This is a sermon on how The Lord’s Prayer was not given to just be recited as a ritual. It is actually given to us as the Lord’s blueprint for prayer.
By John Hamby
Almost all of our prayers begin by rushing into a series of request in which we pour out to God our problems, our needs, our irritations. This only tends to reinforces the focus of our attention on what is troubling us and our inability to remedy it. It could be that is at least part of the problem of why we are more depressed and frustrated after we pray than before.
Alan Redpath sums up how many feel even when they have prayed, “When we have finished our praying we can scarcely bring ourselves to believe that our feeble words can have been heard, or that they can have made a difference in the things concerning which we have been praying. We’ve said our prayers but we have not prayed.” [Victorious Praying: Studies in the Lord’s Prayer ( Grand Rapids: Fleming Revell, 1993) p. 12]
Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer in response to the disciple’s request in (v. 1), “Lord, teach us to pray?” The disciples seem to have waited a long time to ask Jesus to teach them to pray. They have been with Him for months, perhaps even years by this point. They have watched Him praying in every circumstance of life. They had seen Him taking time to be alone to pray. They understand that Jesus lived a life guided and empowered by prayer. Perhaps as they have watched Him pray it has caused them to realize how very little they truly knew about prayer. Whatever the cause, the Disciples turn to Jesus and ask, “Lord teach us to pray.”
“Now it came to pass, as he was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of his disciples said to him, “Lord teach us to pray; as John also taught his disciples.’(2) So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. (3) Give us day by day our daily bread. (4) And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.” Luke 11:2-4 (NKJV)
Obviously the Lord’s Prayer was not given to be just be recited as a ritual. It is actually given to us as the Lord’s blueprint for prayer that is acceptable to God. There is something tremendously important about the way Jesus answered the disciples question, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus’ reply as recorded in Luke was “When you pray,” and in parallel account in Matthew (6:9-13) he is quoted as saying “In This Manner Pray” in other words “Pray like this.”
The Lord’s Prayer was given to show the disciples how to pray, after all that is what they asked, that is how they should go about praying, not just the words they should use. But we must recognize that there is a difference between saying the Lord’s prayer and praying the Lord’s prayer. . Elmer Towns says this way, “The effective prayer is not measured by how loud you pray, or how long you pray, or even if you say the words of the Lord’s Prayer again and again in a repetitious fashion. Your prayer life will be effective it you are sincere (your approach) and if you ask for the right things (what you say).” [Towns p. 27]
The Elements for the Lord’s Blueprint for Prayer
1. Praying On the Basis of A New Relationship
We begin our examination of the Lord’s Prayer by looking at the first four English words, “Our Father in Heaven.” Jesus is stating the importance of starting our prayers with the awareness that God is our Father. What Jesus is teaching here is pretty revolutionary. The word that Jesus used for Father was not a formal word. It was the common Aramaic word with which a child would address his father – the word “Abba”. Of course everyone used the word, but no one under any circumstances used it in connection with God. “Abba” meant something like “Daddy” but with a more reverent touch than we use it today. It meant something like, “Dearest Father.”
When Jesus came on the scene he addressed God only as “Father.” All of his prayers addressed God as “Father.” The Gospels record his use of “Father” more than sixty times in reference to God, yet in all of the Old Testament God is referred to as “Father” only fourteen times and then only in relation to the nation of Israel, never as an individual or personal Father. No one in the entire history of Israel had ever prayed like Jesus. Jesus transformed the relationship with God from one of a distant and unapproachable deity to that of a intimate relationship of a Father.
The fact that God is our “dearest father” is to be foundational awareness in prayer. Paul tells us in Galatians 4:6, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” (NKJV) Wrapped up in the expression “our father” is a new dimension in intimate communion with God, the same intimacy that exists between a child and their father is to exist between them and God.
But perhaps you have a great hindrance in this area because did not have a good role model in your earthly father! Perhaps your father was angry and unapproachable or abusive. In such a case, one way to overcome this is to think of God as being everything you ever wished for in a father, God can become for you the fulfillment of your dream for a honorable and decent father who loves you unconditionally. The beginning of effective prayer is the recognition that God possesses a father’s heart, a father’s love, a father’s strength and a father’s concern for the best interest of his children.
