by Mike Ratliff
1Now Jesus  was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, g as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, h “When you pray, say:i “Father, j hallowed be k your name. l Your kingdom come. 3 m Give us n each day our daily bread,  4 and o forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And p lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11: 1-4 ESV)
Prayer is a vital part of our Christian walk before the face of God. I have never met a mature Christian who was at peace with the consistency or depth of his or her praying. Sacred Scripture says that God commands His people to pray. I have often wondered why God wants us to pray since He knows everything already. He knows what we need already the Word says so why should we have to pray, asking Him for what we need? Prayer is communication. It is also a benchmark of our Christian maturity. God uses prayer to reveal many things to us about ourselves. He also uses it to grow us in faith and line up our wills with His. Let us look at this time at that part of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount in which He gave us what has come to be known as The Lord’s Prayer.
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love x to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. y Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, z go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. a And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as b the Gentiles do, for c they think that they will be heard d for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, e for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:5-8 ESV)
This part of our Lord’s Sermon is a continuation of Matthew 6:1-4 in which He showed the right and wrong way for Christians to give to the needy. The wrong was done in hypocrisy, to be seen by others. He tells us to give to the needy in secret, in such a way that only God and we know it. In light of this He leads us into the right and wrong ways to pray. The word ”when” in Greek is οταν, which is best translated as “whenever” or “as often as.” Our Lord is telling us that we are expected to pray. The words “you pray” in Greek is προσευχησθε. It is in present tense, subjunctive mood, and active voice. This means that it is describing continuous, repeated action. Our Lord is telling us that we are to pray continually, as a way of life, as a way of walking through each day. Then our Lord tells how not to do this. We are not to be like the hypocrites. The Greek word used here for “hypocrites” is υποκριται. This word describes an actor or a person who is a counterfeit. He or she assumes and speaks or acts under a feigned character. In other words, Our Lord is describing unregenerate persons who are self-deceived. They pray in public in such a way to draw attention to themselves. We must approach prayer in a totally different way.
In v6 we have almost the exact same phrase our Lord used at the beginning of v5. When we pray continually we are not to do it in such a way to draw attention to ourselves. Instead, we are to go into a private place to pray. This second “pray” in v6 is the same Greek word, but in this case it is in aorist tense, imperative voice, and middle voice. In other words, this is a command for us to pray to God one-on-one to Him. He sees in secret and will reward us. This reward is speaking of the answer to our prayers. When we pray we are not to “heap up empty phrases.” What does this mean? This is speaking of merely reciting a prayer as if it is a “magic formula.” Prayer is communication, not a search for the secret door or order of words that will open up for us to receive something others have not been able to because they haven’t found the secret formula. This is not how prayer works. No, we are not to do that and we are to approach prayer knowing fully that God already knows what we need before we ask Him.
9 f Pray then like this: g “Our Father in heaven, h hallowed be i your name. 10 j Your kingdom come, k your will be done,  l on earth as it is in heaven. 11 m Give us n this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And o lead us not into temptation, but p deliver us from q evil. . (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)
The word “Pray” in v9 is the same word we have been studying, but here it is present tense, imperative mood, and middle voice. In other words, we are being commanded by our Lord to pray continually. This is very similar to what Paul tell us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
17 w pray without ceasing, (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV)
17αδιαλειπτως προσευχεσθε (1 Thessalonians 5:17 WHNU)
However, in this case Paul added the word αδιαλειπτως, which is an adverb that means “uninterruptedly” or “without cessation,” to a present tense, imperative mood, middle voice προσευχεσθε. How are we to pray to our Father in Heaven? We are to have the mental attitude of prayerfulness, continual personal fellowship with God, and consciousness of being in His presence throughout each day. If Christians did this do you think we would be seeing the current plague of rampant spiritual immaturity throughout the Church in our time?
