Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what thing’s ye have need of, before ye ask him.
This, of course, is elementary wisdom. A God who needs to be told what men need could certainly not help if told! Prayers, giving God information, are as ridiculous as they are impious.
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
THE LORD’S PRAYER
By a strange coincidence, this prayer is translated by 66 words in the King James Version, and by 39 words in the Luke account in the Revised Version, corresponding respectively to the 66 books in the Bible and to the 39 books in the Old Testament. The above rendition of the prayer has 55 words, due to the omission of the doxology.
After this manner … The Lord did not say, “Pray in these words,” but “After this manner.” How strange it is that this very prayer should have become the very thing it was designed to prevent, namely a rote prayer! Surely, the very mystery of iniquity is evident in such a development. And what is the “manner of this prayer”?
It is: (1) short,
(3) God-oriented, the first three petitions being for things of God rather than for things of men,
(4) extemporaneous, being given in two forms by Christ himself as evidenced by the Matthew and Luke accounts,
(5) to the point, and
(6) full of humility.
Our Father who art in heaven …
The Biblical image of God presents Him as a loving Father. This is especially true in the teachings of Christ which refer to Him as “Father” no less than 160 times. Men are constrained to acknowledge common parentage, equal need, and community status as to their sins and requirements in order to supplicate God for his blessings. Christ could and did pray, “My Father,” but his disciples must ever pray, “Our Father.”
God is man’s Father because he created him, sustains him, and provides all that man needs.
In this petition, God’s Fatherhood is presented on a higher level, namely that of the new birth (John 3:5).
As Paul expressed it, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
Since God is man’s true and only spiritual Father, it is sinful and improper to refer this title, spiritually, to any man (Matthew 23:9, which see).
God’s Fatherhood was dimly perceived by the Hebrews but is far more graphically presented by Christ.
God loves men enough to give his Son (John 3:16);
a sparrow cannot fall without his care (Matthew 10:29);
if people become prodigals, the Father waits patiently to welcome their return (Luke 15:22);
and if people become cold, merciless bigots like the elder brother, the Father entreats even them (Luke 15:28).
Oh, what a Father to fallen man is God!
Christ revealed that heaven is the place where God is. No childish, naive, materialistic concept of heaven as a kind of upstairs beyond some convenient cloud is meant. Heaven is “up” in that a total set or system of higher values and principles is in operation there. God is not merely “in” heaven but is “everywhere” (Acts 17:28). Therefore, the Scriptural definition of heaven is primarily not a place at all, in the ordinary sense, but a state of being higher and nobler than our earthly life, invisible to mortal eyes (1 Timothy 6:16), not subject to material limitation, nor to the presence of death or sin, and yet a true reality of the most transcendent importance and glory. The Christian faith is a heaven-centered faith. Christ’s teaching places the utmost emphasis upon it, making it the abode of the Father, the ultimate home of the redeemed, and the source of all blessing. The word “heaven” was ever on his lips. From heaven he came, of heaven he spoke, to heaven he pointed the way, from heaven he brought the Father’s message, from heaven angels came to support him in the wilderness of temptations and in the garden of Gethsemane. In heaven the skies were darkened when he was crucified; from heaven angels came to roll away the stone from his grave, not to let him out, but to let the witnesses in and to announce his resurrection to the disciples. To heaven the angels escorted him to receive the everlasting kingdom; from heaven angels warned the disciples about gazing idly into heaven; and in heaven he is interceding at God’s right hand. From heaven he will come a second time to judge the quick and dead, to cast evil out of his universe and to welcome the redeemed into the home of the soul.
Hallowed be thy name …
The very first petition of this prayer is solicitous for the honor of God’s name.
Top priority belongs to the things of God and not to the things of men.
Man’s spiritual well being, dependent entirely upon his relationship to God, is infinitely more important, even than daily bread – a point of view which comes difficult indeed for sinful men.
The Third Commandment in the Decalogue emphasizes this same point, that being negative, this positive enlightenment on the same truth. Men hallow the name of God when they honor His word, His church, His doctrine, His Son, His laws, and His name.
Thy kingdom come …
It should be remembered that at the time Jesus gave this example of an acceptable, spontaneous prayer, the kingdom was yet future. The establishment of his kingdom on the day of Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ fulfilled this petition, answered it.
The kingdom his disciples were instructed to pray for is now rounding out nearly two thousand years of successful existence on earth, and it seems strange indeed that men still pray this prayer in exactly the same words. Should this be? No!
