The Lord's Prayer, Part 1
January 31, 2021
The Lord’s Prayer, Part 1, 1.31.21
How about them Tampa Bay Buccaneers, huh? I’m from Tampa. You got to root for your team when their winning. Last week I asked Jesse in second service who the Vikings were playing last week. He didn’t have an answer. Sorry to the Vikings and Green Bay fans out there. You have my condolences. Hey, at least you’re not a Detroit Lions fan. Kathryn’s from Detroit. Have pity on her.
If you’re a visitor this morning, whether online or here in person, we welcome you to Community Bible Church. We believe the message that brings the hope, life, and peace is found in the Bible. That message is the gospel. The gospel is the story of the person and work of Christ in his first and second coming. Our mission here at CBC is to help you know Christ more and to make him known to the world more. He is the Savior of the world. We are so thankful that you could join us this morning. Please come and talk to me and Pastor Jesse. We would love to meet you. Or, shoot us an email, introducing yourselves. We would enjoy that, too.
We find ourselves at a transition in our series on prayer. The past four weeks we’ve covered some theological topics. Specifically, we’ve been focusing a lot on the doctrine of the Trinity and how that doctrine relates to our prayer lives. We’ve learned that we need to pray in a trinitarian fashion, and that the Son and the Spirit intercede for us. What tremendous, precious truths those truths are for our own prayer lives. This morning we are transitioning aware from these theological foundations of prayer to begin a section examining some of the specific prayers of Scripture. This week and next week we will examine the Lord’s prayer. After that we will jump to the OT then to the NT to examine some more prayers that Scripture records. After we study some of the prayers of Scripture, we will examine some of the specific teachings that Scripture gives us on prayer. We will investigate how Scripture teaches us to pray. So that’s where we’ve been and that’s where we are headed.
If you have a Bible this morning, whether a physical copy or an electronic copy, please turn to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, verse 9; Matt 6:9. The Lord’s prayer also occurs in the Gospel of Luke 11:2–4. The Lord’s Prayer in Luke is an abbreviate form of what occurs in Matthew 6. We won’t explore the Luke passage. We will stick to the Matthew passage.
(Before I read, let me offer a specific exhortation to the congregation. If you have never memorized the Lord’s prayer, memorize it now. Every Christian needs to memorize the Lord’s prayer. Use these next two weeks as your time when you will memorize it. It shouldn’t take you long. If you’re a parent, memorize this passage with your children. Do it as a family together. Practice it at the dinner table. Our whole church body, from the smallest to the oldest, let us all commit together to memorizing the Lord’s prayer)
This is how the passage reads,
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day 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 evil.
The Lord’s prayer breaks down into two parts. The first part that we will investigate this morning is vv. 9 and 10: “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’” This part concerns God—his reign, rule, supremacy, and will. The next part of the prayer, vv. 11–13, concern our needs: “Give us this day 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 evil.” That portion we will cover next week. This week we will cover God’s supremacy in prayer, and next we will cover our needs in prayer.
For this morning’s sermon, we will just cover I will just have two points. This structure is very simple. The first point that I have for you this morning is an observation from the text. In this point I will explain what Jesus means in vv. 9 and 10. The second point is entitled concerns application. In this second point, I will demonstrate how Jesus’ statement applies to the life our individual prayer lives and to our corporate prayer life together as a church. Very simple outline this morning: exposition and application.
The Lord’s Prayer is Theo-Centric
The first point is this. Write this down: “The Lord’s Prayer is Theo-Centric.” This word “Theo-Centric” simply means focused on God. What we will see in this first point is that the Lord’s prayer is first and foremost about God—about his honor, about his reign and rule, about his will. If we were to seek to understand what Jesus says to us this morning in light of the prayer acronym ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication), these verses fit in the “Adoration” part of ACTS. The Lord’s Prayer, the most prominent prayer in all of Scripture, is first and foremost about God, about exalting, praising, recognizing, and adoring him.
Looking at the text with me.
(Dear friends, I always want to draw your attention to the text, to the Bible. We gather to hear from God. We gather to hear what God has to say to us. The way we know what God says to us is through the Bible. If you want to hear God speak to you, read the Bible, study the Bible, come to church and hear the Word of God preached.)
So looking at our Bibles, we see that Jesus begins the Lord’s prayer in verse 9 with these words,
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven.”
Jesus here is providing us with his opening statement on Scripture. His opening statement, the first words he says in the Lord’s Prayer are “Our Father in heaven.” What Jesus does here is he recognizes the priority of the Father in prayer.
Sometime ago I preached a sermon in which I stated that if you study Scripture what you will find to be generally the case is that the Father is the one to whom prayer is usually addressed. If you take all of the teachings on prayer in Scripture and all of the prayers in Scripture what you will dinf is that the Father is the one who prayer is generally directed towards.
