The Lord's Prayer (Part I)

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April 28th, 2019

Main idea: Jesus gives us a pattern to pray to our Heavenly Father so that his priorities become our desire.

“The Lord’s Prayer stretches from the Father at the beginning to the devil at the end, from heaven to hell, and in between, in six brief petitions, everything important in life.” ~ Frederick Brunner

I. WHY SHOULD WE PRAY? (6:7-8)

Matthew 6 began with a warning not to practice your righteousness before others for the purpose of being seen by them. He warns against giving for reputation and praying for recognition, and here he cautions of another false way to pray.

“Empty phrases” means babble; it is a mindless repetition or “many words” that was common in pagan prayers to their false gods (cf. 1 Kings 18:26; Acts 19:34).

Ultimately, the issue here is not with lengthy or long prayers, but with the attitude and posture of the heart. To pray in this way is a desire to manipulate God in order to get what we really want.

Instead, Jesus reminds us that we have Father who already knows our needs, even before we ask him. We don’t need to manipulate or impress him to get what we really want; he is a good Father who cares for his children.

But if God already knows what we need, then why should we pray?

Prayer puts us in a proper posture before God, and it is an invitation to experience God. Prayer is not about getting things from God but instead getting more of God himself. Prayer is not a “transaction” but a bridge between what we know about God and actually knowing God.

“Prayer is both conversation and encounter with God… We must know the awe of praising his glory, the intimacy of finding his grace, and the struggle of asking his help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of his presence. Prayer, then, is both awe and intimacy, struggle and reality” ~ Tim Keller

II. WHO SHOULD WE PRAY TO? (6:9A)

Jesus begins this prayer with a reminder of who we are talking to when we pray. Before we jump into our list of needs and concerns (even legitimate ones), we should “reset” for a moment.

Beginning our prayers with “our Father” is more than anything (in our cultural moment) a call to slow down and to remember the character, nature, and acts of God. It also sets the expectation for the rest of our prayer: are we viewing this as an opportunity to commune and talk with our Father or as something else?

Beginning our prayers in this way reminds us of two things:

  1. God is personal (Our Father…)

  2. God is powerful (... in heaven)

III. WHAT SHOULD WE PRAY? (6:9B-10)

Jesus models three petitions (or requests) here:

  1. “Hallowed be your name”

This is a request to “make your name holy” both in our lives and in the world around us. We pray this first because no matter what is going on circumstantially, if we are God’s people, our greatest desire will be for him to be known and worshipped.

2. “Your kingdom come”

There is a tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of the Kingdom of God.

“The Kingdom of God is where the Father’s rule is exercised through the Son in the power of the Spirit so that it is willingly obeyed, gloriously displayed, and happily enjoyed among his people in his world.” ~ Steve Timmis

We we pray “your kingdom come,” we are drawn into a bigger picture than just our individual faith in Jesus; we are reminded that God has committed to set right all that has gone wrong and to renew all things.

“Jesus’ first followers didn’t think, for a moment, that the Kingdom meant simply some new religious advice – an improved spirituality, a better code of morals, or a freshly crafted theology. They held to a stronger and more dangerous claim. They believed that in the unique life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the whole cosmos had turned the corner from darkness to light. The Kingdom was indeed here, though it differed radically from what they had imagined…We are praying, as Jesus was praying and acting, for the redemption of the world; for the radical defeat and uprooting of evil; and for heaven and earth to be married at last, for God to be all in all” ~ N.T. Wright

This is not a prayer that disconnects us from this world, but rather invites us to see and live in our present time rightly. Until the “not yet” is fully realized, God has left his church as an embassy and an outpost of the Kingdom of God, representing the interests of King Jesus in the midst of “foreign” territory.

3. “Your will be done”

How can we trust that God’s will is best for us? We must look to Christ, who prayed this very prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Matt. 26:39). Though Jesus deserved to have his prayers answered, he submitted to his Father’s will so that we, who do not deserve to have our prayers answered, might have access to God.

“Your will be done” is not said with a shrug of our shoulders in resignation; it’s a prayer of humble trust and submission to our Father who knows what is best.

As we pray in the way Jesus models here, God’s priorities increasingly become our desires. Prayer fundamentally changes us in this way.

“Praying most often doesn’t get us what we want but what God wants, something quite at variance with what we conceive to be in our best interests…The task is not to get God to do something I think needs done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can participate in it.” ~ Eugene Peterson