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The Lord’s Prayer

Study notes ▪ 2006
Tags: Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4; Prayer
Related Resources: God’s Best for Us (Matt. 7:7-11)

Excerpts from This Resource

Matthew 6 is embedded within the Sermon on the Mount, and more specifically, in a section of Jesus’ lesson dealing with spiritual disciplines that one should practice privately rather than for others’ commendation (giving, prayer, fasting). Luke 11 contains a series of teachings regarding prayer, prompted by the disciples’ observation of Jesus praying (v. 1).

There is some disagreement among scholars as to whether God’s identity as Father was essentially a Jewish concept affirmed by Jesus, or whether it is a new emphasis of the Christian era.

Regardless of the relative newness of the revelation of God as Father, the fact that Jesus uses this term of address expresses an important aspect of our relationship with God. Through prayer we attest to a familial intimacy with God and claim his care for us in a manner analogous to that of a faithful human father.

The use of plural pronouns . . . throughout the prayer . . . stresses that there is a corporate dimension to prayer and the Christian life at large.

God’s name is that which represents Him. He is zealous that his name convey a true sense of who He is. He is therefore protective of his name. This is perhaps analogous to the way that a corporation registers certain names, images, and slogans to represent it, then fiercely guards against the misuse of those symbols.

The Decalogue includes the injunction, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exod. 20:7). To misuse God’s name is certainly diametrically opposed to hallowing it. The prayer’s reference to the coming of God’s kingdom indicates that He is at work in history with the ultimate purpose of reversing the effects of sin and reestablishing dominion over all things.

Through this portion of the prayer we identify God as King, thus acknowledging his lordship and our identity as subjects in his kingdom. By implication, we admit that we are not autonomous, but dependent on his favor and indebted to do his will.

The kingdom was inaugurated to some extent by Jesus in his first coming. There is an already/not yet paradox at work here. Though he came announcing that the kingdom had come near, he was rejected by his people, and the political aspect of the kingdom was postponed until later in God’s prophetic timeline.

This clause [“your will be done”] . . . is no reluctant resignation to divine sovereignty, but a statement of enthusiastic desire that God’s purposes be fulfilled—beginning in our hearts. Furthermore, it sets the tone for the remainder of the prayer, in which we will make various petitions, all the while admitting that their outcome is subject to the will of God.

To a large extent we can only imagine what things must be like in heaven—in God’s very presence. Surely they must be very different than the circumstances of earthly life. No sin pollutes his presence. His purposes are unopposed. Justice is always served. There is no sorrow, no sickness, and no pain. He is the object of perfect worship.

Use of today and daily may seem redundant. It is difficult for us in America to understand the thrust of this part of the prayer. The idea is that sustenance is a daily affair, and that we depend on God to meet our needs one day at a time. We are not to worry about tomorrow, but to trust God today (Matt. 6:34). If we have not known hunger, we should be grateful to God. As fortunate as our circumstances may seem, this clause of the prayer is absolutely relevant.

Our need for forgiveness is analogous to our need for nutrition: It is essential and frequent. The underlying assumption is that God’s children are not free from sin as long as they remain on the earth.

God’s forgiveness of our sins is conditioned upon our forgiveness of fellow men. The bottom line is that an attitude of vengeful bitterness—as opposed to a forgiving spirit—will keep us from enjoying the blessings of continuing fellowship with God. To deny a fellow human being forgiveness while asking God to forgive us is ridiculous; it is an assertion that God has less reason to be offended by our sin than we do to be offended by another person’s fault toward us. This point is illustrated quite clearly in a parable recorded in Matt. 18:23-35. God will deal severely with those who, having received forgiveness, fail to extend it to others.

Jesus’ instructed the disciples in Gethsemane, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matt. 26:41; Mark 14:38). Bearing similarities to the Lord’s Prayer, this language implies that peirasmos, unaccompanied by vigilance and prayer, can lead to spiritual and/or moral failure. Thus we may view the clause under consideration as a petition for divine preservation from circumstances that would lead us to sin.

This clause [“deliver us from the evil one”] is in direct contrast (“but”) to the previous one, giving us some sense of how it should be interpreted.

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Study notes (6 pages)   41k v. 2 Mar 5, 2011, 9:20 PM Greg Smith