The Heavenly Prayer
(A Bible Study on the Lord's Prayer)
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
“Give us this day our daily bread.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
(Matthew 6: 9-13)
We all know the Lord’s prayer uttered on the Mount of Beatitudes in the presence of His disciples.
Many of us learned it by rote as kids, in Sunday school. Some of us still use it today in our services. There have been many sermons written on this particular subject over the centuries. And it remains a favourite Bible study topic the world over.
What we need to look at is not the structure, the prose, or the beauty of the ideas expressed in this prayer, but the deep significance beyond the words that holds the power to change our lives.
Now, the Lord’s prayer was Jesus’ attempt at teaching His disciples how to communicate with the Heavenly Father, the Great Eternal Spirit.
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. (Luke 11: 1)
Here one of the disciples asks Jesus to teach them to pray, just as John the Baptist taught his disciples. Does this mean that the disciples had never prayed before? They obviously knew the meaning of prayer, or they wouldn’t have asked Jesus to teach them how to. And since this particular disciple refers to John’s teaching about prayer, it naturally follows that he had heard John’s teaching, and seen John’s disciples praying after their baptism in preparation for the coming Messiah.
You have to understand at this point of time in Israel, idol worship was rampant, new religions and sects were springing up, brought in by the different peoples who were settling in the land of Israel under Roman rule. Many Israelis had turned to idol worship, and left following Jehovah. And for those who still remained faithful to the One God, who had brought them out of Egypt, all Jewish religious activity was carried out as directed by the local rabbis, and in the temples as instructed by the priests of either the Pharisaic or Sadducee sects.
Communication with God was clouded and difficult. It was less spontaneous, and more a religious pattern of prayers that had been written down by the scribes of that day. The Jewish believers of that time were required to recite the Shema - the central statement of Jewish belief, the formulaic blessings (berakhot) before and after it, the Amidah or ‘The Prayer of 18 blessings’, and certain texts from the Torah. There was less emphasis placed on heartfelt prayer, and more on recitations and strict adherence to the law.
So The Lord’s Prayer was actually a revolutionary step in breaking religious tradition and approaching the Great God of Moses and Elijah, the God who made the heavens and the earth, without any religious show or trappings.
Jesus was teaching His disciples that God, the Eternal Spirit was easily approachable, and that prayer was like a little child finding its way over to its Father’s lap to be embraced and cuddled.
Now, before bringing in this teaching of prayer, the Lord taught his disciples how to prepare to communicate with their Father:
“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
“Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
(Matthew 6: 5-8)
Here we find 4 points to consider:
1. Our prayers should not be hypocritical or for outward show.
2. Our heart’s prayers should be private.
3. We shouldn’t pray using vain repetitions as the unbelievers do. (like rote prayers and chants, as the Jewish leaders used to recite in those days)
4. We should understand that God knows what we need even before we pray for those needs.
So before we pray we need to cast off:
We need to address Him as a child would his Father: It’s as simple as that.
Let us take a look at verse 9:
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”
I OUR FATHER
In this verse, The Lord teaches us to say, “Our Father in heaven", not My Father, but Our Father. In saying this we understand the relationship that we have with the Father along with others in the family of God.
Let us read a few more texts to better understand what Jesus was trying to convey:
“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20: 17)
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
(Hebrews 2:9, 10)
This was a new idea indeed. The Jewish people who all knew that they had come from the first man Adam, and were of the seed of Abraham, glorified their state as the chosen people of God, and while holding fast to the man-made traditions that had so blinded them in their worship, exulted in the fact that Abraham was their father – they glorified their earthly relationship with Abraham, the Father of Many Nations.
But here, The Lord Jesus was taking them one step higher – offering them the boldness to call the God whom they had been taught to behold with awe and trembling, as some distant deity, to call this great and eternal ‘I Am’, the J_h whom they dared not even name, “Father”.
From the above texts in John 20 and Hebrews 2, we infer that the Lord Jesus, “who thought it not robbery to be equal with God”, claims us as His brethren, places Himself on an equal footing with us in addressing the Great Eternal Spirit as “My Father and Your Father” – “Our Father”. It is through Jesus Christ, the only begotten ‘Son of God’, that the rest of us receive the right to be called the “sons of God”
II HALLOWED BE THY NAME
Verse 9 also says : “Hallowed be Thy Name”
To hallow is "to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate". The adjective form hallowed, as used in The Lord's Prayer, means holy, consecrated, sacred, or revered. (Wikipedia)
Let us go to another verse in the Song of Solomon,
“Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.” (Song of Solomon 1: 3)
Here the Lord is giving glory to the work of God in Himself. The Name of the Lord, as King Solomon wrote, was as an ointment poured out. The Name of the Lord Jesus Christ was an ointment poured out to cover and heal the sins of the world.
It is now with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit that we can truly understand and appreciate the beauty of Christ’s teaching that day. Even the disciples who found it hard to grasp the Great Teacher’s message on several occasions, would probably have recalled His words on the mount once they received the Holy Spirit, and marveled at their depth.
The next verse, verse 10 says:
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
III “THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE"
Let us consider the first part of these words: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done”.
This clearly denotes a future or coming kingdom. Surely, we know that the kingdom of this world does not belong to the Lord. This present world, as we know it, is the Devil’s kingdom. The lust of the world, the lust of eyes, the pride of life, does absolutely not belong to the Lord. Wasn’t this what the Lord told Pilate?
“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36)
I wonder what Pontius Pilate thought when he heard this. He must have concluded that Jesus was either a harmless lunatic, or an idealist who had displeased the Jewish religious leaders somehow, or a mystic who lived in his own little world.
