I’ve been in the habit for some time now of praying the Lord’s prayer first in my devotions. I know that not all people do this; many people think of it more as a general model not necessarily meant to be prayed exactly as is. Yet historically praying the Lord’s prayer has been a common and unifying part of Christian devotion, and so I do.
Anyway, my actual purpose in this post is to simply offer some thoughts on the lines of the prayer given by Christ, and so I will waste no more time and do that:
- Our Father in heaven
- God is Father. This is key to approaching Him. He has been known in many ways and by many names, but when we come into His presence we must remember that He has adopted us graciously as sons and daughters. Because we are united by faith with His only-begotten Son, we are fully and truly His children, and so we can expect Him to listen patiently and lovingly to our prayers. We can trust Him to respond with bread, no snakes or stones.
- Hallowed be Your name
- This comes first for good reason. God is the Creator, the Sustainer, and the Life-giver. The Son upholds the universe by the word of His power. For this reason alone, even if there was nothing else, God deserves His name to be known and cherished. Praying that God’s name is hallowed is essentially to pray, “Let the whole world know who You are and worship in that knowledge.” But why so important? Is God simply vain? Is He merely a selfish monarch demanding praises just because He can? By no means! Rather, God is light, love, and salvation itself. Jesus Christ is eternal life. Therefore there is absolutely nothing more conducive to human flourishing than the global hallowing of the name of God. It is for love that God wants to fill the earth with knowledge of Him, just as love compels a father to announce his presence and saving abilities when he finds his children alone and in danger.
- Your kingdom come
- There is no greater hope for Christians and the world we live in than the kingdom of God. This is not, as some imagine, spiritual heaven people go to when they die. Rather, the kingdom of God is His rule in the world, redeeming and transforming it to make it into the kind of world He desires. It is God subjecting all things to Christ, and putting all His enemies under His feet. The kingdom was officially established in the world in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, and now expands after His ascension through the advance of the Church. Ultimately, the kingdom’s coming will be complete when Christ returns Himself to rule in person. When we pray for the kingdom to come, we are asking God to advance the work of His Church in the present and bring Christ’s return ever closer from the future, so that finally the world may submit fully to the gracious design of God.
- Your will be done
- I believe people generally misunderstand this phrase. People tend to use it as, “God, I pray for all of these things, but just in case You want to do something different that’s okay with me.” That’s not a wrong attitude to have, and can be expressed in such a way (see Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane), but I do not believe that is what we are praying for in this case. Coming right after the request for the coming kingdom, I believe that this is a prayer for the world to come into alignment with what Scripture reveals to us is God’s will. It is a prayer not for a secret series of events, known only to God as His will, but for what God has told us is His will. This means salvation, healing for the sick, freedom for those in bondage, help for the poor, good works from God’s people, missions around the world, peace on earth, life for the unborn, and the defeat of sin, death, and Satan’s hordes. We can pray boldly for these things. We can pray for them without adding, “if it be Your will,” because all of them are God’s will.
- On earth as it is in heaven
- Heaven, as the word is used in Scripture, refers to God’s domain, apart from our world. In God’s sphere, the angels minister perpetually, keeping things in accord with God’s will. We pray on earth that God will extend that grace by the ministry of angels and His Church He will extend His will into our world, making earth more like heaven. The ultimate goal of this process is the new creation, where God’s heaven and man’s earth become one in perfection.
- Give us this day our daily bread
- Sometimes the hardest thing is to simply trust God for our provisions. It is easy not to worry sometimes, but it is difficult to not worry because we’re trusting God. We usually trust our jobs, our families, or the government or anything else, confident that they will keep us fed and sheltered. “Give us this day our daily bread” both invokes on God to provide and reminds us that He, not whatever else, is ultimately the source of what we live on,
- Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors
- We ask God daily for forgiveness, because of our clear sinfulness. Yet in the Lord’s prayer we are taught to only expect forgiveness inasmuch as we give forgiveness, something Jesus makes more explicit right after providing this prayer. Yet this is not making our salvation something we earn by forgiving people. Rather, our forgiveness and our ability to forgive others have one source: the life of Christ imparted to us by His Spirit. Only by grace can we be forgiven and can we forgive us successfully. This prayer, then, holds us accountable to that fact. We ask for forgiveness, recognizing that it comes as part of a package which spreads forgiveness.
- Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
- This sentence can also be translated, “lead us not into trial, but deliver us from evil.” Both are probably correct, English just letting us down by not having a good way to say both meanings. The point is that we, especially as God’s people, find ourselves subject to many trials and temptations, days of testing by evil forces, people, and events. We pray to God to deliver us from them all, bringing us safely around, through, or beyond the troubles of this life. Evil is ever present, wishing to hurt us, yet we plead with God not to let it, or even to give it an opportunity.
- For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.