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The Lord’s Prayer

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Matthew and Luke both record the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4. As Matthew’s rendering is a little fuller, and the one ordinarily used in worship, we shall use this as the basis of our study. It reads as follows:

 

            “Our Father which art in heaven,

             Hallowed be Thy name.

 Thy kingdom comes.

 Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

 Give us this day our daily bread.

 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

 And lead us not into temptation,

 But deliver us from evil:

 For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”

 

An examination will show that the prayer consists of seven petitions, with an introduction, “Our Father,” and the closing doxology, “For Thine is the kingdom.” It falls into two main sections. The first section –the first three petitions—is concerned chiefly with the glory of God; the second section—the four latter petitions—is concerned with man’s need.

At the time when Christ taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, He was discussing the manner in which the Pharisees gave alms. They did this in a manner to attract attention to themselves, “that they may have glory of men.” Matthew 6:2. They would even sound a trumpet before them to make sure that all would know what they were doing and would give them glory. But this acclaim of men would be all the reward they would get. Said Christ, “They have their reward.” Verse 2. He then gave men this advice, “Let not they left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly.” Verses 3,4.

By a natural transition, He then discussed prayer. This also should be done in secret.

“When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Verse 6.

Alone in Prayer

During the first thirty years of Christ’s life in the crowded house conditions then prevailing, it is unlikely that in the home of His parents He had a room of His own where He could retire for prayer. However, we are certain that He who taught others to pray in secret found both time and place to be alone with God. When He entered His public work, it was also not easy to be alone. Multitudes followed Him everywhere, and at times, there were so many that “they had no leisure so much as to ear.” Mark 6:31.

One time when the disciples were tired out with their heavy work of waiting on the multitude, Jesus suggested that they go “into a desert place, and rest awhile.” so “they departed into a desert place by ship privately.”

In going by boat, they hoped the crowd would not follow them. But in this they were disappointed, for when they arrived at the designated place, the people were there already, having gone around the lake by land. Christ, who was also tired, nevertheless “began to teach them many things” (verse 34), miraculously fed the huge multitude, and sent then home. He then “constrained His disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side,” while He remained behind. Verse 45. He Himself “departed into a mountain to pray.” Verse 46.

Alone In a Crowd

At times, it was not possible for Christ to get away from the multitude, nor were there always mountains to which He could escape. Under such circumstances He prayed where He was, unconscious of the people around Him and undisturbed by their presence. Note this remarkable statement: “It came to pass, as He was alone praying, His disciples were with Him.” Luke 9:18. His disciples were with Him; yet, He was alone.

Thus, whatever the conditions were, Christ found a was to be alone with God. In this, we do well to follow Him. It may be some quiet place at home; it may be in the workshop or in some dedicated place in the woods or in the garden; it may be even in the barn or the hayloft—any place where the soul can commune along with God. If no place can be found, we may have to learn how to be alone with God when others are present. It may be while traveling on plane or on train or ship; it may be while talking on the crowded street or in the field. If we are really intent on having a few words with God, we will find opportunity to shut out all other thoughts and commune with Him. There is always time for quiet meditation before we close our eyes in sleep.

God is pleased to have us pray publicly; He is pleased when we are faithful in attending meetings for prayer; He is pleased when we read and study about prayer. But none of these good things must or can take the place of secret prayer. Christ said, “Pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Matthew 6:6. This counsel should be heeded. Public prayer, public worship, are commendable and vital. But there is no substitute for the quiet hour with God.

Vain Repetition

“When you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not you therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things you have need of, before you ask Him.” Verses 7,8.

Your Father knoweth.” He knows what we ask and He knows what we need. The two are not always the same. He has promised to supply our needs, but not necessarily our wants. There are times when we ask for things which we would like to have, when a little planning would show that we do not need them as much as we sometimes think we so. God knows this; and hence God may think it best not to give us what we want.

Prayer is not primarily designed to get us things; it is rather to teach us to be content with such things as we have. Paul said, “Be content with such things as you have.” Hebrews 13:5. “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” 1 Timothy 6:8. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Verse 6. Paul lived up to his preaching. He said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11.

