only is it the Lord’s first lesson in praying, it is all the other lessons too. Lord, teach us to pray.” [Packer, J. I. (1996). Growing in Christ (157–158). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.]
To pray the Lord’s Prayer is approaching God in a direct and intimate way, adoring the Creator and Almighty, acknowledging his work and worth in praise and worship, accepting from God’s one’s own situation as he has shaped it; admitting sin and seeking pardon, asking that needs be met, for ourselves and others, and adhering to God in faithfulness through thick and thin.
Soli Deo Gloria