How should we pray? In Matthew 6:9-13 we have what is most famously known as the Lord’s Prayer. Though it was not a prayer that He prayed, it is His prayer in the sense that He created it. This prayer provides us with a model of how to pray.
Pray then like this: ‘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 also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil'” (Matt. 6:9-13)
The Lord Jesus begins this prayer by saying, “Our Father in heaven“. In all of His prayers, Jesus used the term Father with the exception of (Matt. 27:46). This manner of address reminds us that we are His children (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6), He provides for us (John 16:23; Eph. 1:3), and that He loves us (John 16:27). Furthermore, the recognition of Him being in Heaven is also significant. Firstly, it reveals His omnipotence (2 Chron. 20:6; Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 40:22). Second, it reveals His omniscience (Psalm 11:4, 102:19 ff.). And finally, it reveals His ability to help (Psalm 123:1).
After the opening words, this model prayer contains six petitions. The first three are concerning God whereas the final three are concerning us. This pattern is rather instructive and useful to remember. A tendency in many prayers is to offer up a wish list. Many prayers can be very self-centered. This prayer, however, teaches the believer to place their attention on God making it a God-centered prayer. Recognizing that the purpose of this prayer is to simply be repeated word for word (though that is not necessarily wrong), it provides God’s people with a pattern and model on how to pray.
Petitions Concerning God
The first three petitions direct the believer’s prayer in worshiping and exalting God. The first petition (“hallowed be your Name“) reminds us of who God is and the honour that is due to Him. The second, “Your kingdom come” longs to see God’s saving grace occur in the lives of sinners with the expectation of His future kingly rule over the new heavens and earth. The final petition concerning God is “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven“. This is the request that God’s righteousness would reign over the earth, which will occur at the return of Jesus Christ.
Petitions Concerning Us
The final three petitions, which concern us, are a reminder that we are in need of God’s grace and provision for the Christian life. These petitions are directed to the only source that can meet our needs, and that is our Father in Heaven. The petition “Give us this day our daily bread” reveals that we are in daily need for physical provision. Next, He teaches us to ask for forgiveness (“and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors“). In their standing before the Lord, the believer has received complete forgiveness of sins (cf. Rom. 8:1). But the believer is in need of daily practical forgiveness. The purpose of this is to restore us to fellowship with the Lord and the joy of our salvation (1 John 1:9). The final petition is, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” This aspect of the prayer reminds us of our complete dependence upon the Lord for help in time of temptation and struggle.
This prayer provides the people of God with a gracious model on how to pray. Here we learn that prayer is the people of God, coming to their Father in worship and praise in recognition of their full dependence on Him for all things.