The Lord’s Prayer
These exhortations were given by me between 1999 and 2005. That was a long time ago, and I have grown a lot since then. They may not reflect my current beliefs.
I thought this morning I’d talk about the Lord’s Prayer. It’s very short, very simple, yet it contains a summary of the whole gospel, and the whole way of life. I’m going to read the Lord’s prayer from Luke 11, verses 1 to 4.
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
We have all said those words countless times, and because we are so familiar with them I think they deserve to be looked at closely from time to time.
Consider the first sentence: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”
That is a very personal and direct way that we are allowed to approach God in prayer. “Our Father”. Not “Our God” or “Oh, Greatest being in the Universe” or “Our Supreme Ruler” although God is all those things. Our God is our Father, and he looks after us just as our natural fathers do and did. God is not some distant tyrant as other religions sometimes portray Him.
Calling God “Our Father” is a way of letting us understand the relationship between God and his children. We can’t fully comprehend the nature of God, but we can all understand what it means to have a father, and through that we can understand our relationship with God.
Calling God “Our Father” is a reminder of the fellowship between us, his children. He is our father, shared between all of us, and we are all his children, brothers and sisters together.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven”. God is actually more than just a substitute human father shared among us. He is our Father in Heaven, a strong father, not weak and fallible like our human fathers.
“Hallowed be thy name.” That’s a way of saying “make your name Holy” or “let your name be holy”. That’s a way of paying respect to God, but it isn’t just saying it. When we say “Hallowed be your name” we should remember that we have a part to play in making God’s name hallowed. The way that we conduct ourselves is part of how we make God’s name hallowed. We shouldn’t squabble among ourselves, we shouldn’t cheat those outside the faith badly. Anybody looking at us should be able to see the impact of having God as our Father, and they should be able to say “Their God must be something different, because they are good people for his name.”
“Thy kingdom come.” It’s appropriate that this comes at the start of the prayer, isn’t it? The promise of the Kingdom is the fundamental hope of us all. It’s not “May we all go to heaven when we die” but “thy kingdom come”.
“Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” There’s promise here as well. This reminds us that when God’s kingdom comes, his will will be done perfectly on earth as it is currently done perfectly in heaven. That’s not the only promise though. Just as we have a part to play in making God’s name hallowed, we have a part to play in making his will done on earth as it is in heaven. If we try to live as faithful disciples then what we are trying to do is make sure that in our tiny part of the world God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven. We don’t always succeed, but our personal one person kingdoms are pale, imperfect reflections of God’s Kingdom to come. When we pray “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” We are looking forward to the establishment, and promising that we will try to create a kind of mini kingdom of God by the way we live. There is a promise here from God, and a promise from us. We’ll come back to double promises in a minute.
“Give us day by day our daily bread.” This simple phrase has many layers of complexity as well. It’s not really an order, it’s a request. An it is a request for something very simple. Enough physical supplies and blessings to keep us going. The request is actually something more than just that though. It isn’t a request to be given a huge pile of bread with the assurance that it will last for weeks, or months or years. It’s a request to receive enough bread for one day, and to receive that each day. There’s an obvious parallel with the Manna in the wilderness here. The Israelites weren’t supposed to collect enough manna to last for a week, or even two days. They were supposed to collect enough for one day and one day only.
“Give us day by day our daily bread,” should also remind us of Christ’s commandment to take no thought for the morrow. Suppose God was to give us all that we needed in big month-sized chunks. How many of us would have the faith to trust that it was going to last the whole month? I know I couldn’t.
“Give us day by day our daily bread,” is a simple request for physical blessing, and an expression of confidence in God. When we pray “Give us day by day our daily bread” we are taking no thought for the morrow.
“And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” This is the next double promise, like “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, but this one is more explicit, because this teaching is very important. ” And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us”. This is a reminder to us that God can and will forgive our sins, but that we must also be forgiving. You can’t pray “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” if you know you are holding a grudge against someone else. We don’t want God to hold a grudge against us, so we must not hold a grudge against anyone else.
Again, this is something that nobody is perfect at doing. Just as we don’t always do God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven we don’t always forgive everybody whom we should forgive. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. When we pray “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” we are both praying for forgiveness and expressing our desire that we should be able to forgive all others and our willingness to do so.
The concluding sentence of the Lord’s prayer is a compliment to “Give us this day our daily bread”. “And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” The former is a request for physical well-being. The latter is a request for spiritual well-being. It is appropriate that both should be present. “And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil” is saying “I know that I am weak, please protect me from temptation, and from those around me who would harm me.”
As you would expect from the prayer that Christ taught his disciples, the Lord’s prayer covers all aspects of our lives.
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. It begins with an acknowledgement of who God is and his relationship with each one of us.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. It looks forward to the glory of the Lord covering the earth as the waters now cover the sea, and has the promise to try to live by doing God’s will here as it is done in heaven.
Give us day by day our daily bread. It asks God for physical blessing, but just enough physical blessing to do us for each day.
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. It asks for forgiveness, and has the promise that we too will be forgiving.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. It asks God for spiritual blessing, as well as the physical.
These five simple points encompass every part of our lives, and point us towards the great hope that is the Kingdom of God, with His will being done on earth as it is in Heaven.