Our Lord commanded us to pray continually “like this.” Some translations render this as “in this manner.” This is one Greek word, ουτως. This word refers to that which precedes or follows. What follows is a model, not merely a liturgy. This model prayer is short and simple yet comprehensive. There are six petitions. Three are directed to God (vv 9,10) and three toward human needs (vv 11-13).
The model prayer begins with a petition asking that God’s name be hallowed. This speaks of God being treated with the highest honor and in this that He be set apart as holy. We should begin here my brethren. Our God is worthy! He is high and lifted up. He is Holy, Holy, Holy! Oh my, we must praise and honor Him as we approach the throne of grace.
What does it mean to pray for God’s kingdom to come? We must pray and work for the continual advance of God’s kingdom on earth. In this age, this refers to the reign of Christ in the hearts and lives of believers, and to the reigning presence of Christ in His body, the Church. This is not referring to world domination by the Church. Instead, this petition is asking that God’s people would increasingly reflect His love, obey His laws, honor Him, do good for all people, and proclaim the Gospel, the good news of the Kingdom to all would hear.
What does it mean to ask that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven? This is referring to God’s “revealed will,” which involves conduct that is pleasing to Him as revealed in Sacred Scripture. In Heaven, God’s will is perfectly executed. This petition is asking that it will be experienced on earth. I try to pray this every day, and my petition is that God’s Kingdom will come in fulfillment to this earth very soon. We are commanded here to pray for this and I believe we are to do so for two reasons. We are told to do it and this lines up our wills with His so that we look expectantly for our Lord’s return in victory very soon instead of being all wrapped up in this lost and dying world.
The fourth petition is asking for our daily bread. We should pray for the necessities of life. I doubt if this refers to us asking to be wealthy in the world’s goods. Not long ago a friend at work attempted to talk me into going in with him to stockpile several months of food and water in our basements for the upcoming famines, et cetera. I talked to my wife about it and she suggested that we do not do anything until we bathed this in prayer. It did not take very long at all for us to see the fallacy in this. She told me that the impression she got from God on this was to ask if we would be willing to share our stash of food with our neighbors when these hardships came. This was a huge learning experience for me in the area of trusting God. I shared this with my friend and it floored him. He immediately saw the fallacy of hoarding these things when so many around us would not have anything. Who are we trusting, our hoard, or God? This petition is for our “daily” bread, not a storehouse full of bread that is all ours that we do not have to share with anyone.
What is this “forgive our debts” in this fifth petition? This does not mean that we need to ask God for daily justification because our salvation is forever from the moment of initial saving faith. What this does mean is that we are to pray for the restoration of personal fellowship with God, which has been hindered by sin. Those who properly receive this forgiveness and restoration are so moved with gratitude toward God that they should eagerly forgive those who are debtors to them. Think of sin as a debt owed to God. When we sin against others we become indebted to them and vice versa. If we confess our sins and receive forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1 9), but we are unwilling to forgive those who have sinned against us then there is a huge problem in our hearts.
In v13 we have the petition, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. “ What does this mean? This is speaking of our battle with sin and evil. The word “temptation” is the Greek word πειρασμον. It can indicate either temptation or testing. What Jesus is telling us to ask the Father for here is to allow us to be spared from difficult circumstances that would tempt us to sin. God does not tempt anyone, however, He does put us in circumstances that test us. These circumstances would include trials and hardships. God uses these to grow us spiritually that we would be strong in Him. When we suffer in these fiery trials we should, therefore, count it all joy (James 1:2). In any case, we should pray to be delivered from these things, not that they should come upon us. The last part of this verse is a petition to be delivered from evil. The best protection for the believer from sin and temptation is to turn to God and depend on His direction instead of our common sense or will power.
Here we have the model prayer given to us by the Lord Jesus. I find that if I follow the general order and structure of this prayer as I pour out my heart to God each day before I go to work that I am more able to structure my thoughts and pray as I ought. We are to pray throughout each day and it is a very good thing to always have praise and worship on our lips before we plead for wisdom, direction, and forgiveness.
Soli Deo Gloria!