Notice here that Jesus’ instruction follows the same pattern. Here in the Lord’s prayer Jesus does not instruct hid disciples to pray to Jesus. Rather, Jesus directs the disciples prayer to the Father. Jesus teaches fits the pattern that we see in Scripture. It is the Father who is to be addressed in prayer. That’s the pattern that arises when we survey all of Scripture, and that is the pattern that arises here in the Lord’s prayer.
Now for some of us this might be a challenge to direct our prayers to the Father. Maybe you find the Father unrelatable. Maybe God the Father seems distant to you. Maybe Jesus seems more relevant to you, more approachable, and more appealing to pray to. Jesus, you might think, is understanding and sympathetic in a way that the Father isn’t. Jesus, it might seem, is approachable and kind, whereas the Father is harsh and demanding. This might be a struggle for you.
There are various reason why I think saints struggle with this. I think some of it is related towards having bad earthly fathers. We tend to project onto God the Father attributes and characteristics that our earthly fathers had. I have a wonderful father, so I don’t really struggle in this area. But maybe your experience is difference. Maybe you had a harsh, stern, demanding father and that has warped your view of God the Father. You might view God then as harsh, demanding, and stern. That happens. How we are treated by our earthly fathers considerably impacts how we view our heavenly Father.
I want to help you see that that isn’t the view of the Father that is correct. Jesus calls us to pray to the Father because the Father’s heart for us is one that overflows with grace, mercy, and love. Beloved, we must see that the Father is for us, not against us. To fully explore this, we would need to do a whole sermon on it. We can’t do that. So, I must be brief with my comments here. In the plan of redemption, He was the One who sent His Son to save us. John 3:16,
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.
Here’s how the famous hymn, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” puts it,
How deep the Father's love for us How vast beyond all measure That He should give His only Son. To make a wretch His treasure. How great the pain of searing loss The Father turns His face away As wounds which mar the Chosen One Bring many sons to glory.
Does the Father love us? Did He send his Son for us? Is his heart towards us one of mercy, grace, and kindness? You betcha! Don’t fear the Father, dear Christian. He loves you. His sent his Son to die for you.
Now the Father is infinitely loving and kind towards us Christians. That is true. Our heavenly Father is like the best earthly Father but infinitely better. The Father is infinitely more love and kind than any earthly father. He is like earthly fathers in some sense. However, it is important to remember that God the Father is also considerably different than our earthly Father.
Jesus indicates this difference between our earthly fathers and God the Father with the little statement, “Our Father in heaven.” What Jesus is doing here with this qualifier of where God the Father is located is he is teaches us that God the Father is high and exalted. He is infinitely loving, yes, but he is also infinitely powerful. He is high and exalted in heaven.
With this statement, “in heaven,” Jesus is preparing us for what comes next in the Lord’s prayer. Because God the Father is in heaven, because he is high and exalted, our prayer life then should model who God is. And that is what follows in the Lord’s prayer.
After Jesus’ opening in v. 9 with “Our Father in heaven,” Jesus instructs us regarding three different petitions that we should make in prayer. These three petitions occur in vv. 9 and 10. All three of them are about God the Father—his name, his reign and rule, and his sovereign will.
On Earth as It Is in Heaven
Before we jump to examine those petitions, I want to make an important interpretive comment before we preceded to the three petitions that follow. The first petition occurs at the end of v. 9: “hallowed be your name”; the second occurs at the beginning of v. 10: “your kingdom come”; and the third occurs in the middle of v. 10: “your will be done.” And then at the end of v. 10 there’s this phrase,
On earth as it is in heaven.
There are two ways to take that little phrase “on earth as it is in heaven.” One way would be to see it as just modifying the last petition. That is, to see “on earth as it is in heaven,” as only modifying “your will be done.” This option would mean that we only see this statement of “as earth as it is in heaven” as only applicable to “your will be done” and not as applicable to the previous two petitions. I don’t take it this way. The way I take the last clause “on earth as it is in heaven” is that it modifies each of the three previous petitions. So, looking at the passage, the way I take it is like this. Beginning in v. 9,
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name [as on earth as it is in heaven]. Your kingdom come [as on earth as it is in heaven], your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Do you see the difference? I take “on earth as it is in heaven” as modifying all of the petitions, not just the last one. This statement provides the gateway for our understanding each of the petitions.
Petition 1: May Your Name Be Hallowed
The first petition Jesus teaches occurs at the end of v. 9. It reads,
hallowed be your name
The ESV communicates what the Greek is teaching in this passage but the term “hallowed” is archaic. I prefer a different translation than the ESV with this verse. The NET translation, the translation of my beloved seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, reads this way,
Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored [or, may your name be held in reverence; or, may your name be considered holy]
Any of these are good translations. The idea that Jesus is teaching here deals with God’s name being approached with reverence and honor. Jesus instructs us to pray that God the Father’s name is revered. Jesus is not telling us to pray that God’s name would be holy. It already is holy. Rather, what Jesus is teaching is that we would pray that people would view it that way.
