Here we come to the very center of the sermon on the mount. It is a perfect masterpiece from the one who was perfect in prayer. It is perfect in both structure and substance. Not one word is wasted. There is no babbling.
“Pray then like this.” says our Savior and Lord. Pray. Let your prayers have this shape. We are all in the school of prayer, and Jesus is our master. He is the one that teaches even now through his Spirit. And he has given us the model prayer to work with. In other words, this is not a prayer that should be mindlessly repeated. But it is a prayer that gives us a summary of everything that could possibly pray for. Everything that we pray for falls under one of these petitions.
But this is not only a pattern for praying but a pattern for living. Prayer gives shape to our lives. Prayer is not a compartmentalized part of our life. We pray this because we desire to live it. This is a prayer that encompasses all of life. Physical and spiritual. For time and eternity. It is simple, words from a child to a father. Words of a people who live in the reality of God. Prayers of a people who know God, and therefore are not self-centered like the hypcrites who love to be seen by men, but God centered, who desire to see Gods name, kingdom, and will accomplished. And they know God must do it.
And notice, the prayer’s shocking (to our ears) lack of singular pronouns. We should pray as if we are alone with God, but we never pray alone. Jesus instructs us to recognize that prayer is a corporate discipline. We’re reminded that we’re “saved by Christ . . . into his body, the church,” and that we glorify God in this world as a body, not simply as individuals. But together. We are not independent from each other. If one is led into temptation the whole body suffers. if one rejoices the whole body rejoices. So we constantly pray not just for our self, but for the body. Knowing that in their joy we will experience joy, in their sorrow we will experience sorrow.
So we pray:
The prayer of the Christian prays for
The right priorities
The means to accomplish them
The Right priorities
Our Father in Heaven.
If we know who we are addressing the chance that we will pray to be seen by men, or babble like the pagans falls away. We pray to Our Father in heaven. We are children. United in one Lord by one Spirit having one Father. Prayer is deeply trinitarian. We pray to a triune God personal God; We pray in relationship. The Spirit prays with us through the Son to the Father. In prayer we not only pray to God, but we enjoy fellowship with this God.
The problem with the prayers of the hypocrits and the pagan babblers was they had a warped idea of who they were praying to. They were praying to the God of their imaginations. We pray to a personal God. He is not a machine in which you insert your prayers and out pours money or blessings he is interested in relationship.
Father. It is a word that indicates dependence. We are not independent. But utterly dependent. In need. As little children, who could not live without the provision of their parents, so we go to our Father. A good Father.
A Father who lives in Heaven. He is enthroned on high. He is almighty. Worthy of all honor and respect. He is a king. The center of all things. The origin and goal of all things. This life is not about us. May this shape your life. When you pray to him, and walk away may your heart be at peace and rest. He is an almighty Father. He has your best in mind. And in Him will you also find your highest joy. But about him so we pray: Hallowed be your name.
Hallowed be your name.
This is a request that we would get a sense of Gods altogether set apartness! At the end of Hebrews 12 when the writer talks about worship he does not say, “Offer to God lighthearted worship because you know God is like so cool.” No! He writes, “…Let us offer to God acceptable worship (which means there is worship that is not acceptable) with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Completely Holy. Holy. Holy. Holy. This is the first and foremost of the divine petitions. O that we would have a greater vision of who God is. This impact everything. The greater your view of God, the deeper the recognition of your sin against him, the more you will exalt in the cross!
In this world we say there is only one name in heaven and on earth that is worthy of being set apart. We do not promote our name. We ask that promote his name through us as a community, knowing the tendency of our own heart is to do anything but set apart him as Lord. And if that means our name is shamed, and ridiculed then so be it, for our value, or identity, or everything is wrapped up in Him. When his name is honored we are lifted up in him.
This is an utterly exclusive claim. Offensive in our society that says all religions worship the same god. We live in society where it is all about promoting your own name, or group identity. Protect your own reputation, your own race, your own identity. But not in God’s kingdom. In Gods kingdom people from every tribe, tongue nation and language, from ever socioeconomic background find a new goal, a new mission. To glorify God. To hallow his name. To exult him.
The first and last thing we do is honor and glorify him and make his name great in prayer. Why? Because in the glory of his name is out highest joy. Just see how much joy there is in the presence of Gods glory!
