By Jady W. Copeland
Prayer occupied a very important place in the life of our Lord. On one occasion, He prayed all night. On other occasions, He found a quiet spot away from the crowd and prayed. In this article we would like to look at the model prayer found in Matthew 6 and a similar prayer in Luke 11. Some have thought the model prayer was a composite of prayers, or that the two mentioned above were the same prayer. But there is no reason to think that He would not have said similar things on more than one occasion. In Matthew He taught the model prayer as a part of a discourse on hypocrisy as He condemned the Jews for doing their righteousness “to be seen of men.” In the three examples of such hypocrisy was the example of prayer, and when He condemned their prayers, He taught them how to pray. In Luke I I one of the disciples asked Him to teach them as John had taught his disciples to pray. There is no evidence that it was to be used as a liturgical prayer. In our study we will follow the fuller account, that of Matthew.
Leading Up To The Prayer
The Jews loved to pray, as they stood in the synagogues and on the street corners, “to be seen of men.” Their motives were wrong. But they had their reward from such prayers — “to be seen of men.” Vain repetitions were condemned. Not all repetitions in prayer are vain. Jesus prayed three times for much the same thing in Gethsemane. So there is a difference in the “vain repetition” of Matthew’s account and “importunity” of Luke 11:8. One is empty, meaningless words, and the other is persistent appeals to the Lord that he desires. In one there is much sound and little thought; in the other there is sincere desires of the heart expressed repeatedly to appeal to the mercy of God. If one doesn’t receive from God what he desires the first time, he needs to examine his motives and thoughts.’ Paul said “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) and these are not “vain repetitions. “
“Relationships” Implied In The Prayer
In the prayer we have eight relationships implied that are worthy of note. (1) Father-child: “Our Father.” Every man can understand the close relationship of father-child regardless of which civilization he is in. (2) God-worshiper: “Hallowed be thy name.” A man worships, praises and adores the one he worships. (3) King-subject: “Thy kingdom come.” (4) Master-servant: “Thy will be done.” (5) Suppliant-benefactor: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (6) Creditor-debtor: “Forgive us our debts . . . .” (7) Guide-follower: “Lead us not into temptation. ” (8) Redeemer-redeemed: “Deliver us from the evil one.” God stands in a peculiar and many-sided relationship to His followers. Truly He can supply our every need, and prayer helps to make us realize our dependence on Him (Phil. 4:19).
We often divide prayers into three parts: adoration, thanksgiving, and petitions. In this model prayer we see no particular reference to thanksgiving, but in a more general way we divide the model prayer into these two parts: (1) God’s glory and (2) man’s needs, both material and spiritual. In the prayer we see honor and praise to God, the conversion of man to the rule of Christ, man’s material needs and his spiritual needs, past and future. First let us notice the section dedicated to God’s glory.
God’s Glory “Our Father”:
In the Old Testament God was often said to be the father of the nation, yet passages such as Psalms 103:13 give us also the concept of the father-child relationship on an individual basis. An invocation of the Jews was often, “O Lord, God of our fathers” (Deut. 26:7; 2 Chron. 20:6). In addressing God as the Father, we give Him praise and adoration for giving us life and all the blessings a father can give a child. Jesus, in His life, gave us a fuller concept of the Father character with His love, care and protection for us as a father would his children. What a wonderful thought that, as His child (Gal. 3:27), we can approach Him in prayer and believe He will provide us with all needs. He is a divine Father without limitations in wisdom, knowledge and power. Only God’s children in Christ can expect spiritual blessings from Him.
“Hallowed Be Thy Name”:
“Hallowed”-to make holy. It means to set apart or to sanctify or make a person or thing set apart for a holy cause. It is the opposite of “common.” It shows adoration, reverence, wisdom and glory with reference to the Father. Contrast this expression with the vulgar, blasphemous way men use His name in cursings and swearings. Also contrast this with the thoughtless way men use His name (even though unintentional, perhaps) in frivolous ways with mechanical, thoughtless and common expressions which they have heard others use.
