Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Your Name.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
As a child, I recited The Lord's Prayer every Sunday morning during service. It was just something I did automatically. The words meant nothing to me. They were just...well, words. (Honestly, when we recited this prayer, I knew we were halfway through the service and that much closer to going home ☹ ).
It wasn't until well after my conversion, when I actually studied this prayer verse by verse, that I realized that it's not necessarily meant to be a ritualistic recitation. Rather, it's an example. A pattern. Descriptive, as scholars say. Not prescriptive. But in making it prescriptive, there's the potential of losing the true intent behind why Jesus taught it to His disciples at their request.
These seemingly "unlearned and ignorant" men (Acts 4:13) had observed that Jesus would often go off to pray (Mark 1:35; Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12). For hours on end. And always alone. The disciples certainly understood the necessity of prayer, given their Jewish background with its regulated and ritualistic prayers and traditions. But what Jesus was doing — going off alone at all hours of the day and night — was something entirely new to them. Their interest was piqued. So they asked Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1a).
And He obliged. First, however, illustrating how not to pray. Not like the Jewish "hypocrites" who prayed publicly for the praise of others, He said. And certainly not like the Gentile "heathens" who prayed with worthless wordiness (Matthew 6:5-6). Rather, Jesus explained, their prayers should be short, simplistic and sacredly sweet, all uttered in the secrecy of their own sanctuaries.
"Pray, then, like this," He said. The operative word here being "like," which means "having the same qualities or characteristics; similar to." Their prayers were to be similar in nature to the example He was about to set forth. But not necessarily verbatim. With that one word, Jesus gave His disciples (and us) the wonderful freedom to "change it up," so to speak, as long as they (and we) maintain the biblical integrity and intent of this prayer, which is:
To Acknowledge God's Position and Authority — Our Father in heaven;
As ones who've been wholly redeemed and wonderfully restored by the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ, we're now invited into intimate, one-on-one conversation with God, who holds the position of our loving and affectionate Father.
While the Jews knew God as a far-off, impersonal Being, we twice-born ones know Him as the One who watches over us, who sings over us, who delights in us as His amazing creations.
And we, in turn, delight in God as the Great Patriarch of our holy Family, our benevolent Father who loves nothing more than to bestow "good gifts" upon His children if we would just ask (Matthew 7:11). And we should! That is the beauty of this relationship. We are assured as children that our prayers will be heard by our adoring Father. His ear is always attentive to His little ones.
Yet, in juxtaposition to His endearing quality as our Father is also the all-encompassing authority He exercises as the One who sits enthroned above "in heaven." Sovereign. Reigning. Holy. Sacred. Just. While He is a loving, gracious and merciful Father, He is also a just and holy God, the Creator and Sustainer of everyone and everything.
The two — His position as Father, His authority as Sovereign Creator — must be held in tension when we begin to send our prayers and petitions heavenward.
Similar ways we can acknowledge God's position and authority:
Heavenly Father, Holy One of Heaven, Blessed Father, Almighty God, Abba (which means "Father"), Gracious God, Lord God Almighty, Creator of all, or any number of His names: My Shield, My Strength, God of Peace, God of all grace, etc.
To Acknowledge God's Character — Hallowed be Your name;
Hallowed. Hagiazo. "Honored, holy, consecrated, greatly revered and respected."
God's name is not something to be taken lightly, flippantly. It is a name set apart from all other names, both in heaven and on earth. No other name is as holy, sacred and sovereign as the Lord's.
His is a name which we are to adore, worship and praise, not profane or take in vain, as Deuteronomy 20:7 warns us. "Do not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain (maten, "to no purpose")." And Leviticus 19:12 as well, "You shall not swear falsely (omnuo, "take an oath, promise with an oath") by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD."
Is it any wonder then that Satan — ever on the attack against God — does just this by getting people to profane His name by using it as a swear word? It's Satan's delight to malign the name of God. No one else's. Not Buddha's, Muhammad's, or Confucius's. Just God's.
All the more reason that we, His children, should uphold it! For there is no other name by which we are saved (Acts 4:12); it is the name to which every knee will one day bow (Philippians 2:10).
Similar ways in which we can acknowledge God's character:
Holy is Your name; wonderful is Your name; mighty is Your name; righteous and just are You, Lord God; Your name is above all names; We ask/pray this in Jesus' name.
