9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your 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. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
A few thoughts for meditation:
After providing guidance on genuine prayer, Jesus turned his attention to the content of prayer. What should a righteous man prayer for? Jesus provided a guide for the main themes which our prayer life should have. There are 6 petitions; the first 3 focused upon God glory, and second 3 focused upon our needs. Then Jesus finished stressing the final note of forgiveness. In this outline alone, we see the priorities of our requests in prayer; God’s glory and kingdom is more important than our personal needs, and we want him to be glorified in the way he meets our personal needs. But too often our prayers are lopsided, focusing too much upon or own needs. As we saw before, prayer is a means through which we enjoy communion with God. We come to spend time with him, not just ask him for things. A true disciple and child wants God himself, not just the blessings he provides. The prayer begins with “our Father”, stressing the gift of adoption. This is a relationship to God we have only by grace, through the work of Christ. By calling God Father, we are also calling to mind all that God did to make it possible for sinners like us to call him “Father”. By calling him Father, it stresses our dependence upon him, but it also reminds us of the nurture and care he provides, and the affection he has for us.
The first three petitions address God’s name, kingdom, and will. “Hallowed be thy name” is a petition of praise. You honor and praise God for his greatness, glory, and holiness. Our prayers should begin with worship and awe. With “Thy kingdom come”, we pray that God’s saving power would advance into the world to save sinners, correct injustices, and promote reconciliation with God and man. The kingdom has already broken into this world through Christ, and it is expanding as more and more people are saved. So we pray for that work to continue. With “thy will be done”, we pray that the earth will be brought into complete subjection to God the way heaven is. Right now, there are forces of rebellion and resistance to God. through this petition we are praying for God to subdue those forces. Ultimately, we are praying for God to accomplish his plan of redemption and usher in the return of Christ and the age to come.
The next three petitions address our food, forgiveness, and faithfulness. In “Give us the day our daily bread”, we ask that God would provide for all our necessities. In the ancient world, poverty was common, and many people did not know where their next meal would come from. This was a literal prayer for some. By this petition, we recognize our utter dependence upon God for every good thing when enjoy. Next, ” forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In this petition we acknowledge we are sinners. In seeking forgiveness, we must confess specifically what sin we need forgiveness for. This is a regular prayer, so we should be in the habit of self-examination and repentance. But this hope of forgiveness also comes with an obligation to be forgiving. God’s children learn to forgive like he does. If God is willing to forgive our sins, no matter how great they are, then we must learn to forgive others too, and surrender the desire for personal revenge. Finally, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Here, we ask God to enable us to be faithful, to give us the wisdom and power to resist temptation. This is a recognition of our condition in spiritual warfare against our own sinful desires, the influence of a sinful world, and the spiritual forces of evil led by Satan. All these influences conspire to lead us astray from God and into spiritual self-destruction and we must depend upon God to help us remain faithful. That is part of living by faith, trusting God to provide what you need, as you wrestle and obey.
Jesus closed the prayer with a final word about the importance of forgiveness. Those who refuse to forgive, show they have not truly experienced forgiveness themselves from God. The point of God’s work of redemption was to bring about reconciliation between God and man, to repair the destruction created by sin. Those who are reconciled to God through Christ and call him Father are now agents of God’s mercy to others. A refusal to forgive keeps that sinful rift open between men and frustrates the work of the gospel. Jesus will teach more later about the necessity for repentance in order for reconciliation to be achieved. There’s no true reconciliation without repentance. But the move toward reconciliation begins with a willingness to forgive, a willingness to not hold an offenders sin against them anymore, and instead to trust God to punish as he sees fit. True disciples are willing to forgive and repair the relationship whenever an offender desires to change. That is what God did for us, and as his children, we should be willing to do that for others. This is a fitting conclusion to the matter of prayer. Through prayer, we enter into the labor of God’s kingdom, calling upon God to advance his saving power into our own proud and sinful hearts as well as the world around us. And God has chosen to work through our prayers to accomplish his purposes. In other words, if you want to see God’s saving power and glory advance in our community, then get on your knees every day and ask him.