“Thy Kingdom Come”:
The kingdom (reign of Christ) had not yet begun when He taught His disciples to pray. He had not sat down at God’s right hand as king (Acts 2:29-35). God exalted Him and gave Him a name above every name to which all must one day bow in submission (Phil. 2:9). Once the sacrifice had been made, He ascended to God to rule till He put His enemies under His feet (Heb. 10:12). David prophesied of this in Psalms 110:1, and Peter affirmed it to be a fact in Acts 2:34-36, but when He gave the model prayer, it was not a fact. Often men try to adapt the prayer to us by saying “the kingdom is to come into our hearts” or that the future kingdom is to come, or even that the eternal kingdom is to come, but this is not the meaning of the statement of the Lord. The long wait for the coming of the kingdom of Christ was nearing an end, and Jesus taught the disciples to pray for its consummation.
“Thy Will Be Done, As In Heaven, So On Earth”:
This petition is tied to the former. It is tied to the great commission also. As angelic beings were subject to Him, so the prayer was for men to be as well. The purpose of Christ coming was to save men, and this was to be done through the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16). Prayer needs to be offered for men to submit to the will of Christ but disciples also must remember that since the gospel is the power of God to save, we must feel the need to teach them (2 Tim. 2:2).
The second part of the prayer concerns itself with the needs of man. Man’s material and spiritual needs are met by the Lord (Phil. 4:19).
“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”:
While some believe this to be “spiritual food,” it seems to me He desires us to pray for our material blessings. It is true that He has promised the necessities if we seek the kingdom first (Matt. 6:33), but John says, “Beloved, I pray that in all things thou mayest be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 Jn. 2). This is praying for material things. The word “pray” there is “wish” in some versions, but W.E. Vine says “to pray (to God), is used with this meaning in . . . 3 John 2, R.V.. . . ” (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, V. 3, p. 199). Disciples need not only to give thanks for material things, but to seek His blessings, thus making us realize from whence they come. Note that he did not pray for luxuries, but only for the staff of life.
“And Forgive Us Our Debts, As We Also Have Forgiven Our Debtors”:
Luke says, “sins” as we forgive those “indebted to us.” Foster makes the point that “debt is a wider term and includes both sins of commission and omission” and adds that “trespass emphasizes sins of commission” (Studies In The Life Of Christ, p. 864). Note that Jesus uses the word “trespass” in v. 14 in commenting on the prayer. Here we have an example of a disposition and attitude man must have before God will have that attitude toward us. God shows mercy if we are merciful (Jas. 2:13), and here He will forgive if we forgive our fellow man.
“And Bring Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From The Evil One”:
God allows us to be tested but not beyond our ability to resist (1 Cor. 10:13). There is no contradiction between this and James 1:13. Christ was tempted (Heb. 2:18) and the heroes of old were also (Heb. 11:37), but this doesn’t mean God desires us to sin. We are drawn by our own lust. We are allowed to dwell where temptations arise (Gal. 6:1). God tested Abraham (Gen. 22:1), but while He did not desire him to sin, He wanted to know of his faith. When Abraham stretched forth his hand to kill Isaac, God said, “. . . now I know that thou fearest God. . . ” (Gen. 22:12). Temptations come from Satan (1 Cor. 7:5; Matt. 4:1), but man’s faith is tested when he is allowed to be put in the position of being tested. Jesus said, “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). The word “one” (evil one) is not in the original, but the translators of the American Standard thought the idea was there. It is hard to tell from the original, but the thought is little changed if he speaks of Satan or simply to deliver us from evil –generally.
Many ancient manuscripts add to this prayer, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever, Amen.” While it is not in many of the better manuscripts, it is much like the beautiful expressions found in such passages as Revelation 5:13; 7:12; 11:17, and others. It is a great expression of praise and adoration that would always be in order as we lift our voices heavenward.
Truly disciples today can learn much from prayer. Included in it is a truly comprehensive concept of all that man needs-in a material way and in a spiritual way. Not only must we be forgiven of the Lord, but we must pray that we have the wisdom to avoid temptations and to be able to resist such. Too often we don’t take the way of escape that the Lord provides (1 Cor. 10:13). Too often, I am afraid we don’t give the Lord enough praise and adoration in our prayers.
Let us not fall into the habit of meaningless and empty words repeated from others’ prayers, but from our hearts pour out our thoughts to our Maker and Redeemer in fervent adoration, thanksgiving and praise; and earnestly seek His blessings from a sincere heart, thinking more of what He thinks than what brethren think.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 15, pp. 464-465, 467
August 1, 1985