The disciples too, could not possibly have understood what Jesus was saying about the kingdom. They probably thought the Lord was talking about liberating them from Roman rule, as they had been taught the Messiah would do.
But the kingdom that the Lord was teaching His disciples to pray for was a “future kingdom”. A kingdom which He could see in the spirit of prophecy - an untarnished and uncorrupted Paradise governed in truth and justice - a kingdom of peace and restoration that man could not even imagine.
IV ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
Now Let’s go to Isaiah 60: 9-15
“Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.
And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee.
Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought.
For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.
The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.
The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.” (Isaiah 60: 9-15)
This scripture is prophetically speaking about the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ being established on the earth. It is what Jesus says in the second part of the 10th verse : “on earth as it is in heaven”: the kingdom rule in the heavenlies, with the angels and the saints, coming down to the earth and being established here.
V. GIVE US THIS DAY, OUR DAILY BREAD.
Verse 11 read thus: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Now daily bread, as referred to in this text has both a physical as well as a spiritual meaning.
A) ‘Daily Bread’ in literal terms means ‘Daily Provision’ – our everyday needs.
Lets us go to Luke 12: 24
“Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?”
Now if we consider the ravens, as the above scripture tells us to, we notice three things:
1. The raven is an uninvited guest.
2. The raven has a harsh voice, grating to the ear.
3. The raven is among one of the uglier species of birds.
Inspite of all this, the Lord tells us in Psalms 147 verse 9
"He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry."
So here, we hear the Lord say, He provides for the ravens, who are neither pleasant to look at, nor pleasant to hear, nor invited at meal times, and usually make a nuisance of themselves cawing for a morsel. And in His loving voice He tells us,
"How far more precious are you my children, than these birds, you - made in my own image! You - who are the most beautiful among all of my creation, with voices raised in songs of praise - so pleasant to my ear -You who have been invited to my table to sup with me - And shall I not care for your daily needs?"
B) ‘Daily Bread’ in the spiritual sense refers to ‘spiritual teaching’.
The Lord also taught us that:
"It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4: 4)
That is to say, that it is not by earthly things alone that man exists, but by the will and the Spirit of Life that God has placed within him.
In John 6: 35, Jesus says,
"And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."
It is the Lord Jesus Himself, who is our spiritual nourishment. It is by His Spirit that we receive strength to fight the enemy and power to defeat him.
The Lord teaches His disciples to ask the Heavenly Father for their daily needs, as well as spiritual infilling for their everyday spiritual warfare. He teaches them that their Father is the Jehovah Jireh the Lord who provides all.
VI. “AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS, AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS.”
In verse 12 we learn about forgiveness.
As per God’s law, we are forgiven for our sins, based on our forgiveness towards others.
That is to say, if we do not forgive others for the wrongs committed against us, we can most surely never expect forgiveness for our sins from the Lord of heaven.
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
(Matthew 6: 14, 15)
We cannot hold double standards before God.
If we profess godliness, and are to be true to the image of God in which we are created, then we have to imbibe the nature and character of our Father – the nature of forgiving wrongs and slights done against us. It is only when we learn to forgive others with a whole heart, that we are able to mirror our Father in heaven, who does the same for us.
VII. “AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL:”
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
“Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
“Do not err, my beloved brethren.”
(James 1: 12 – 16)
According to the above scripture, God does not actually lead us into temptation, we are pulled by our own desires and enticed. And it is the devil who is behind this. However, when Jesus teaches His disciples to pray: “Lead us not” He actually means to say, “Do not abandon us in temptation.”
'“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
“And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”
(II Corinthians 10: 3-6)
“Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
“For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”
( II Corinthians 7: 9-11)
In the above text, Paul speaks about how the believer is in a continuous conflict with his old nature; and how the focal point of Christian life is this striving towards sanctification until our goal and our existence becomes one and the same, and we overcome sin through our faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We strive against temptation, against sin, against our own self; we find ourselves wrestling against the powers of a world puling us into destruction. It is in the midst of this conflict, that we realize that we need not strive of ourselves; but rather surrender the battle to the one who already paid the price for our sins. It is in this - our complete acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus offered up for us; in our applying this sacrifice in our daily lives, in our times of anger, remorse, frustration, weakness, adamance - the fact that no more is to be done, because all was accomplished on the cross, and it is only if we hold on to that belief, if we exercise our faith in that act of salvation on the cross, that we receive our deliverance from the chains that bind us within and without.
So temptation is an act of Satan, and deliverance - an act of God, and the power to withstand the one and to receive the other rests solely in our hands.
VIII. "FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM, AND THE POWER, AND THE GLORY, FOREVER, AMEN."
Here we observe three things:
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
(Revelation 11: 15)
The Kingdom speaks about the Millenial Reign of Christ and the renewal of the earth.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
(Matthew 28: 18)
The Power speaks about the authority that we recognize in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ today. It is this authority of the Father that we shall see face to face in the person of Jesus Christ when we are transformed.
"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
"For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
"And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount."
(II Peter 1: 16 - 18)
The Glory speaks about the transformation power of God manifest in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ - the glory of the Father revealed in the Son - revealed to us His children - as He transforms us into the image of God.
As we conclude, we accept the absolute sovereignty of God in our own lives, and in the world to come.
For truly, our souls rest in the expectation of that great day when the kingdom reign of Christ is ushered in, and the new earth will be ruled with justice and love, and all the nations of the earth shall acknowledge the power of Christ.