This does not mean that we are not to strive for something better, to improve our lot. Nor does it mean that we are to be content with ourselves and our progress mentally or spiritually. We are ever to strive for a higher goal as far as we are concerned. We are to be content with what we have, but not with what we are. Too often the reverse is the case: We are content with what we are, discontented with what we have. The following advice is to the point:

Could you in vision see yourself the person God meant, you would never more could be the person you are, content Could we but vision of what God meant us to be we would never be content with what we are. “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children.”

A Besetting Sin

Discontent is one of the besetting sins of the age, and it is not one to which worldlings only are subject. There are too many discontented Christians, too many disgruntled church members, too many covetous, dissatisfied saints. In our books and attitudes, we do not always give men a correct picture of the joys of Christianity. With our lips, we praise God, but our looks are telling the world that God is not a good Master. If in a home the mother is always downcast and discouraged, the children dissatisfied and sullen, we might rightly draw the conclusion that things are not right in that home, and that probably both father and mother are lacking in certain vital aspects. This is also the conclusion one has a right to draw when God’s children murmur and complain. We are giving God a bad reputation when we fail to show in our lives the joyfulness of serving the Lord.

“After this manner therefore pray you.” Matthew 6:9. “Therefore” has reference to the advice Christ has just given, that we are not to display our prayers by standing praying in the synagogues or in the street corners to be seen of men, but that we are to pray in secret, avoiding vain repetitions. To help us form our petitions, to teach us to pray, He now gives us a sample prayer. We do not understand that this is the only prayer we are to use. We may still pour out our souls to God; we may still pray from the heart as God gives us utterance. But the Lord’s Prayer teaches us what is to be included in our prayers, and it does this without the use of vain repetitions, It does not use many words, but is comprehensive, all-inclusive. It is a Christ-ordained prayer, and should have a place in our worship. It fits the individual soul; it fits the family; it fits the church. Even little children can early learn to join the other members of the household in its simple wording.

Our Father”

“Our Father.” Christians are taught to say “Our Father,” not “My Father.” This opening statement makes the prayer a true universal Christian prayer in that it recognizes the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. “Mine house, “said the prophet, “shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” Isaiah 56:7. Christ endorsed this when He said, “It is not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer.” Mark 11:17.

If men of every nation may address God as Father, then all men are brethren, whether they are white, black, brown, red, or yellow. “All ye are brethren.” Matthew 23:8. Among non-Christians, it may be expected that some people should consider themselves better than others, and one nation superior to its neighbor. “But it shall not be so among you,” said Christ, “but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” Matthew 20:26,27.

No Christian, can honestly repeat this first phrase of the Lord’s Prayer and consider himself superior to others. God is not the Father of the Europeans only, or of Americans, or Australians. He is the Father of all. There is no respecter of persons with God; neither should there be among Christians.

“Father,” which in the original Greek and in many translations is the first word in the word in the prayer, is the endearing term which Jesus used in addressing the First Person of the Godhead, and which He permits us to use. The idea of the universal Fatherhood of God has been of slow acceptance because of the necessary corollary of the universal brotherhood of men. Says the prophet, “Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us? ” Malachi 2:10. In God’s sight, there is no master race nor any slave race. One man was not created to ride, another to be ridden. Let those who use and revere the Lord’s Prayer have this in mind. The prayer begins with a declaration of the Fatherhood of God, and hence of the unity, dignity, and high origin of all men. “All ye are brethren.”

In permitting us to call God our Father, Christ considers all men as belonging to the family of God, with all the honors, responsibilities, and privileges devolving upon children of such high rank. All should walk worthy of the calling wherewith they are called.

To an Indian, God is an Indian to a Chinese, He is a Chinese; to an American, He is an American. Each nation thinks of God as having its own peculiar national characteristics and physiognomy. But God is not a national God; He is not partial to any race, white, black, or brown. He is the God of all; He is the Father of all. This may be disappointing to some who would like to have God in their own image. “Of course God is an American,” said a young lady to me. “What else could He be?” It would be better if artists ceased to make images or pictures of God. “No man hath seen God at any time.”

