By Johnny Stringer
What is usually called the Lord’s prayer is really not. Jesus was not offering it as His prayer to God. Rather, He was teaching His disciples how to pray, giving an example of what a prayer should be like – a model to guide us in our prayers.
Nor were His words in this model prayer intended to be recited by memory in the stead of our own prayers. We are to express to God our own concerns and feelings.
“Our Father Which Art in Heaven”
In addressing God as our Father, we are expressing our confidence that He will listen as a loving, caring father. We are not carrying our concerns to a cold, detached being who would rather not be bothered (see Matt. 7:7-11).
We fail to fully appreciate what a marvelous privilege it is to come before the Almighty Creator of this universe and all things therein, and address Him as our Father. Men consider it an honor to be the son of some man who is great in this world, but that does not compare with the honor of being a son of the One Who created this world.
Surely, we do not deserve this privilege. Our sins against Him make us deserving of His wrath. Nevertheless, He has lovingly taken us into His family and lavished upon us the blessings given His children. With John, we should marvel at such love (1 John 3:1).
To approach God in prayer is more wonderful than approaching our earthly fathers, for He is our Father “which art in heaven.” This exalted position should cause us to approach Him with the greatest awe and reverence, and with full confidence in His ability to respond to our prayers in whatever ways He sees best.
“Hallowed Be Thy Name”
We should desire that God’s name be hallowed; that is, regarded as holy, reverenced, held in the highest esteem. It is significant that before mentioning personal needs, this model prayer expresses the desire that God’s name be given the respect it is due.
It would be inconsistent to express in our prayers the desire that God’s name be reverenced, yet speak of God in ways that are irreverent. It is profanity to speak of the heavenly Father as “the man upstairs,” for it puts God on man’s level. And those who reverence the name of God cringe when they hear someone say “Oh my God” in a light, irreverent way. God’s name is holy and it should not be used except with supreme reverence.
“Thy Kingdom Come”
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray for the kingdom to come, the Jewish people had been waiting for hundreds of years for their Messiah to come and establish a great kingdom in fulfillment of divine prophecy. Now the time had come for those prophecies to be fulfilled. The long awaited kingdom was soon to be established (Matt. 3:1-2; 4:17; Mk. 1:14-15; 9:1).
No doubt the disciples of the Lord did pray for His kingdom to come, and their prayer was answered; His kingdom came. On the first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, Peter announced that Jesus had been raised to sit on the throne in fulfillment of prophecy (Acts 2:29-36). Paul said that he and the Colossians were in the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13). The exalted place of rule which Jesus occupies is repeatedly affirmed in the New Testament (Eph. 1:19-23; Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Pet. 3:22).
Since the kingdom has come, why do multitudes continue to pray for it to come? This is what people do when they recite this model prayer, making it their prayer to God. It is unscriptural to pray for the kingdom to come, because the Scriptures teach that the kingdom has already come.
The problem is, men do not know enough about the Scriptures to know that the kingdom has already come. Many do not think it has come, because they think of it as an earthly, political kingdom, and it is clear that God has no such kingdom now.
The fact is, however, that our Lord’s kingdom is not a kingdom of that kind. It is spiritual in nature. Jesus explained to Pilate that His kingdom is not an earthly, political kingdom such as would be established and sustained through physical fighting; rather, it is a kingdom based on truth (John 18:36-37). The kingdom exists as Jesus rules through the truth (His law) in the hearts of men. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Lk. 17:21). Jesus rules within men’s hearts through the truth. Those who submit to His rule are citizens of His kingdom (Col. 1:13).
If the kingdom has not come, Jesus was a false prophet; for on one occasion He predicted that it would come before the death of some who were in the audience to whom He spoke (Mk. 9: 1). Yet some are still praying for it to come.
While it is not scriptural to pray for the kingdom to come, it is certainly right to pray for the kingdom’s growth and well being. We are to pray to God about the things that concern us, and we should be deeply concerned us, and we should be deeply concerned about the growth and well-being of God’s kingdom. We should pray for the gospel to spread, for preachers and teachers of the gospel, for elders, for purity among God’s people, and for unity and harmony among brethren.
Consider how inconsistent it is, however, to pray for God’s kingdom, yet fail to do what we can to promote its wellbeing and growth. In such cases, our words say we care but our actions say we don’t.
More to come on the model prayer.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 23, pp. 723, 728
December 4, 1986