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Matthew 06.5-15

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July 15, 2007 First Baptist Church, Comanche Series: Studies in Matthew

Matthew 6:5–13

5When you pray, you are NOT to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father Who is in secret, and your Father Who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7 And when you are praying, do not us meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father, Who is in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. 10 Your Kingdom comeYour will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” 14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

“Biblical Praying”

Introduction: Vision casting and Ministry—expectations and reality.  When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray [Luke 11:1f], He answered by giving them a great pattern for prayer. He taught them to pray biblically, and with pinpoint accuracy.  Here we find specific and key ingredients to biblical praying.  Biblical prayers are specific. Jesus was biblical, and He asked for very specific things in what is known as the Lord’s [Model] Prayer:

1.    God’s Praise—God’s Name to be exalted (v. 9); you surrender to Him, to His Word, and to His Authority

A.     Exaltation [ Psalms 150 ] – “Father” Creator

1.   Heavenly

2.   Holy

B.    Expression [ 1 Cor 10:31-33; Heb 13:15-17 ] – “Our Father” Re-Creator

1.      There is the surrender of the believer to God and to God's family.

a.   Surrendering to God, as a biblical Christian you are:

·        Denying humanism, self-sufficiency, and all other gods.

·        Surrendering yourself to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

·        Acknowledging the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ to be your own Father.

b. When you pray "our Father," you are surrendering your independency and accepting God's family. You are assuming your responsibility in the family of God.

2.      There is the surrender of the believer to heaven. As true Christian believers you surrender and set your mind and heart upon the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Your whole being is surrendered and committed to seeking the things of God.

3.      There is the surrender of the believer to the holy Name of God. The believer just bows in total and abject poverty [ Matt 5:3-4 ; Rom 7:18], in nothingness before the holy name of God. You are surrendered in the knowledge of the "hallowedness," the sovereignty and majesty of God's being. God is all and man is nothing! You are totally dependent upon God.

Only when you reach this point of surrender are you ready to present your needs to God. You are conscious that only God can meet your needs.

@  You cannot please God until you praise God [ Matt 5:23-24 ].  What you ask for in prayer must be both pleasing and praising to our holy and heavenly Father.  If I know, then I must go.

**   We have tried to focus on Praise [Worship—magnifying Him], Personal Relationship with God [Walk—making and maintaining a growing relationship with God], and now the Program [work—ministering to others within and without the body of Christ].

2.    God’s Purpose—God’s kingdom and God’s will to prevail (vv. 10, 13)

A.     God’s Way

You cannot do Kingdom work, our Father’s business, by worldly means.  The means, the motivation, and the results must be for our heavenly Father’s glory.

B.    God’s Will

You cannot know God’s perfect will apart from God’s perfect Word.  This is part of the importance of our ongoing Sunday School ministry; we are to teach the pure, perfect, and powerful Word of God to exalt Him, to edify us, and to evangelize others.

3.    God’s Provision—God’s daily provision for us (v. 11)

A.     The Substance—symbolic of all our physical needs [ James 1:17-27 ]

What’s wrong with our Western culture?  Why does man try to live without God?

!!    New ministry effort “UR” of our youth.

B.    The Source—God provided for man before He even created man [ 1 Timothy 4:1-5 ]

@  You cannot ask God to meet your needs until you realize Who God is, what He alone can do, and what you truly need. [ Deuteronomy 8:18 in context!]

4.  God’s Pardon—forgiveness and the ability to forgive (vv. 12, 14-15)

A.     Legal Debt [1 John 1:6-10]

B.    Lovingly Due [Eph 4:32; Col 3:13]

@  You cannot forgive others until you first ask God to forgive you.  You must first recognize your own sin.  What is implied in this passage?

5.  God’s Protection—a  (v. 13)

A.     Temptations—And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

B.    Tribulations—For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”

@  You cannot live a worldly life that will please our heavenly and holy Father. What you ask for in prayer, believe that you might receive, that your life fulfills God’s purposes, for His pleasure, and for His praise.

Conclusion and Application:  There was nothing vague or generic about Jesus’ requests.  We need to pray with the same pinpoint accuracy.  Stop praying weak prayers like “God bless Bill.”  Be very specific with God in prayer.

Pinpoint prayers are biblical.

Ø      Everything Jesus asked for in the Lord’s Prayer was based on Old Testament promises.

Ø      Jesus asked God to do what He promised He would.

Ø      We must know the Word of God, and then we need to pray the Scriptures back to God.

Ø      Start praying biblical and specific prayers today!


N.  The Model Prayer (Part III), 6:9-13

(6:9-13) Introduction— Prayer— Lord's Prayer: What is the Lord's prayer? Is it a prayer to be recited as it so often is—just by memory, or just as a form prayer?

Note the words "After this manner...pray ye." Note also Luke's account where the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1-2). The prayer was given to show the disciples how to pray—how they should go about praying, not the words they should pray. The very context of what Christ had just taught shows this clearly (cp. Matthew 6:5-8).

The Lord's prayer is a model prayer that is to be prayed through. It is "after this manner," in this way, like this, that a person is to pray. Christ was teaching the disciples how to pray. He was giving words, phrases, thoughts that are to be the points of the believer's prayer. The believer is to develop the points as he prays. An example would be something like this:

Þ  "Our Father...": "Thank you, Father, that you are our Father—that you have adopted us as children of God, sons and daughters of yours. Thank you for the believers of the world who make up the family of God. Thank you for the church, the body of Christ that gives us the family of God. Thank you for loving us that much." And on and on the believer is to pray.

Þ  "...which art in heaven": "Thank you for heaven—that you are in heaven—that you have chosen us to be with you in heaven. Thank you, Father, for the hope and anticipation of heaven." And on and on the believer prays.

Christ taught His disciples to pray "after this manner." When the believer prays through the Lord's prayer, he finds he has covered the scope of what God wants him to pray. How much pain the Lord's heart must bear because of the way man has abused and misused His prayer! How desperately believers need to pray through the Lord's prayer! How desperately the prophets and teachers of the world need to pray as Christ taught! How much you and all of us as ministers of God need to preach and teach that the Lord's prayer is to be prayed through and not just recited.

1.  There is surrender and acknowledgment (v.9).

2.  There is request and plea (v.10-13).

3.  There is praise and commitment (v.13).

DEEPER STUDY #1  (6:9-13) Prayer

1. (6:9) Prayer— Surrender: the believer's prayer is to be a surrender.

1.  There is the surrender of the believer to God and to God's family.

a.  When a person genuinely says "Father," he is surrendering to God. He is...

·  denying humanism, self-sufficiency, and all other gods.

·  surrendering himself to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.

·  acknowledging the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ to be his own Father.

b.  When a person prays "our Father," a person is surrendering his independency and accepting God's family. He is assuming his responsibility in the family of God.

2.  There is the surrender of the believer to heaven, the spiritual world or dimension of being. The believer surrenders and sets his mind and heart upon the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. His whole being is surrendered and committed to seeking the things of the spiritual world. (See outline—§ Ephes. 1:3 and notes—§ Ephes. 1:3.)

3.  There is the surrender of the believer to the holy name of God. The believer just bows in total and abject poverty, in nothingness before the holy name of God. He is swallowed up in the knowledge of the "hallowedness," the sovereignty and majesty of God's being. God is all and man is nothing! He is totally dependent upon God.

Note: when a person reaches this point of surrender, then he is ready to present his needs to God. He is ever so conscious that only God can meet his needs.

DEEPER STUDY #2  (6:9) God— Father

 Thought 1. "Our Father" is the first point to pray. The believer is to pray "after this manner."

Þ  "Father, thank you for yourself: that you are our Father...."

Þ  "Thank you for adopting us as children of God: that you have chosen us...."

Þ  "Thank you for 'the household of faith,' for the 'family of God'...."

 Thought 2. The phrase "Our Father" says three things about prayer.

1)  The believer is not to pray alone—not always. The word "our" shows this. Christ has just taught that a person should pray alone. He now says there are times when a person should pray with others. God is "our Father."

2)  The believer is taught to whom to pray: to God and to Him alone.

3)  The believer is taught to address God as "Father." He is taught what his relationship to God is to be, that of a child to a Father.

 "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? " (Matthew 7:11).

"And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear" (1 Peter 1:17).

 Thought 3. God is "our Father." God has no favorites: "God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34).

1)  God is "our Father" by creation; that is, He is the Father of all men everywhere because He is the Creator of all men (Genesis 1:1; Malachi 2:10; Isaiah 64:8; Acts 27:28).

2)  God is "our Father" by re-creation (2 Cor. 5:17) and adoption (see Deeper Study #2—Galatians 4:5-6; cp. Ephes. 1:5). He is "our Father" to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and the redemption that is in Him (Ephes. 2:19).

"For ye have not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15).

"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:4-6).

Thought 4. There is one time in particular when the believer must approach God as Father: when returning to God and repenting of sin (cp. the prodigal son, Luke 15:18).

Thought 5. "Our Father" settles all the relationships in the world.

1)  It settles a person's relationship with himself. Every person fails and comes short, and sometimes he gets down on himself. He feels like a failure—hopeless, helpless, worthless, useless. "Our Father" says that such a person matters; he always matters to God. He can come to the Father and share his concerns.

2)  It settles a person's relationship with others (see Thought 3).

DEEPER STUDY #3  (6:9) Heaven

DEEPER STUDY #4  (6:9) Hallowed be (hagiastheto)

2. (6:10-13) Prayer: the believer is to request and plea for several things (see Deeper Study #5—Matthew 6:10, Deeper Study #6—Matthew 6:10, Deeper Study #7—Matthew 6:11; Deeper Study #8—Matthew 6:12; Deeper Study #9—Matthew 6:13).

DEEPER STUDY #5  (6:10) Kingdom of God

DEEPER STUDY #6  (6:10) God, Will of

DEEPER STUDY #7  (6:11) Bread

DEEPER STUDY #8  (6:12) Forgiveness, Spiritual

DEEPER STUDY #9  (6:13) Temptation— Deliverance

3. (6:13) Doxology— The kingdom and the power and the glory: there is praise and commitment. There is praise & commitment. These words are not in the best and oldest manuscripts of the Greek. Many scholars believe the doxology was added at a later date to be used in public worship. However, there is a similar doxology by David (1 Chron. 29:11). The point of the doxology is to stress that everything belongs to God.

1.  He is the Source of the kingdom and the power and the glory.

2.  He is the Possessor of the kingdom and the power and the glory.

3.  He is the Recipient of the kingdom and the power and the glory.

The believer belongs to the kingdom and the power and the glory of God.

1.  The believer belongs to God's kingdom: God has accepted the believer into the Kingdom of God and promises to transport him into the kingdom and its glory either at death or at the Lord's return.

2.  The believer belongs to God's power: God has delivered him from sin and death and continues to deliver him daily.

3.  The believer belongs to God's glory: God has done all for the believer that "in the ages to come He [God] might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Ephes. 2:7).

Thought 1. "Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen" is the third major point to pray.

1)  "Father, yours is the kingdom, the right to rule and reign...."

2)  "Yours is the power, the only power that can really rule and govern...."

3)  "Yours is the glory. O' God, all glory belongs to you...."

Thought 2. Note three significant points.

1)  "Thine is the kingdom" says two things.

a)  The right to rule and reign throughout the universe is God's. It belongs to no one else. The only perfect and eternal government is God's. The only government that possesses utopia, the very best of all, and that lasts forever is God's.

b)  The right to rule and reign is God's. It is no one else's! Only God's government can bring utopia: love, joy, peace, and the very best of life.

"God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things" (Acts 17:24-25).

"Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else" (Deut. 4:39).

"Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all" (1 Chron. 29:12).

"That men may know that thou, whose name alone is jehovah, art the most high over all the earth" (Psalm 83:18).

"The lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved" (Psalm 93:1).

"Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: and he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding" (Daniel 2:20-21).

"And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" (Daniel 4:35).

2)  "Thine is the power" says two things.

a)  God alone has the power to create and sustain perfect government. He alone has the power to support and bring perfect government to man and his earth.

b)  God alone has the power to change men so that they can escape death and live forever within a perfect government. He alone has the power to stir men to live in love, joy, and peace and to serve completely and unselfishly so that all may have the very best.

3)  "Thine is the glory" says that God alone deserves all the honor and praise and glory. For what? For all. He is all in all.

Thought 3. The one subject that is to dominate prayer is "praising God." The fact that the Lord's prayer begins with praise (surrender, Matthew 6:9) and ends with praise (Matthew 6:13b) shows this.

God does not need praise. He has the praise of multitudes of angels, but He deserves our praise.

God created us with the ability to praise Him. He must want our praise.

A genuine believer is always praising God's name before all.

DEEPER STUDY #10  (6:13) Amen[2]


5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

(3) Prayer (6:5–15). 6:5–8 Verses 5–6 closely parallel vv. 2–4 but with respect to prayer. As with almsgiving, Jesus does not rule out all public behavior but stresses the private side of piety. Public prayer is very appropriate when practiced with right motives. But public orations should represent the overflow of a vibrant personal prayer life. What is more, prayer ought not to be used to gain plaudits, summarize a sermon, or communicate information to an audience but should reflect genuine conversation with God.

Verses 7–8 add a second element to Jesus’ teaching on prayer. We must not “babble” (an onomatopoeic word—battalogeō, literally, to say batta). In light of vv. 7b–8, this at least refers to a long-winded and probably flowery or rhetorical oration. “Vain repetitions” (KJV) should be taken as emphasizing “vain” and not “repetitions.” The term may also refer to the uttering of nonsense syllables common to magical incantations in the pagan religions of Jesus’ day. Verse 8 does not forbid prayer, as vv. 9–13 make clear, but calls for simplicity, directness, and sincerity in talking to God. Matthew 7:7–8 will urge persistence in prayer, but here we are reminded that God wants to give us good gifts; therefore, we need not badger him with our requests (cf. 7:11). God knows our needs, but he has also chosen to grant some things only when his people pray (Jas 4:2).

9“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10your kingdom come,

your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

11Give us today our daily bread.

12Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.’ ”

6:9–13 Jesus then gave his disciples the “Our Father,” or the “Lord’s Prayer.” Actually, the “Lord’s Prayer” is a better designation for John 17, whereas the model given here might be better entitled “The Disciples’ Prayer.” In light of vv. 7–8 it is highly ironic that this prayer has come to be repeated mechanically in many Christian traditions (already Did. 8:3 commanded Christians to recite it three times daily), accompanied by the notion that frequent repetition develops spirituality. Still, the prayer remains an excellent model; it is equally ironic that other Christian traditions have carefully avoided its use or recitation. The key word in v. 9a is “how.” Verses 9b–13 illustrate key components and attitudes that Jesus’ disciples should incorporate into their prayer lives. We may choose to pray these exact words thoughtfully and reflectively or to put into our own words similar concerns. Close parallels appear in the standard Jewish Kaddish prayer and remind us that many Jews were not guilty of the hypocrisy warned against here. The parallel in Luke 11:2–4 is usually seen as a more primitive version of the same account, though the direction of development could be reversed. More likely the two reflect similar teachings of Jesus from two different occasions in his ministry.

The Greek “Father” (pater) probably translates the Aramaic Abba (cf. Mark 14:36). Use of this intimate term for God (almost equivalent to the English “Daddy”) was virtually unparalleled in first-century Judaism. Christians should consider God as accessible as the most loving human parent. (“Father” should not be read as implying that God has gender or sexuality.) The phrase “in heaven” balances this intimacy with an affirmation of God’s sovereignty and majesty. The use of the first-person plural pronouns throughout the prayer reminds us that our praying ought to reflect the corporate unity, desires, and needs of the entire church. The Lord’s Prayer is not simply a private utterance. The intimacy Christians may have with their Heavenly Father is balanced also with insistence on reverence in the clause “hallowed be your name.” “Name” refers to one’s person, character, and authority. All that God stands for should be treated as holy and honored because of his utter perfection and goodness.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” expresses the desire that the acknowledgment of God’s reign and the accomplishment of his purposes take place in this world even as they already do in God’s throne room. The first half of the prayer thus focuses exclusively on God and his agenda as believers adore, worship, and submit to his will before they introduce their own personal petitions.

The meaning of v. 11 depends largely on the very rare adjective epiousios. In addition to the traditional translation, “daily” bread, it could also mean bread for tomorrow (taken either as the next period of twenty-four hours or as the coming fullness of the kingdom) or necessary for existence. The best lexical research suggests that the noneschatological interpretation of “bread for tomorrow” may be best. Christians therefore should pray daily for the next day’s provision of life’s essentials as they recognize that all sustenance for one’s life comes from God and that he makes no long-term future guarantees. The average affluent Westerner more than likely plans and prays for “annual bread” except perhaps in times of extreme crisis. It is also worth noting that the prayer makes request for our needs and not our greed (cf. Jas 4:3).

“Forgive us our debts” renders the Greek literally. Luke 11:4, however, refers to “sins,” as does Matthew in vv. 14–15 (with the more specific paraptōmata, trespasses or conscious transgressions). Spiritual debts to God are first of all in view. Our plea for continued forgiveness as believers, requesting the restoration of fellowship with God following the alienation that sin produces, is predicated on our having forgiven those who have sinned against us. As v. 15 stresses, without this interpersonal reconciliation on the human level, neither can we be reconciled to God.

“Lead us not into temptation” does not imply “don’t bring us to the place of temptation” or “don’t allow us to be tempted.” God’s Spirit has already done both of these with Jesus (4:1). Nor does the clause imply “don’t tempt us” because God has promised never to do that anyway (Jas 1:13). Rather, in light of the probable Aramaic underlying Jesus’ prayer, these words seem best taken as “don’t let us succumb to temptation” (cf. Mark 14:38) or “don’t abandon us to temptation.” We do of course periodically succumb to temptation but never because we have no alternative (1 Cor 10:13). So when we give in, we have only ourselves to blame. The second clause of v. 13 phrases the same plea positively, “Deliver us from evil” (or “from the evil one” [NIV marg.], from whom all evil ultimately comes). This parallelism renders less likely the alternate translation of the first clause as “do not bring us to the test” (“test” is an equally common rendering of peirasmos) either as times of trial in this life or as final judgment. If we are praying for rescue from the devil, he is more likely tempting than testing us (cf. under 4:1). God tests us in order to prove us and bring us to maturity (Jas 1:2–4; 1 Pet 1:6–9). Such tests should not be feared, nor should we pray for God to withhold them.

Numerous late manuscripts add various forms of a conclusion to Jesus’ prayer, probably based on 1 Chr 29:11–13, no doubt to give the prayer a “proper” doxology that it otherwise lacked. This well-known conclusion (“for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”) appears in the NIV margin but almost certainly did not appear in Matthew’s original text. It is absent, e.g., from א, B, D, f1, various Latin and Coptic versions, and numerous church fathers. It nevertheless affords a very appropriate conclusion, and no one need campaign to do away with its use in churches today. Christians regularly and rightly utter many things in prayer that do not directly quote the autographs of Scripture.

