9After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
10Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
11Give us this day our daily bread.
12And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.
When I look at this prayer I notice that the first thing Jesus teaches about prayer is acknowledge God. This is not an isolated incident. In 2 Kings 19, King Hezekiah began his prayer, "O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth." King Hezekiah continued on to ask God for protection against the Assyrian army, and what was the result? 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were killed in the middle of the night. In Daniel 9, Daniel starts his prayer for Israel's forgiveness with, "O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments…" What was the outcome of this prayer? Well, unfortunately, the Israelites still had to reap what they had sown for the fulfillment of prophecy, but Daniel was granted a miraculous view into the spiritual realm and given renewed hope for the future. It is important to recognize who God is at the beginning of prayer because it forces us to realize who we are not. God is God alone, and we are continually humbled by His majesty and power. When we enter prayer with the right perspective on things, then we can make humble requests instead of self-righteous demands.
The other thing I notice about this acknowledgement of God is that Jesus uses the word Father first. The first statement could have just as easily been Our Lord or Our King which art in heaven. So why choose Our Father? Personally, I believe that Jesus wanted to emphasize the intimacy God desires with us. When I think of the ideal father figure, I think of love, support, encouragement, protection, and yes, discipline too. I think it is important to look at God in this light. This gets our hearts right for prayer. We yearn to share that intimacy with our Father. We look forward to receiving insight and wisdom from Him, and we understand that any admonishments are for our own good. We are comfortable making our requests known and we wait in expectancy because we know our Father doesn't wish us to lack any good thing (Psalm 34:10).
The second part of the acknowledgement says, "hallowed be thy name." The Greek word for hallowed is hagiazo and it means made holy. This identifies God as separate from the world and worthy of honor. So from that I think we can deduce that God first desires our intimacy, and then He wants our praise. This is key to remember. We have to quit offering God empty praises. God knows our hearts. Too many times I hear phrases like, "Thank God I passed that test!" when the person should really be thanking luck and short term memory. How are you going to thank a God that you don't even know? Intimacy comes before praise.
Verse 10 is an amazing picture of what complete and total submission looks like. Jesus taught that before any requests are made we have to be committed to submitting to God's sovereign will. Wow, I'm willing to bet this is where a lot of us mess up in prayer. Thank you Holy Spirit. I just had a wonderful revelation. When we forget about this part of our prayers, many times we miss the answers God is trying to give us. God always answers us, the answer just may not be what we wanted or expected to hear (see Daniel 9-11). I'd be amazed to know how much time we waste praying for answers that God has already given. Answers we can't or won't see because we are so blinded by our own visions for success.
Also, if we are always focused on our will instead of the will of God, then we limit our blessings to what we think God can do. See, we are logical people. We want blessings we can reason out. We want to know where and when it's going to come and how it will get here. But we forget that God is infinite and He's omnipresent. He sees and controls every situation, everywhere, at all times. Our blessing could come from anywhere!
Verse 11 simply tells us that God is Jehovah Jireh, our provider. God will give us whatever we need to sustain us, whether it's food or hope. He just wants us to ask with faith that He is able and willing to provide. It hurts God that we believe He wants us to struggle. The bible says, "If you(man) then, being evil, knows 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 (Matthew 7:11)!
Verse 12 is another study in being humble. I am convinced that the number one cause of people going to Hell is going to be the belief that they are basically good people. In the bible this is known as self-righteousness. In this verse, Jesus teaches His disciples to acknowledge that they are sinners and pray for forgiveness. When we do this we are acknowledging Jesus' sacrifice and God's grace and mercy. It doesn't matter how good we are we won't be good enough until Christ comes back and completes His good work in us (Philippians 1:6). But because we are all striving to be as Christ-like as possible until Jesus returns we are called to forgive others as we are asking God to forgive us.
Verse 13 acknowledges God as sovereign! Hallelujah! The devil has no authority that wasn't given to him by God (see Job), and God knows how much temptation we can take. I Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."
Jesus also lets us know that God has the power to deliver us from evil. This can either be encouraging or frightening because this means that we are out of excuses. It just happened, I was born this way, and the devil made me do it can no longer be used as get out of Hell free cards. We have to decide either God is sovereign or He isn't. Either He can do all things or He can't.
I for one choose to believe that He can do all things, because as the last sentence says, His is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.
Not too long ago I learned that prayer is not for God, it's for us. He already knows everything we need and desire. This is abundantly clear to me now after studying this prayer. When you get right down to the basics this prayer is all about humbling ourselves and recognizing who God is. I think learning to be humble is one of the hardest things I've had to learn to do, but studying this prayer has really reinforced the lesson. I believe most people say this prayer at night, but I think it would be a great devotion to start the day. In essence it is saying: Father, I thank you for loving me. You are Holy and worthy to be praised. I submit to your will in my life and acknowledge that you are all I will ever need. You alone have the power to forgive my unrighteousness. You alone can deliver me from eternal damnation. I acknowledge you as creator and Lord over all things. Hallelujah that Jesus saw fit to leave us this reminder of the true essence of prayer! And I believe that if we could just remember that this is who God really is, we would be amazed at the fruit produced in our lives (Galatians 5:22).