Is this what we do? Do we do this in prayer and do we mindfully live this prayer out. This is something we need to do intentionally at the beginning of our prayer, at the beginning of every day to focus our heart and mind away from ourselves upon him. Its about priorities. If we are not intentional then our prayers will tend to be more self-centered and go like this, “Father in heaven, help me with this exam, be with my kids, Help them to believe, help our relationship, I pray for my work. Amen. But Jesus teaches us to pray that that all of our life is lived for the father, and the other things that we pray for are in service to this one petition. So that all people may know our father in heaven and glorify him! Is this your priority in life?
The very first petition could be said to govern all the rest. All of life, all of the church, all of the universe the purpose is the same, to lift high the name of God. To glorify him, and in doing so to enjoy him forever.
Your kingdom come
This is a kingdom prayer that is a real threat to every other lord, and kingdom that stands in opposition to it. And If you don’t worship the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is deeply subversive, upsetting, and offensive—from the first phrase to the last. When it comes down to it, there are only two kingdoms. And two only. And in the end there will be only one. For the kingdom of God will be all in all, and his glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
We pray for his kingdom. Not south Africa, America, Russia, or China. This is a political claim that the whole earth belongs to him. That every nation, and every ruler is answerable to him. That he is the king of Kings, and his kingdom rule in universal. And that one day all things will also in reality belong to him, and the Son whom he has appointed as head overall. All that belongs to us would be used in service to his kingdom. Our lives: work, time, energy, family, and anything else is placed in submission to him and him alone. We have offered up our kingdom for his. We ask him to make it is, and use it to the building up of his Kingdom. Use us o God! To expand your kingdom rule, in architecture, in business, in science, in economics! Help us to bring the kingdom into every flied of work. And give us courage to share the good news of the kingdom!
For we know the day is coming when God space will become our space. And they way this will happen and is happening is counterintuitive. We are not taken up into heaven, but heaven comes to earth. We have this beautiful picture of the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth. That picture of the new heavens and new earth in revelation is that the very heart of this petition.
In the 4tgh century, emperor Julian abandoned the faith and sought to abolish Christianity replacing it with the worship of the Greek and Roman gods. At the very height of his power, and as it looked as though the abolishment of Christianity could become a real possibility, he was mortally wounded in battle. “The historians tell how, when he lay bleeding to death, he took a handful of his blood and tossed it in the air, saying “You have conquered, O man of Galilea!” Christ conquering of this man was but one small step, and answer to prayer for the man of Galilea to be recognized fully as the king of heaven and earth. Every political power will one day be subject to him. Julian understands this fully now. And so does every other leader that is now dead.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
We pray for His will to be done: Not my own. My own will, emotions, and mind must submit to his will. He is not just Savior but also Lord. There is higher law then individualism, or nationalism or any law that this land imposes. The highest law is the will of the Father. Everything must ultimately bend and be conformed to his will. There is no part of my life which is purely my own. Every part belongs to Him. And in all things we are called to live in obedience to his will preeminently revealed in the scriptures.
The means to accomplish our priorities.
From the lofty heights of heaven we come down to the earth. He takes us from grand spiritual concerns to everyday physical needs. The last three petitions are in service to the first three petition. We pray for daily needs, forgiveness, protection, and deliverance because we want to hallow his name, see his kingdom established and his will be done in all of life. When he provides our needs, forgives us and protects us then his name is made greater, his kingdom is established, and as we grow in holiness his will is done.
The second three petitions are intricately connected. In the Greek the last three petitions are united by an “and” while the first three petitions stand alone. That is because God knows just asking for daily needs is not enough, we need forgiveness for the past, and spiritual protection in the future. If we do not have that, daily needs will only fatten us for the day of disaster. We need all three, and it is almost as if they are one petition.
Give us this day our daily bread
We pray give us this day our daily bread. We need Him for everything. Literally. We are not self-sufficient. Self-reliant, self -supporting, independent and autonomous. We are needy, dependent, reliant for every breath we take. He is the provider. Not us.
We don’t realize this immediate need for daily bread so much, when we have enough food for a week, and money in the bank for food. But for many first century workers who were paid one day at a time, and for whom even a few days illness could spell tragedy this was a real prayer. Even today we see this in our country and people have found themselves without work so many are living day today.