To Acknowledge God's Sovereign Reign and Will — Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven;
This portion of the prayer is evangelistic in nature. "Your kingdom come, Your will be done" is really a prayer of invitation, of inviting God to extend and enlarge His kingly reign and will (thelema, "wishes, desires") to this earth.
And what is His will, His one wish and desire? It's very simple. "...not wishing (thelema, again) that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
This should be our own desire as well. We should be praying that unbelievers worldwide (including our enemies) would bow in humble surrender to God, that their hearts would be quickened and convicted by the Holy Spirit with regard to their sin, that they would then appropriate the free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ and the death He died on their behalf (Ephesians 2:8-9). And then that they would live out the rest of their lives in grateful obedience to and loving adoration of God.
After all, this is just what every soul, angel and elder is doing "in heaven" right now.
Similar ways we can acknowledge God's will:
Lord, have Your way; We invite You here today; Lord, capture the heart of ________ (name an individual)
To Acknowledge God's Provision — Give us this day our daily bread;
At first glance, this stanza seems to start off with a demanding tone: "Give us." Can you hear the echoes of a million Israelite voices whining in the wilderness, "Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full" (Exodus 16:3)? It was then that God graciously gave them manna from heaven to sustain His people. Every. Single. Day. For 40 years!
The Greek meaning of "give" (dosis) is "the act of giving; a gift." This again refers to God's nature as a benevolent and loving Father who gives "good gifts." Everything God gives us — whether material (food, clothing, shelter) or spiritual (love, mercy, forgiveness) — is a gift from His holy hand and heart.
And, again, we have only to ask. But not in a demanding, whiney tone. Our requests should be made in a spirit of humility, dependence and gratitude.
Similar ways of acknowledging God's provision:
Gracious God, please give me...; Father, I'm asking for...; Today, Lord, I need help with...
To Acknowledge God's Mercy — Grace — And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors;
"Debt" typically refers to owing money to the one who lent it. However, in this verse it's used metaphorically to mean our sins. Our sins are a debt, a debt we can never repay, and one that deserves God's just retribution.
However, out of His goodness and loving kindness (Titus 3:4), God paid that debt. Paid with the precious life of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, Whom He sacrificed on a cross. And whoever accepts that payment by faith, has their sin-debt forgiven (aphesis), "dismissed, released, sent away, let go, pardoned." "As far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12).
Completely. Totally. Erased.
And by His example, we also are to extend this same totality of forgiveness to those who've hurt us (even if they don't ask for it). As hard as it is at times, we're to dismiss/release/pardon the debt our offenders owe us.
For we cannot withhold forgiveness from those who've hurt us when we ourselves have been forgiven so, so much!
Similar ways of acknowledging God's mercy and grace:
How grateful I am for the forgiveness you so freely give; Lord, forgive me for...(be honest and specific); God, give me the courage and strength to genuinely and completely forgive ________ (name of someone who's hurt you)
To Acknowledge God's Deliverance — And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
The words that seem to trip most people up in this verse are "lead" and "temptation." Does God really intentionally lead His children into situations that could have devastating consequences? No, He does not! Nor does He Himself tempt us (James 1:13). It is not His nature as our Father.
Clarification comes when we define the word "temptation." Peirasmos. "Testing, being tried, calamity, affliction." Every day is fraught with temptations, tests and trials. God does not necessarily spare us from experiencing them, but sovereignly allows them to happen. And usually with a purpose in mind:
• To prove the genuineness of our faith (1 Peter 1:7)
• To refine any unChristlike characteristics (Zechariah 13:9)
• To see if our minds and our hearts are truly His (Psalm 26:2)
• To determine our wholehearted obedience (Hebrews 11:17-19)
Our petition then is two-fold: 1) that God would, in His mercy, keep us from succumbing to the sinful responses of anger, bitterness, resentment, doubt and unbelief while in the trial; and 2) that He would deliver us safely through trial
Perhaps our Lord had His own wilderness testing in mind when He included this last petition, knowing firsthand what it was like "to be tempted by the devil" and then to be sweetly and safely delivered from evil (Matthew 4:1-11).
Similar ways to acknowledge God's deliverance:
Blessed Lord, give me courage and strength in this trial, guard my mind and my heart against any sin; Lord God, I'm asking for deliverance from this affliction; Lord, I'm clinging to Your truth and promises in this trial.
I hope that this article has brought new insight and clarity to your understanding of this precious prayer as it did for me. Be blessed, my friends!