C. A Model for Prayer (v. 9-13)
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, let your name be treated with reverence. 10 Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. [You can tell I selected certain footnoted options for the version of the prayer I’ll comment on]
Jesus now models prayer for us. I’ll start with some general statements about the whole prayer before examining its parts. First, notice how short the prayer is. I find this to be more evidence for leaning toward shorter prayers. As we found in Point B, God is not impressed by long, repetitious prayers. Jesus’ example reflects that. Of course, longer prayers are fine. But it seems to prove that there is nothing wrong with short prayers. Second, Jesus’ prayer is not terribly comprehensive. I suppose it holds to the ACTS (Adoration, Confession [as if Jesus needed to do that!], Thanksgiving, Supplication] prayer, but not so formally. I think it’s worth noting that Jesus covers some very basic concepts without getting complicated or technical. There is no reason to think that we need long sentences or big words to pray appropriately to God. Simplicity is a good thing. Third, the prayer doesn’t end with “Amen.” I just thought I’d point that out.
Now I’d like to examine the verses one by one:
v. 9 – First, note that Jesus prays to God as Father. Because of Jesus, we have the same right to come to God as His child. Essentially, we are talking to our celestial Daddy. Second, Jesus immediately exalts the father and implicitly humbles Himself. That should be the same for us. When we praise God (especially in prayer), we should understand the vast difference between God’s holiness and our lowliness. As such, we should seek not only to treat God’s Name with reverence, but pray that others will as well.
v. 10 – Jesus here hits two points: God’s heavenly rule and His earthly rule. This sentence focuses on God’s dual rule over heaven and earth. By example, Jesus is teaching us to pray that God’s kingdom would come and come soon. This has implications not only in reference to Jesus’ return (which we should pray to come soon), but also that God’s kingdom would become more present here on Earth. This means that we are praying for the conversion of souls and the glorification of God’s Name among all peoples. Jesus also focuses on God’s earthly rule, where we should hope to see God’s will revealed and followed. This balances the comment about the kingdom coming, because we should wish that God would be obeyed by all people (which is a way of saying we want go to convert/regenerate all people). In so doing, we not only focus on God’s work on Earth, but also again exalt Him because He is worthy to be obeyed.
v. 11 – More than having to do with food, this asks for daily provision. Basically, this is a way of asking God to deliver on His promises to care as He does the sparrow or the flower in the field. And, in so doing, we are implicitly asking God to take away worries and fears, because we are trusting God to give us everything we need (food, clothing, shelter, companionship, etc.) so that we have no reason for pride. In praying this, we are minimizing our work that we do to “earn” income by acknowledging that those things come from God Himself.
v. 12 – This particular sentence is both easy and hard to say. It’s easy because we are asking forgiveness. Of course, if we really seek to see all of our sins, this can actually be quite hard. But I think it’s much easier to ask forgiveness from God than to forgive others. And because Jesus links them together, it seems to imply that we have no right to ask forgiveness from God if we haven’t forgiven others. And it seems that the reasoning for that is if we haven’t forgiven others, then we haven’t really repented of our sin (which I would link with forgiveness) of anger/bitterness/envy/whatever which nullifies our request. In essence, we’re not really seeking forgiveness because we haven’t let go of the sin of unforgiveness (more on this below). But if we truly lay all of our sin before God, then we are again humbling ourselves before Him and acknowledging that we have no way to get rid of sin without God’s active work in our lives.
v. 13 – Finally, Jesus finishes the prayer by again addressing sin. He asks that God would first lead us. This is important. Implied in the request is that God will lead us somewhere. And since He’s leading us, we want Him to lead us into paths of righteousness. Again, this should humble us because we don’t want to be led into temptation. Why? Because when faced with temptation, we usually take the plunge into the sin itself. Asking God to deliver us from the evil one acknowledges that temptations and sinfulness are fueled by Satan, our adversary. As such, if we want to escape sin (and we should), we can’t do it on our own. We need God to “deliver us” from both the sin and the one who want us to sin.
To summarize, I’ll tentatively draw five main ideas/principles from this model prayer. 1) In prayer we should actively seek to exalt God and humble ourselves before Him. 2) In prayer we should pray for God to work actively to make and shape disciples for His glory. 3) We should trust in God alone, acknowledging that everything we have comes from Him and, therefore, we have no reason to worry. 4) We should ask God for forgiveness by asking Him to cleanse our sinfulness and empower us to obey Him. Implicitly, we should recognize that any good thing that we do, including repentance and deliverance from sin comes from God’s good hand. 5) All things we ask for in prayer should seek God’s glory and honor, not our petty desires.