"Lord, teach us to pray." In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray.
So begins the pray Jesus taught His disciples to pray. Some call it “The Lord’s Prayer.” Others correctly call it “The Disciple’s Prayer,” because it is the model prayer Jesus taught His followers. Still others call it “The Kingdom Prayer,” because the petitions of the prayer sum up the cries and desires of those who seek God’s kingdom above all else. Some simply call it, “The Our Father.”
“Our Father, who art in Heaven…
As with any commonly recited verse or prayer, there are those who do not understand and often misquote it. Writing to Anne Landers, one parent shares,
“When my twin daughters were young, I taught them to say this prayer before going to bed. As I listened outside their door, I could hear them say, "Give us this steak and daily bread, and forgive us our mattresses…”
One child was overheard praying, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Harold be thy name…” Another child recited, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Howard be thy name…” One little boy in preschool thought the opening line was, “…How didja know my name?”
One grown up from Grand Junction, Colorado remembers, “When I was younger, I believed the line was, ‘Lead a snot into temptation.’ I thought I was praying for my little sister to get into trouble.”
Now it’s fun to laugh at the misunderstandings of children, but, truth be told, some of us adults frequently rattle off the Lord’s Prayer and recite it with little understanding of what we’re really saying. Let’s take a closer look at the kingdom prayer Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew chapter 6.
It is an example prayer on which we can model our prayer life. And it is a prayer we are privileged to recite both in personal devotion and corporate worship. Let’s take a closer look to ensure we really understand what we’re praying when we pray, “Our Father, who art in Heaven.”
In Matthew 6, Jesus calls His disciples to pursue true treasure, treasure in heaven – treasure that will stand the test of time. The question is, are you and I pursuing what matters most? Are we laying up treasure in heaven? Especially in the area of our worship and prayer life, do our pursuits and practices align with God’s plans and God’s priorities?
As with giving and fasting, so with prayer – Jesus assumes His disciples will pray.
Like Jesus, they will prioritize prayer. Like Jesus, they will pray. Disciples of Jesus don’t pray like the hypocritical Pharisees who pray more for human applause than the Father’s approval (Matthew 6:5-6). When we pray to impress others, God is unimpressed by our prayers.
Neither do disciples of Jesus pray like the manipulative pagans who think of prayer as a way to convince, coax, or sweet-talk God into giving us what we want (Matthew 6:7-8). When we pray to manipulate God, God is unmoved by our prayers.
However, when we pray to our Father in Heaven, we pray like Jesus prayed; we pray as Jesus taught us to pray (Matthew 6:9-15). That’s really what distinguishes the prayers of Jesus’ followers from the prayers of hypocrites and pagans. We pray to our loving and glorious Father in heaven. We don’t pray for human applause like the hypocrites. We don’t pray to bend God’s ear and manipulate Him to do our will like the pagans.
No, we pray to our loving Heavenly Father. His smile is all we seek. He already knows what we need, and we trust Him wholeheartedly.
THE MODEL PRAYER – “Pray then like this” (Matthew 6:9)
Jesus’ model prayer for His disciples consists of an invocation, 6 petitions, and a doxology.
In the opening invocation, Jesus teaches us how to approach God, and He gives us a new way to address God. In the concluding doxology of praise, we end our prayers focusing not on ourselves and our needs but on God and His Kingdom, His power, His glory.
In the six petitions of our Lord’s model prayer, the first three focus on God’s preeminence and the second three focus on our personal needs. God’s glory first; our concerns second. Those who lay up treasure in Heaven are those who keep God and His glory first and foremost in everything, including their prayers. This is the proper ordering of our priorities and our prayers. We must be careful not to reverse it.
Too often our prayers are nothing but a shopping list of personal wants and wishes. Yes, our loving Father cares deeply about us, and He wants His children to express their trust in Him by making their needs known. But His name, His kingdom, His will are the ultimate treasure. God Himself is our priority, and God Himself should come first in our prayers.
THE INVOCATION: “Our Father in Heaven”
Hypocrites pray for others to see them; pagans pray to manipulate uncaring and uninvolved gods and goddesses; we pray to our loving Father!
In Aramaic - the everyday language spoken by Jesus – the word “Father” would have been Abba. This was the word used by Jewish children for their earthly Fathers. It conveys the sense of love, warmth, loyalty and protection between the ultimate Father and His children.
God is our Creator, but our sins separate us from Him. Through Jesus, we are made right with God and adopted into His forever family. Through Jesus, we dare even to call ourselves God’s children, daring further to address Him as our Daddy.
Galatians 4:4-7 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Romans 8:15-17 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
God is not some distant deity. Through Jesus, we know Him as “Our Father.” God has blessed my wife Tanya and I with four kids – John, Emily, Kiley and Karli. I love them more than words could ever say, more than pen could ever tell. When my son wants to hang out or more girls call me “Daddy,” I’m the proudest papa in the world! My heart melts when my kids seek me out. So if I, a frail and failing human father love my kids like that, how much more does our perfect Heavenly Father love His kids!
