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Principles in The Lord's Prayer

Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.

The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4)

The Lord's prayer appears in two of the four gospels: in the Gospel according to Matthew and in the Gospel according to Luke. Although Luke's version of the Lord's prayer is very similar to Matthew's in the King James Version, modern translations follow manuscripts that point to a longer version by Matthew and a much shorter version by Luke. However, these differences are not contadictions: the essence of the prayer is the same, and the differences can best be explained by the different objectives of the authors (Matthew focused on how the Lord's teachings refelcted the Jewish faith, while Luke focused on the meaning of the Lord's ministry for gentile Christians). It's also clear that Matthew records what the Lord taught on one occasion, and Luke records what the Lord taught on another occasion.

Nevertheless, many of us are well acquainted with Matthew's version of the Lord's prayer, as it appears in the King James Version:

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

(Matthew 6:9-13, KJV)

It is truly a beautiful prayer—so beautiful, it has even been turned into songs. But what does it teach? What was the Lord teaching his disciples through it?

Andrea Bocelli - The Lord's Prayer - Live From The Kodak Theatre

The Real Purpose of The Lord's Prayer

What you need to understand about the Lord's prayer, first of all, is that it teaches something about prayer. In other words, the Lord did not mean for his disciples to recite the same words over and over again as they prayed (although He probably did want them to memorize it). Instead, He most likely intended them to learn from the words important principles about prayer.

Principles Taught by The Lord's Prayer

The Lord's prayer communicates ten principles about prayer that everyone should understand and put into prctice.

Principle #1: God Is Our Father

The Lord's prayer begins by addressing God as "our Father," a divine title that holds great significance in the Hebrew Bible because it indicates that God loves Israel despite their failures to Him, and therefore He is commited to act on their behalf to reconcile them unto Himself.

For you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us,
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O Lord, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name. (Isaiah 63:16, ESV)

The Lord was teaching his disciples to exercise personal faith in the God who loves them and who has revealed Himself in the Bible as their Father.

But how can we, gentiles, relate to the God of Israel as our Father? We need to keep three things in mind:

  1. God's love and care for Israel as a nation is ultimately granted only to those who are faithful to Him, and not to all Israelites (1 Kings 19:18, Habakkuk 2:4, John 8:39-40, Romans 9:7).
  2. Those who are faithful to God are ultimately those who also exercise faith in Jesus: that he died for our sins, that he resurrected, and that he is God's Messiah and Son (Isaiah 28:16, Isaiah 53:6, 10, Luke 22:20, John 1:12, Romans 1:4).
  3. God's fatherhood is extended to all who belive in Jesus Christ, whether Jews or gentiles (Romans 9:24, Isaiah 11:10, 42:6, 49;6).

Principle #2: God Is in Heaven

The Lord's prayer also teaches another biblical belief: that God is in heaven.

Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3, ESV)

This belief does not only speak about God's location: more importantly, it speaks about God's authority. God is in heaven because He is in a position of authority above us, who dwell on the earth (Ecclesiastes 5:2, Isaiah 40:22).

By instructing the disciples to recognize in their prayers that God is in a position of authority, the Lord was teaching the disciples both reverence to God and submission to His authority (the rest of the prayer will also reinforce this concept).

So then, although God is "our Father" who loves us, we are instructed to recognize his authority.

Principle #3: Live for God

The Lord's prayer also teaches the principle that we must worship and live in a way that honors the holiness of God's name.

31 “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord. 32 And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you, 33 who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 22:31-33, ESV)

According to the passage above, it was important to follow God's instructions when offering Him sacrifices: doing so showed proper respect for the holiness of God's name, which people were invoking when they offered him sacrifices to Him.

But the Bible applies this principle beyond sacrifices: the ten commandments, for example, gave the people the general instruction to showregard for God's name:

7 “You shall 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. (Exodus 20:7, ESV)

In other words, those who worship God through relgious acts (like sacrifices and prayers) must also live in a way that shows respect and love for God.

Therefore, although the times have changed and we no longer offer vegetable and animal sacrifices to God for various biblical reasons, the Lord's prayer teaches us that our prayers to God must be accompanied by lives dedicated to honoring God.

God only accepts the prayers of those who truly live for Him.

Principle #4: God's Kingdom

The Lord's prayer also teaches us to long for the establishment of God's kingdom on Earth.