This concept of a loving heavenly father provides us with a profound sense of being loved. Everett Fullam a missionary to a remote tribe in Nigeria relates the salvation experience of one of the local natives, when he revealed the awesomeness of this new experience with God by saying; “Behind this universe stands one God, not a great number of warring spirits, as we had always believed, but one God. And that God loves me!” [as quoted in Kent Hughes. Abba Father: The Lord’s Pattern for Prayer (Wheaton, Crossway Books, 1986) pp. 22-23.]
It of course needs to be remembered that it is impossible to come to God as our Father except that we are born into his family through faith in Jesus Christ. This prayer is based on a relationship with God through faith in Christ and can only be uttered by those who are in the family.
When we begin our prayer, “Our Father,” we begin to pray based on an intimate relationship with God – that of a father and child. God is not an angry judge looking for an opportunity to condemn us, nor is aloof and distant, too busy to hear you. He is our Father and can be approached on an intimate basis. Having the foundational awareness of God as our Father we move on to the first of the petitions, “hallowed be your name.”
The Lord’s Prayer contains seven petitions; the first three petitions are called the “Thy Petitions” because in the King James Version they begin with the word “thy” and they center on God.
-Thy name be hallowed
-Thy kingdom come
-Thy will be done
2. Praying On the Basis of a New Respect – “Hallowed be your Name”
When you pray “hallowed be your name,” you climb to a new level of respect for God and reverence for his person. You are ascending to the very heart of God to recognize who He is and what He has done for us.
When Jesus taught us to pray “hallowed be your name,” He was telling us to make the presence of God real in our hearts. When you pray “hallowed be thy name,” you are placing God on the throne of your heart. It is about putting God on the throne of our lives on earth, as He sits upon His throne in heaven.
How do we “hallow” his name? We hallow his name with our lips, both privately and publicly, and by our actions. To pray that His name is “hallowed” means that first and foremost we desire our lives to reveal to others to the name of Jesus and the character or God.
3. Praying On the Basis of a New Priority – “Your Kingdom Come”
The first thing to consider is, “What did Jesus mean when He taught us to pray for the Kingdom to come?” When we pray “your Kingdom come” this prayer recognizes that God’s kingdom is not presently ruling on the earth. The tense of the verb “come” refers to a decisive time in the future when the kingdom will come once and for all – an event that will happen only once. In effect you are asking for the second coming of Jesus to this earth. You are asking for Jesus to come and established His kingdom on this earth. We are looking forward to the climax of history when God’s will, shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.
If we truly desire God’s rule over all men and women at a future time, then it follows that we desire that He will work His will out in our lives now. When we pray, “your kingdom come,” we are acknowledging God’s right to rule all people, including us. We dare not pray for his rule over others unless we honestly desire His rule over us. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to pray, “your kingdom come,” unless we fully intend to cooperate with the establishment of his rule in our own lives. Obviously the more fully we submit to God’s reign in our own lives the more effectively God will be able to use us in manifesting His kingdom on the earth.
4. Praying On the Basis of a New Submission – “Your Will be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven.”
It is unfortunately true that untold millions of individuals have repeated the words “your will be done” down through the centuries without the faintest notion of what God’s will is. Perhaps even more alarming is that even more people have repeated these words without any intention whatever of seeing to it that the Father’s will is done.
When you ask “your will be done,” you must be willing to do it “right now.” Notice you are not asking God to change His will or to bless your will, you are asking Him to help you find and do His will in your life.
But it is not enough just to know the will God; one must then apply it. “Your will be done”, is in reality a prayer of submission. According to Romans 12:2, it is our privilege to submit to “… that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (NKJV). The truth is that the cause of all the unrest, frustration, unhappiness and sense of powerlessness in the life of a Christian can be traced to trying to follow our own self-will. At the back of all our failure is the desire to have my way not His way; it’s basis is a will that says No to God!