14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

6:14–15 Verses 14–15 repeat in third-person form the thought of v. 12 and add the negative consequences of failure to forgive others. See the comments on v. 12 for more details, but note that Jesus is not claiming God’s unwillingness to forgive recalcitrant sinners but disclosing their lack of capacity to receive such forgiveness.[3]


2. Prayer (6:5–15)

Exegesis

v 5     streets = this word means a wide street.

seen = (or) revealed, manifest; recognized.

have = have received in full.

v 6     your room = inner room; primarily ‘store chamber,’ thence any private room or secret chamber.

shut = (or) lock.

reward = pay (same as v.4).

v 7     use vain repetitions = (lit.) babble (this is a single verb in Greek).

heathen = pagan.

be heard = this word actually means ‘obeyed’ and where used in the nt (5 times) means ‘respond favorably.’

v 8     knows = fully knows (‘oida’).

ask = request, petition.

v 9     therefore = then.

pray = (lit.) you (emphatic plural) must pray (an imperative).

heaven = (lit.) the heavens.

hallowed = be regarded as sacred.

v 10     come = this is an active verb, not a potential one, and so recognizes that the kingdom will definitely come.

be done = (lit.) become, happen, come into being (‘come into being’ seems to be the most logical option as it recognizes that God’s will is not being completely performed on this earth).

heaven = singular, not plural as in v.9.

v 11     this day = (or) today.

daily = (or) necessary (for existence).

v 12     forgive = this word is composed of elements which mean ‘to send away.’ In respect to debts it means ‘completely cancel.’

debts = obligations (Rom 4:4 is the only other nt use of this word, where it clearly means an obligation). If this means sins of commission here, it is a metaphorical use; but taken literally it means ‘forgive us for not having fulfilled our obligations’ and thus covers sins of omission primarily (and sins of commission as an omission to act as we should!).

debtors = this word is similar, though not identical, and is used 7 times in the nt; it is the usual word for ‘debtor,’ e.g., Matt 18:24. It is, however, used twice in the sense of spiritual obligation (Rom 8:12; Gal 5:3). Here—those obligated.

v 13     lead = (or) bring, carry, convey.

temptation = (or) testing, enticement (the basic meaning is a period or process of testing).

deliver = (or) save, rescue (Rom 11:26 uses this same word of Jesus; He is our deliverer!).

the evil one = (lit.) the evil.

v 14     forgive … forgive = same word as v.12. Our forgiveness of others is only presented as a possibility, but God’s forgiveness as a certainty.

trespasses = wrong-doing; primarily a false step, a blunder (Rom 5:15–21 inseparably links this word with sin).

Exposition

Have you ever realized that you will be remunerated for praying? You should see prayer as an investment; Jesus indicates it is so; do not neglect it!

The word used for street in v.5 means a broad street, whereas, by contrast, that in v.2 means a narrow alley. So this verse describes ostentatious praying. Remember, Jesus spoke illustratively so gave illustrations to establish principles. The clear principle in this and the other illustrations He used is that spiritual service must be directed solely towards God, without concern for man’s accolades or acceptance. Service with the pure motive of serving God will be rewarded in Heaven; other service is self-rewarding. Now, it is widely recognized that the human race is remarkably fickle to its heroes; so it is remarkably stupid for a Christian to play to a fickle crowd (which will be equally fickle with its ‘reward’) when he can rather choose to serve God Who will never be indolent or neglectful in rewarding His faithful servant!

Verse 7 teaches against repetitious praying. This, too, is literal, for Paul acted on it and would only pray three times for the removal of the ‘thorn in his flesh’ (II Cor 12:7–8, probably based on our Lord’s model in Gethsemane—Matt 26:44). How, then, do we reconcile this with I Thess 5:17 (pray without ceasing)? Clearly, if all Scripture is inspired, these two verses cannot be contradictory; so we must understand ‘pray without ceasing’ as an injunction to be continually in a prayerful attitude, to pray about everything, but not to pray repeatedly for the same thing. Prayer is communication with God, so God wants us to keep in constant touch; but prayer should also be an expression of confidence in Him. When a believer feels he has to ‘beat down the gates of heaven’ with his prayers, this implies an insult to either God’s interest in him or God’s ability to answer his prayer. You might also ask, “But what of the parable of the importunate widow and the judge (Luke 18:1–8)?” The answer is that Jesus taught this parable to encourage believers to continue in prayer (v.1), so it says the same as I Thess 5:17. Jesus assured His disciples that God hears and answers prayer by contrasting an unjust judge with our just God; if an unjust judge could eventually be persuaded to dispense justice, how much more assured can the believer be that His just God will dispense justice promptly in due season.

We will consider the details of our Lord’s prayer exemplar when we study §156, for He used a similar example there. This prayer is universally called the Lord’s prayer, but would be more appropriately entitled “The Disciples’ Prayer” for, as Ironside points out, “Jesus Himself could not pray it, for it includes a request for forgiveness of sins, and He was ever the Sinless One.” The brevity of this model prayer suggests that time be left for activity; and note, too, Jesus stressed that part of the prayer designed to preserve (or promote) a Christian attitude between men (vv.13–15), i.e., a favorable atmosphere in which to work. Remember, vv.14–15 are given in the context of reward (vv.5–6), so lack of forgiving others adversely affects your eternal reward (not eternal life). Grudges are frightfully expensive; we just cannot afford them, yet how dearly we are tempted to hang on to them![4]


Private Prayer (6:5–15)

Despite the reference to the synagogues in verse 5, this passage is concerned not with corporate worship but with private prayers. It was customary for Jews to pause in whatever they were doing about 3 p.m. in order to offer prayers in conjunction with the evening sacrifice in the temple. The structure and the content of such prayers were not prescribed, since they were essentially private. The “hypocrites” are reproached for performing their prayer obligation in the most visible way on a wide street where there will be many passersby. Apparently their private prayers are ostentatious even within the synagogue. In effect, their prayers are directed not to God but to their human audience, and from humans alone will they get their reward.

The allusion to the “inner room” in verse 6 is therefore not at all intended to suggest that Jesus was opposed to corporate worship in the synagogue. Nor should it be taken in a literalistic fashion, since many of his hearers lived in simple homes that lacked such a private room. The point is clear: private prayer must be directed to God alone.

Verses 7 and 8 are probably taken from a different source; they disturb the pattern by adding a second negative example, that of the Gentiles who “pile up empty phrases” or “babble,” because they think there is greater effectiveness in wordy prayers. What is here castigated is not length and repetition as such (Jesus is represented as repeating his prayer in Gethsemane, 26:39–44) but a mistaken attitude that regards prayer as a magical means of manipulating God into doing our bidding. Such prayer is truly pagan, unmindful of the nature of God. “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few” (Eccles. 5:2; cf. 7:14). Authentic prayer acknowledges that God is concerned about our needs before we ask him (see v. 32).

The Lord’s Prayer (6:9–13). The symmetry of the thrice-used pattern of 6:1–18 is marred by the insertion at this point of the Lord’s Prayer. In terms of content, however, the insertion is apt. Matthew quite properly regards the Lord’s Prayer as a model for private prayer. There is not the slightest suggestion that this prayer was presented by Jesus to his disciples as a substitute for the corporate prayers of the synagogue. Eventually the fledgling religion developed its own distinctive liturgy (albeit one heavily dependent on Jewish antecedents), and in this liturgy the Lord’s Prayer later had its place, but it was not so in the beginning. When Didache 8:3 instructs readers to recite the Lord’s Prayer three times a day it undoubtedly reflects the Jewish practice of engaging in private prayer in the early morning, mid-afternoon, and at sunset (cf. Dan. 6:10).

In Luke’s introduction to the Lord’s Prayer a disciple asks Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). Since it must be assumed that Jesus’ disciples were not irreligious renegades, we can take for granted that they had been taught Hebrew and how to read the synagogue prayers. What Luke’s introduction suggests, therefore, is that Jesus was asked to provide his followers with a model for private prayer, just as other leading teachers and John had done. The possession of such a prayer would distinguish Jesus’ disciples from others.

The most noticeable characteristic of the Lord’s Prayer is its Jewishness. Almost every phrase has its parallel in Jewish literature. Conspicuously missing are distinctively Christian elements, such as a prayer for the return of Jesus Messiah or a supplication for his church. There is not even an appended “In Jesus’ name we pray.” For this reason it has been proposed that the Lord’s Prayer can be prayed by both Jews and Christians. Indeed, one rabbi has said that the prayer might well have become a part of the synagogue liturgy had Jesus remained a charismatic Jewish teacher. This is not at all to suggest, however, that the Lord’s Prayer is simply a collage of borrowed liturgical phrases. It has its own integrity, reflective of the teaching of Jesus. In this sense it is genuinely Christian.

The prayer divides itself into two main sections, consisting of “you” and “we” petitions respectively. The opening lines establish the context in which the requests of the second part are to be understood. The opening words of Matthew’s version of the prayer, “Our Father, the one in the heavens,” can be found in formal Jewish prayers. Luke’s simple one-word address, “Father,” reflects Jesus’ characteristic way of addressing God as abba (see Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). The term was an affectionate one used by small children, but it was also employed occasionally by adults when speaking to a respected older man. It seems not to have been used in prayer. A growing consensus of scholarship maintains that, while Jesus’ idiosyncratic use of abba cannot be used to demonstrate that he regarded himself as the Father’s “Son” in a unique sense, it does bespeak his theology of the gracious Father who had sent him to eat with tax collectors and sinners. If there had been nothing unusual or significant in Jesus’ use of abba, Mark and Paul would not have bothered to transliterate it for their Gentile Christian readers. Although Matthew here elaborates the address, he by no means intends to obscure Jesus’ emphasis on the gracious Father. He uses “Father” for God more frequently than any other New Testament writer.

The opening petition, “Hallowed be thy name,” is in some respects the most difficult to understand and appropriate. “Name,” of course, is simply a way of referring to God. When Deut. 12:11 alludes to “the place which the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there,” the author means that God will dwell in Jerusalem. The problem resides rather in the verb. Most English versions, from Wycliffe to the latest translations, employ the subjunctive mood, which is in itself ambiguous. Does the subjunctive express a wish or a hope, just as “Long live the king!” means “I hope the king lives to a ripe old age”? Or is it simply a polite way of expressing an indirect command? Whatever the intentions of the translators, the Greek is clearer than the English. Matthew and Luke employ not the subjunctive but the indirect imperative: “Let your name be sanctified.” This indirect command should be taken as a strong entreaty, just like the direct command “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Although the petition is addressed to God, the passive voice of the verb leaves it unclear whether God or humans are to sanctify the name. Scholars are probably correct in seeing here an instance of the divine passive, where God is the assumed subject of the action, but this is not made explicit because of a desire to show due reverence (see Matt. 16:21, where “be raised” can only mean “be raised by God,” as in Acts 2:24). Support for this position is found in the parallelism between this line and the next, “Let your kingdom come.”

It was the theologian Karl Barth who most forcefully insisted that the idea so dear to liberal Christians of building the kingdom of God on earth is an expression of bad theology. The biblical writers make it clear that only God can bring his kingdom; our task is to pray for it and wait. In response to Barth’s theology Robert McAfee Brown produced a fine parody of a familiar hymn (The Bible Speaks to You, p. 211):

Sit down, O men of God,

His Kingdom he will bring,

Just as and when and where he will,

You cannot do a thing.

Despite the parody, Barth’s point remains valid. We cannot build the kingdom of God on earth, because even our best efforts toward peace, justice, and community are compromised by sin. Only God can bring the ultimate transformation that includes the radical annulment of sin.

If the petition “Let your kingdom come” urges God to establish his rule on earth, it is probable that “Let your name be sanctified” is aimed in the same direction. It could be restated in more direct language as “Sanctify your name.” It entreats God to demonstrate his holiness by compelling all to acknowledge his sovereignty. Since God’s holiness is sometimes mentioned in passages that deal with his activity as judge (e.g., Ezek. 38:22–23), it is even possible that in this first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught his disciples to implore God the judge to tarry no longer: “Exhibit your holiness by calling the court to session! Let the last judgment begin!”

Like the first two, the third petition is eschatological in its scope. While the prayer “Help us to do your will” is one that every Christian should pray daily, that prayer should not be confused with the entreaty that God act in accordance with his ultimate will for the world.

Because of the eschatological focus of the first half of the Lord’s Prayer, some scholars argue that the second half should be seen in the same light: the bread for which petition is offered in verse 11 must be the renewed manna of the end time, or perhaps the bread of the messianic banquet; the forgiveness of verse 12 is acquittal at the last judgment; the testing of which verse 13 speaks is that of the messianic woes which will precede the golden age. This interpretation of the “we” petitions has not won many followers. It seems far more probable that the prayer for bread should be taken in its most literal sense because of its emphasis on today: “Give us today our bread for the morrow.” While the first half of the prayer anticipates the grand reversal at God’s termination of history, the bread petition addresses the very real need of the poor in the meantime. Ulrich Luz reminds us that this prayer had in mind not all classes of people in Palestine but more especially the day laborers, whose pay, received at the end of each working day, enabled their families to eat on the following day. If they were not hired (see Matt. 20:1–16), their families went hungry. How shall economically secure Western Christians pray such a prayer today? Not by allegorizing the bread and allowing it to stand for all of our material needs. The only authentic way for us to pray this petition, Luz insists, is by identifying with the poor, especially those of the third world, for whom subsistence is a daily concern (Luz, Matthew 1–7, p. 383).

Standing behind the supplication for forgiveness is the centuries-old conviction that the God of Israel is a forgiving God (Exod. 34:7), a conviction that found eloquent expression in the synagogue liturgy of Jesus’ day. When the author of Psalm 103 counted up the blessings for which his soul should bless God, forgiveness of iniquity was placed first on the list. Psalm 130:4 observes that God’s readiness to forgive is cause for awe. Despite this celebration of God’s forgiving nature, however, both the Hebrew Scriptures and later Jewish tradition were fully aware that divine forgiveness is not automatic. God is not indulgently tolerant of moral failure, as when a doting grandfather smiles at the childish pranks of beloved grandchildren. Moreover, forgiveness is not unconditional; it assumes repentance on the part of the recipient. There is no point in a man begging for divine forgiveness for having beaten his daughter in a drunken rage if he has no intention of dealing with his drinking problem. Behind actual forgiveness, however, lies readiness to forgive, an attitude that is constant in God but inconstant in us. Our determination not to forgive another is a form of impenitence that blocks the flow of divine forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer and the attached commentary (vv. 14–15) do not suggest that God’s pardon is doled out in proportion to the number of times we have forgiven; it is, rather, that we must genuinely repent our hardness of heart before expecting to receive God’s mercy (see Eccles. 28:1–6 and Matt. 18:21–35).

In Jesus’ eschatological prayer the petition for forgiveness, like the prayer for the poor, concerns “in the meantime.” In the interim between Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom and its final arrival those who follow him and pray “Thy kingdom come!” must anticipate the full establishment of God’s rule by manifesting God’s readiness to forgive.

The third of the “we” petitions is likewise for the meantime. It has sometimes been treated as an eschatological entreaty: “Bring us not into the severe testing of the messianic woes” (see Rev. 3:10). This interpretation should be rejected, because the word that means “testing” or “temptation” lacks the definite article. Taken at its most literalistic level, “Lead us not into temptation” is decidedly misleading. As James insists, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:13–14). Moreover, it is unrealistic to pray “Let me not be tempted.” The Gospels testify that Jesus himself was put to the test at the Jordan and in Gethsemane, and the Epistle to the Hebrews affirms that our Master “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning” (Heb. 4:15). To be human is to face temptation daily. Many temptations, having been dealt with, no longer exercise any real power over us, but others remain troublesome throughout our lives: And there are unanticipated temptations that catch us off guard and find us vulnerable. It is probable, therefore, that the way most Christians have understood this petition, while in tension with its surface meaning, is nonetheless correct: “Grant me strength to resist temptation.”

The complement to the third “we” petition, “but deliver us from evil,” since it is missing from Luke’s version, is probably an early attempt to understand the puzzling line “Lead us not into temptation.” It can be understood to mean “Rescue us from the evil one,” since the same words are used to designate the devil in Matt. 13:19, 38, and the devil is known as the tempter (Matt. 4:3). Another attractive proposal is that reference is here made to the Jewish doctrine of the evil impulse, a power within us all that lures us into doing what we know to be wrong. It is more likely, however, that “evil” is used here in a very general sense. Such seems to be the understanding of Didache 10:6: “Remember your church, Lord, to deliver it from all evil.”

Nineteen centuries have elapsed since Jesus first gave us this prayer which entreats God to sanctify his name by establishing his kingdom and compelling all to conform to his will, and the prayer remains unanswered. Unless humans are so foolish as to destroy the world by nuclear warfare or unrepentant pollution, it seems likely that human history will continue for centuries to come. Does this render Jesus’ kingdom prayer irrelevant? The solution to the puzzle is provided by Matt. 12:28: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Jesus believed that the full establishment of God’s rule lay in the future, but the assurance of that future event lay in the present. In his ministry the kingdom of God had already dawned. Barth was right; we must not be so foolish as to think that we can bring in the kingdom. But we can be signs of the kingdom. Only God can truly and ultimately sanctify his name, but we can anticipate God’s action by marching to a different tune than the secular world around us. God’s name is hallowed as we witness to his nature by caring for the poor, forgiving those who have trespassed against us, and resisting temptation. Implicit in the direct prayer, “Thy kingdom come!” is the indirect prayer, “Let thy will be done in, through, and by me, that I may become an effective sign of the dawning kingdom.”[5]


c) PRAYER (6:5-15)

(1) SAYINGS ON PRAYER (6:5-8)

5. Standing was the most usual posture for prayer in Jewish, Christian, and pagan antiquity. At the time of the daily tAmîdh offering there were public prayers in the temple (Tamid 5:1; Acts 3:1; Luke 18:10), and people would join in prayer no matter where they happened to be, as Moslems do at the prayer hours or Catholics at the Angelus.

6. For parallels see Test. Joseph 3:3; Epictetus Discourses I. 14. 14. Jesus does not condemn public worship (5:24; Luke 18:9-14); but one who engages in common prayer must be as free of self-consciousness as if he had gone into his room and shut the door. Prayer is a direct personal relationship with a Father God, and an attitude of play-acting destroys its spirit. This attitude is similar to that of the rabbis. (See C. G. Montefiore and Herbert Loewe, A Rabbinic Anthology [London: Macmillan & Co., 1938], pp. 342-81.)

Vss. 7-15 are parenthetical, a kind of footnote to vss. 5-6. They are largely drawn from Q or at least run parallel to it. They were not found in either M's or Q's sermon.

7. Do not heap up empty phrases: The Greek verb means "to babble." Though Jewish prayer was often filled with honorific phrases, as in the Kaddish, and was often long (II Chr. 6:14-42; Dan. 9:4-19), there are rabbinical sayings which counsel brief prayer. Jesus condemns the theory that if fifteen minutes of prayer is good, a half-hour is twice as good; it reminds one of heathenism, with its magical texts. A good example can be seen in these nonsense syllables from "Charm for Securing an Attendant Spirit" (E. J. Goodspeed and E. C. Colwell, A Greek Papyrus Reader [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1935], p. 78): "auoi ptaucharebi aouosobiau ptabaïn aaaaaaa aeeiououooieea chachach chachach charcharachach. ..." Seneca referred to those who "tire out the gods" (Epistles XXXI. 5).

8. God does not need to be informed, as though he were unconscious of man's needs, nor does one have to wheedle him into action, as heathen worshipers attempted to do. On the other hand, Jesus teaches confident, loving persistence in prayer, as in 7:11 and especially Luke 18:1-7.

(2) THE LORD'S PRAYER AS AN EXAMPLE (6:9-13)

It is not certain whether Matthew's form of the prayer comes from Q, as Luke 11:2-4 probably does, or from M. The form in Luke is nearer the original; and, as Dibelius shows (Sermon on the Mount, p. 75), it consists basically of three petitions: for the coming of the kingdom, for daily bread--i.e., all that is needed for earthly existence--and for forgiveness of sins in the past and the future. These sum up all the needs of those who, as in the Beatitudes, await the coming of the kingdom. Matthew's prayer may have been developed out of this into a sevenfold form designed for public worship; the first three petitions (vss. 9-10) are centered in God, the other four (vss. 11-13) in our needs. Did. 8:2 contains Matthew's version with slight variations and with the doxology (vs. 13b) appended, and commands Christians to say it three times a day. Jesus' disciples no doubt employed the prayer in their common worship from the beginning, but Jesus' primary purpose was to furnish an example of what true prayer is like (vs. 9). The prayer is thoroughly Jewish and nearly every phrase is paralleled in the Kaddish and the Eighteen Benedictions; thus it is Jesus' inspired and original summary of his own people's piety at its best.