And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:14, ESV)

According to the Hebrew Bible, there will be a time when God will rule the world through His Meshiach (Messiah, Christ, anointed king); and, according to Jesus, God's literal and visible kingdom on Earth will be preceded by a spiritual presence of God's kingdom.

"20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20-21, ESV)

So, as we live for God in the present, we must also have faith in God's revealed promises and plan for the future; and, from that faith in God's promises and plan concerning the future, derive hope and patience to live in the present.

The practicality of this principle in the prayer must not be overlooked: it gives us hope, it gives us resilience, and it honors God through our faith in His revealed words and His providential work (in the nation of Israel, in the world, and in our lives).

Moreover, as a Christian, it also motivates me to contribute to the advancement of God's kingdom on Earth.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8, ESV)

30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Acts 28:30-31, ESV)

Principle #5: God's Will

The Lord's prayer also teaches us to pray that God's will to be done on earth as it is done in heaven, a request that is obviously related to the request for God's kingdom to come (God's will will be done on Earth as in heaven when God's kingdom is finally established on Earth).

Nevertheless, God's will will be done regardless of whether we pray for it or not:

Remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:9-10, ESV)

The point of this request, then, is not to pray for God do His will because there is any chance that His will may not be done, but to expresses trust in God's will, commitment and submission to God's will, acceptance of God's will, and desire for God's will: for God's will is awlays good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2).

Principle #6: Trust God

The Lord's prayer also teaches us to trust in God, that He will care for us and provide for all our needs. Therefore, we are to humbly request for God to provide the bread we need to live.

By asking God to provide, we are exercising trust in God's revelation that He is our Father. By asking God to provide what we need for the day, we are recognizing our dependance on Him. By asking God for bread, we are being humble: we are not asking for steak, wine, and any kind of excess, but for what we need to live. In this way, the prayer communicates a neglect for the pleasures of this present and evil world, and a desire for things that are spiritual and that please God.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3, ESV)

Principle #7: Be Reconciled with God

The Lord's prayer also teaches us to ask God for forgiveness of our sins.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin! (Psalm 51:1-2, ESV)

Even though we have believed that the blood of Jesus washes us from all our sins (Revelation 1:5), and even though we strive to obey God and live for him, we still sin (1 John 1:8). Therefore, we need to repent and confess our sins, trusting that God will honor the sacrifice of Jesus and forgive, according to His steadfast love and abundant mercy (1 John 1:9).

Principle #8: Be Reconciled with Men

According to the Lord's prayer, in order for us to be forgiven by God, we also need to forgive those who have wronged us.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12, ESV)

This condition is consistent with repentance. If we truly repent from our sins, God expects us to truly forgive others—not doing so is sin! If we truly know God, there is no room in our lives for rancor, bitterness, and hatred (1 John 2:9), because God is love (1 John 4:8).

But some will ask, "If the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sins when we believe in him, why do we still need to ask for forgiveness?" I believe that, although faith in Christ is all we need for salvation, failing to confess sins and repent from them is not only inconsistent with that salvation, but will also prompt God (if we truly have been saved) to discipline us (Hebrews 12:10-11). And we are warned that discipline is painful.

Principle #9: Pray for Deliverance

The Lord's prayer also teaches us to ask God not to lead us into temptation, but to deliver us from evil. In other words, we should pray to be delivered from evil that will put our faithfulness to God to the test.

While God has the right to put our faith to the test, as He did with Abraham, Job, and Peter (Genesis 22:1, Job 1:9-12, Luke 22:31), such tests are not something we desire, and it is permissable for us to pray to be spared from them (Matthew 26:39). But, if God does allow our faithfulness to be tested, we still need deliverance from the evil one (1 Peter 5:8), who would like to use these trials to destroy us.

Principle #10: Glory to God

Finally, the Lord's prayer also teaches to praise God, recognizing that the kingdom, the power, and the glory belong to Him. Although this last part does not appear in some manuscripts and is therefore excluded from some Bible versions and translations, it is entirely consistent with the perspective of the Lord's prayer, which teaches us to wholly submit to God's authority, devote ourselves to His service, and commit ourselves to His glory.

Musical Aramaic rendition of the Our Father that moved the pope in Georgia

© 2021 Marcelo Carcach

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