Many people memorize and routinely recite what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer. Is this what Jesus Christ wanted His disciples, and us, to do?
The disciples of Jesus Christ were familiar with the concept of praying, but they still asked Jesus to teach them to pray.
“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1).
The attitude of the disciples is certainly commendable; they knew they should pray and really wanted to do it the right way.
Our Christian duty
We know that Jesus prayed regularly, and He expects us to pray daily as well.
During His Sermon on the Mount, He said, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:5-8).
Jesus gave an example
He continued, “In this manner, therefore, pray: 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 forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13).
We should notice Jesus did not say, “Repeat these words over and over.” He specifically told them—and us—not to do so! Notice His words quoted above: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7).
What Matthew recorded for us should be considered a model prayer or an outline of how to pray to God. Let’s look at it phrase by phrase.
Our Father in heaven
Although the Bible mentions many instances where Jesus was praying, only a few scriptures give us the words He used in specific prayers.
Jesus set us the example. Look at the beginning of the following prayers:
- Matthew 11:25: “At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.’”
- John 11:41: “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.’”
- John 12:27-28: “‘Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’”
- John 17:1: “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.’”
- Matthew 26:39: “He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’”
- Luke 23:34: “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ And they divided His garments and cast lots.”
- Luke 23:46: “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, “into Your hands I commit My spirit.”’ Having said this, He breathed His last.”
Notice that Jesus begins by addressing His Father in heaven. When we begin our personal prayers in like manner, we also recognize the deep relationship God desires to have with us—those who are called and who respond to God’s calling can be, literally, children of God.
Hallowed be Your name
To hallow God’s name means to honor it, to consider it sacred, to hold it in the highest regard and with very deep respect. Many of the Psalms show examples of how to praise and honor our great God.
Your kingdom come
We have the promise that God’s Kingdom will soon be established on the earth and that it will be ever-expanding.
As we see all the ills of this world, the debilitating diseases, upset weather, wars and political unrest all over the globe, we realize that only the Kingdom of God can give this world the true peace and security we yearn for.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
We should study to learn what God’s will is and then strive to bring our own will into harmony with His. Then we can incorporate those concerns into our daily prayers.We should study to learn what God’s will is and then strive to bring our own will into harmony with His. Then we can incorporate those concerns into our daily prayers.
Give us this day our daily bread
Not only does this remind us that we need to ask for and thank God for food and other physical things on a regular basis, but it can also include praying for God’s help to feast on His Word on a daily basis. God wants us to realize that Bible study helps us get to know Him and that the spiritual food He gives us is paramount.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors
If we don’t forgive and forget the sins that we think others have committed against us, we have no chance at being forgiven ourselves. Jesus Christ said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
Satan the devil is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10) and the evil one. He is very clever, abounds in subtlety and hates those who love God. He will never give up in his vicious attempts to separate us from our Heavenly Father through temptation and sin.
But the all-powerful God can deliver us if we seek His help and draw close to Him (James 4:7-8).
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever
After His resurrection, Jesus spoke with His disciples for 40 days. They asked Him during that time if He was going to “restore the Kingdom” then (Acts 1:6).
One of the things Jesus will do upon His return to the earth is to establish the Kingdom to God, and all the other kingdoms will be no more (1 Corinthians 15:24). What a glorious event that will be.
The Gospels, almost all of the epistles (James and 3 John are the exceptions) and the book of Revelation all close with “Amen.”
This word is also one of the names referring to Jesus. “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God’” (Revelation 3:14). Saying “Amen” also means that we certify that what went before is true.
Jesus indicated in Matthew 6 that we should begin our prayers by addressing our Heavenly Father and close them with “Amen.” We also have the incredible privilege to add, “In Jesus’ name” before we close (John 14:13-14).
Pray your own words!
The above amplification of the phrases that Jesus spoke to His disciples is definitely not meant to be our exact script as we offer our daily prayers.
As we add our elaboration, avoiding the vain (ineffective, unproductive and futile) repetitions Jesus mentioned, we’ll begin to develop a closer relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.
Should we refer to these outlines as the Lord’s Prayer?
Many publishers of the Holy Bible have included various “helps.” Paragraph breaks and verse numbers were not part of the original texts. The subheads that have been added above different chapters and sections can vary from one edition to another.
But while these verses in Matthew and Luke are memorable (and memorizable), other passages give examples of Jesus Christ’s actual prayers. The longest one recorded makes up the entire 17th chapter of the Gospel of John. This is a beautiful account of the words Jesus actually prayed on His last Passover with His disciples. John 17 is a very fine example of a real Lord’s Prayer.