9. Luke's prayer begins, "Father." The simple "Abba" must have been Jesus' usual address to God (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6), but it can also be translated our Father, which is a frequent address to God in Jewish prayer. The phrase who art in heaven is sometimes added in synagogue prayers (Singer, Authorised Daily Prayer Book, p. 9), but it is found more frequently in rabbinical teachings than in prayers. God is frequently referred to (Deut. 32:6; Jubilees 1:24-25, 28; III Macc. 5:7; etc.) or addressed (Isa. 63:16; Ecclus. 23:1, 4) as father of Israel or of an individual Israelite (Jubilees 19:29; Wisd. Sol. 2:16; Ecclus. 51:10), and the term is used once in a pre-Christian writing as a substitute for the name of God (Test. Judah 24:2). Only occasionally does a Jew address God as "my Father" (Ecclus. 23:1, 4; Wisd. Sol. 2:16) and the rabbis regarded this as appropriate only on the lips of a saint. Other religions often speak of the deity as father. The meaning of such a symbolic word depends on the total religious and cultural context in which it is spoken. It is difficult to define exactly how Jesus' use of it differs from that of the best of his contemporaries. Perhaps the difference is that when he speaks of God as Father, he uses the word with profound and loving intimacy. He consistently thinks of religious relationships in terms of family life.

Hallowed be thy name means approximately the same as "Father, glorify thy name" (John 12:28), but here the passive form is used, as in the Kaddish, to avoid a direct imperative. God is asked to sanctify his name and to cause men to sanctify it. The sanctification of the name is a rich and many-sided concept in Jewish thought. God sanctifies his name by condemning and opposing sin, by separating Israel from the world and giving it his commandments and his love and grace. It is also Israel's task to sanctify God's name by sanctifying itself, in keeping his commandments and doing all other things which redound to his glory. God's name will be fully sanctified in the age to come, when everything that opposes his will has been removed and punishment is no longer necessary.

10. Thy kingdom come: As in the Kaddish and the Alenu, this petition follows the prayer for sanctification of the name. See on 4:17 for a discussion of the kingdom of God. As this concept is two-sided, so is the prayer; God is asked to exercise his kingship and to cause men to take the yoke of the kingdom upon themselves (11:29). Rabbinical writings usually refer to the "revealing" or "appearance" of God's kingdom instead of its "coming." Thy will be done, not found in Luke, is an early and accurate gloss; where God's will is done, there his sovereignty is acknowledged and effective.

11. The word translated daily is not found in Greek writings independent of Christian literature, except for one occurrence in a single papyrus, and its meaning and derivation have never been satisfactorily explained. Various suggestions have been made: (a) "necessary [for life]," so Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem, and the Syriac Peshitta and Arabic versions; (b) "steadfast, faithful," so the Sinaitic Syriac (of Luke) and the Curetonian Syriac; (c) "daily" or "for the day in question," from ejpi; th6n ou\san (hJme6ran), so the O.L.; (d) "for the morrow" or "for the future," perhaps from hJ ejp--iou'sa or to6 e[pion, so the Gospel According to the Hebrews (mâhâr), the Bohairic Coptic, and Cyril of Alexandria. The third and fourth are the most likely possibilities. The papyrus, where the word is found, may be from the fifth century A.D.; it was published by Sayce in W. M. Flinders Petrie, Hawara, Biahmu and Arsinoe (London: Field & Tuer, 1889), pp. 33-35. It is a leaf from a cook's household account book, and the word occurs as the first of the items for the fifteenth day. Here the most natural translation is "for the day's expenses [not otherwise tabulated]" or "for various everyday items." The teaching of 6:34 also speaks in favor of "daily." Probably the term was not understood by Matthew's and Luke's readers; hence the evangelists feel the need of adding an explanatory phrase: this day, in the case of Matthew, and "each day" in the case of Luke.

12. Debts is a Jewish figure for "sins," well illustrated by 18:23-35. He who sins is under special obligation to make amends and is not free until he has fulfilled that obligation. Those who use this prayer do not presume to ask forgiveness save in so far as they have forgiven others (cf. Ecclus. 28:2).

13. The word rendered temptation might mean "trial" or "persecution," but the petition is usually taken as a request that God will remove occasions of sin or the evil impulse which prompts sin. God's omnipotence and providence are, as always, assumed; but there is no reflection on the question raised by Jas. 1:13-14, "Does God tempt man?" The clause but deliver us from evil, not found in Luke, may be Matthew's gloss, which stands in poetic parallelism to the previous petition; if so, it probably does not mean "from the Evil One," which is another possible translation. For thine is the kingdom, ... Amen is a doxology added in the later MSS to round the prayer out liturgically. Except for the words the kingdom and it is found in the Didache version. The source of the doxology may be I Chr. 29:11. A briefer formula is found in II Tim. 4:18.

(3) A COMMENT ON FORGIVENESS (6:14-15)

14-15. Similar teachings are given in Mark 11:25-26 and especially Matthew 18:23-35 (see notes on that section); also Ecclus. 28:1-2; Test. Gad 6:3-7; I Clem. 13:2.

5-8. Christianity and the Way of Private Prayer.

It is important that we see in mind's eye the background of religion against which Jesus spoke. Too many "men of prayer" in his day were hypocrites--actors--and they went where they could find an audience. In the synagogue they would loudly recite their own prayers instead of being content to share in the accustomed congregational prayers. They "made broad their phylacteries" (see Exeg. on 23:5). At the three times of daily prayer--when the pious workman would quit his work, and the teacher his teaching, to turn toward Jerusalem in acknowledgment of God--the professionally pious would so arrange life as to be caught at a crowded corner; and then they would sometimes stand for three hours in their devotions. Thus the comment of Jesus: nowhere is his hatred of form and cant more clear. He gives by implication certain rules for private prayer. It is essential--the burning center of life. Public or corporate prayer is also essential, for prayer inevitably has its social expression. Jesus enjoined public prayer in both word and act. But corporate prayer will lack sincerity and depth without private prayer--as witness the aridity of much public worship. The soul must be gathered in, not to itself (for there is peril in introspection), but to God. This is the wellspring of life, this is the food of the spirit, without which the soul of man dies.

Prayer must be sincere, as thoroughly sincere as our wavering will can offer. The door must be shut against the distractions of the world, lest we bring to God a divided mind. The church bell can be heard in stillness, but not amid the roar of traffic. What is even more important, a man must be where he cannot pose or pretend: Thy closet, ... thy door, ... thy Father--he, the person, stands before God stripped of every disguise, and the dissemblings of life drop. He makes his confession freely and fully, offers gratitude for mercies he has never merited, and draws strength for a destiny newly understood.

The prayer must be childlike in simplicity; RSV says not ... empty phrases. (See Exeg. for meaning of the word.) Compare the repetitions used in Baal worship, as by the "priests of Baal" on Mount Carmel, in contest with Elijah (I Kings 18:22-40); or in the pagan cults (Acts 19:34). We should not construe Jesus to mean that repetition is always vain: he himself used repetition under stress of great emotion in Gethsemane. But compare that repetition with the prayer wheel of Tibet. Jesus' plea is for such simplicity as a man must use when, stripped of every disguise, he stands alone before the Alone. Implied also is the intimacy of complete trust. That God knows our need before we ask does not argue against our asking. But it does argue against the ever-encroaching folly of trying to turn God's holy purpose, and against the attempt to use God for our own ends. Petition is inevitable in our humanness, and is indeed the part of honesty. But true petition remembers that God is our all-knowing and all-loving Father. It is made in childlike trust: "Thy will be done." Such prayer is the missing "main contact." Our works and ways all fail in that lack: we, like Samson, meet the Philistines, and discover only then that our strength has gone. For strength is gathered in the secret place.

9-13. The Lord's Prayer: A General Comment.

(See Exeg.) Pray then like this. ... An artist attempting to portray Niagara Falls flung down his brush in despair. There are thunders and powers and a spectrum mist in this prayer: it defies our wit, and yet is our salvation. It is brief: the eighteen petitions offered three times daily in the prayers of pious Jewry were ten times as long; this prayer by its terseness cuts into the mind and is easily remembered. It is childlike in simplicity: statesman and man in the street, philosopher and rustic, bishop and the youngest catechumen are one here: Our Father; and no prayer could more unqualifiedly set forth God's sovereign love and man's dependence. It is daring in its freedom. Imagine this Craftsman teaching his disciples a prayer that they shall use more centrally than the agelong Jewish prescribed prayers! Yet it is not novelty: in it there are phrases found in the best Jewish prayers of that time. Not novel, yet new--in its order, its insight, and in the spirit of him who taught it. It sets first things first: its first three petitions (do they correspond to the traditional "Holy, holy, holy"?) are adoration: they concern God's nature, God's kingdom, God's will; while the next (and secondary) four petitions concern man's need--our daily temporal needs, our need of forgiveness, our defense against the onset of temptation, our deliverance from evil. This is the due order and proportion of prayer. It is example and form of prayer, but is yet a creative focus. Form criticism may show that the Matthew version was used at the Eucharist, and that the Luke version (probably the original) was used in informal group settings and in baptism. Apparently Jesus intended his followers to use the prayer regularly, but not to recite it slavishly; and, because this is what has measurably come to pass, the prayer is a treasure both of public worship and of private devotion, and also a seed plot for new prayers age on age. It is a universal prayer. Our: it speaks the common longing and deepest aspiration of the heart of man across every class and race. The suggestion has been made that this might be the creed of all religion. Above all, it is the prayer of Christ. It is not an excursion into theology: it is rather an adoration from the soul. Yet in its awareness of human need it is his gift, and could be his alone, who is the Son of man; and in its authority and disclosure of God it is his gift, and could be his alone, who is the Son of God. This is the charter of prayer.

9. Our Father.

The word occurs in the O.T.--not in prayer--but is used to describe God's dealings primarily with the nation rather than with the man. Rabbinical prayers had begun to use it in Jesus' time, but Jesus made it his best name for God--the hallmark of his truth, an imprint which he has set forever on our world. The phrase which art in heaven saves the word from our humanness; and the petition hallowed be thy name enthrones it in awe. Thus the critic cannot use the jibe "anthropomorphic"; and, if he should, he himself blunders worse by speaking about the "laws of the universe": for it is a worse anthropomorphism to compare sovereign Power with a lawbook than with a father. The only words we have are human words; we are not angels. Jesus taught us to compare God with our best, and then to acknowledge a Mystery beyond the best which no words can hint.

The word speaks holy authority, even though the authority is one of love. God made the world, and is above it even while in it, and he rules it. "Smart politics" is at last folly, and "enlightened self-interest" is at last benighted nonsense, because he is Father. There is no indulgence in the name. The optimism in the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is false optimism: "He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all he well." Crime, hard to conceal from man, is impossible to conceal from God; and inevitably it "finds out" the wrongdoer, because God is holy Father. The universe cannot keep a secret--because its heart is open and honest, and because God rules. Yet the name is Love: he gathers man into a tender care and so ennobles our common life. Man, the creature of an hour and stained by selfishness, may speak to God, who summons the stars from the void and before whom angels veil their faces, as--Father. The authority remains and is not usurped, but it intimately lives with us for our utmost good. The love shows in the order of the world and in daily providence, whatever the paradox of pain. It shows also in home, the discipline of toil, and the pangs of remorse. It shows, heaven-sent, in Christ. Thus we are children of his grace: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I John 4:10). That fact gives the prayer its centrally Christian impact. It justified Marc Antoine Muret in his famous answer. The surgeons thought him as ignorant as he was poor: "Faciamus experimentum in anima vili" ("Let us experiment upon this worthless fellow"). He replied in Latin as good as theirs: "Vilem animam appellas pro qua Christus non dedignatus est mori" ("You call one worthless for whom Christ did not refuse to die").1 The proof of this Love is in the faith and venture of the prayer--with fact enough in experience and in the experience of Christ to warrant the venture.

The name is a commonalty: Our Father. The whole church is in that pronoun, and the whole family of nations and men. A man cannot be complete without this "beloved community," and the community is bereft without the man. Prayer, even when private, is still a social expression. Here all the barriers are down--the race barriers, the political blocs, the fences between classes and nations. The ancient mariner, in the Coleridge poem, was becalmed and his vessel held in a deathlike trance until he prayed in compassion for all God's creatures. See the stanza: "He prayeth best who loveth best."2 Thus the name gives both meaning and power. "Pray devoutly, hammer stoutly" is a good motto. The prayer gives direction to the deed and empowers it. Here is a theophany and a theology. Here is childlike trust. Here is freedom and reinforcement. Here is forgiveness and the promise of eternal life: Our Father which art in heaven.

9. First Petition.

Hallowed be thy name. We ask, "What's in a name?" There is something in it, or people would not choose one name rather than another, or wish to change their name. But there is not much in our names: they are a code-sign, a tag for the convenience of the mailman. But names were important in the time of Jesus (see the meaning in Hebrew names); they were promise and hope in God. There is everything good in God's name, for name here means essential nature. God's name is the "quality" of the eternal Spirit, God's disclosure of himself. For the Christian, God's name is the soul of Christ. Thus the prayer means: Our Father, cause thine eternal nature, revealed in Christ, to be hallowed by us and by all men. This is properly the first petition. We pray it before we pray for the coming of the kingdom, inasmuch as that coming is for the honor of God's nature; and before we pray for daily bread, for we misuse daily bread if God is not glorified; and even before we pray for pardon, for the pardon must be understood as the gift of holy love. We pray this petition first, because God must come first with us if we would live.

God's name must be sanctified in our thought of him. If we think of him as on the side of big battalions, we make him mere tyrant. If we imagine that we can avoid the penalty of greed, we slander his holy sovereignty. If we say, "I am too insignificant for his notice," we brand him as one who judges only by physical size. If we say, "I'll turn to him when I need him," we scorn him as mere ambulance. How do we think about God? It is a crucial question.

God must be hallowed in our words. The Roman Catholics have a Holy Name Society. It is needed, even though blasphemy of speech can perhaps be conquered best, not by frontal attack, but by cultivation of the root of reverence. The Jews of old almost shrank from speaking or writing the name of God, but our modern fashion is to use it far too freely--for a curse or an embellishment of unworthy language. Our speech has a thrust into our neighbor's life, and a sharp reaction into our own--and can be a grief to God.

God's name should be hallowed in our daily conduct. The Mohammedan turns to his minaret five times daily and prays: "God is great." We have no such custom, though if we were wise we would punctuate our day with periods of prayer. A sterner demand rests on the Christian: his work and play must kneel in reverence. Advertising, business practice, politics, friendships must all honor the name. That road is hard--like the road to Palm Springs Canyon, but, like that road, it ends in verdure.

God's name should be hallowed in worship. It might seem that such a demand could be taken for granted, but perhaps irreverence has made its worst inroads where reverence should most deeply live. Worship can be made a compensation for unruly life--after the manner, though not to the measure, of brigands who say their Pater Nosters and then proceed to their brigandage. Even the Lord's Supper can subtly be turned into an aesthetic selfishness. Protestant worship has sometimes become cheap--prefaced and ended in casual conversation, interrupted by a casual "announcement period," and disfigured by hymns that are poor jingles and by preachments that are a "noisy gong." This is the first prayer. Jesus lived the prayer he offered: "Father, glorify thy name" (John 12:28). In thought and speech, in deed and worship, he reverenced the nature of God, who is all and in all.

10. The Second and Third Petitions.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. (For more detailed exposition of thy will be done, see comment on last phrase of 26:39.) Perhaps the first three petitions grow out of one another: God's nature cannot be honored until his kingdom comes, and his kingdom cannot come until man does his will. Perhaps the thy is emphatic --thy name rather than the powerless names of the Pantheon; thy kingdom rather than "earth's tragic empires"; thy will rather than our selfish purposes. Almost certainly the phrase "as in heaven, so on earth" (see "The Clarendon Bible") attaches to all three petitions. The word kingdomis suspect in our modern world: therefore it is important to remember the second word of the prayer: "May thy Fatherly realm come, may thy Fatherly will be done, as in heaven so on earth." Yet all authority derives from the invincible sovereignty of God.

The kingdom already is, or it could not come. It exists in the precision and majesty of the stars; in higher orders of life perchance--

Thousands at his bidding speed,                   

And post o'er Land and Ocean without rest;3

in man's physical constitution; and in the laws of social life, flouting which we bring strikes and wars upon ourselves. There is a deeper sense in which the kingdom has come: Christ has come, and can say to us (in far better truth than the bishop said to Jean Valjean), "You no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I have bought; ... I offer it to God."4 But because the kingdom is a Father's kingdom and we are but unruly children, it has not yet come. Nevertheless it must come--through the free will with which he has endowed his children. The kingdom presses in on us like light, but we can close our eyes--to our own misery and the hurt of others. It comes only through our welcome. So this prayer acknowledges a personal and social obligation: Make thy kingdom come through me. Our discussions of what is wrong with our country or world easily become psychological transfers, and thus an evasion. We express in political denunciation the truth we should express in daily life. Yet the word "me" is not hermetically sealed. We carry it with us into the street and into business: we cannot imprison it. So J. E. Roberts has said, "The coming of the kingdom would mean the death of flunkeyism ... in the personal life, the death of mammon in the social life, and the death of jingoism in the national life." It is a major operation. "One World" indeed, but only in a kingdom and a Will.

The kingdom is a realm of joy. Why do we regard it as threat and shadow? Is it because of our cherished sins? We have turned thy will be done into sad resignation--an inscription on a tombstone. There indeed it belongs, but as a promise of dawn. "An act of God" in our legal term is almost synonymous with catastrophe. A fetid swamp was in old days "an act of God," and it was not to be drained; while the amazingly recuperative powers of the body that could still live in fetidness, and man's power to drain a swamp, were apparently not acts of God! "The kingdom of God is ... righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17). It is such righteousness and peace and joy as are found in Jesus, and constantly it knocks on our door. Thus great insights are hidden in this prayer. It reminds us that the world is not ours, and that we do not rule it. Our political plans must fail unless they are consonant with the Will. The only "progress" is in the movement of the kingdom. It reminds us that the prayer itself is power, such power as is the tragic lack of every age. Our cultures are like perfect buildings left dark because we have electricity but no main contact, or like a man with strong physique who dies because he will not drink from the wellspring at his door. It reminds us of life's prime purpose: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. It is a blowing of trumpets and an unfurling of banners. The doctor is not just a doctor: he is a consul of the kingdom. The businessman is not "in business for himself": he is a regent of the Will. One who cut the words "thy will be done" into his weather vane, when asked by a flippant neighbor if God's love was thus unpredictable, answered, "No, I mean that from whatever quarter the wind may happen to blow, God is still love." "The will you are asked to obey," says J. D. Jones, who told the story, "is your Father's will." 5

11. The Fourth Petition.

Our daily bread. See Exeg. for word translated daily. By any translation the prayer is concerned with day-by-day needs, and neither temporal nor spiritual interpretations are excluded. Bread is the stuff of drama. "Bread and the circus" echoed the social tensions and conflicts within the Roman Empire, and the Ukraine with its wheat fields was a factor in World War II. The saint even in his prayers is still dependent on bread. So this prayer is a confession of need. No man has "independent means": he cannot eat dollar bills for breakfast. His tractors could not help him if life should fail within the seed, or fertility should fail within the soil. Witness the "dust bowl"! Why talk of the "laws" of nature? They are marvelously adapted to our daily need, and therefore are more than laws.