The early church fathers couldn’t believe we could go from such exalted petitions like Gods kingd, will, and name to just asking for daily bread! So they applied it to the bread of the lords supper, or the word of God. Thankfully the reformers who might have been a bit more down to earth argued that this is about physical needs. They knew that if flesh and blood humans were to hallow Gods name, and let his kingdom come and his will be done, then they would need food.
This is about daily need. And we are to not pray for greed, but for need. As proverbs 30:8,9 so beautifully puts it, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
We pray for forgiveness: We are sinners. We need pity. We need grace. We need him to redeem us, to set us free. Forgive us.
Forgive us our debts. You thought the national economy, and the government is in debt. You thought the government was foolish to be racking up so much debt with SAA and Eskom and other SOE’s. But have you taken a look at your own moral debt? Those trillions are nothing in comparison with the debt that we owe, personally and corporately for sins committed not against a nation but against the creator God.
And what do we do. We ask for forgiveness. Debt forgiveness. Of millions? Trillions of rand? No far more. Something so great it would take infinite amount of time to pay it back. Just think of the audacity of it. What we are asking here is like asking the government to just cancel what is owed. If you have personal pride and honor it seems like a shameless thing to do. But that is precisely what Jesus calls us to do. We put our pride aside and ask the Father for what we desperately need every day. Our debt forgiven. Here Jesus is showing us the end of the gospel. It is so central to the gospel; this is what he dies for. He says on the eve of his death. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The cross. Our debt is only forgiven because he paid it in fill. He paid it all.
And because of that it would be nothing so wrong as to accept forgiveness and to not forgive others. he even adds a comment on it verse 14 and 15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses.” As Stott says, “Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offense against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison trifling. If on the other hand, we have an exaggerated view of the offense of others, it proves we have minimized our own.”
In other words. We simply don’t understand the cross if we don’t forgive all sin against us. We don’t understand our own sin before God. There is a story of John Wesley approaching a very stubborn man with an unbending will. In a particularly prideful moment this man boasted to Wesley and said, “I never forgive others.” Wesley replied, “Then I hope, sir, you never sin.” The puritan Watson said, “ a man can go to hell for not forgiving as well as not believing. You see the forgiven will be forgiving if they are truly forgiven.
Lead us not into temptation:
Our hearts are tempted to give in. we are helpless, strengthen us. Do not abandon us in the moment of trial. Have pity upon us. It is a prayer of a weak person to a strong God.
There is a story in Foxes Book of Martyrs of two men who were to burn at the stake. One was confident and boasted loudly that he would be a man when the time came. He said he was so grounded in the gospel that he could not imagine denying Christ if and when he was given the opportunity. Even on the day of his execution he spoke that he was like a bride made ready for the wedding day.
The other man was different. He also was determined not to deny Christ. Be he admitted he was horribly afraid of the fire. He shared that he was always sensitive to suffering and he was in great dread that when the first flame came near his body he would cry out and recant denying his savior. So he urged the other man to pray for him, and spent his time weeping over his weakness and crying to God for strength. The other man rebuked and chided him.
When the stake came, he who was so bold recanted at first sight of the flames and was released never to return to Christ. The other man, the trembling, weeping, praying one, who had prayed lead me not into temptation, stood firm as a rock, as he died a cruel but courageous death.
All of us will undergo trials. We are all tested through fire. So, our prayer should be when tested let us not be consumed.
And finally Deliver us from the evil one:
This world is under the power of the evil one. Those that do not believe are being used and abused by him. We start from the point that all people are depraved. Deliver your children from his power. The word here for deliver is a strong word. Like snatching from the fire. Or grabbing your child before he runs out into the highway. That is what we want God to do with us! O take hold of us God! Grab us out of the grip of the evil one and is evil ways. Help us Lord to remain faithful.
Again you see here in the last three peitions how our triune God works for the good of all those who believe in Him. As Father and provider he provides us with all we need for body and soul, as Son he is our savior and pays for all our sin, and as Spirit he guides us in all of life, delivering us, and protecting us!
Indeed to this triune God belongs all the power and glory for even and ever!
‘For Yours Is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory’ Although these words are not found in the earliest manuscripts, they are biblical,good to pray, and a fitting end to this prayer. All these things belong to nobody else. No other God but you. No king but God. No Lord except Christ. Your glory shall not belong to another.
And so we always end this prayer with a powerful Amen. Its true it is certain. In a world that does not believe in absolutes we put a mighty amen because we believe absolutely. Give us kingdom priorities and the means to carry them out!