Especially if it is prayed with any thought that God’s kingdom is not yet established. Thus, if one limits these words to their obvious, primary, and original meaning, they form no proper part of a prayer today. However, a word of caution should be observed. These words may be, and undoubtedly are, capable of another meaning. The Britannica World Language Edition of Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary gives no less than NINETEEN meanings for the word “come,” and the fifth of these is: “to attain an end or a completion. Thy kingdom come.”
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth …
Men may know what is the will of God through study of his word and resultant renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2). In a certain sense, the will of God is now being done. Nothing, not even evil, can exist apart from God’s will; but this prayer is a petition that men’s hearts may be responsive to God’s will for man.
As in heaven …
Is a reminder that the highest order of intelligent beings, even angels, comply with the will of God.
To what extent are floods, earthquakes, disasters, etc. the “will of God”? People fancy that their knowledge of medical science, for example, removes such things as the Black Death of the 1300’s from the category of God’s will and relegates them to the status of man-controlled and understood inconveniences.
It is true that here and there man has plucked a feather from the wings of the angel of death or discovered one of the Grim Reaper’s ambushes; but, in the larger view, he has eliminated neither suffering nor death.
These exist by God’s permissive will. Such things as catastrophes, epidemics, plagues, tornadoes, hurricanes, and all such things are a part of our world as God made it, or at least as he allows it to be.
The ancient who bowed his head under the duress of sorrow or disaster and meekly said, “Oh God, thy will be done,” in all essential areas, stood upon the same ground the Christian occupies today when he prays this prayer.
It is wonderful that the lines of this prayer are so often on men’s lips, especially in view of the divisions that have marred Christendom. Whatever the state of unity and harmony in heaven, it is God’s will that the same unity and harmony should prevail upon earth. This prayer, therefore, rebukes the common heresies and schismatic divisions so rampant in the name of religion.
Give us this day our daily bread. The Greek term here translated “daily bread” is not found elsewhere in the Bible, and scholars do not agree on how it should be rendered.
Weymouth translates it: “our bread for today”; Moffatt has it, “our bread for tomorrow”! Origen believed it referred to the word of God, and Dummelow suggests the meaning as “heavenly bread.
We feel no embarrassment in choosing the common version. Note that the prayer is not for cake, or wine, or luxuries, but for bread, and that for only one day at a time.
Millions today do not pray this prayer meaningfully because they have a week’s supply in the refrigerator, including luxuries.
One should not pray for “my” daily bread but for “our daily bread.” Thus is reaffirmed the principle of man’s interdependence upon his fellow creatures and the community of interest pertaining to the whole human race. This prayer bespeaks a profound trust in God. “Bread for a day” reminds one of the words of J. H. Newman:
“I do not ask to see the distant scene, One step enough for me.”
It also suggests moderation. “Daily bread” brings one back to the level of actual need. Dependence upon God is also taught. True, man may have a month’s provisions stored up, but whether he lives to use them or not is totally dependent upon the Father’s will. In the comprehensive sense of this prayer, daily bread comes only from God.
“Back of the loaf is the snowy flour And back of the flour the mill; And back of the mill is the wheat and the shower and the sun and the Father’s will.”
And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. The word “trespasses,” generally used in the common recitations of this prayer, comes from William Tyndale’s translation, whence it came into the Book of Common Prayer, and thence into general usage wherever the English tongue is spoken. Luke’s account uses the word “sins,” but “debts” certainly includes the same thought. This indicates that Christ did not think his disciples would lead sinless lives (1 John 1:8). Forgiveness is absolutely preconditioned upon the petitioner’s forgiveness of others.
And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. This indicates the danger in temptation and stresses man’s weakness.
Think of all the holy names lost amid the storms of temptation, the hosts of the slain in the encounter with the Prince of Evil.
Only a fool could face the subtle and invisible powers of evil with any feeling of superiority or overconfidence.
This line is intended to impress the worshiper with the incredible force which evil can exert to lure men from the path of honor and safety.
(1 Thessalonians 3:5). The reference to the “evil one” is a reminder that man’s foe is a PERSON, a ubiquitous enemy who sows tares in the wheat (Matthew 13:28), snatches the word out of men’s hearts (Matthew 13:19), and goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). See more on Matthew 4:1
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
These words are not improper, merely because they have been omitted in the English Revised Version (1885), since the Lord did not give it as a rote prayer to begin with. The doxology is most appropriate and has a positive value in affirming the fact of the kingdom’s being already established.
This is inherent in the use of the present tense. The addition of this doxology automatically requires another construction upon “Thy kingdom come” other than that of a petition for the kingdom to be established.