This prayer is a plea that we may be faithful, for daily bread requires each man's co-operation with God's constant labor. Yet the faithfulness and co-operation are also gifts. A man must not be a parasite either on God or on his fellow men. To shirk, or to indulge in sharp practice, or to engage in work that adds nothing to the world's health is parasitic: "Give us to be faithful in daily toil, and thus to be worthy of thy daily gift." The prayer implies that we should live in simplicity. The petition is for bread, not for luxuries. It is a plea for day-by-day provision, not for a lifetime security. In any event bread does not keep. We are to live soberly in daily dependence on God's sufficient grace.

This is a prayer of the human comradeship: our daily bread. Here is a reminder that mankind is a family. Do we need reminder? We are interdependent. The coffee supply failed when World War II came, because ships were sunk off Brazil. New York was threatened with hunger when the tugboatmen went on strike. Social righteousness is really a matter of table manners: we ought not to glut ourselves while others hunger. "Pass the bread, please." In a modern play, Panic, by Archibald MacLeish, a woman, watching a news bulletin which told of forthcoming depression and unemployment, cried out, "Forgive us our daily bread"--and she made no mistake. The eyes of the disciples of the Emmaus Road were opened when Jesus took bread and broke it and gave to them. This prayer asks Christ to preside at the world-table.

But this is a prayer for more than bread. A mourner pushes away the plate: "I cannot eat anything." In short, food is neither joy nor sustenance unless we have also food for the spirit. This prayer is offered, not to a celestial flour merchant, but to the Father of our spirits. Emerson has said, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by faith, by admiration, by sympathy." He should have added, as one taught by Jesus, "and 'by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God'" (4:4). An Irish manuscript of the eleventh century reads, "Panem verbum Dei celestem da nobis hodie: Give us today for bread the Word of God from heaven." 6 If conscience is only a foolish scruple, love only a trick of the nerves, and Jesus only a sad blunder--if there is no joyous reality in God bread is ashes. Thus the deeper prayer. Here also we live "one day at a time." No generation can live solely on the consecration shown by the fathers. Manna from heaven spoils unless daily gathered. Give us day by day thy secret bread! This is an answered prayer. We may not always be aware of answer. A man is not instantly aware of the healing from an infrared lamp. When we seek the mind of Christ, and pray in sincerity the prayer he taught, a change is wrought--bread for the body, bread for the family of mankind, bread for the soul. "Lord, evermore give us this bread" (John 6:34).

12. The Fifth Petition.

Forgive us our debts. The expositor should carefully note the locale and meaning of each of the three words: debt, sin, trespass. (See Expos. on vss. 14-15.) By any translation Jesus here refers to failure in duty. There is no escape from the basic fact of obligation or from awareness of our shortcomings. The word "bravery" implies the possibility of cowardice, and the word "dishonest" implies the possibility and obligation of honesty. There are personal sins--each man's greed and deceit. There are social sins--class pride, racial prejudice, national selfishness. Man cannot solve the problem of sin. George Bernard Shaw makes Cusins in Major Barbara say that "for giveness is a beggar's refuge. ... We must pay our debts." But he does not tell us how. If a man is honorable today, he has not canceled yesterday's dishonor, which meanwhile has run out into life like ink in water. Who can cleanse history? Who can cleanse memory? No man has power even to return to the past, let alone to redeem it.

There is no easy forgiveness. Forgiveness can be defined as laying aside revenge and claim for requital, but a dictionary definition cannot plumb the depths that true forgiveness must sound. A mother forgiving a wayward son has no thought of revenge or requital. Jesus washing the feet of Judas is not concerned with claims and equities. Forgiveness is possible only by one morally sensitive and therefore grieved, who is willing to give all and bear all that the wrongdoer may be won back into life. Only God can do this work for man. The Cross is the thrust of God's pardon--the incarnation of his pain and self-giving. But for the Incarnation how could we have seen the work of pardon, or accepted it? The gift of pardon is sheer bounty. "Give us our bread," and forgive us our debts: just as the earth brings forth food in multiplied harvests, so the love of God brings forth forgiveness. It is not purchased by our "good works": to imagine that would be to add the sin of self-righteousness. The hymn is right:

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to thy cross I cling.

Does the penalty remain? The consequence remains. The mark of sin may be on a man's body and mind, and distrust may be in his neighbor's mind. But in God's pardon the consequence becomes discipline, and may be turned to strange gain. The Russian bell, "Tsar Kolokol," that fell before ever it was rung, so that a gap was torn in its side, became a tiny shrine; and the gap provided the door by which people entered to pray.7 Thus Paul's earlier brokenness became sympathy for men, lowliness, and trust in God. Then it might pay a man to sin? "God forbid!" That would be devil's work, and lead to a devil's destiny.

What of the other phrase--as we forgive our debtors? It is not a business transaction: God does not keep office ledgers. He is "our Father." It means that the two forgivenesses go together. If a man should say, "I'll never forgive you!" he can hardly be forgiven: he is not in the mood. He is not penitently aware of his sins, but only vengefully aware of another man's sins. He is not thinking about God: he is intent rather on his prideful self. This truth must be underscored because Jesus underscored it in what Matthew presents as a kind of codicil to the prayer. An unforgiving spirit in us shuts the door in God's face, even though his compassions still surround the house. He is ready to forgive, but we are not ready to be forgiven. The parable of the unforgiving debtor (18:23-35) is also for witness. How little forgiveness there is in our world! Our law courts are sufficient proof. When General Oglethorpe said to John Wesley, "I never forgive," Wesley properly answered, "Then I hope, sir, you never sin." "Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32). This prayer breaks the circle of hate breeding hate, as Stephen's prayer of forgiveness changed Saul (Acts 7:60). This prayer is the world's spring of hope. In one of the da Vinci legends, the artist is said to have painted his enemy's face on the shoulders of Judas, and, the story goes, he could not then conjure up the face of Christ. But when he forgave his enemy and painted out the insult, he saw Christ's face in a dream that night. Forgive us ... as we forgive.

13. The Sixth Petition.

Lead us not into temptation. The word temptation is hard. If it means seduction, the prayer would seem unnecessary: does God seduce? If the word means testing, the prayer seems unworthy: we ought not to shrink from due testing. Probably the word includes both meanings; and probably the prayer is best explained as the plea of conscious weakness--not as an exercise in logic, but as a cry of the soul. We need testing, as the prayer tacitly admits. Psychologists know the man who avoids testing: "I have always been needed at home." He is no joy either to himself or to his neighbor; he lives in excuses and therefore in inner conflict. Unless a ship can ride a storm, what use is it? Perhaps we can go further and guess that we ought to be tested morally. Jesus was tested the more sharply because the allurements seemed to be quicker ways of bringing God's kingdom. But we should never invite the temptation, or try to play our own providence.

It is no sin to be tempted when life honorably brings the temptation: it is sin only to fall, for we have as our avail a Strength beyond our own strength. But we should never be sure of ourselves. Yet how sure we are! We court temptation, and when anyone warns us we dub him a prude. We take moral chances, as a man going over Niagara Falls in a barrel takes physical chances, not in bravery but in foolhardiness. Our plea that "we need the experience" is a confession of spiritual irresponsibility. This skating on thin ice comes because we have no deep love for God, and therefore no deep fear or hatred of evil. "This is your hour, and the power of darkness," said Jesus (Luke 22:53); but to us evil is no midnight and no desperate threat. We pray, "Deliver us from sickness, fear, poverty, unpopularity"; but cannot understand why we should pray, Deliver us from evil. The wrong in the world is not merely economic or psychological maladjustment, though these factors may be present: it is wickedness. So this prayer has deep meaning. It admits our weakness, pleads for hatred of evil, and therefore breathes our love for God. The temptation comes subtly, suddenly, camouflaged, with weapons appropriate for each walk and decade of our life. Before the two world wars we had the planet well under control, so we thought, but actually we were drowsing by the fire while a lion crept on us from the thicket. The prayer lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, has not been outmoded or outgrown.

The prayer confesses also that only God's power can save us. Only he can deliver. He enters the struggle--in the grace of Jesus Christ. Thus we know him, our holy Ally. The myths foreshadow the encounter. Circe, for an instance, turned men into beasts after enticing them to her palace with sweet music. They were not quite beasts: they had human memory and discontent. But they were no longer men: they turned foul faces to the foul earth. How were they delivered? Mercury, sent from heaven, gave Ulysses "a sprig of the plant Moly," that was proof against the enchantment, and Ulysses set free the captives. Christ heaven-sent: the interpreter may point that moral! In many ways God delivers us: through this prayer, by turn of event, by sudden insight, by access of strength, by our resolve not to fail those who trust us, by work, and by worship. But the focus of deliverance is in Christ. Thus this prayer, seeming to plunge the soul into darkness, lifts us into light. There is deliverance, or Christ would not have taught us to pray for it. He is answer to the prayer. We need not despair either of ourselves or of our world. The deliverance is not complete on earth? It saves earth from disconsolate doom, and is complete in its promise and assurance.

13. The Ascription to the Lord's Prayer.

The phrase was almost certainly not in the original prayer. (See Exeg. for how and when the addition was made.) It corresponds with the doxology used at the temple services: "Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom for ever" (e.g., Ps. 72:19). But we may be glad for the addition; it is a final peal of trumpets. Christ prompted this doxology. Why should a small and persecuted church add such a climax of praise to a prayer taught them by One from Galilee? It is like David's praise at the bringing of gifts for the new temple (I Chr. 29:11). Christ had died--on a Cross. Was this "deliverance from evil"? This the coming of the "kingdom"? Surely his followers must then have been tempted to say at Calvary what Africans said to Livingstone about the Zambezi River, that it "by sand is covered." But Christ rose: the river disappearing into the sand came back again into the sun. So the doxology of the Lord's Prayer is the church's praise for his risen power. His prayer became a nobler temple: God's redeeming presence. Therefore the early church said, For thine is the kingdom. ...

The doxology and prayer interpret the word "kingdom." History traces the rise and fall of empires:

Age after age their tragic empires rise.

Built while they dream, and in that dreaming weep:

Would man but wake from out his haunted sleep,

Earth might be fair and all men glad and wise.8

Man thinks he can play a lone and powerful hand. If he would wake, he would know that already he is held in an invisible kingdom. Kingdoms break that are built on selfish force and selfish fear, but one Kingdom does not break. It comes even through a Cross--like some invincible springtime. The doxology and prayer interpret the word power, for "power" means such power as pulses in the prayer. What kind of power? Power in what motive? Power for what end? Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." He meant man's pride in power. What of the power that surrenders power in love? This doxology is the praise of the early church in the contemplation of God's power through Calvary and Easter. The doxology and the prayer interpret the word glory. Gray's "Elegy" says, "The paths of glory lead but to the grave." When a new pope is crowned, the words are intoned: "Sic transit gloria mundi" ("Thus passes away the glory of this world"). But the glory of God led Christ through a grave into sovereign light. Compare the story of Moses: "I beseech thee, show me thy glory"; and God's answer, "I will make all my goodness pass before thee" (Exod. 33:18, 19). We too see God only when he has "passed by"--in the merciful ongoing of his ways, in his redeeming goodness.

Christ through this doxology can remake our world. We can live for "the world," or we can live for "the Father"; and we must choose. If we do not worship God in constant doxology, we shall end in a grotesque and ruinous selfworship. If we do not follow Christ, we shall make a state-idol or some equally futile and debasing surrender. The earth finds no light except from above the earth, and only God is worthy of worship. His is the kingdom and the power and the glory. The only enduring center of the "City of Mansoul"9 is an altar, and science and trade are alike suicidal unless they are consecrate. The early church even in persecution cried, "For thine is the glory," and so had power. The word amen is a massive word fallen on evil days. It is the word Jesus used when he said, in our version, "verily." It is man's resolve: "So let it be!" It is, more deeply, trust and assurance that God can bring great things to pass: "So let it be!" By right instinct the church added a doxology and an amen to the Lord's Prayer.

14-15. Further Word about Trespasses.

The word ojfeilh6mata (vs. 12) is perhaps best translated by our word "debts." The word paraptw6mata (vss. 14, 15), translated in both KJV and RSV as trespasses, carries the idea of "missing the mark." The word aJmarti6av in Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:4) can best be rendered by our word "sins." The teacher should note the three pictures of human life here reflected. First, life is an obligation to be met. Duty often seems irksome, and we rebel against its impossible demands. But this imperious "ought" is really our best crown: it proclaims us children of an ultimate right. It is not enough to be 50 per cent kind or 75 per cent pure: we are born for an unseen perfection. To break the obligation is to be in debt, and we cannot pay the debt; for if on any day we were 100 per cent compassionate or true, we would have no "works of supererogation" by which to overtake yesterday's indebtedness. Only God can cancel moral debt. Second, life is an aiming at the mark, a pilgrim's progress toward a wicket gate of heaven. "I press toward the mark" (Phil. 3:14). To choose a lower mark, or to miss the mark, is failure. "We needs must [ought to] love the highest when we see it.1 G. F. Watts had as his motto: "The Utmost for the Highest." How many of us are satisfied with proximate goals! Third, life is devotion to goodness. The story of the mother is true of all men: "A white bird, she told [Marius] once, looking at him gravely, a bird which he must carry in his bosom across a crowded public place--his soul was like that!"2 What stains are on our purity! Only God can give cleansing. As these verses imply, we daily need a canceling of debts, a clarifying of aim and rededication to it, and a cleansing of the whole purpose and practice of our life. Notice the reiteration of the truth that a man unwilling to forgive bars the door against the proffer of God's pardon: he is in no mood to be forgiven. When Queen Caroline died, someone said: "An unforgiving, unforgiven dies." The two words are linked. Conversely the man ready to forgive opens the door to God who always waits ready to pardon.[6]


Jesus Teaches His Disciples the Kingdom Prayer (6:9–13) Versions of this prayer appear in both Matthew (6:9–13) and Luke (11:2–4); most scholars accept the original form of the prayer that stands behind these Gospels as authentic (Witherington 1990:204). Jesus here probably adapts an early form of what became a basic synagogue prayer, the Kaddish* (Vermes 1984:43; Davies and Allison 1988:595), which began something like this (Jeremias 1964:98):

Exalted and hallowed be his great name

in the world which he created according to his will.

May he let his kingdom rule …

Although Jesus’ ministry sets the elements of the prayer in a new context—the future kingdom is present in a hidden way in the future King, Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 8:29; 13:31–33)—the first disciples must have heard in Jesus’ words an exhortation to seek God’s coming kingdom (4:17; 6:33) by praying for it to come. Neither the Kaddish nor Jesus’ sample prayer is a prayer for the complacent person satisfied with the treasures of this age. This is a prayer for the desperate, who recognize that this world is not as it should be and that only God can set things straight—for the broken to whom Jesus promises the blessings of the kingdom (5:3–12).

Various features of this prayer are significant. First, Jesus predicates it on the basis of an intimate relationship with God: Father (v. 9). This is a relationship that denotes both respectful dependence and affectionate intimacy. We must understand what God’s “fatherhood” would have meant to most of Jesus’ hearers. In first-century Jewish Palestine children were powerless social dependents, and fathers were viewed as strong providers and examples on whom their children could depend. Jesus summons us to pray not like the pagans (v. 7), but with a dependence on God as our Father (vv. 8–9) who watches over us (Deut 8:3–5 in Mt 4:4).

Yet just as many middle-class suburbanites cannot resonate with the Gospel portrait of Jesus as the object of unjust oppression, many inner-city children cannot resonate with the image of God as “Father” (see Malina 1993:96). For many children today, fathers have abandoned them, are powerless to provide for them or have even abused them. Thus it is always important for us to explain how Jesus and his Jewish ancestors and contemporaries meant the title: referring to someone who loves us, someone we can depend on when what we seek from him is truly for our good (see also 7:7–11). Many modern Westerners also have indulgent fathers and see love and discipline as irreconcilable; we need to realize that God, like most ancient fathers, loves us enough to firmly discipline us for our good (Heb 12:5–11). A caring parent will not let us run out in front of cars for fear of limiting our independence; God disciplines us in love, but he remains intimate and loving toward us.

Perhaps more significantly, the context (Mt 6:7–8) indicates that our Father implies intimate communion. Effective prayer is not a complex ritual but a simple cry of faith predicated on an assured relationship (again, 7:7–11). The earnest brevity and simplicity of this prayer fits not the cry of the complacent and the self-satisfied, but that of the humble, the lowly, the broken, the desperate. This is the prayer of those who have nowhere to turn but to God—the “meek” who “will inherit the earth” (5:5).

When Jewish people called God by the Old Testament title “Father,” the title connoted intimacy as well as respect and dependence. Jesus summons his disciples to appropriate this intimacy still more deeply (see also Mk 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6).

Second, the prayer seeks first God’s glory, not our own. The “you-petitions,” for God’s kingdom and glory, precede the “we-petitions” for our own needs, and your is repeatedly in an emphatic final position in the Greek. When we worship God, both praising him directly and seeking his glory in the world, other competing claims to our attention fade before the majesty of our King’s glory.

The first petition is for God’s name to be hallowed in the future. Although many profane God’s name—his honor—in this age (acting as if it were unholy), God will see to it that his name will be hallowed in the coming time of the kingdom (Is 5:16; 29:23; Ezek 39:7, 27). But as nineteenth-century evangelist Charles Finney emphasized, people who seek the day when God’s name is hallowed throughout the earth must not only pray for his name to be hallowed; they must live as if they value the honor of his name right now (Finney 1965:8).

Jesus’ Jewish hearers would have understood this message implicit in the lines of the prayer itself. Hallowing God’s name (qiddûš ha-šēm) was “the most characteristic feature of Jewish ethics” (Moore 1971:2:101). Later rabbis said, for instance, that a Bible teacher who does not pay his bills on time profanes God’s name (Montefiore and Loewe 1974:397). Some went so far as to say that if a Jew must sin, he ought to go somewhere where no one knows him and pretend to be a Gentile. Of course secret sin does not ultimately hallow God’s name, since he will reveal the thoughts of all hearts when his kingdom comes. Nevertheless, these Jewish teachers longed for the honor of God’s name more seriously than the vast majority of Christians do today. As an example, many of us were embarrassed by the practices of some televangelists before public scandals broke, but it took the secular media to address openly what we should have already addressed in Christian love (see Rom 2:24).

Third, believers long for the coming of God’s kingdom and the doing of his will (Mt 6:9–10). The hallowing of God’s name, the consummation of his reign and the doing of his will are all versions of the same end-time promise: everything will be set right someday. No more crime, no more discrimination and hatred, no more sickness or grief. Of course that day will bring an end to those not doing God’s will, so his mercy has delayed it for their sake (2 Pet 3:9, 15). But we who long for God’s will on earth in the future ought to live consistently with our longing in the present, working for God’s righteousness and seeking his will here (Mt 26:39; see Grenz 1992). We who believe that God’s kingdom has invaded history in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 13:31–33) must exemplify his reign in our own lives in the present. The world around should be able to look at how God’s people treat one another and see what heaven is like, so much so that they want to have a share in that future kingdom we live out among them in this age.

The Lord’s Prayer concludes with the “we-petitions.” Many think that these petitions also address the end time; I and many others think that they primarily address the present, as such petitions normally did in other Jewish prayers. The fourth petition expresses dependence on God for daily sustenance (6:11). While in this context the text clearly indicates trust in God for sustenance (see 6:25–34), scholars still debate some points, particularly the meaning of the phrase daily bread. Frequently proposed meanings are “daily rations,” “essential for survival” and (most commonly) “bread for tomorrow.”

