Robert Wurtz II
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 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)
As a young Christian in the very early 90s, I was under the strange impression that prayer needed to be what I might call “high octane.” This is the kind of prayer that charges hell’s gates (as it were) and is full of energy and enthusiasm. It wouldn’t have been a proper time of prayer unless many scriptures were quoted and the devil was addressed and rebuked numerous times. Unless I was moving in this kind of “prayer in overdrive” then somehow I was missing the mark. At least that was my assumption. Looking back I can say with a fair amount of certainty that my prayers may have had some use, but they bore little resemblance to Matthew 6:9-13.
Sometimes passages of scripture can become so familiar that a strange temptation arises to dismiss them all together. If this were to ever happen with our passage in Matthew 6:9-13 or the cognate passage in Luke 12:2f it would be utterly tragic. Referred to by the late great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson as “The Model Prayer” the Lord Jesus sets down some essential elements to prayer. This is not to say that we ought to pray these words liturgically. What we have here are essential elements, not an inviolable pattern of words. In other words, when God thinks of teaching on prayer He is thinking of the topics revealed in Matthew 6 and Luke 12.
You will recall that one of the oldest stories in human history is that of Cain and Abel. The one brought an acceptable offering and the other a rejected one. The difference was that one was offered in faith and one was not (Hebrews 11:4). This is true enough, but what does that mean? Understand that the key to faith is knowing how faith comes. It comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. That is to say when we have the revelation of God’s will we can and must act on that revelation. We exercise faith when we respond rightly to what God has revealed about His will. More simply, when we know what God wants then we have an opportunity to exercise faith. Cain failed because be brought to God what he wanted God to have — not what God expected to receive.
Apply this principal to the Lord’s direction for praying in Matthew 6 and Luke 12. If we come to Christ bringing a high-octane prayer devoid of the principals laid down in our passage then we have failed as surely as did Cain. We may have said a great many things and avoided altogether the most important part(s). God’s concerns must be our concerns in prayer. This is not to say that we cannot pray for other things or topics because we surely can and must. Nevertheless, we are given clear direction as to the subjects that are to be made a matter of prayer — not in mindless recital or a vain repetitive sense (as prayed the heathen to their false gods) — but in honest reflection and all sincerity. The topics brought to mind in this “Model Prayer” should sober our minds to our daily needs so that afterward we realize that we need God’s mercy daily as well as recognizing our responsibility to show others mercy as surely as we need “our daily bread.”
In Luke 12 the request was made, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1 KJV) As we approach God we are to recognize Him as our Heavenly Father, but also with great reverence. Foremost in our minds should be the coming of the kingdom of God into the lives of people. That is to say that they surrender to God in such a way that they are born from above and begin to behave as such. Pray that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. This is a very tall order and worthy of deep reflection. In Heaven God’s will is carried out in the absolute sense of the word. It is a delight for Heaven to do God’s will. So too, God’s will ought to be done on earth. This should be a top priority in prayer — that God’s will is done.
The use of the term “daily…” implies that this ought to be a daily emphasis in our prayers. Imagine that we lived from day to day consciously depending on God for our next meal and that we have no reserves. This is a reality for many people around the world. Likewise, we have the conjunction “and” (Gk. kai) to connect the next thought of asking God to forgive us of our sins as we forgive others who sinned against us. The wording of the verse is that of sins and debt, but forgiveness of sins is clearly implied in the passage. Consciously recognizing our need for forgiveness and linking that thought to forgiving others is a powerful means of keeping our hearts right before God and man. We need God’s mercy and we need to extend mercy and on a daily basis.
We have another conjunction “and” (Gk. kai) as we read… And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. The Lord’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane comes to mind. He asked the Father to “let this cup pass from Him.” In other words, lead us not into temptation (testing). He then concluded the prayer with, “(…) nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42 KJV) Needing no forgiveness of His own — as He went to the cross — His prayer followed on with, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
It is my desire that as we go to the Lord in prayer He will bring to our remembrance the elements contained in the Lord’s prayer so that our prayers will focus on the areas that are important to Him. And if they are important to Him they are essential to our success as Christians. Not vain repetition. Not liturgy. Not an inviolable pattern of words. But prayers of honest reflection and sincerity.
I can truly relate to the “high octane” type of prayer that you wrote about. Enjoyed reading this and rethinking The Lord’s Prayer through what you’ve written here. Thanks.