As have seen the first three petitions have to do with God. The second four petitions, which we begin to examine now, have to do with human well-being and are distinguished by the word “us:” “give us,” “forgive us,” “keep us” and “lead us.” In last half of the prayer we turn from praying for God’s glory to praying for our needs. One of the profound realities of the Christian life is the realization that God cares about the simple, day-to-day, needs of our lives. He cares whether we are warm, fed and housed. He is concerned for our whole well-being, including those things necessary to sustain life.
5. Praying On The Basis of a New Dependence- “Give us day by day our daily bread.”
What does this request mean? We miss its importance for the simple fact that when you awoke this morning, none of you had even the slightest doubt that you would be able to eat today. Most of the major concerns for the average American is what will we eat, not whether we will eat. We are told to pray “give us day by day our daily bread,” to remind us of our absolute dependence on God for everything. God made us with needs so that we would have to look to Him to supply them. In this prayer for “daily bread,” bread stands for more than just food. It stands for all the physical things we need for life. To pray this prayer for “our daily bread,” expresses our conviction and belief that God is able to answer our prayer and to meet our needs. It is not that we are praying to overcome God’s unwillingness or overcome his reluctance, seeking to bend His will to ours, but it is rather the taking hold of God’s willingness to give.
In the spiritual realm it is just as true that yesterday’s strength is absolutely useless to fight today’s battles. Sometimes we as Christians rely on our experiences with God in the past. Of course they were good, but we need a fresh touch of God in our lives everyday. God never gives us a reservoir of grace in our lives, but expects to turn to Him everyday for the grace sufficient to meet the challenges of that day.
The phrase, “this day” reminds us as believers that we need daily renewal of our spiritual strength. We often get stressed out with anxiety because we try to face the problems of tomorrow today. Jesus addressed the problem of worry in the Sermon on the Mount were he said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (32) For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. (33) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt 6:31-34 NKJV).
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When we worry about tomorrow we are telling the heavenly father that we are not sure that He can provide for tomorrow’s bread. The invitation to pray “give us day-by-day our daily bread,” is an invitation to come to God with even those things that others might call small. We are not just to bring the big things to God but even our ordinary request – for a coat, for shoes, a vacation, groceries, or even a bicycle.
The ultimate bread is Jesus Christ himself. The only bread the will satisfy completely and forever is the provision of the Lord Jesus Himself. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” John 6:51 (NKJV)
6. Praying On the Basis of God’s Pardon – “Forgive Us Our Sins”
This petition is not only an explicit prayer for forgiveness, “forgive us our sins,” but also for a forgiving spirit, “for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” The first three of the petitions relate to the role of God as our Father. The last four focus on our needs as God’s children.
In our model prayer after we have asked the Father for provision, now we ask for pardon. “Forgive” follows “give.” Look back at the beginning of verse four, underline the word “and,” because it links the request for daily bread, with the request for daily forgiveness. In that way when we think of our need for food we will think of our need for forgiveness. Many of us are conscious of our need for daily bread, but are utterly unconscious of our need for daily forgiveness.
If we are sincere when we pray, “forgive us our sins,” then we are openly admitting ourselves as guilty of wrongdoing, of sin. Many falsely presume that because when we are saved we have no further need to ask for forgiveness or confession of sin.
This of course, is not the case. 1 John 1:8-9 tell us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (NKJV) Christian’s can and do still sin and thus stand in need of daily confession and forgiveness.
It needs to be remembered that this is a “family prayer,” it does not deal with the sins of unbelievers. It does not deal with our standing before God, which was established at salvation, and which can never be affected; it concerns the sins of the children of God, which hamper our fellowship with the Father. No non-Christian ever receives forgiveness from God on the basic of claiming to forgive someone else.