Whether we ask for “today’s” bread or “tomorrow’s,” the prayer stresses that the requester needs it today (in Greek “today” appears in an emphatic position), and all ancient Mediterranean peoples acknowledged their need for daily bread (Yamauchi 1966:148–53). While seeking the future kingdom, Jesus’ followers also needed bread in the present (6:31–33; 7:9; 15:32). In virtually every class or Bible study group when I ask, “Where in the Old Testament did God provide daily bread?” students recall what would have been even more obvious to Jesus’ hearers: manna (see, for example, Grelot 1979). If God provided for a whole people through forty years of landless wandering and unemployment, how much more should we trust him for our basic needs!

This prayer fits the audience of the rest of the sermon. A prayer expressing dependence on God for daily bread and asking only for bread was the prayer of a person willing to live simply, satisfied with the basics (Prov 30:8–9; compare 1 Tim 6:8). Jesus too showed that he depended on his Father, the God of the exodus, to supply his bread (Mt 4:3–4, 11).

The fifth petition entreats God to forgive us our debts (6:12). This line of Jesus’ prayer, too, would remind his hearers of a standard Jewish prayer: the sixth of the Eighteen Benedictions entreated God’s forgiveness. Yet if we have truly embraced the principle of grace in God’s forgiveness, we must also extend it to our fellow servants who are of equal worth in his sight (18:35; compare Sirach 28:1–8).

Literally Jesus invites us to ask God to release the debts that we owe against his account book. The image of debts was a graphic one to most of Jesus’ contemporaries. While debts include money, most of Jesus’ hearers would have been borrowers rather than lenders, so Jesus probably includes more than merely economic debts. It is clear that debts before God represent “sins,” as they normally did both in Jewish teaching and in the Aramaic term used for both concepts (hoba; Black 1967:140; Lk 11:4). This text helps us forgive by reminding us of the magnitude of God’s forgiveness.

The final petitions plead for God’s protection in testing (Mt 6:13).* Temptation here means “testing,” as in trials of suffering; the English word temptation, which includes the connotation that the tester seeks the person’s fall through the trials, is too narrow unless the context warrants it (as in Jas 1:13–18; Sirach 2:1–6). In this context the person is praying precisely that the testing will not lead to falling: testing with a view to bringing people to succumb was the business of the evil one (Mt 6:13). The primary test early Christians would face, and which Jewish heroes of old had faced, was persecution, the temptation to apostasy (compare 1 Pet 5:8–9).

Those inclined to see all these petitions as addressing the end time usually see the temptation or “test” as the final period of testing that Jewish people anticipated before the kingdom. But for suffering believers who recognize that Jesus can return soon, the present may fulfill the expected time of tribulation. Most other Jewish prayers requesting protection from temptation spoke of testing in the present time (Montefiore 1968:2:103). In the whole context of Matthew, “testing” here probably includes the final tribulation but is not limited to it. If a specific allusion is intended in this context, it may be to the time of the exodus. God released his people from slavery and fed them with manna (Mt 6:11), and they, like Jesus, were tested in the wilderness (v. 13; also see 4:1–2).

Jesus is calling disciples to pray for deliverance from and protection in testing, not proposing that disciples can avoid tests of their faith. A prayer suggesting that we could avoid tests of faith would contradict God’s dealings with his people in ancient Israel (Gen 22:1; Deut 13:3; 1 Cor 10:13) and the model of Jesus (Mt 4:1). The Aramaic construction Jesus may have originally used can mean “Do not let me succumb to the test” or “fall prey to the test.” Indeed, Jesus’ prayer resembles the kind of prayer Jewish people later began to offer daily, which sought not to avoid testing but to stand firm when tested (Jeremias 1971:202). Whereas God’s purpose in testing is to confirm our faith, the evil one’s purpose in testing is to weaken it. We should seek to minimize rather than increase our testing. But when it comes, only God’s strength can see us through.

But if Matthew’s first readers wondered at all whether lead us not into temptation meant “let us not succumb to testing,” Matthew 26:41 should have settled the matter. There Jesus warns the disciples to watch and pray lest they “fall [literally, enter] into temptation,” but in the context testing is already inevitably on the way (26:45). The issue is not whether some testing will come, but whether it will find the disciples unprepared (it did). Thus this is a prayer that God bring us safely through testing (compare, for example, Ps 141:3–4; Is 63:17; 64:7 NRSV; Rev 3:10; Jub. 11:17; 21:22; 22:23), rather than deliver us from experiencing it.

Finally, we may note that the kingdom prayer is a communal or corporate prayer. The plural pronouns (our Father … give us, and the like) remind us that just as we approach God as our Father, we must remember God’s other children as our brothers and sisters. I must seek not only my own daily bread but also the needs of my brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter how individualistic our culture, our own intimacy with God must lead to prayer for and active commitment to the needs of all his people.

Those Who Do Not Forgive Will Not Be Forgiven (6:14–15) Jesus concludes his words on prayer by returning to the warning implicit in verse 12 (compare Mk 11:25). The day of judgment belongs to God alone, and when we assume his sole prerogatives we idolatrously impinge on his deity, hence meriting judgment for ourselves (compare Jas 5:9; 2 Pet 3:7, 12).[7]


 

Verses 9–15

Christ saw it needful to show his disciples what must commonly be the matter and method of their prayer. Not that we are tied up to the use of this only, or of this always; yet, without doubt, it is very good to use it. It has much in a little; and it is used acceptably no further than it is used with understanding, and without being needlessly repeated. The petitions are six; the first three relate more expressly to God and his honour, the last three to our own concerns, both temporal and spiritual. This prayer teaches us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and that all other things shall be added. After the things of God’s glory, kingdom, and will, we pray for the needful supports and comforts of this present life. Every word here has a lesson in it. We ask for bread; that teaches us sobriety and temperance: and we ask only for bread; not for what we do not need. We ask for our bread; that teaches us honesty and industry: we do not ask for the bread of others, nor the bread of deceit, Pr 20:17; nor the bread of idleness, Pr 31:27, but the bread honestly gotten. We ask for our daily bread; which teaches us constantly to depend upon Divine Providence. We beg of God to give it us; not sell it us, nor lend it us, but give it. The greatest of men must be beholden to the mercy of God for their daily bread. We pray, Give it to us. This teaches us a compassion for the poor. Also that we ought to pray with our families. We pray that God would give it us this day; which teaches us to renew the desires of our souls toward God, as the wants of our bodies are renewed. As the day comes we must pray to our heavenly Father, and reckon we could as well go a day without food, as without prayer. We are taught to hate and dread sin while we hope for mercy, to distrust ourselves, to rely on the providence and grace of God to keep us from it, to be prepared to resist the tempter, and not to become tempters of others. Here is a promise, If you forgive, your heavenly Father will also forgive. We must forgive, as we hope to be forgiven. Those who desire to find mercy with God, must show mercy to their brethren. Christ came into the world as the great Peace-maker, not only to reconcile us to God, but one to another. [8]


5. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogs and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward.

6. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

In addition to almsgiving or doing good to our neighbor, praying is another work that is appropriate to the Christian. Just as the necessities of this life require us to do good to our neighbor and to sympathize with him in his need—after all, that is why we live together on earth, so that we might serve and help one another—so the constant threat to us in this life from every kind of inevitable danger and unavoidable need requires us to call upon God continually and to seek His help, both on our own behalf and on behalf of everyone else. But true almsgiving is a rare thing in this world. Not only is there so much ordinary robbing and stealing going on everywhere in the world that no one does anything good for his neighbor, but goes on scratching on his own manure pile without asking how his neighbor is getting along. But even if they do good works, they are only looking out for their own advantage. Thus the world is made up of nothing but robbers and thieves, both on the right and on the left, both physically and spiritually, both in bad works and in good works.

In the same way, praying is a rare work, which no one does but Christians. At the same time it was very common in the world. It was especially common among the Jews, as Christ shows here, in their synagogs and on street corners. And it is a common thing now in all these churches, monasteries, and convents. Day and night they are muttering and bawling with their singing and reading, and they fill the whole world with it. There is no shortage of praying; and yet if you put it all together, it is not worth a heller. Here Christ is denouncing and repudiating all their praying, in spite of the fact that they were practicing it so zealously, though only in order to make an impression on people and to get a reputation for piety. How much more damnable is the praying of our clergy! All they want to accomplish by it is to fill their own belly, and not one of them would say an Our Father if it did not bring him some money. Even when they have done their best, they have mumbled or chanted a sackful of words without feeling them or understanding them or believing them, as though they were bells or organs. In this way they have acquired a glorious reputation for being the only people who pray, while the other people are too occupied with secular affairs to be able to pray or serve God, so that they have to pray in our stead and we have to make lords of them by our money and goods.

Here we shall not go into the matter of how necessary prayer is, because of ourselves we ought to feel this. For we live in flesh and blood that is crammed full of wickedness of every sort. In addition, the world is always with us and against us, bringing all our misery and sorrow and trouble upon us. Besides, there is the devil everywhere around us, stirring up innumerable sects, factions, and corruptions, and driving us into unbelief and despair. Thus there is never any end to this, and there is no rest for us. We are surrounded by the kind of enemies who will not stop until they have knocked us down, and as individual poor men we are much too weak to withstand so many enemies. For that reason God says in the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 12:10) that He will give to those who are His own “the Spirit of grace and supplication” to preserve them while they are on the field of battle and to guard and protect them against that wicked and pernicious spirit. Therefore it is the particular work of Christians, who have the Spirit of God, not to be lax and lazy, but incessant and constant in their praying, as Christ teaches elsewhere (Luke 18:1).

But here the emphasis is on the fact that it must be a genuine prayer and not a piece of hypocrisy, as their prayers were and as our own used to be. Therefore, in instructing them how to pray correctly, Christ begins by showing them how they should go about it: they are not supposed to stand and pray publicly on the streets, but they should pray at home, in their own room, alone, in secret. This means that, above all, they should rid themselves of the false motive of praying for the sake of the appearance or reputation or anything of that sort. It does not mean that prayer on the street or in public is prohibited; for a Christian is not bound to any particular place and may pray anywhere, whether he is on the street or in the field or in church. All it means is that this must not be done out of regard for other people, as a means of getting glory or profit. In the same way He does not forbid the blowing of a trumpet or the ringing of a bell at almsgiving for its own sake, but He denounces the addition of a false motivation when He says: “in order to be seen by men.”

Nor is it a necessary part of this commandment that you have to go into a room and lock yourself in. Still, it is a good idea for a person to be alone when he intends to pray, so that he can pour out his prayer to God in a free and uninhibited manner, using words and gestures that he could not use if he were in human company. Although it is true that prayer can take place in the heart without any words or gestures, yet such things help in stirring up and enkindling the spirit even more; but in addition, the praying should continue in the heart almost without interruption. As we have said, a Christian always has the Spirit of supplication with him, and his heart is continually sending forth sighs and petitions to God, regardless of whether he happens to be eating or drinking or working. For his entire life is devoted to spreading the name of God, His glory, and His kingdom, so that whatever else he may do has to be subordinated to this.

Nevertheless, I say, outward prayer must also go on, both individual prayer and corporate prayer. In the morning and in the evening, at table and whenever he has time, every individual should speak a benediction or the Our Father or the Creed or a psalm. And in assemblies the Word of God should be employed and thanks and petitions voiced to God for our general needs. This must necessarily be done in public, with a special time and place set aside for such assemblies. Such prayer is a precious thing and a powerful defense against the devil and his assaults. For in it, all Christendom combines its forces with one accord; and the harder it prays, the more effective it is and the sooner it is heard. At the present time, for example, it is of real benefit as a defense and a barrier against the many tricks which the devil might otherwise perpetrate through the members of his body. Thus it is certain that whatever still stands and endures, whether it is in the spiritual or in the secular realm, is being preserved through prayer.

But elsewhere I have often taken up and discussed the component parts and the characteristics which every real prayer has to possess, and therefore I shall only summarize them briefly here. They are as follows: first, the urging of God’s commandment, who has strictly required us to pray; second, His promise, in which He declares that He will hear us; third, an examination of our own need and misery, which burden lies so heavily on our shoulders that we have to carry it to God immediately and pour it out before Him, in accordance with His order and commandment; fourth, true faith, based on this word and promise of God, praying with the certainty and confidence that He will hear and help us—and all these things in the name of Christ, through whom our prayer is acceptable to the Father and for whose sake He gives us every grace and every good.

Christ indicates this by His use of one word when He says: “Pray to your Father who is in secret”; and later on He makes it even more explicit when He says: “Our Father who art in heaven.” For this is the same as teaching that our prayer should be addressed to God as our gracious and friendly father, not as a tyrant or an angry judge. Now, no one can do this unless he has a word of God which says that He wants to have us call Him “Father” and that as a father He has promised to hear us and help us. To do this, one must also have such a faith in his heart and a happy courage to call God his Father, praying on the basis of a hearty confidence, relying upon the certainty that the prayer will be heard, and then waiting for help.

But all these component parts were missing from the prayers of those Pharisees, who did not think beyond the question of how the work was to be done in order to give the impression that they were holy people who enjoyed praying; similarly, all that our monks and priests think of is how to use prayer as a means of filling their belly. So completely have they forgotten the necessity of this faith for proper prayer that it seems foolish or presumptuous to them for a person to claim with certainty that his prayer is pleasing to God and will be heard by Him. Although they kept on praying, therefore, they regarded it all as completely a risk; and thus they angered God terribly by their unbelief and their abuse of His name, contrary to both the First and the Second Commandment.

Learn, therefore, that there can be no real prayer without this faith. But do you feel weak and fearful? Your flesh and blood is always putting obstacles in the way of faith, as if you were not worthy enough or ready enough or earnest enough to pray. Or do you doubt that God has heard you, since you are a sinner? Then hold on to the Word and say: “Though I am sinful and unworthy, still I have the commandment of God, telling me to pray, and His promise that He will graciously hear me, not on account of my worthiness, but on account of the Lord Christ.” In this way you can chase away the thoughts and the doubts, and you can cheerfully kneel down to pray. You need not consider whether you are worthy or unworthy; all you need to consider is your need and His Word, on which He tells you to build. This is especially so because He has set before you the manner of praying and put into your mouth the words you are to use when you pray, as follows here. Thus you may joyfully send up these prayers through Him and put them into His bosom, so that through His own merit He may bring them before the Father.

7. And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

8. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

9. Pray, then, like this: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.

10. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

11. Give us this day our daily bread;

12. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors;

13. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

Earlier He had denounced their false motivation in prayer, namely, the fact that they sought their own glory and profit among people, even in a work which was aimed at God alone, calling upon Him and asking for His help in our need and temptation. Now He goes on to denounce the false manner of their prayers, that is, the fact that they supposed praying meant using many words and babbling. He calls it the manner of the Gentiles, a reckless and worthless prattle, the sort of thing that would come from people who supposed that they would not be heard otherwise. For He saw very well that this would develop and that the same sort of abuse would continue in Christendom that existed among them already in those days: that prayer would become a mere work, to be judged on the basis of its size and length, as though this made it a precious accomplishment; and that instead of true prayer there would be mere jabbering and babbling, which did not belong to the experience of the heart. As we can see, this is what has happened to the inmates of the monasteries and the cloisters and to our whole clergy, whose way of life seems to have involved no other work than beating themselves and wearing themselves out every day with so many hours, as well as singing and reading their canonical hours at night. The more of this they could do, the holier and greater an act of worship did it seem. Yet amid all this, there was not a single one who spoke a genuine prayer from his heart; but they were all laboring under the gentile delusion that prayer meant making both God and oneself tired with yelling and murmuring, as though He neither could nor would listen any other way. And all they achieved by this was a useless waste of time; like asses, they simply punished themselves with their praying.

For this reason they themselves have said that there is no harder work than prayer. And of course, this is true if the aim is to turn prayer into a work or a chore which the body is forced to undertake, reading or singing for so many hours in a row. Therefore any day laborer would prefer to work at threshing for an entire day to just moving his mouth for two or three hours in a row or staring straight at a book.

In short, their prayers have not been the sighs or petitions of their hearts, but merely the slave labor of their mouths or their tongues. Even though a monk may have been reading or muttering his canonical times for forty years, he has not prayed from his heart for a single hour during all those years. They never think of this as an opportunity to present a need to God; all they think of is their own obligation to do this, and God’s to pay attention to all this trouble and toil.

But the Christian’s prayer is easy, and it does not cause hard work. For it proceeds in faith on the basis of the promise of God, and it presents its need from the heart. Faith quickly gets through telling what it wants; indeed, it does so with a sigh that the heart utters and that words can neither attain nor express. As Paul says (Rom. 8:26), “the Spirit prays.” And because He knows that God is listening to Him, He has no need of such everlasting twaddle. That is how the saints prayed in the Scriptures, like Elijah, Elisha, David, and others—with brief but strong and powerful words. This is evident in the Psalter, where there is hardly a single psalm that has a prayer more than five or six verses long. Therefore the ancient fathers have said correctly that many long prayers are not the way. They recommend short, fervent prayers, where one sighs toward heaven with a word or two, as is often quite possible in the midst of reading, writing, or doing some other task.

But the others, who make it nothing but a work of drudgery, can never pray with gladness or with devotion. They are glad when they are finally through with their babbling. And so it must be. Where there is no faith and no feeling of need in a petition, there the heart cannot be involved either. But where the heart is not involved and the body has to do all the work, there it becomes difficult drudgery. This is evident even in physical work. How difficult and dreary it is for the person who is doing something unwillingly! But on the other hand, if the heart is cheerful and willing, then it does not even notice the work. So it is here, too: the man who is serious in his intentions and takes pleasure in prayer neither knows nor feels any toil and trouble; he simply looks at his need, and he has finished singing or praying the words before he has a chance to turn around. In other words, prayers ought to be brief, frequent, and intense. For God does not ask how much and how long you have prayed, but how good the prayer is and whether it proceeds from the heart.

Therefore Christ says now: “Your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask for it.” It is as if He would say: “What are you up to? Do you suppose that you will talk Him down with your long babbling and make Him give you what you need? There is no need for you to persuade Him with your words or to give Him detailed instructions; for He knows beforehand what you need, even better than you do yourself.” If you came before a prince or a judge who knew your case better than you could describe it to him and tried to give him a long-winded account of it, he would have a perfect right to laugh at you or, more likely, to become displeased with you. Indeed, as St. Paul says (Rom. 8:26), “We do not know how we are to pray.” Therefore when He hears us, whatever He gives us is something in excess of our understanding or our hopes. Sometimes He lets us go on asking for something which He does not give right away, or perhaps does not give at all, knowing very well what is necessary and useful for us and what is not. We ourselves do not see this, but finally we have to admit that it would not have been good for us if He had done His giving on the basis of our petition. Therefore we must not go into a long harangue to give Him instructions or prescriptions about what He should do for us and how He should do it. He intends to give in such a way that His name might be hallowed, His kingdom extended, and His will advanced.

But you may say: “Since He knows and sees all our needs better than we do ourselves, why does He let us bring our petitions and present our need, instead of giving it to us without our petitioning? After all, He freely gives the whole world so much good every day, like the sun, the rain, crops and money, body and life, for which no one asks Him or thanks Him. He knows that no one can get along for a single day without light, food, and drink. Then why does He tell us to ask for these things?”

The reason He commands it is, of course, not in order to have us make our prayers an instruction to Him as to what He ought to give us, but in order to have us acknowledge and confess that He is already bestowing many blessings upon us and that He can and will give us still more. By our praying, therefore, we are instructing ourselves more than we are Him. It makes me turn around so that I do not proceed as do the ungodly, neither acknowledging this nor thanking Him for it. When my heart is turned to Him and awakened this way, then I praise Him, thank Him, take refuge with Him in my need, and expect help from Him. As a consequence of all this, I learn more and more to acknowledge what kind of God He is. Because I seek and knock at His door (Matt. 7:7), He takes pleasure in giving me ever more generous gifts. You see, that is how a genuine petitioner proceeds. He is not like those other useless babblers, who prattle a great deal but who never recognize all this. He knows that what he has is a gift of God, and from his heart he says: “Lord, I know that of myself I can neither produce nor preserve a piece of my daily bread; nor can I defend myself against any kind of need or misfortune. Therefore I shall look to Thee for it and request it from Thee, since Thou dost command me this way and dost promise to give it to me, Thou who dost anticipate my every thought and sympathize with my every need.”

