“This, then, is how you should pray:Matthew 6:9-15 NIV
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
After Jesus gave his disciples some general instruction on prayer, he gave them a model of how to pray. In Luke’s account of this model prayer, it was his disciples who asked him to teach them to pray. But here Matthew connects it instead as a part of Jesus’ larger teaching to his disciples.
This is How You Should Pray
The hypocrites loved to pray in public to be seen by people. And the pagans babbled on endlessly, thinking that many words would get them heard. Jesus condemned both of these, telling us instead to get off by ourselves to pray. And he gives us a model for how we can pray.
I do not believe that this model was intended to be a repetitive prayer. Something that the pagans would have practiced. Rather Jesus likely intended it to teach us the form that our prayer can, and should, take. While there is nothing wrong with repeating this prayer on occasion, it is better used as simply a model, teaching us what we should include in our prayer.
God-ward Directed Elements
The first half of this model prayer is directed toward God. Jesus identifies our heavenly Father as the one we are to pray to. This is in contrast to praying to saints or other entities. The prayer Jesus is focused on is between the individual and God himself.
Jesus starts this prayer off my offering praise and glory to God. He alone is worthy of our praise. And we should always take time to glorify him when we pray.
In our prayer we should seek the establishment of God’s kingdom. The kingdom of heaven does exist now. But it does not encompasses all of the people in the world. Praying for God’s kingdom to come would seem to be an evangelistic prayer, seeking the salvation of the lost and their entry into the kingdom.
Jesus then tells us to seek that God’s will be accomplished. Jesus affirms that God’s will is done in heaven. Our prayer should be that it is done in our lives and in the world around us. I believe that God does allow people to act in ways that are contrary to his will, and this verse suggests that as well. Our prayer here should be that our will comes into alignment with God’s will.
Human Focused Elements
The other half of this model prayer is focused on personal issues. He starts by asking for the provision of our daily needs. There is no hint in this of praying for future needs. Or for the wants that we are so often consumed with. As he tells us later, we should not be worrying about tomorrow and its concerns. Trust God to care for us in the same way he cares for the birds of the field.
Jesus then instructs us to seek forgiveness when we have fallen short. We have indeed experienced forgiveness of our sins by the blood of Christ. But we continue to fall short of God’s expectations. And it is only appropriate that we continue to seek his forgiveness. But this forgiveness is not for the purpose of obtaining, or maintaining, eternal security. Rather it helps to keep us in right relationship with God.
As we pray for forgiveness, we need to also be willing to forgive those who have wronged us. It is not reasonable to expect God’s forgiveness if we ourselves are unwilling to forgive in return. In fact, Jesus links God’s forgiveness of us with our willingness to forgive others.
And, finally, Jesus instructs us to pray for God’s direction in our lives. To be led away from evil and into godly pursuits. James tells us that God is not tempted by evil, nor will he tempt anyone to evil. So we should not understand this part of the prayer as implying that God might lead us to sin. Rather it is a pray that God would lead us away from where we would go on our own. That he would steer us clear of those places and things that would lead me into sin. In a sense, it is a prayer that we would follow his leading, since he will always lead away from sin.
The Importance of Forgiveness
At the end of this model prayer Jesus gives us, he adds a warning. His forgiveness of us is somehow contingent on our forgiveness of other people. I covered this more extensively in another post, but it is a warning that we should heed. As mentioned above, I believe this warning is dealing with broken relationship with God rather than a salvation issue. But, nonetheless, it is critically important for our spiritual health that we be in right relationship with God. And so, it is important for us to be willing to forgive the wrongs done to us by others. To model both Jesus and Stephen would prayed for the forgiveness of those who were killing them.
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The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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