Name as Extension of Self
To understand this we need to see God’s name as an extension of God himself. God’s name is an extension of God himself. When God’s name is exalted and praised, God himself is exalted and praised. When God’s name is used as a curse word and expletive, God is dishonored.
That’s the way our names work, too. Our names are an extension of who we are. When others speak ill of our name, when they gossip about us while using our name—“Did you hear what John did? Let me tell you what I head. He’s a terrible person” when that happens, when our name is used in that way we are shamed and dishonored as people. Our names are an extension of who we are. A person can be dishonored by the dishonoring of their name.
God is the same. God is dishonored in this world when his name is dishonored. Jesus is calling us to pray that this isn’t the case. Jesus teaches his disciples that in prayer, we need to pray that God’s name be revered, respected, and worship. This is based on the relationship between God’s name and God. Rather, Jesus is teaching that we should pray for people to honor it as such as a way of honoring him. And the image of what exactly we are praying for is a heavenly one. Remember the clause “on earth as it is in heaven?” I’m attaching that clause to each of these petitions. In heaven, God’s name is honored and revered by the angels and by the people of God who are currently in heaven. God’s name is praised perfectly and supremely in heaven. Jesus calls us to pray for that to occur on earth.
Petition 2: May Your Kingdom Come
The next petition Jesus instructs his disciples to pray occurs at the beginning of v. 10,
Your kingdom come
The first petition dealt with God the Father’s name, this petition deals with his reign and rule. The kingdom of God is not yet fully here. We do not yet fully know the reign and rule of God. It is partial right now. Jesus has come, he has died for our sins, and he has risen from the dead. Jesus is at work in this world in the building up and establishment of churches. But there are places where there are no churches. There are sinful and demonic strongholds in this world everywhere we look. God’s reign and rule is not yet complete.
Jesus teaches his disciples to pray that this not be the case. Jesus teaches his disciples to pray that God’s reign and rule would be complete. In heaven, there is no sin. God’s reign and rule is total and complete in heaven. That is not the case here on earth. Jesus urges his disciples to pray that the reign and rule of God that is complete in heaven would also be total and complete here on earth. One day it will be. God will create the new heavens and the new earth. We know we will get there. In the meantime, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray that this would be the case. God will accomplish the total reign and rule by means of the prayers of the saints, by means of your prayers, dear friend.
Petition 3: May Your Will Be Done
Now for the last petition. It is this,
May your will be done
Once again the context is to have God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. In heaven, his will is completely exercised. Here on earth that is not the case. Just as with his reign and rule, God’s will is only partially fulfilled. Specifically, it is fulfilled in the church. As people turn to Christ and follow what the Word of God teaches, God’s will is accomplished. But so much stands in opposition to God’s will and his ways. Jesus invites, commands his disciples to pray for God’s total reign and rule, and the full completion and accomplishment of his sovereign plan to redeem mankind from their bondage to sin and to the devil.
Jesus instructions here are all about praying in light of God—his honor, his reign and rule, and his sovereign will. The Lord’s prayer begins with God because prayer is first and foremost about God. Yes, our needs are discussed. We will cover those next week. God wants you to bring your needs to him. He does. He cares about every little detail of your life. We will investigate that next week. But the emphasis of this morning’s passage is on Jesus’ instruction to pray in accordance with God. Jesus wants us to pray theo-centric prayers, prayers that are first and foremost about God.
Exalt God the Father in Prayer
Now what’s all this mean for us, for our prayers lives as individuals and as a church? With this question I am segueing into my second point, which is about application. The second point is this, “Exalt God in Prayer.” That’s the application. That’s how we should respond to Jesus’ instruction here. We will get to that in a bit. I will explain that but first I want to discuss with you some of the implications for you regarding your obedience to what Jesus teaches here.
There is tremendous peril that can come with praying this prayer. There is tremendous risk that comes with making your prayers focus on God—his name, his reign and rule, his sovereign will. This is not a risk-free prayer. Let me explain.
Looking at our passage once again. I want to point something out to you. In verses 9 and 10, does the word “our” occur? It does. It occurs when Jesus says, “Our Father.” But does it occur in connection with “name,” “kingdom,” and “will?” Does the passage say, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be our name. Our kingdom come. Our will be done.” Does it say that? No. It doesn’t say that. Now “our” does occur. We will visit that section of the Lord’s prayer next week. But this first part of the Lord’s prayer is not about me. It not about you. It’s not about us.