Although we receive forgiveness when we were saved we will never be able to fully enjoy cleansing in our Christian walk unless we are ready to extend it freely to those who offend us. True believers are forgiven and forgiving. That does not mean that forgiveness ever comes easily or naturally even to real Christians. It is always a battle to maintain a forgiving spirit. But the struggle to forgive is in itself evidence of God’s grace in a person’s heart, because otherwise he or she would just give in to bitterness. The warning here is for those who claim to be Christians and but who will not forgive and have no desire to do so.
Some say but I can’t forgive, is really I can’t or is it I won’t? Jesus did not tell the disciples that they could pray, “Lord, forgive me my trespasses and I will try to forgive those who have wronged me.” He told them that when they had forgiven others they could then claim their own forgiveness.
Ray Stedman tells the story of one man’s explanation for his lack of forgiveness. He said, “A man once said to me, ‘I know I’m a Christian, but someone once did an awful thing to me – something I just can’t forget or forgive.’ I replied, ‘Are you sure you can’t forgive him?’ He maintained that he had really tried to forgive this man, but was unable to do so. As we continued talking, I said, ‘I know, I have found that we often use the word can’t what we really mean is won’t. Isn’t possible that what you are saying is not, “I can’t forgive him,’ but ‘I won’t forgive him?’
If it is really true that you cannot forgive this ma, then it indicates that you yourself have never been forgiven and you are only kidding yourself about being a Christian.’ This shook him a bit. He thought it through and then, with a rather sheepish grin, he said, ‘I guess you’re right. I guess I won’t.’ It wasn’t long before he came to me and reported with joy that he had finally forgiven the man who had injured him.” [Ray Stedman. Talking With My Father. ( Grand Rapids; Discovery House, 1997) p. 73
It is possible that that right here we are touching upon one of the principle causes of unanswered prayer. Is it possible that anyone would truly rather have his own prayers unanswered for the human satisfaction of hating someone and holding on to a grudge against someone who has offended us? When we do not forgive we set up a roadblock in our prayer life.
7. Praying On the Basis of God’s Protection – “And do not Lead Us Into Temptation”
In the preceding petition “forgive us our sins,” the request was that sins already committed might be forgiven, but here we have a plea to be delivered from falling into new sins. The petition in the prayer is primarily for protection. By teaching us to pray for God to “not lead us into temptation”, he is not suggesting that God is the one who tempts us. James states that God “does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13). Rather it accepts the danger of temptation, acknow-ledges our deficiency in dealing with it, and asks for deliverance from it.
If we are to win in the battle against temptation we must realize the reality of Spiritual warfare. We cannot be victorious over that which we do not understand. Being ignorant of the fact that there is a great spiritual battle being fought in our world does not erase that fact that it is true.
We also need to acknowledge our inability to handle temptation on our own. We need to remember, everyone is vulnerable to temptation, no one is above falling. No matter how old we are or how mature in the faith we are. Although the strength of certain temptations may diminish somewhat with age, we are never free from temptation as long as we live in this world.
When we pray for God’s protection from temptation we are agreeing with the High priestly prayer of Jesus. He prayed, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” John 17:15 (NKJV)
The second part of the prayer for God’s protection is found in the request, “Deliver Us From Evil One.”
The King James Version translates this, “deliver us from evil” but The New King James Version, The New International Version and The New English Bible translations rendered it, “deliver us from the evil one” – referring of course to Satan.
When you use the phrase “deliver us from the evil one” you are admitting that this life is a struggle with an enemy that opposes us. Because we do not know what dangers we will face each new day, we need God’s protection to cover us. When you pray “deliver us from the evil one” you are turning your protection over to God.
Although Satan may be the ruler of this present evil world, though he may be the prince of the power of the air, though he may have cohorts of evil spirits at his command, he has no claim over the children of God, nor does he have any power to tempt them except what the Father allows.
To really learn about prayer you must pray. Jesus gave us the blueprint for prayer, I want to challenge you to use that way. Begin by praying, “Our father in heaven,” focus on what it means to talk to the God of the Universe as Father. Then pray about his priorities – “Your kingdom come,” his purposes- “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” ask for his provision- “give day by day our daily bread” – ask for his pardon – “forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone who is indebted to us”, and his his protection – “ and do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”