You see, a prayer that acknowledges this truly pleases God. It is the truest, highest, and most precious worship which we can render to Him; for it gives Him the glory that is due Him. The others do not do this. Like pigs, they grab all the gifts of God and devour them. They take over one country or city or house after another. They never consider whether they should be paying attention to God. Meanwhile they lay claim to holiness, with their many loud tones and noises in church. But a Christian heart is one that learns from the Word of God that everything we have is from God and nothing is from ourselves. Such a heart accepts all this in faith and practices it, learning to look to Him for everything and to expect it from Him. In this way praying teaches us to recognize who we are and who God is, and to learn what we need and where we are to look for it and find it. The result of this is an excellent, perfect, and sensible man, one who can maintain the right relationship to all things.

Having denounced and rejected these false and useless prayers, Christ now proceeds to introduce an excellent and brief formula. It shows how we are to pray and what we are to pray for. It includes all sorts of needs which ought to impel us to pray and of which we can daily remind ourselves with these short words. There is no excuse for anyone now, as though he did not know how or what to pray. Hence it is a very good practice, especially for the common man and for children and servants in the household, to pray the entire Lord’s Prayer every day, morning and evening and at table, and otherwise, too, as a way of presenting all sorts of general needs to God. But since the Lord’s Prayer has been adequately expounded in the Catechism and elsewhere, I will leave it at that and add no further comments here.

As has often been said, however, this is certainly the very best prayer that ever came to earth or that anyone could ever have thought up. Because God the Father composed it through His Son and placed it into His mouth, there is no need for us to doubt that it pleases Him immensely. At the very beginning He warns us to remember both His command and His promise, in the word “Our Father.” He it is who demands this glory from us, that we should put our petitions to Him, as a child does to its father. He also wants us to have the confidence that He will gladly give us what we need. Also included is the reminder that we should glory in being His children through Christ. And so we come, on the basis of His command and His promise, and in the name of Christ, the Lord; and we present ourselves before Him with all confidence.

Now the first, second, and third petitions deal with the highest benefits that we receive from Him. In the first place, because He is our Father, He should receive from us the glory that is due Him, and His name should be held in high esteem throughout the world. By this petition I pile up on one heap every kind of false belief and worship, all of hell, and all sin and blasphemy. And I ask Him to put a stop to the blasphemous belief of the pope, the Turk, the schismatic spirits, and the heretics, all of whom desecrate and profane His name or seek their own glory under the pretext of His name. This is indeed only a brief phrase, but its meaning extends as far as the world and opposes all false doctrine and life.

In the second place, once we have His Word, true doctrine, and true worship, we also pray that His kingdom may be in us and remain in us; that is, that He may govern us in this doctrine and life, that He may protect and preserve us against all the power of the devil and his kingdom, and that He may shatter all the kingdoms that rage against His kingdom, so that it alone may remain. And in the third place, we pray that neither our will nor any other man’s will, but His will alone may be done, and that what He plans and counsels may succeed and overcome all the schemes and undertakings of the world, as well as anything else that may set itself against His plans and counsels, even though the whole world were to mass itself and rally all its strength to defend its cause against Him. These are the three most important elements.

In the other four petitions we meet the needs that apply to our own daily life and to this poor, weak, and temporal existence. Therefore our first petition here is that He may give us our daily bread—that is, everything necessary for the preservation of this life, like food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, wife, children, good government, and peace—and that He may preserve us from all sorts of calamities, sickness, pestilence, hard times, war, revolution, and the like. Our next petition is this: that He may forgive us our debts and not look upon the shameful and thankless way we misuse the benefits with which He daily provides us in such abundance; that this may not prompt Him to deny us these benefits or to withdraw them or to punish us with the disfavor we deserve; but that He may graciously pardon us, although we who are called “Christians” and “children of God” do not live as we should. The third of these petitions is brought on by the fact that we are living on earth, amid all sorts of temptation and trouble, with attacks from every side. Thus the source of the hindrance and the temptation we experience is not only external, from the world and the devil, but also internal, from our own flesh. Amid so much danger and temptation, we cannot live the way we should; nor would we be able to stand it for a single day. We ask Him, therefore, to sustain us in the midst of this danger and need so that it does not overcome and destroy us. And our final petition is that He would ultimately deliver us completely from all evil, and when the time comes for us to pass out of this life, that He would bestow upon us a gracious and blessed hour of death. In this brief compass we have laid all our physical and spiritual needs into His lap, and each individual word has summarized an entire world of meaning.

But in the text there is a small addition with which He concludes the prayer, a sort of thanksgiving and common confession, namely this: “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever.” These are really the titles and names that are appropriate to God alone, for these three things He has reserved for Himself—to govern, to judge, and to glory. No one has a right to judge or to rule or to have sovereignty except God alone, or those whom He has commissioned with it, those through whom, as His servants, He maintains His rule. In the same way, no man may exercise judgment over another, or become angry at him and punish him, unless he has the office to do so on God’s behalf. For this is not a right innate in men, but one given by God. These are the two things that He names here: “the kingdom,” that is, the sovereignty by which all authority is His; and then “the power,” that is, the consequence of His authority, its execution, by which He can punish, subject the wicked to Himself, and protect the pious. For he who punishes is doing so in God’s stead; all administering of justice, all protecting and preserving, is derived from His power. Therefore no one should wreak vengeance or exact punishment on his own; for it does not lie within his official capacity or ability, and it does not do any good either. As He says (Rom. 12:19): “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay”; and elsewhere He threatens (Matt. 26:52): “All who take the sword for vengeance will be punished by the sword.”

In the same way “the glory,” or honor or praise, belongs only to God. No one may boast of anything, his wisdom or holiness or ability, except through Him and from Him. When I honor a king or a prince and call him “gracious lord” or bend my knee before him, I am not doing this to him on account of his own person but on account of God, to one who is sitting in majesty in God’s stead. It is the same when I show honor to my father and mother or to those who are in their stead. I am not doing this to a human being but to a divine office, and I am honoring God in them. Wherever there is authority and power, therefore, the glory and the praise belong to Him. And so His kingdom, power, and glory prevail throughout the world. It is He alone that is ruling, punishing, and being glorified in the divine offices and stations, like those of father, mother, master, judge, prince, king, and emperor. The devil is opposing this through his minions. He himself is seeking to exercise the authority and power, to wreak the vengeance and exact the punishment, and to monopolize all the glory. That is why the petitions for His name, His kingdom, and His will are foremost here; for they alone must prevail, and all other names, kingdoms, powers, and wills must be shattered. Thus we acknowledge that He is supreme in all three of these areas, but that the others are His instruments, by which He acts to accomplish these things.

14. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you;

15. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

This is a remarkable addition, but a very precious one. Someone may well wonder why He should append this addition to this particular petition: “Forgive us our debts.” He could just as well have appended some such item to one of the others, and He could have said: “Give us our daily bread, as we give it to our children”; or, “Lead us not into temptation, as we do not tempt anyone”; or, “Deliver us from evil, as we save and deliver our neighbors.” Yet the only petition that has an addition of this sort is this one, and it gives the impression that the forgiveness of sins is accomplished and merited by our forgiving. Then what would become of our doctrine that forgiveness must come only through Christ and must be received in faith?

The answer to the first part of the question is this: by putting the petition this way and connecting the forgiveness of sin with our forgiving, He had the special purpose of making mutual love a Christian obligation, and the continual forgiveness of the neighbor the primary and foremost duty of Christians, second only to faith and the reception of forgiveness. As we live in faith toward Him, therefore, so also we should live in love toward our neighbor. We should not bring annoyance or injury upon one another, but keep in mind always to forgive one another even though we have been injured, as is inevitable in this life; we should know that otherwise we shall not be forgiven either. Where anger and ill will are an obstacle, this spoils the whole prayer and prevents one from being able to pray or to wish any of the preceding petitions either. You see, this means we must establish a firm and strong bond that will hold us together. When we plan to come before God in prayer for what we are to obtain, we must not be disunited or divided into schisms, factions, and sects, but we must be tolerant toward one another in love and remain of one mind. When this is the case, the Christian man is perfect; he believes correctly, and he loves correctly. Whatever other faults he may have, these are to be consumed in his prayer, and it is all forgiven and remitted.

But how is it that by these words He establishes such a close connection between forgiveness and our works when He says: “If you forgive your neighbor, you will be forgiven,” and vice versa? That does not seem to make forgiveness dependent upon faith. Answer: As I have often said elsewhere, the forgiveness of sins takes place in two ways: first inwardly, through the Gospel and the Word of God, which is received by faith in the heart toward God; second, outwardly through works, about which 2 Peter 1:10 says in its instructions regarding good works: “Dear brethren, be zealous to confirm your calling and election.” He means to say that we should confirm our possession of faith and the forgiveness of sin by showing our works, making the tree manifest by means of its fruit and making it evident that this is a sound tree and not a bad one (Matt. 7:17). Where there is a genuine faith, there good works will certainly follow, too. In this way a man is pious and upright, both inwardly and outwardly, both before God and before men. For this follows as the fruit by which I assure myself and others that I have a genuine faith; this is the only way I can know or see this.

In this passage, similarly, the outward forgiveness that I show in my deeds is a sure sign that I have the forgiveness of sin in the sight of God. On the other hand, if I do not show this in my relations with my neighbor, I have a sure sign that I do not have the forgiveness of sin in the sight of God but am still stuck in my unbelief. You see, this is the twofold forgiveness: one inward in the heart, clinging only to the Word of God; and one outward, breaking forth and assuring us that we have the inward one. This is how we distinguish works as outward righteousness from faith as inward righteousness, but in such a way that the inward has precedence as the stem and root from which the good works must grow as fruit. Outward righteousness, however, is the witness of this, and as Peter says, its “certification,” an assurance that the other is really present. Whoever lacks the inward righteousness does not do any of the outward works. On the other hand, where the outward signs and proofs are lacking, I cannot be sure of the inward, but I am deceiving both myself and others. But if I look and find myself gladly forgiving my neighbor, then I can draw this conclusion and say: “I am not doing this work naturally, but by the grace of God I feel different from the way I used to be.”

Let this brief answer suffice against the idle talk of the sophists. But it is also true that this work, as He discusses it here, is not a mere work like the others, which we do of ourselves; for it does not ignore faith. He takes the work and puts a promise on top of it, so that it might quite appropriately be called a sacrament, a means of strengthening faith. For example, Baptism, too, should be regarded as a work that I do when I baptize or am baptized. But since the word of God is present in it, it is not a mere work that amounts to something or accomplishes something of itself, but a divine word and sign upon which faith depends. In the same way, our prayers as our own work would not amount to anything or accomplish anything; but what makes it amount to something is the fact that it proceeds on the basis of His commandment and promise. For that reason it may well be regarded as a sacrament and as a divine work rather than a work ofour own.

The reason I say this is that the sophists pay attention to the works we do on our own, apart from the word and promise of God. Therefore, when they hear and read statements like these, making mention of works, they have to say that man merits this by his action. But the Scriptures teach us otherwise. We should not look to ourselves but to the word and promise of God, clinging to it by faith. Then if you do a work on the basis of this word and promise, you have a sure indication that God is gracious to you. In this way your own work, which God has now taken to Himself, is to be a sure sign of forgiveness for you.

Now God has provided us with various means, ways, and channels, through which to take hold of grace and the forgiveness of sin: first, Baptism and the Sacrament; also, as I have just said, prayer; also absolution; and our forgiveness throughout. Thus we are abundantly taken care of, and we can find grace and mercy everywhere. Where would you look for it any closer than with your neighbor, with whom you live every day and toward whom every day you have ample reason to practice this forgiveness? It is inevitable that you should be offended, deeply and often. It is, therefore, not only in the church or in the presence of the priest, but in the very midst of our own life, that we have a daily sacrament or baptism, one brother with another and everyone at home in his house. For if you take hold of the promise through this work, you have the very thing that you receive in Baptism. How could God have endowed us more richly with His grace than by hanging such a common baptism around our necks and attaching it to the Lord’s Prayer, a baptism that everyone discovers in himself when he prays and forgives his neighbor? Now, no one has any reason to complain or to make the excuse that he cannot get around to it, or that it is too sublime and distant for him, or that it is too difficult and expensive; for it has been brought home to him and his neighbor and planted on his very doorstep, in fact, put into his very bosom.

So you see that if you look at it not on the basis of the work itself but on the basis of the word that is attached to it, you find in it a wonderful and precious treasure. Now it is no longer your work, but a divine sacrament and a great and powerful comfort that you can attain to the grace of being able to forgive your neighbor, even though you may not be able to come to the other sacraments. This should prompt you to do this work gladly and from the heart and to thank God that you are worthy of such grace. You ought to pursue this even to the end of the world and spend everything you have for it, as we used to do for those fake indulgences. Whoever refuses to accept this must really be a shameful and accursed man, especially if he hears and acknowledges this grace and still remains so bent and stubborn that he refuses to forgive. By such a refusal he simultaneously loses both Baptism and the Sacrament, along with everything else. For they are all linked together, and whoever has one should have them all or keep none of them. Whoever is baptized should also receive the Sacrament; whoever receives the Sacrament must also pray; and whoever prays must also forgive. If you do not forgive, you have a terrible sentence here: your sins will not be forgiven either, even though you are in a Christian company and are enjoying the Sacrament and other benefits; in fact, your sins will damage and damn you all the more on account of this.

In order to arouse us even further in file direction of doing this, Christ has used kind and friendly words, saying, “If you forgive men their trespasses,” rather than saying “their malice and wickedness” or “their insolence and viciousness.” He uses “trespass” to designate the kind of sin that is committed more from weakness or ignorance than from malice. Now, why should He minimize and underemphasize the sin of our neighbor this way? After all, we often see many people sinning deliberately, out of sheer viciousness and a malicious will. He does it in order to put your anger to rest and to soften you so that you are glad to forgive. He is more interested in making your heart sweet and friendly than in making the sin as great as it really is in itself. For in the sight of God it is and should be great enough to be worthy of eternal damnation and to lock the gates of heaven, even though it is only a tiny sin or a failing, as long as the sinner does not confess it and beg your pardon for it.

But He does not want you and me to look at the sin this way. It is not up to us to punish the sin but to forgive it. This is the way you ought to think: although your neighbor has acted against you out of malice, still he is confused, captivated, and dazzled by the devil. Therefore you should be pious enough to take pity on him for being overpowered by the devil. As far as the devil is concerned, then, this may be called a great and unforgivable sin, since he has put the man up to it. But as far as the man himself is concerned, it should be called a trespass and a fault. This is what Christ Himself has done toward us by praying on the cross (Luke 23:34): “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” That minimized our sin and underemphasized it, though in itself it was the very greatest sin that had ever taken place on earth. For what greater sin can there be than this shameful torture and murder of God’s only Son?

Yet you must treat this mistake and fault in such a way that the neighbor who has sinned against you confesses it, asks for forgiveness, and decides to improve. Elsewhere I have said that there are two kinds of sin: one kind is confessed, and this no one should leave unforgiven; the other kind is defended, and this no one can forgive, for it refuses either to be counted as sin or to accept forgiveness. When Christ talks about forgiveness or the keys in Matthew 18:18, therefore, He puts the two side by side, loosing and binding, to make this clear. It is impossible to loose a sin which a person refuses to acknowledge as a sin that needs to be forgiven; such a sin should be bound to the abyss of hell. On the other hand, those sins that are confessed should be loosed and elevated to heaven. This provision in the Office of the Keys also applies to the relation of every Christian with his neighbor. He should be ready to forgive everyone that injures him. And yet, if someone refuses to acknowledge the sin and to stop it, but persists in it, you cannot forgive him—not on your account but on his, because he refuses to accept the forgiveness. But as soon as he owns up to being guilty and requests forgiveness, everything must be granted, and the absolution must follow right away. Since he is punishing himself and desisting from his sin, so that there is no longer any sin about him, I should let the matter of his sin drop. But if he holds on to it and refuses to drop it, I cannot take it from him but must let him remain stuck in it; for he himself has changed a forgivable sin into an unforgivable one. In other words, if he refuses to confess, his conscience must be burdened as heavily as possible, without any sign of grace; for he stubbornly insists upon being the devil’s own. On the other hand, if he confesses his sin and begs your pardon but you refuse to forgive him, you have loaded the sin upon yourself, and it will condemn you as well.

By referring to a sin as a “trespass,” therefore, Christ means that it should be confessed; He does not mean to deny that it is wrong. Nor is He making it your duty to approve of it as if it were the right kind of behavior. Rather, you should treat it as right or good only on the condition that it has become forgivable, so tiny as to be called only a fault. Then you can say to your neighbor: “I cannot approve of it, and it is still wrong. Nevertheless, because you make your confession and because your heart is different now and you have no resentment against me, I will gladly make the concession of calling it a fault and an oversight, and I will refrain from any anger.”

Now, if you take this attitude toward your neighbor, God will likewise treat you with that kind of sweet and friendly heart. That great and grave sin that you have committed against Him and are still committing, He will make so tiny that He will call it only a fault if you confess it and ask for forgiveness; for He is more inclined to forgive than we can imagine Him to be. To bribe God into having this kind of heart toward you, you would certainly be willing to surrender your body and life and to travel to the end of the world, the way people used to travel in the days of the papacy, torturing themselves for it with many kinds of works. But now such a heart is being offered to you here, presented and granted completely free, as are Baptism, the Gospel, and all His blessings. You receive more than you could ever acquire with all your works and the works of all men combined. Here you have a sure promise, one that neither deludes nor deceives you, that, however many or great all your sins may be, in His sight they are to be as tiny as mere everyday human weaknesses, which He will not count or remember as long as you have faith in Christ. Other Sacraments have their source and their power in Christ, the Lord. In the same way our prayer is heard, and we have certain forgiveness, not because we have deserved it, but because He has won it all for us and bestowed it upon us. Thus He always remains the only Mediator, through whom we have everything; even that forgiveness which is conditional upon our work of forgiving avails only through Him.

Now you see why Christ attached this addition to the prayer. He did so to establish the closest possible bonds between us and to preserve His Christendom in the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3), both in faith and in love. We must not let any sin or fault divide us or rob us of our faith and of everything else. It is inevitable that there be friction among us every day in all our social and business contacts, where things are said that you do not like to hear and things are done that you cannot stand. This gives rise to anger and discord. We still have our flesh and blood about us, behaving in its own way and easily letting slip an evil word or an angry gesture or action, which is an affront to love. Therefore there must be continual forgiveness among Christians, and we continually need forgiveness from God, always clinging to the prayer: “Forgive us, as we forgive.” That is, unless we are the kind of ungodly people who are always more ready to see a speck in our neighbor’s eye than the log in our own (Matt. 7:3) and throw our own sin behind us. If we were to look at ourselves every day from morning till evening, we would find ourselves so infested that we would forget about other people and be glad that we have a chance to pray.[9]


 


Pray Big!

Luke 1:13: “But the angel said to him: ’Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.’”

Elizabeth and Zechariah had apparently been praying for a son (“your prayer has been heard”). For a couple well beyond their child-bearing years, that’s a pretty big request of God.

Think about your prayers. What is the biggest, most miracle-dependent request you’re currently making of God?

God wants us to pray big!

Prayer should be as big as God’s promises. It should demand the full power and resources of God.

The Bible exhorts us to pray big.

1. Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

2. Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

3. Matthew 7:7–8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

4. Matthew 21:22 (NASB): “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

5. John 14:13–14: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Big prayers solicit big answers from God.

1. Moses interceded for the army of Israel.

2. Elijah prayed for no rain.

3. The church prayed for Peter’s release.

4. God wants us to pray! Big prayer requests of God drive you to your knees, take your breath away, and require a miraculous response from God

5. Examples Big Prayer Requests:

a. The salvation of an outspoken opponent of Christianity

b. The repentance of a wayward on

c. The healing of a cancerous growth

d. The saving of a broken marriage


Instances of Answered: Cain, Gen. 4:13–15. Abraham, for a son, Gen. 15; entreating for Sodom, Gen. 18:23–33; for Ishmael, Gen. 17:20; for Abimelech, Gen. 20:17. Hagar, for deliverance, Gen. 16:7–13. Abraham’s servant, for guidance, Gen. 24:12–52. Rebecca, concerning her pains in pregnancy, Gen. 25:22, 23. Jacob, for deliverance from Esau, Gen. 32:9–32; 33:1–17. Moses, for help at the Red Sea, Ex. 14:15, 16; at the waters of Marah, Ex. 15:25; at Horeb, Ex. 17:4–6; in the battle with the Amalekites, Ex. 17:8–14; concerning the complaint of the Israelites for meat, Num. 11:11–35; in behalf of Miriam’s leprosy, Num. 12:13–15. Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, Psa. 99:6. Israelites: for deliverance from bondage, Ex. 2:23–25; 3:7–10; Acts 7:34; from Pharaoh’s army, Ex. 14:10–30; from the king of Mesopotamia, Judg. 3:9, 15; Sisera, Judg. 4:3, 23, 24; 1 Sam. 12:9–11; Ammon, Judg. 10:6–18; 11:1–33; for God’s favor under the reproofs of Azariah, 2 Chr. 15:1–15; from Babylonian bondage, Neh. 9:27. Gideon, asking the token of dew, Judg. 6:36–40. Manoah, asking about Samson, Judg. 13:8, 9. Samson, asking for strength, Judg. 16:28–30. Hannah, asking for a child, 1 Sam. 1:10–17, 19, 20. David, asking whether Keilah would be delivered into his hands, 1 Sam. 23:10–12; and Ziklag, 1 Sam. 30:8; whether he should go into Judah after Saul’s death, 2 Sam. 2:1; whether he should go against the Philistines, 2 Sam. 5:19–25. David, in adversity, Psa. 118:5; 138:3. Solomon, asking wisdom, 1 Kin. 3:1–13; 9:2, 3. Elijah, raising the widow’s son, 1 Kin. 17:22; asking fire on his sacrifice, 1 Kin. 18:36–38; rain, 1 Kin. 17:1; 18:1, 42–45; Jas. 5:17. Elisha, leading the Syrian army, 2 Kin. 6:17–20. Jabez, asking for prosperity, 1 Chr. 4:10. Abijah, for victory over Jeroboam, 2 Chr. 13:14–18. Asa, for victory over Zerah, 2 Chr. 14:11–15. The people of Judah, 2 Chr. 15:15. Jehoshaphat, for victory over the Canaanites, 2 Chr. 18:31; 20:6–27. Jehoahaz, for victory over Hazael, 2 Kin. 13:4. Priests and Levites, when blessing the people, 2 Chr. 30:27. Hezekiah and Isaiah, for deliverance from Sennacherib, 2 Kin. 19:14–20; 2 Chr. 32:20–23; to save Hezekiah’s life, 2 Kin. 20:1–7, 11; 2 Chr. 32:24. Manasseh, for deliverance from the king of Babylon, 2 Chr. 33:13, 19. Reubenites, for deliverance from the Hagarites, 1 Chr. 5:20. The Jews, returning from the captivity, Ezra 8:21, 23. Ezekiel, to have the baking of his bread of affliction changed, Ezek. 4:12–15. Daniel, for the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Dan. 2:19–23; interceding for the people, Dan. 9:20–23; in a vision, Dan. 10:12. Zacharias, for a son, Luke 1:13. The leper, for healing, Matt. 8:2, 3; Mark 1:40–43; Luke 5:12, 13. Centurion, for his servant, Matt. 8:5–13; Luke 7:3–10; John 4:50, 51. Peter, asking that Tabitha be restored, Acts 9:40. The disciples, for Peter, Acts 12:5–17. Paul, to be restored to health, 2 Cor. 1:9–11.[10]


The Lord’s Prayer and the Duty of Forgiveness (6:9–15)

These verses are few in number, and are soon read, but they are of immense importance. They contain that wonderful pattern of prayer with which the Lord Jesus has supplied his people, commonly called the Lord’s Prayer.

Perhaps no part of Scripture is so well known as this. Its words are familiar wherever Christianity is found. Thousands—tens of thousands—who have never seen a Bible or heard the pure Gospel are acquainted with the “Our Father,” or “Paternoster.” It would be happy for the world if this prayer was as well known in the spirit as it is in the letter.

No part of Scripture is so full and so simple at the same time as this. It is the first prayer which we learn when we are little children: here is its simplicity. It contains the germ of everything which the most advanced saint can desire: here is its fullness. The more we ponder every word it contains, the more we shall feel this prayer is of God.

The Lord’s Prayer consists of ten parts or sentences. There is one declaration of the Being to whom we pray; there are three prayers respecting his name, his kingdom and his will; there are four prayers respecting our daily needs, our sins or weakness, and our dangers; there is one profession of our feeling towards others; there is one concluding ascription of praise.

In all these parts we are taught to say “we” and “our.” We are to remember others as well as ourselves.

On each of these parts a volume might be written. We must content ourselves at present with taking up sentence after sentence, and marking out the lessons which each sentence contains.

Our Father in Heaven

The first sentence declares who we are to pray to: “Our Father in heaven” (verse 9). We are not to pray to saints and angels, but to the everlasting Father, the Father of spirits, the Lord of heaven and earth. We call him Father in the lowest sense, as our Creator: as St. Paul told the Athenians, “in him we live and move and have our being … We are his offspring” (Acts 17:28). We call him Father in the highest sense, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, reconciling us to himself through the death of his Son (Colossians 1:20–22). We profess what the Old Testament saints only saw dimly and afar off—we profess to be his children by faith in Christ, and to have “the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’ ” (Romans 8:15). This, we must never forget, is the sonship that we must desire if we want to be saved. Without faith in Christ’s blood and union with him, it is useless to talk of trusting in the “Fatherhood” of God.

Hallowed Be Your Name

The second sentence is a request concerning God’s name: “Hallowed be your name” (verse 9). By the “name” of God we mean all those attributes through which he is revealed to us—his power, wisdom, holiness, justice, mercy and truth. By asking that they may be “hallowed,” we mean that they may be made known and glorified. The glory of God is the first thing that God’s children should desire. It is the object of one of our Lord’s own prayers: “Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:28). It is the purpose for which the world was created; it is the end for which the saints are called and convened: it is the chief thing we should seek—“that in all things God may be praised” (1 Peter 4:11).

Your Kingdom Come

The third sentence is a request concerning God’s kingdom: “your kingdom come” (verse 10). By his kingdom we mean, first, the kingdom of grace which God sets up and maintains in the hearts of all living members of Christ by his Spirit and Word. But we mean chiefly the kingdom of glory which one day will be set up when Jesus comes the second time, and “they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:11). This is the time when sin, sorrow and Satan will be driven out of the world. It is the time when the Jews will be converted, and the full number of the Gentiles will come in (Romans 11:25), and a time that is to be desired more than anything. It therefore fills a foremost place in the Lord’s Prayer. What we ask is expressed in the words of the Burial Service: “that it may please God to hasten his kingdom.”

Your Will Be Done on Earth as It is in Heaven

The fourth sentence is a request concerning God’s will. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (verse 10). We here pray that God’s laws may be obeyed by men as perfectly, readily and unceasingly as they are by angels in heaven. We ask that those who do not obey his laws now may be taught to obey them, and that those who do obey them may obey them better. Our truest happiness is perfect submission to God’s will, and it is the purest love to pray that all mankind may know it, obey it and submit to it.

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

The fifth sentence is a request concerning our own daily needs: “Give us today our daily bread” (verse 11). We are here taught to acknowledge our entire dependence on God for the supply of our daily necessities. As Israel required daily manna, so we require daily “bread.” We confess that we are poor, weak creatures in need, and beseech our Maker to take care of us. We ask for “bread” as the simplest of our wants, and in that word we include all that our bodies require.

Forgive Us Our Debts

The sixth sentence is a request concerning our sins: “Forgive us our debts” (verse 12). We confess that we are sinners, and need daily grants of pardon and forgiveness. This part of the Lord’s Prayer deserves especially to be remembered. It condemns all self-righteousness and self-justifying. We are instructed here to keep up a continual habit of confession at the throne of grace, and a continual habit of seeking mercy and remission. Let this never be forgotten. We need daily to wash our feet (John 13:10).

As We Also Have Forgiven Our Debtors

The seventh sentence is a claim about our own feelings towards others: we ask our Father to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (verse 12). This is the only statement in the whole prayer, and the only part on which our Lord comments and dwells when he has concluded the prayer. Its object is to remind us that we must not expect our prayers for forgiveness to be heard if we pray with malice and spite in our hearts towards others. To pray in such a frame of mind is mere formality and hypocrisy. It is even worse than hypocrisy: it is as much as saying, “Do not forgive me at all.” Our prayers are nothing without love. We must not expect to be forgiven if we cannot forgive.

Lead Us Not into Temptation

The eighth sentence is a request concerning our weakness: “Lead us not into temptation” (verse 13). It teaches us that we are liable at all times to be led astray and to fall. It instructs us to confess our infirmity and beseech God to hold us up, and not allow us to run into sin. We ask him, who orders all things in heaven and earth, to restrain us from going into that which would injure our souls, and never to let us be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Deliver Us from the Evil One

The ninth sentence is a request concerning our dangers: “Deliver us from the evil one” (verse 13), or simply “Deliver us from evil” [kjv, and niv footnote, ed. note]. We are here taught to ask God to deliver us from the evil that is in the world, the evil that is within our own hearts, and not least from the evil one, the devil. We confess that, so long as we are in the body, we are constantly seeing, hearing and feeling the presence of evil. It is about us, and within us, and around us on every side. We entreat him who alone can preserve us, to be continually delivering us from its power (John 17:15).

For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory

The last sentence is an ascription of praise: “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory” (verse 13 [kjv, and niv footnote, ed. note]). We declare in these words our belief that the kingdoms of this world are the rightful property of our Father; that to him alone belongs all “power”; and that he alone deserves to receive all “glory.” And we conclude by offering to him our hearts, giving him all honor and praise, and rejoicing that he is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

And now let us examine ourselves and see whether we really desire to have the things which we are taught to ask for in the Lord’s Prayer. Thousands, it may be feared, repeat these words daily as a form, but never consider what they are saying. They care nothing for the “glory,” the “kingdom,” or the “will” of God: they have no sense of dependence, sinfulness, weakness, or danger; they have no love or charity towards their enemies. And yet they repeat the Lord’s Prayer! These things ought not to be so. May we resolve that, by God’s help, our hearts shall always go together with our lips! Happy is the person who can really call God “Father” through Jesus Christ the Saviour, and can therefore say a heartfelt “Amen” to all that the Lord’s Prayer contains.[11]


THE DISCIPLE’S MODEL FOR PRAYER

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

The beauty of this prayer, called the Lord’s Prayer, has been honored in both spoken word and in music. Across the lines of culture and language, the Lord’s Prayer has served as the model for Christians to approach God. No liturgy is complete without it and no prayer can surpass the scope of meaning contained in its simplicity. Placed here at the center of the Sermon on the Mount, it is a focus of faith. It is a liberating expression before God. It is faith in action, focused on the future rather than on a restoration of the past. His kingdom is to come now, His will is to be done now, for piety is not our works but is God working in and through us.

The prayer includes an invocation that is threefold, with three petitions in the body of the prayer. Numerous scholars hold the belief that the doxology was added in the early part of the second century. But with the Matthean account we include the doxology as an essential part of the prayer. It may be divided into three sections of emphasis: (1) the honor that worship accords to God; (2) the humility that recognizes our dependence upon God; and (3) the hope which the rule of God creates. As a model prayer, it calls for more attention than this suggested outline offers.

The use of “our Father” means that we are members of a community. “Father” is a designation that witnesses to personal concern, and the phrase “which art in heaven” (kjv) is a Jewish expression found twenty times in Matthew as a title for the Father-God. To reverence His name is to worship. For His kingdom to come means to experience the full reign of God now, a desire for the fulfillment of divine purpose. For His will to be done is a response of the disciple confessing that it will be done in us. The request for bread focuses on that which will sustain us for the coming day. The confession of debts is in relation to our sins or debts owed to God. To forgive, as we forgive, is to recognize that God cannot renew those who stubbornly cling to grudges, thus defying His extension of grace. The prayer to be delivered from the evil one is a recognition that we will not totally escape temptation, nor delight in temptation, but we will ask God to deliver us when we are being tempted. The kingdom is His, and has priority for us; the power is His and sustains our trust and respect, for it is ultimately in His power that we serve; and the glory is His forever, and is the ultimate end or meaning of our creation and purpose. It is of interest here that the second petition of the Jewish Kaddish reads, “May He establish His Kingdom in your lifetime and in your days and in all the ages of the whole house of Israel soon and in the near future.”

THE DISCIPLE’S CALL TO FORGIVE

“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

Our attitude toward others is an indication of our attitude toward God. One cannot affirm openness to God and His will and then pervert the communication of God’s grace to others. Also in chapter 18 Matthew shares some very searching words from Jesus on forgiveness. This is not to be construed as legalism, but as the question of sincerity in our sharing the spirit of Christ. The grace of forgiveness is to care more about a person than about what he has done. This is illustrated in the story of the prodigal son in which the Father was able to move beyond the issue to the person. He wasn’t “up tight” over the sin of the son; he cared more about the son than about what he had done. God forgives because He loves us. He isn’t “up tight” over our sins, for, in His love, He cares more about us than about what we have done.

Forgiveness means to release another, to give up our power-play by keeping something we can hold over another. Forgiveness is to take one’s thumb off of another, so to speak, and grant him freedom. Such forgiveness is difficult; it is costly, for it means that the offended one resolves the hurt by love and releases the offender without making him suffer. If one hurts you and you hurt that person back, then say that you will forgive, you haven’t really forgiven because you “settled the score” by retaliation first, then offered to call it quits. Forgiveness means that the innocent one resolves his own indignation toward an evil and releases the offender. The forgiving one carries his own wrath on another’s sin rather than making the other one feel it. The ultimate expression of this forgiveness took place at Calvary where God carried His own wrath on our sin and extended to us the freedom of forgiveness. It is not some mystical, hard-to-believe aspect of the Christian faith, but it is something built into the fabric of human relationships. Scarcely a day goes by but that each of us needs to extend this kind of forgiveness in some degree to another, and to receive such forgiveness from another.

To carry grudges or bitterness warps the spirit of the unforgiving one. How much better it is to release the offender than to burn up psychic energy carrying resentment and bitterness. The story is told of a bishop, in the days before the automobile, driving to church in his horse and buggy. He tied the horse, went into the service and several hours later came out to leave. Untying the horse, he climbed into the buggy, calling to the horse to go. To his surprise the wheels were dragging and the horse could not pull the buggy. Looking back, he saw that someone had piled the buggy full of rocks. Wrapping the lines around the post, he unloaded the rocks, unwrapped the lines, and drove off home. Some twenty years later there was a knock at his door one evening, and three middle-aged men were standing there, nervously asking to speak with him. He invited them in, and after fidgeting for sometime while engaging in small talk, one finally said, “Bishop, do you remember one Sunday morning when there were rocks in your buggy… ?” Whereupon the bishop threw his head back and laughed, “Do you men mean to tell me that you’ve been carrying those rocks around all of these years? Why, I threw them out twenty years ago and forgot about it!”[12]


Vers. 5–15.—Prayer.

Vers. 5–8.—Matthew only.

Ver. 5.—And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be, etc.; Revised Version, plural. Ver. 5 is addressed to the disciples generally, ver. 6 to them individually. (For the future, cf. ch. 5:48, note.) As the hypocrites are (ver. 2, note). The ‘Didache,’ § viii., following this passage, says, “Neither pray ye as the hypocrites,” referring, like our Lord, to practices affected chiefly by the Pharisees. For they love (ὅτι φιλοῦσι). Not to be translated “they are wont.” Our Lord points out the cause of this their custom. It was not that the synagogue was more convenient (he is, of course, thinking of their private prayers), or that they were accidentally overtaken by the prayer-hour when in the street, but their innate love of display made them choose these places “that they may be seen of men” (cf. ver. 16, and contrast ver. 2). To pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets; to stand and pray, etc. (Revised Version), giving, however, slightly more emphasis on “stand”than its position warrants. The emphasis is really on the place, not on the posture, which was only what was usual among Jews (cf. Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11, 13). There is no thought of taking up their position, standing still (σταθέντες, Acts 5:20; cf. Luke 18:11, 40). (For the practice here condemned by our Lord, cf. Lightfoot, ‘Hor. Hebr.,’ “R. Jochanan said, I saw R. Jannai standing and praying in the streets of Tsippor, and going four cubits, and then praying the Additionary Prayer.”) They have, etc. (ver. 2, note).

Ver. 6.—But thou (emphatic) when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray, etc. An adaptation of Isa. 26:20 (cf. also 2 Kings 4:33). The prophet’s language describing the action be fitting a time of terror is used by our Lord to express what ought to be the normal practice of each of his followers. Observe that the widow of one of the sons of the prophets so acted when she was about to receive the miraculous supply of oil (2 Kings 4:4, 5). Closet; Revised Version, inner chamber, more readily suggesting the passage in Isaiah to the English reader. To thy Father which is in secret. Not “which seeth in secret,” as in the next clause. The thought here may be partly that to be unseen of men is a help to communion with him who is also unseen by them, but especially that the manner of your actions ought to resemble that of your Father’s, who is himself unseen and works unseen. And thy Father which seeth in secret. You will be no loser, since his eyes pass by nothing, however well concealed it be from, the eyes of men. Shall reward thee openly (ver. 4, notes).

Ver. 7.—But when ye pray (προσευχόμενοι δέ). The Revised Version, and is praying, shows that our Lord is only continuing the subject, and not turning to a new one, as in vers. 2, 5, 16. But while he has thus far thought of prayer as an external act, he now speaks of the substance of the prayers offered, the δέ indicating a transition to another aspect of the same subject. Use not vain repetitions; “Babble not much” (Tyndale). The word used (μὴ βατταλογήσητε) is probably onomatopœic of stuttering. The Peshite employs here the same root (ܡܦܩܩܝܢ) as for μογιλάλος, Mark 7:32 (ܦܐܩܐ). But from the primary sense of stuttering, βατταλογεῖν naturally passed to that of babbling in senseless repetitions. As the heathen do (οἱ ἐθνικοί, Gentiles, Revised Version; ch. 5:47, note). Thinking that the virtue lies in the mere utterance of the words. Even the Jews came perilously near this in their abundant use of synonyms and synonymous expressions in their prayers (cf. Lightfoot, ‘Hor. Hebr.’). Perhaps it was this fact that assisted the introduction of the reading “hypocrites” in B and the Old Syriac. For they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. In the continuance (ἐν) of their external action lies their hope of being fully heard (εἰσακουσθήσονται).