Matthew 7:9-11 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
“Our Father in heaven…”
While our Father is immanent, near and approachable, He is also transcendent, resplendent, and excellent, for He is our Father in heaven. Heaven is His throne and the earth His footstool. He is sovereign in His rule and reign. Jesus here “combines fatherly love with heavenly power, and what His love directs, His power is able to perform.”
As we come to the petitions of the Lord’s model prayer, remember the order:
God and His glory first; us and our needs second.
Let us also remember that there is a present and future component to these prayers for God’s glory and our good. While we pray for current kingdom realities, we also look forward to the Kingdom that will come at the glorious Day of Christ’s appearing.
Let us also remember that these petitions and requests must reflect our heart’s cry, our deepest desires, our highest priorities. As such, not only will we pray for these things as Jesus taught us, we will also actively, practically participate in God’s purpose and plan to make these petitions a reality. People used to refer to this as “putting feet to our prayers.” In other words, don’t pray for something if you aren’t willing to be used by the Father to help bring it to pass.
So in each petition, we will consider the present, future, and practical side of what exactly it is that we are praying for.
1. “Hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9)
God’s name is the revelation of His character, His will and His ways. In the OT, His name was the special possession of His people.
Exodus 3:13-14 13 Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM’ has sent me to you.'"
“Hallowed be your name” doesn’t mean that God might become something He is not already. God is already holy. We are praying that He be hallowed, that He be regarded as holy. It means “May God be treated with the highest honor; may He be set apart and holy.”
For the Future
We are praying that God accomplish His saving acts in the world so that His holiness is on worldwide display and all people regard Him as holy.
Philippians 2:9-11 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Since God is already holy, “hallowed by your name” does not mean praying God will be something He is not already. It’s a reference to how people treat God’s name, and that begins with us.
How do we speak God’s name? Do we take His name in vain? Is it a term of contempt? We who bear God’s name, do we drag it through the mud with our words and our actions? In the way we speak and in the way we live, do we cause God’s name to be set apart and hallowed?
Let us not pray “hallowed by your name” if we are unwilling to treat His name as holy and to lead others to do the same.
2. “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10)
Just as we are not praying for God’s name to become holy as if it is not already, so we are not praying for the kingdom to come as if it is not already here.
Matthew 4:17 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Luke 17:20-21 20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, 21 nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you."
The Kingdom of God is the rule and reign of Christ, which He Himself inaugurated during His earthly ministry and which we continue as He rules and reigns in us and through us. To pray “Your kingdom come” in the here and now is to pray for the spread of the gospel witness, the spread of God’s rule and reign through the good news of Jesus Christ and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
For the Future
We long for the Day of Christ’s return and the establishment of His Kingdom upon the earth. This is the “present/future” or “now/not yet” reality of Christ’s kingdom. It is not for us to know “times or seasons” nor the “day or the hour.” It is for us to pray and to prepare.
We can’t pray “your kingdom come” if we ourselves are not willing to submit to His rule and reign in our everyday lives and everyday affairs. We can’t pray “your kingdom come” if we ourselves are not seeking His kingdom as our first priority, above all else. We can’t pray “your kingdom come” if we are not actively spreading His rule and reign through our gospel proclamation and witness.
3. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (6:10).
If “your kingdom come” is a reference to the rule and reign of the Father in everyday, life, than “your will be done” is much the same request. God’s will is His revealed will, made known to us in the Scriptures and fleshed out for us in the person and work of Christ Himself, who makes the Father known. Just as God’s will in perfectly known and perfectly followed in heaven, so we pray that it will be perfectly known and perfectly followed here on earth.
For the Future
“On earth as it is in heaven” reminds us that the future coming of the kingdom will be an earthly reality. We will not be disembodied spirits for all eternity. The separation of body from spirit (James 2:26) is a brief, intermediate state. Resurrection to “everlasting life” or “everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2) is our eternal reality. The new heavens and the new earth is the eternal reality for which we long and to which we look forward (Revelation 21-22).
2 Peter 3:13 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
We cannot pray “your will be done” if we do not know God’s will or if we are not actively seeking God’s will for our lives.
Ephesians 5:17 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
We must know God’s will through God’s Word. By God’s grace and through the power of His Spirit, we must walk in paths of righteousness and encourage others to do the same. While we long for the day when all on earth is at it is in heaven, we work to make that a reality in the here and now.
“After this manner therefore pray ye”
Craig Keener reminds us that this is not “a prayer for the complacent person satisfied with the treasures of this age. This is a prayer for the desperate, who recognize that this world is not as it should be and that only God can set things straight…The earnest brevity and simplicity of this prayer fits not the cry of the complacent and the self-satisfied, but that of the humble, the lowly, the broken, the desperate. This is the prayer of those who have nowhere to turn but to God.”
 Stott, John. Sermon on the Mount: 12 Studies for Individuals or Groups (Downers Grove, IL: IVP 2000), 71.
 Keener, Craig. Matthew (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997),
 In our next study we will consider the concluding petitions of our Lord’s Kingdom prayer as well as the doxology.