The Struggle of Prayer (4)

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

In the last post I cited what is often called “The Lord’s Prayer.”  It would be good to have a brief exposition of it.  Let us begin by dividing it up:

“Pray, then, in this way:

Introduction and First Petition: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. 10 ‘Thy kingdom come

Second Petition:  Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

Third Petition:  ‘Give us this day our daily bread.

Fourth Petition: ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Fifth Petition:  ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Doxology: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.’ – Matt. 6:9-13.

As a matter of fact, and as most of you know, this isn’t an actual prayer to be prayed (although it can be put to that use), but a model or outline of how to pray.  Since it comes from the One who hears the prayers we send up, this little outline is full of interest.

“Our Father in Heaven” 

After telling the disciples that they not pray long and repetitive prayers (“God does not measure prayer by the yard” – R.C.H. Lenski), the Lord Jesus tells them to address God personally as their Father.  We are not to think the OT saints did not speak to God in a direct and informal way.  There are clear examples of this in the Psalms for example.  But we do not find them calling Him by this paternal word “Father.”  The word Jesus used is an Aramaic term ‘Abba’ which was commonly used even by grown up children as an affectionate way for addressing an earthly father.  This tells us that relationship is at the center of prayer.  Cold formality puts God in the wrong setting and makes Him seem aloof and unfeeling.  It is hard to draw near to someone like that.  But real prayer does draw us close, even if it is in confession and repentance (Heb.4:14-16; 1 Jn. 1:9).

Calling upon God as our Father honors God’s intentions in sending Christ for us.  In His great priestly prayer Jesus declared, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” (Jn. 17:6).  It is comforting to know that the Father chose to have this personal and loving bond with us through the Son and the Spirit (1 Cor. 1:4; Rom. 8:14-17).

“Hallowed by your Name”

To “hallow” something is to treat it with great reverence so as to set it apart from other things.  God’s Name invokes God Himself, which is why we must not take His Name in vain or utter it in an inappropriate way.  As one Puritan writer put it:  “Could we but see a glimpse of God’s glory, as Moses did in the rock, it would draw adoration and praise from us.” – Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer, 50.   We should have it in our hearts that God’s name may shine forth gloriously in other hearts, as it one day shall.  Thus, there ought to be a sense of anticipation as well as honor in our speaking to God.  We should seek to magnify Him in our lives; not by our “success” but by our efforts to, ”walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 Jn. 1:7).  As Watson goes on to say, “If we do not magnify his name, we contradict our own prayers.” – Ibid, 51.

“Your kingdom come”

Just what does it mean to pray “Your kingdom come”?  As a matter of fact this depends on ones theology.  I find this to be quite fascinating; that the very first petition in the Model Prayer divides believers along two lines depending on how they interpret the kingdom.  Some commentators combine these words with those that immediately follow, so that “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” become synonymous with “Your kingdom come.”  I sympathize with this approach, but I do not adopt it because too often this can lead people to de-emphasize the meaning of “kingdom” in its context. While it is true that God’s will is done on earth by some persons (e.g. Matt. 12:28; cf. 12:50; 21:31-32; 26:42), it would be quite wrong to equate that with the prayer for the coming of the kingdom.

In its setting in the early ministry of Jesus (see for example Matt. 10: 5-7), the kingdom would mean only one thing to the disciples and the people in general.  It would mean the Messianic Golden Age promised by the Prophets in Isaiah 2, 11, 62, and Micah 4 (cf. Acts 1:6).  Therefore, in its proper context, this petition looks forward to the return of Christ and His righteous reign over the earth.

For those Christians whose theology tells them that Christ is ruling now, the petition has to be lifted out of its original context and deposited within a context more conducive to their doctrine of the Church.  Notwithstanding, Jesus’ intention here is that we pray for Christ’s coming Millennial Reign to be set up.  That of course means that we join in the hope expressed in the last prayer offered in Scripture: “Amen.  Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

Part Five

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