Ver. 8.—Be not ye therefore like. Revised Version omits “ye,” as the emphatic personal pronoun is not expressed. The connexion of thought is—Seeing you are expected to shun heathen error (Meyer), do not allow yourselves to reproduce heathen practices. By observing these you would be taking a definite way of becoming like (passive, or rather middle, ὁμοιωθῆτε) those who ordinarily practise them. For; i.e. you stand on a different footing altogether from the heathen; you are intimately related to One above, who knows your wants, even before you express them to him. Your Father; Revised Version margin, “some ancient authorities read God your Father.” So א*. B, sah. ( Θεός is bracketed by Westcott and Hort). The insertion is at first sight suspicious, but as there is no trace of such an addition in vers. 1, 4, 6, 14, 18 (in ver. 32 only א*), it is hard to see why it should have been interpolated here. Its omission, on the other hand, is easily accounted for by its absence in those passages. The internal evidence, therefore, corroborates the strong external evidence of א*, B. Our Lord here said “God” to emphasize the majesty and power of “your Father.” Knoweth; i.e. intuitively (οἶδεν); cf. ver. 32.

Vers. 9–13.—The pattern of prayer. Parallel passage: Luke 11:2–4. For most suggestive remarks on the Lord’s Prayer, both generally and in its greater difficulties of detail, compare by all means Chase, ‘The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church:’ (Cambridge Texts and Studies).

Observe: (1) If the prayer had already been given by the Lord in the sermon on the mount, “one of his disciples” would hardly afterwards have asked him to teach them to pray, as John also taught his disciples (Luke 11:1). It is much more easy, therefore, to consider that the original occasion of its utterance is recorded by St. Luke, and that it therefore did not belong to the sermon on the mount as that discourse was originally delivered.

(2) A question that admits of a more doubtful answer is whether the more original form of the prayer is found in Matthew or in Luke. It will be remembered that in the true text of his Gospel, the latter does not record the words, “Which art in heaven,” “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth,” “But deliver us from evil,” besides reading “day by day” instead of “this day,” “sins” instead of “debts,” and “for we ourselves also forgive everyone that is indebted to us” instead of “as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Most writers suppose St. Matthew’s form to be the original, and St. Luke’s to be only a shortened form. In favour of this are the considerations that (a) St. Matthew’s words, “Forgive us our debts,” represent an older, because parabolic, form of expression than the apparently interpretative “Forgive us our sins” in St. Luke. (b) St. Matthew’s words, “as we also,” seem to be expanded into “for we ourselves also,” in St. Luke. (c) St. Luke’s “day by day” occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in his writings (Luke 19:47; Acts 17:11), so that it is likely to be his own phrase, and therefore less original than St. Matthew’s “this day” (cf. Weiss, ‘Matthäus Ev.,’ and Page, Expositor, III. vii. 436). On the other hand, the words, “Which art in heaven,” are so characteristic of St. Matthew (ch. 10:32, 33; cf. 12:50; 15:13; 18:10, 14, 19, 35; 23:9), and especially of the sermon on the mount (ch. 5:16; 6:1; 7:11, 21; cf. 5:45, 48; 6:14, 26, 32), that it seems more natural to suppose that this clause at least was added by him or by the authors of his sources to the original form, rather than that it was omitted by St. Luke. In connexion with this it may be pointed out how easy it was for our Lord to say only “Father” (Luke 11:2) immediately after his own prayer to him (Luke 11:1).

Taking everything into consideration, it seems reasonable to arrive at two conclusions. First, that the form in Luke presents, as a whole, the more primitive and original instruction of the Lord, and that that given in Matthew presents the Lord’s words as fully developed, partly perhaps by himself directly, partly by his indirect guidance of Christian usage. St. Matthew’s Gospel would thus at once both show the effect and be the cause of the preference for the longer form in liturgical use. Secondly, and more exactly, that both the evangelists record the prayer after it had passed through some development in different parts of the Church, St. Matthew giving it a generally later stage, but preserving one or two clauses in an earlier and better form.

Ver. 9.—After this manner therefore. Therefore; in contrast to the heathen practice, and in the full confidence which you have in your almighty Father’s intuitive knowledge of your needs. After this manner (οὕτως). Not “in these words;” but he will most closely imitate the manner who most often reminds himself of it by using the words. Pray ye. “Ye” emphatic—ye my disciples; ye the children of such a Father. Our Father. In English we just lack the power to keep, with a plural possessive pronoun (contrast “father mine”), the order of Christ’s words (Πάτερ ἡμῶν) which other languages possess (Pater noster; Vater unser). Christ places in the very forefront the primary importance of the recognition of spiritual relationship to God. There is no direct thought here of God as the All-Father in the modern and often deistic sense. Yet it is affirmed elsewhere in Scripture (Acts 17:28. cf. Luke 15:21), and spiritual relationship is perhaps only possible because of the natural relationship (cf. ch. 5:16, note). Our. Though the prayer is here given with special reference to praying alone (ver. 6), the believer is to be reminded at once that he is joined by spiritual relationship to many others who have the same needs, etc., as himself. Which art in heaven ( ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς). Added in this fuller form of the prayer (vide supra), on the one hand to definitely exclude the application of the words however mediately to any human teacher (cf. ch. 23:9), and on the other to remind those who pray of the awful majesty of him whom they address. “They are a Sursum corda; they remind us that now we have lifted up our hearts from earth and things earthly to another and a higher world” (Trench. ‘Sermon on the Mount’). Hallowed be thy name. The first of the three prayers for the furtherance of God’s cause. Their parallelism is seen much more clearly in the Greek than in the English order of the words. Thy name. We look on a name almost as an accidental appendage by which a person is designated, but in its true idea it is the designation of a person which exactly answers to his nature and qualities. Hence the full Name of God is properly that description of him which embraces all that he really is. As, however, the term “name” implies that it is expressed, it must, when it is used of God, be limited to that portion of his nature and qualities which can be expressed in human terms, because it has been already made known to us. The “name” of God, here and elsewhere in the Bible, therefore, does not mean God in his essence, but rather that manifestation of himself which he has been pleased to give, whether partial and preparators as under the old covenant (cf. Gen. 4:26 [16:13]; 32:29; Exod. 6:3; 34:5), or final as under the new (cf. John 17:6); or again (to take another division found in Exell’s ‘Biblical Illustrator,’ in loc.) the manifestation of himself through nature, through inspired words, through the Incarnation. Compared with the Glory (δόξα) “the Name expresses the revelation as it is apprehended and used by man. Man is called by the Name, and employs it. The Glory expresses rather the manifestation of the Divine as Divine, as a partial disclosure of the Divine Majesty not directly intelligible by man (comp. Ex. 33:18, ff.)” (Bishop Westcott, ‘Add. Note’ on 3 John 7). Hallowed be. Ἀγιασθήτω cannot here, as sometimes (Rev. 22:11; cf. John 17:17; 1 Thess. 5:23), mean “be made holy,” for this God’s manifestation of himself already is; but “becounted holy;” i.e. in human judgment. The prayer is that God’s manifestation of himself may be acknowledged and revered as the one supreme standard of truth and the one means of knowing God and approaching him; cf. 1 Pet. 3:15, where “ἁγιάζω obviously means ‘set apart, enshrined as the object of supreme, absolute reverence, as free from all defilement and possessed of all excellence’” (Johnstone, in loc.); cf. also Isa. 29:23. The same thought appears to have been the basis of the early Western alternative petition (Marcion’s or Tertullian’s, vide Westcott and Hort. ‘App.,’ Luke 11:2) for the gift of the Holy Spirit; i.e. the address to the Father was followed by a prayer for purification by the Holy Spirit preparatory to the prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” A man must accept God’s manifestation of himself before he can take part in the spread of the kingdom. Gregory of Nyssa (vide Westcott and Hort, loc. cit., and Resch, ‘Agrapha,’ p. 398) says distinctly, “Let thy Holy Spirit come upon us and purify us;” but he substitutes this prayer for the words, “Thy kingdom come.” (For the support afforded by this to the theory that the Lord’s Prayer circulated in a varying form, cf. Chase, loc. cit.) Gregory’s petition, as affecting only humanity, is less comprehensive than that found in our Gospels.

Ver. 10.—Thy kingdom come. Let there come the full establishment of thy realm. The prayer passes from the personal acceptance in the heart of God’s revelation of himself to the consequent result. The clause has a much wider meaning than the development and spread of the Church, or even the personal return of Christ at the second advent. It speaks of that which shall be the issue of both this and that, the final and perfect establishment of God’s realm, in which all men will do him willing service, and all habits and customs, individual and social, will be such as he approves of (vide Introduction, p. 25.). Dr.C. Taylor (‘Sayings,’ etc., Exc. 5.) points out that the coming of the kingdom and the sanctifying of the Name are brought together in Zech. 14:9; Weiss, ‘Life,’ ii. 349, with many others, says that our Lord probably adapted the frequent Jewish prayer for the coming of the kingdom of Messiah. Thy will be done. Let thy will come into complete existence (γενηθήτω; cf. “Let there be light,” Gen. 1:3, LXX). The thought is not merely God’s will realized in this or that action, whether performed or endured by us (cf. ch. 26:42; Acts 21:14), but God’s will as a whole coming into full being. God’s will is always in ideal until it is accomplished in act. The connexion of the clause with what has gone before is therefore this—the acceptance of God’s manifestation of himself leads to the establishment of his realm, and this to the realization of his will, which until then is only ideal (cf. ch. 5:18, note, end). If this be all the meaning of the words, they express, in fact, only the ultimate result of the consummation prayed for in the preceding clause (hence this portion of the prayer was in itself complete without our present words; cf. Luke 11:2); but since it is so far a distinct thought that it would not immediately suggest itself, it has a worthy place in the fuller form of the prayer. Possibly, however, more may be intended. The full establishment of the kingdom may be only a part of his loving will, which may, for all we know, have countless other things in view. The highest prayer that we can make in the furtherance of God’s cause is that his gracious purpose, his will (whatever it may include) may be fully brought about. In earth, as it is in heaven; as in heaven, so on earth (Revised Version). Probably the words are to be joined to only the immediately preceding clause. In heaven God’s will is already realized; not yet on earth, where sin has entered.

Ver. 11.—Give as this day our daily bread (τὸνἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον). Here begin the petitions for our personal needs. The first is for earthly food, the means of maintaining our earthly life. For “in order to serve God it is first of all necessary that we live” (Godet, on Luke). Give us. The order in the Greek emphasizes, not God’s grace in giving, but the thing asked for. This day. Parallel passage: Luke 11:3, “day by day (τὸ καθ᾽ ἡμέραν).” The thought suggested there, of continuance in the supply, is seen also in the verb (δίδου). Daily (ἐπιούσιον); and so Luke (compare especially the classical appendix in Bishop Lightfoot’s ‘Revision,’ etc., pp. 195, etc., and Chase, loc. cit.). It will be sufficient to do little more than indicate the chief lines of proposed derivations and interpretations of this ἅπαξ λεγόμενον. (1) Ἐπὶ-οὐσία (a) physical, “for subsistence,” “sufficient or necessary to sustain us;” (b) spiritual, “for our essential being” (cf. Jerome’s rendering with a literalism that recalls the rabbis, super-substantialem. (2) Ἐπὶ-εἰμί “to be,” “bread which is ready at hand or suffices” (similarly Delitzsch, in Thayer, s.v.). The chief and fatal objection to both (1) and (2) is that the form would be ἐπούσιος (cf. especially Lightfoot, loc. cit., p. 201). (3) Ἐπι-εἶμι, “to come;” (a) with direct reference to “bread”—our “successive,” “continual,” “ever-coming” bread (so the Old Syriac, and partly the Egyptian versions), that which comes as each supply is required; the prayer then meaning, “Our bread as it is needed give us to-day” (so apparently Dr. Taylor, ‘Sayings,’ etc.,p. 140); (b) derived mediately from ἐπιοῦσα so. ἡμερα (cf. Acts 16:11; 20:15; 21:18), “bread for the coming day,” i.e. the same day, if the prayer be said in the morning; the next day if it be said in the evening (so Bishop Lightfoot). Between (3) (a) and (3) (b) it is very difficult to decide. Against (a) is the fact that it is hard to say why the common form ἐπίοντα would not have served; against (b), while the use of the word is perfectly consistent with casting all care upon God for to-morrow (ch. 6:34), there still remains the fact that there is some tautology in saying, “Our bread for the coming day give us to-day,” or even the formula in the parallel passage in Luke, “Our bread for the coming day give us day by day.” On the whole, perhaps (3) (a) presents the least difficulties. Bread. It is very doubtful if to use this petition of spiritual food is anything more than a legitimate application (made, indeed, as early as the ‘Didache,’ § x.) of. words which in themselves refer only to material food (see further Chase, loc. cit.).

Ver. 12.—And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Forgive; a change in God’s relation to us and our sins. No plea is urged, for the atonement had not yet been made. Our debts (τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν) parallel passage in Luke, τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν). It is probable that Matthew took one meaning, perhaps the more primary, and Luke another, perhaps the more secondary (cf. Gesenius, ‘Thes,’ s.v. חוב and Professor Marshall, Expositor, IV. iii. 281), of the original Aramaic word (חובא); but, as “debtors” comes in the next clause, it seems reasonable to suppose that Matthew represents the sense in which our Lord intended the word to be understood. Luke may have avoided it as too strongly Hebraic a metaphor, even though he does use ὀφειλέται of men in relation to God (13:4). The ‘Didache,’ viii., gives the singular, ὀφειλήν (cf. infra, ch. 18:32), which Dr. Taylor (‘Lectures,’ p. 62) thinks is preferable. The singular, especially with “debtors” following, would very naturally be corrupted to the plural. Sins are termed “debts,” as not rendering to God his due (ch. 22:21; cf. 25:27). As we; Revised Version, as we also (ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς). In the same way as we have—a comparison of fact, not of proportion (cf. ch. 8:13; 18:33). (For the thought, cf. Ecclus. 28:2.) Luke’s “for we ourselves also” (καὶ γὰρ αὐτοί) lays more stress on our forgiving others being a reason for God forgiving us. Forgive; Revised Version, have forgiven, in the past (aorist). Luke’s present is of the habit. Our debtors. Luke individualizes (παντὶ ὀφείλοντι ἡμῖν).

Ver. 13.—And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Luke omits the second half. And lead us not (καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς); and bring us not (Revised Version), for εἰσθέρω thinks rather of the issue (cf. Luke 5:18, 19; 12:11) than of the personal guidance. This first clause is a prayer against being brought into the fulness and awfulness of temptation (cf. ch. 26:41; parallel passages; Mark 14:38; Luke 22:46). As such it cannot, indeed, always be granted, since in exceptional cases this may be part of the permission given to the prince of this world. So it was in our Lord’s case (cf. ch. 26:41, and context). The words are a cry issuing from a deep sense of our personal weakness against the powers of evil. Into temptation; i.e. spiritual. External trials, e.g. persecution, may be included, but only in so far as they are the occasion of real temptation to the soul. But. Do not bring us into the full force of temptation, but, instead, rescue us now and at any other time from the attack of the evil one (vide infra). Thus this clause is more than a merely positive from of the preceding. It is a prayer against even the slightest attacks of the enemy when they are made. Deliver us (ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς). The thought is not merely preserve (σώζειν, τηρεῖν) or even guard (φρουρεῖν, φυλάσσειν) from possible or impending danger, but “rescue” from it when it confronts us. From. If we may press the contrast to Col. 1:13 (ἐρύσατοἐκ), ἀπὸ suggests that the child of God is no longer actually in the power (1 John 5:19) of the evil one, but has been already delivered thence. The peril is, as it were, something outside him (compare, however, Chase, loc. cit.). Evil. So also the Revised Version margin; but the evil one (Revised Version). In itself τοῦ πονηροῦ might, of course, be either neuter or masculine, but in view of (a) ch. 13:19, (b) the many passages in the New Testament where the expression is either certainly or probably masculine; e.g. 1 John 2:13, 14; 5:18, 19; John 17:15; 2 Thess. 3:3; (c) the many allusions to the masculine reference of this petition shown by Bishop Lightfoot (‘Revision,’ etc., edit. 1891) and Mr. Chase (loc. cit.) to exist in early Christian literature—there seems little doubt that the Revised Version is right. Chase (loc. cit.) shows that the primary notion of both πονηρός, and its Hebrew equivalent דע, is not malignity (Trench), but worthlessness, essential badness. For thine is the kingdom, etc. Omitted in the Revised Version on overwhelming authority (e.g. a, B, D, Z, Old Latin, Memphitic, “all Greek commentators on the Lord’s Prayer except Chrysostom and his followers,” Westcott and Hort, ‘App., q.v.). In the ‘Didache,’ §§ viii., ix., x., however, we find our doxology with very little other variation than the omission of “the kingdom,” this itself being explained in the two latter sections by the immediately preceding mention of the kingdom. Similar omissions of one or more of the three terms, “kingdom,” “power,” “glory,” are found in the Old Syriac, an “African” text of the Old Latin, and the Thebaic. “It was probably derived ultimately from 1 Chron. 29:11 (Heb.), but, it may be, through the medium of some contemporary Jewish usage: the people’s response to prayers in the temple is said to have been ‘Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom for ever and ever’” (Westcott and Hort, loc. cit.). Indeed, it was so usual for doxologies of one kind or another to be added by the Jews to prayers, that, though we cannot for one moment accept the words here as genuine, we must consider it very doubtful if the Lord’s Prayer was ever used in Jewish circles without a doxology, or that our Lord, as Man, ever intended it to be so used (cf. further, Taylor, ‘Lectures,’ p. 64). At all events, the feeling of the Christian Church in using the doxology is fully justified by its contents; for it places us more emphatically than ever in a right relation to God. By our praise to him it induces in us the remembrance that it is to God’s kingdom that we belong, having him for King and Source of law; that it is by God’s power that we live on earth and stand freed from Satan’s grasp; that it is for the furtherance of God’s glory that all has been done for us, all wrought in us, all these petitions are now made and all our hopes and aims are directed. Hereafter, as Bengel says, the whole prayer will be doxology: “Hallowed be the Name of our God. His kingdom has come; his will is done. He has forgiven us our sins. He has brought our temptation to an end; He has delivered us from the evil one. His is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen.”

Vers. 14, 15.—For if ye forgive men their trespasses, etc. Matthew only. To insert the reason for having said, in the Lord’s Prayer, “as we forgive our debtors,” emphasizes the necessity of such forgiveness (cf. also ch. 18:21, sqq.; Mark 11:25; Ecclus. 28:2–4). Trespasses; παραπτώματα, not ὀφειλήματα (ver. 12). Our Lord uses a word which would forbid any limitation to pecuniary matters. Their trespasses. Omitted by Tischendorf, and bracketed by Westcott and Hort (cf. their ‘Introd.,’ p. 176). The omission more sharply contrasts “men” and “your Father.”[13]


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Is 55:1, 2; John 4:14; 6:48ff; 7:37

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Mt 5:6).

[2] Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible Commentary

[3] Blomberg, C. (2001, c1992). Vol. 22: Matthew (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (117). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Mills, M. (1999). The Life of Christ: A study guide to the Gospel record.

[5] Hare, D. R. A. (1993). Matthew. Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching (64). Louisville: John Knox Press.

[6] The Interpreter’s Dictionary

[7] Keener, C. S. (1997). Vol. 1: Matthew. The IVP New Testament commentary series (Mt 6:9). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

[8] Henry, M., & Scott, T. (1997). Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary (Mt 6:9). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.

[9] Luther, M. (1999, c1956). Vol. 21: Luther's works, vol. 21: The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (21:137). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[10] Swanson, J., & Nave, O. (1994). New Nave's. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

[11] Ryle, J. C. (1993). Matthew. Originally published: New York : R. Carter, 1860. The Crossway classic commentaries (38). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

[12]Augsburger, M. S., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Vol. 24: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 24 : Matthew. Formerly The Communicator's Commentary. The Preacher's Commentary series (18). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.

[13]The Pulpit Commentary: St. Matthew Vol. I. 2004 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.) (229). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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