When we pray the Lord’s prayer, when we model our prayers after what Jesus teaches us here, we are saying that we accept what this prayer teaches. And what this prayer teaches is that in the life of a believer it is God’s ultimate purposes—his name being revered, his reign and rule being total, and his will being accomplished—that is most important, what it is that a believer should care most about. When we model our prayers in accordance with this, we inadvertently reject our name, our reign, our wills.
In the Christian life, you cannot simultaneously hold onto both your own glory and God’s glory. In prayer, you cannot simultaneously ask God to establish your own kingdom and his kingdom. To pray this part of the Lord’s prayer, to model your life after this part of the Lord’s prayer, it requires of you self-denial. If you want to honor God in life and in prayer, you must reject yourself. You have to. To be useful to God, to honor him requires of you that you abandon yourself for him.
But rejecting yourself is very hard. Losing control of life is very hard. Entrusting yourself to someone else is very hard. Sinfully, we want our own name to be honored. We want our own kingdoms. We want our wills to be accomplished. God says no to that. God says to us like and prayer is about him.
What if in praying this prayer for God to be honored that means that you are dishonored? What if God’s kingdom coming to this world means for you that some difficulty or challenge comes to your life? What if God’s will for you is that your faith is refined through a difficult trial? By the way that IS the will of God for you. What if in praying this prayer that your kids turn out differently than you had planned? What if in praying this prayer you are placed in circumstances that you don’t like, don’t enjoy? What if there are negative experiences for you in praying this prayer? Would you still pray it? Do you accept this instruction from Jesus, even though it means that it will cost you something?
Dear friend, the Christian life is a call to suffer. It is. We follow Jesus, right? Did he suffer? Did he experience pain, difficulty, and trial? Oh he did. The servant is not greater than his master. That too is our calling in life. That too is our calling in prayer.
And, dear friend, it is worth it. It is. The difficulty of praying this prayer, the surrender that we must have to pray this, the risk that we bring upon our lives by praying that God’s purposes—not ours—would be fulfilled in the world, all of it is worth it. To live for Christ is worth it. To experience difficulty in light of praying for God’s will to be done is worth it.
Jim Elliot was a famous missionary in the 1950s who was martyred while trying to serve a group of unreached Indians in the jungles of Ecuador. His story is dramatized in the movie, “The Tip of the Spear.” God used his martyrdom to bring about tremendous missions effort in the 1950s and beyond. Many of the Indians who he went to minister to later came to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Elliot kept a journal. And in this journal he would his thoughts on his mission, on God, on whatever. In one place in his journal he wrote this profound quote that touches on the risk and reward of praying the Lord’s prayer. He writes this,
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.
Elliot’s comment is very helpful for understand the cost and benefit of praying for God’s will to be done.
This life is passing away, dear friends. All of it. Beauty, money, fame, popularity, our health, it’s all passing away. It is only a matter of time until we pass into the next life. While were here we try to make this world our eternal home. We get really comfortable here, and we don’t want to leave. We build up these earthly kingdoms where we place ourselves as the sovereign. This is foolishness, though. Our kingdoms can and will pass away. One of my favorite hymns puts it this way,
As summer flowers we fade and die. Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
God’s kingdom does not pass away. His will is forever. He never passes away. It will forever stand. His purposes will always be fulfilled. And in his love for us, he shares his kingdom with us. He gives us this kingdom. We are this kingdom. God has set his eye on us as his object of affection. His kingdom cannot be lost. If you have it, you have it forever. Your kingdom will come and go. You will lose it one day—whether today, tomorrow, or some day beyond that. God’s kingdom will never end. And he shares that kingdom with us. We cannot keep our kingdoms, but his will never pass away.
Praying that God’s name would be revered is worth it because in praying it we release what we cannot keep—our own kingdom and agenda—in exchange for that which we can never lose—God’s reign and rule.
It will cost you greatly to pray for God’s will to be done. It will. But it’s worth it. It’s way worth it. To honor God is the greatest pursuit of life. Honoring him in prayer is the greatest prayer we can pray.
Therefore, dear friend, pray prayers that exalt God. Our prayers are often over-saturated with human needs. They have their place, dear friend. They do. But they tend to dominate our prayers. We must be watchful about this. We must give God his proper due in our prayers. Make God preeminent in your prayers. Make his name, his kingdom, and his will your main priority. Make prayer about God first and foremost. Exalt him. Praise him. Magnify him. Focus on him. Delight in him. Yes, pray for your needs. Yes, intercede for others. Yes, pray for your daily needs. Yes to all of this. But also yes to God. In your private prayer, in your family prayer, in our prayers here in this church, we need to have a focus and view on God. Trust him. He is a good heavenly Father. He loves you and cares for you. His kingdom is worth pursuing; our kingdoms our worth abandoning. Seek first the kingdom of God in life and in prayer.