No song, no chant, no mantra or poem is as famous or as often repeated than the model prayer given by Jesus in the Bible. Yet, ironically, no prayer is as misunderstood as the “Lord’s prayer” either. Jesus’ words have deep meaning for every person on this planet and he reveals many profound truths in this short but, beautiful prayer. It has, over time though, become like a good luck charm to be mumbled over and over, without much thought being given to it’s actual meaning. When Jesus uttered that famous prayer, it was not for habitual repetition but it was intended as a model for sincere communication with God. That Jesus never intended his listeners to repeat it word for word is demonstrated by the fact that in the parallel version in the book of Luke, Jesus uses the same pattern but, different wording. Jesus elsewhere explains that God does not want the same things said over and over again (Matthew 6.7).
What can we learn from this prayer? Why did Jesus give it to us?
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”
Sadly, billions on earth today still do not know God’s name. Yet, here in his prayer Jesus instructs us to “hallow“, revere, adore, glorify God’s name. Many modern Bible translators have attempted to obliterate God’s glorious name from the Bible but it can still be found in copies such as the King James version at Psalm 83, verse 18 where it reads, “That men may know that thou, whose name is JEHOVAH, Art the most high over all the earth.” Why do the world’s churches not speak and glorify God’s name, as Jesus instructed us to? Some claim that we do not know the exact pronunciation of God’s name in English but, they still use the name of Jesus, even though his name is not exactly known (in reality, his name would be something like “Iesious”).
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Neither at that time, nor today is God’s will being done on earth. “God is love” says John. The world does not exhibit the personality of a loving God. Instead, it reflects the personality of a malicious, selfish leader, the one who Jesus called “the ruler of this world, who has no hold over me” (John 14.30). There is a verse in the Psalms that promises that “the wicked will be cut off” while the “meek shall dwell forever upon the earth” (Psalm 37.10,29). How will this stunning transformation come about? By means of God’s kingdom. What is that? Some believe that it is a state of peace brought about by Christians on earth. They point to Jesus words at Luke 17.21 where Jesus says “the kingdom of heaven is within you.” But who was Jesus speaking to? the religious leaders, the Pharisees, men who rejected him and had him executed. Was the kingdom really within them? A more accurate translation of that scripture reads “the kingdom of heaven is in your midst.” Jesus was standing in their midst, as the future king of God’s kingdom. A kingdom is a government, a rulership. This is confirmed by the words of Isaiah 9.6 where it says of Jesus “the government shall be upon his shoulder.” Unlike the world’s kingdoms and governments, the kingdom Jesus spoke of is not made by humans on earth. Jesus confirmed this when he told Pilate “my kingdom is not of this world.” What will God’s kingdom do when it comes? “It shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms (mankind’s governments), and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2.44).
Jesus does not rule alone though because we are told at Revelation 5.10 that “he has made us unto our God kings and priests and we shall reign over the earth.” A ruler needs subjects and those subjects are the “meek who shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5.5).
“Give us this day our daily bread”
Jesus was trying to teach his followers a simple truth, emphasised in the sermon on the mount, namely that, “your heavenly Father knows what you need.” When a Christian puts God’s will first in his life and does not chase after riches and glory, God guarantees to provide him with the necessities (not luxuries) of life (Matthew 6.33). In this modern age of commercialism and pressure, it is easy to be overwhelmed by either the struggle to survive or the desire to have everything now but, Jesus was urging people to resist these pressures and put faith in God to see us through these critical times.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others their trespasses against us”
Jesus warned us not to judge each other but to reflect God’s great quality of mercy. God made the ultimate sacrifice in allowing his son to “taste death for all men.” He arranged this so that we could be shown mercy on the basis of that sacrifice of his beloved son. What do we sacrifice when we forgive others, our pride?
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”
God does not literally “lead us into” temptation but he allows us free will to choose to do right or wrong. In petitioning God to deliver us from evil we are, in effect, promising to try our utmost to avoid wrongdoing. God will then provide the support we need. As Paul puts it “We have power beyond what is normal.” Part of the “fruitage of the holy spirit” is “self-control.”
The final line in the King James version was added later and is not part of the Lord’s prayer.
In conclusion, this prayer is an acknowledgement of who God is, an offer of praise and worship, and recognition that his kingdom is the only hope for mankind. It is a request for strength and a good conscience and it is a promise to follow the ways that God approves of.