John  2:18. How, then, can anyone make a picture of Him? It is as unreasonable as attempting to make a picture of the Holy Spirit. Such would be blasphemy. And so is a making image of God.

“Father” stands for love, protection, companionship, understanding, guidance, correction, and watch care, compassion. God possesses all these attributes, and doubtless many others, and being our Father and the cause of our existence, has the strongest reasons for exercising His powers in our behalf. We are not to come to Him as to a stranger, or even primarily as to a God, but as to a Father who is bound to us with bands of love, cords that will ever hold. To Him we can open our hearts. In Him, we can safely trust.

“Which Art in Heaven”

We are wont to think of heaven as being above us, and rightly so. To look up to heaven is to look up to God’s dwelling place. But when those who live on the other side of the earth look up, they look in the exact opposite direction from what we do; and, lo, there is

God also. From whatever point on earth we look to heaven, there is God, surrounding and enclosing us and the whole earth. “If I ascend up to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed i9n hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139:8-10. No place on earth is nearer to heaven than is any other place. God is everywhere, and wherever I go, God is there to guide and uphold me.

In some respects, the Father is the forgotten person of the Godhead. In innumerable sermons, Christ is exalted and His name constantly mentioned, as it should be. In word and song, the Spirit is magnified, as is right and proper. But seldom do we hear a sermon of which the Father is the subject. We are in danger of forgetting the Father of all, or relegating Him to a secondary place.

There is no jealously in the heavenly Trio. The Father is pleased to hear praise given to the Son and the Holy Spirit. But we think it well not to ignore the Father in our devotions, sermons, and hymns of praise. Christ devoted much time to inform His disciples of the Father. We will do well to study Christ’s teaching on this subject.

One of the reasons Christ came to this earth was to reveal the Father to men. The world knew but little of God, and practically all had a wrong conception of Him. To set men right, to give them a true view of the character of God, Christ became man. He was God manifest in the flesh. 1 Timothy 3:16. Men looked upon Him, and as they did, they saw the Father. John 14:9.

Not only did the world not know God; His own people, the Jews, did not know Him. They thought of Him as creator, judge, and lawgiver, but not as a kind and understanding Father. This was largely the fault of their leaders. In the time of Christ, it was especially the fault of the Pharisees. They gave the impression that God had not made the Sabbath for man, but man for the Sabbath. No true Jew would minister to the sick on the Sabbath; that would be sacrilege. To carry to a sick person a glass of water would be carrying a burden on the Sabbath and that was forbidden. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” was interpreted to include insects, and hence some holy persons would carry with them a small broom with which to sweep before them, lest they step on a worm or insect and thus be guilty of murder. Some would hold a cloth before their eyes lest they look on evil and be guilty, and others would do equally irrational things. From such conduct the people a wrong idea of the Father. They saw Him not as a loving and compassionate Father, but as an unreasonable and harsh God, an unjust judge, who delighted in making rules impossible to keep and who would punish those who disobeyed.

Christ’s teaching about God was directly opposed to that of the Pharisees. In healing the sick, comforting the mourners, raising the dead, and forgiving sins He was giving men a picture of what God is like. Said He, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” John 14:9. “I and My Father are one.” John 10:30. Men were charmed by His gracious words, as well as mightily moved by them. As He went about spreading good cheer, attending a wedding feast when He thought best, accepting invitations to eat with people, always kind and considerate to all men could not fail to see the vivid contrast between His practice and the teaching of the Pharisees. Christ was revealing God to men.

A true doctrine of God is of vital concern to all. If a wrong doctrine can produce the Inquisition, we must not think lightly of studying carefully “the doctrine of God our Savior.” Titus 2:10. For “he that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 9. John considered this so important that he declared, “

If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed.” Verse 10.  When we pray, “Our Father,” we invoke the help of One who is truly our Father, who loves and cares for us, and will do anything to help us. He will guide us, counsel us, correct us if need be; but He will do it in love. May we ever keep sacred His name, the name of Father.


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