“Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)
Yesterday Jesus explained some of the problems with the way that people pray. In the next few verses Jesus provides His disciples (to whom He is speaking) a model prayer. It is often referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer” but should be called “The Disciple’s Prayer” as it was meant to be prayed by Jesus’ disciples (both then and now).
Note that this prayer is not meant to be repetitiously prayed verbatim. It is simply a sample (pray then like this). We know this is a model prayer for a few of reasons.
First, essentially the same prayer (but not exactly) is given by Jesus in Luke 11 in response to His disciples asking Him how to pray, not what to pray [Luke 11:1-4]. Second, the Greek word translated “like this” is ηουτο (pronounced: hoo’-to hoo’-toce) which means “in the following manner; along these lines”.
Additionally, Jesus had just warned His disciples not to pray the same thing over and over because doing so renders words meaningless [Matthew 6:7-8]. For Him to give an exact set of words that were to be prayed frequently would be to contradict what He just said. Nevertheless, many Christian denominations, such as Catholicism, have turned these verses into a specific prayer which their congregation has memorized and recite by rote, rendering the words meaningless.
Having said that, these verses are part of Scripture and its never a bad idea to memorize and recite Scripture. But we should not allow ourselves to fall into the habit of reciting words for the sake of reciting words.
Rather than the specific words, it is the structure and purpose of the words we should focus on. We should then use our own words – whatever is in our hearts at any given time – so that we align ourselves with this purpose. Remember, up to and including this part of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is emphasizing our attitudes over our behavior – including speech. What we do/don’t do or say/don’t say isn’t as important as our motivation behind it.
As we go through this sample prayer over the next two days we’ll see that it has structure. The first half (vv 9-10) addresses God’s glory and sovereignty. The second half (vv 11-13) addresses our needs. Each of these two sections can be further broken down into three requests or desires.
As with everything in the Bible, this structure is intentional and noteworthy. It demonstrates to us that before we can make requests of God we have to put Him in His proper place in our lives. We have to believe He is who He says He is – our heavenly, omnipotent, and caring Father. Only then can we, or should we, make requests of Him.
In the end, prayer is never an attempt to manipulate or inform God. Its goal is always to create within us a reverence of and reliance upon God.
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