And it came to pass, as [Jesus] was praying in a certain place, that when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, “Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples.”
And he said unto them, “When ye pray, say, Father, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And bring us not into temptation” (Luke 11:1-4).
The Lord’s Prayer has been a mainstay of much of “Christendom” for a long time; it is repeated constantly around the world at least on a weekly basis. It is known for being succinct and yet deep in meaning. It is a wonderful model prayer– a vehicle designed to get us to think more deeply about our petitions to God and how those petitions impact our lives.
As told in Luke the circumstance begins with Jesus praying. The disciples seek to learn how to pray from Him since they see Him in prayer so much (cf. Luke 5:16, etc.). He is the Model for us– He does not merely exhort us to pray (Luke 18:1-8) but lives a life of prayer. This left a deep impression on the disciples (cf. Acts 6:4).
Jesus was not disappointed in their request for guidance; He did not rebuke them for it. It was good to ask the Lord how to pray. He was more than happy to oblige and teach them how to pray.
And then we have the substance of the prayer. The version in Matthew (Matthew 6:9-13) is a bit more expansive (and was expanded upon more over time), but the sentiments are the same as in the Lukan version.
Jesus’ first statement involves the sanctification of God’s name. While God may be our Father through adoption, and we have been granted access to Him, we must always remember that He is holy and utterly greater than ourselves (cf. Romans 8:15, Hebrews 4:16, 1 Peter 1:16, Isaiah 55:8-9). Whether we communicate our reverence for God in words and attitude or just by attitude, it is important that it be communicated.
Jesus’ second directive involves the Kingdom. At the time Jesus speaks the Kingdom had not yet come; it would exist after Pentecost (cf. Colossians 1:13), but the full salvation and the ability to be with God forever has not yet arrived (1 Peter 1:3-9, Revelation 21:1-22:6). Regardless, it is good to promote the advancement of the Kingdom of God in prayer– the strengthening of the church, the proclamation of the Gospel around the world and for the welfare of those seeking to do so, and so on (Ephesians 4:11-16, Romans 1:16, Colossians 4:3).
Daily needs should be a part of prayer. God knows we need them, but that does not mean that we should not ask for them (cf. Matthew 6:23-34). God is not unapproachable or concerned only about the “big picture” so as to have no desire to hear our petitions regarding the daily issues of life. Instead, He wants us to cast our anxieties upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). Life is lived through daily concerns, and it is good for followers of God to obtain His counsel for them.
Since we have the propensity for sin, we have need of forgiveness (cf. 1 John 1:8-9), yet this statement of Jesus is as much a challenge and a warning as it is a petition in prayer. Jesus encourages us to pray for the forgiveness of our sins on the basis of our own forgiveness of those who sin against us– a matter on which He elaborates further in Matthew 6:14-15 and Matthew 18:21-35. It is not and cannot be enough for us to just pray to God for the forgiveness of our sins. If we want to be forgiven we must be forgiving, and we cannot expect forgiveness if we do not grant forgiveness.
Jesus concludes in Luke with a petition to not be led into temptation. On the surface, this seems strange– is it not true that God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13)? We should not imagine that Jesus expects us to make sure in our prayers that we beg God not to personally direct us toward temptation, for God does not do such things. Instead, the petition is a request to be delivered from trial and to escape the temptations of the Evil One. We must acknowledge the spiritual war in which we are engaged, constantly maintaining contact with the Captain of our souls (cf. Ephesians 6:10-18). It is right and good for us to request God’s assistance in terms of our trials and temptations so that we may endure and overcome. We do not win by our own strength; we overcome through the strength that God supplies through Jesus Christ!
God’s holiness, advancement of His Kingdom, daily needs, forgiveness, endurance in trial and temptation– so much is said in so few words. Let us consider the Lord’s Prayer and remain in continual contact with our Lord and God!
Ethan R. Longhenry