Searching the Scriptures
“Search the Scriptures…they are they, which testify of me.” John 5:39
Author: Bob Moses
The Lord’s Prayer
Can one imagine that even a topic so specific and sublime as the Lord’s Prayer could come under scrutiny? Aw, yes but indeed it has, for Satan leaves no stone unturned when He conjures up an attack upon the Holy Word. As the Scribes and Pharisees squabbled over every jot and tittle of the Old Testament, so we find the same evidence today among our elite Biblical Scholars, over both the New Testament and the Old. This need not be so. The Lord’s Prayer is so elementary that the youngest babe in Christ can comprehend. Nevertheless, Satan and His emissaries have caused the men of the cloth today, to become engaged in different opinions and divisions. These arguments, rather than confirming the young in Christ, cause them to walk away totally confused and wondering what all the fuss is about.
In this “Study”, this author shall attempt to present three of the most favored arm wrestling contentions among the Christian Leaders of the day. Then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, begin to “Rightly Divide the Word of Truth”, concerning our subject. I will rely heavily on the conclusions reached by the writings of one whom I consider my mentor, Mr. A. W. Pink in his book: “An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount”: Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan Copyrighted 1950 & 1953 by J.C. Herendeen, Swengle, Pennsylvaina; Library of Congress Cagtalog Card Number: 59-8344.
The first and foremost argument offered to us is the question of whether this is a Jewish prayer, reserved for the era of the Tribulation, or could it also be offered to the Christians? The phrase in question states; “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Some claim that this is a “Kingdom” prayer which does not manifest itself until the end of the Tribulation period; for it is not until that time that God’s Kingdom; the heavenly manifestation thereof on earth, will indeed come. Which further prompts the question is God’s will being done on earth, today, as it will be in heaven? A second petition states that this is not indeed the “Lord’s Prayer” because He did not pray it for Himself. The claim is that He was not praying to God the Father, but rather He was “teaching” us to pray. It is recorded in Luke 11: 1 “one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples”. And thirdly, another offering claims that this prayer is “rote” meaning repetitious. Matt. 6: 7; “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
Now that the three most wearisome arguments have been presented, I shall seek to dispel all three. One of the first rules of interpreting the Scriptures is to leave them alone. Allow the Word to say what it wants to say. Do not add to, nor take-away from. When we begin to add to the Holy Word or take away from it its rightful wording, we begin to run into trouble. This is indeed the case with this passage. The first observation questions whether or not this is a Jewish prayer, or does it also address Christians. Should we bother to take a look at Matthew 6: 7—13; where we find the Lord’s Prayer spoken by Christ, we will find that He is on the Mount (picturing Him in a lofty and exalted position) and His utterance is; “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven. Hollowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, 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.
To dispel the first notion as to whether or not this was a Jewish or a Christian Prayer let us back up to Matthew 4: 25 and 5: 1 & 2: “And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan. And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth and taught them saying.” Note, there was a great multitude; consisting undoubtedly of both Jew and Gentile, due to where the multitudes came from, those mentioned were not all of Jewish habitation.
Regarding the second two arguments; to put them into perspective, we must take into account that Christ was teaching us to pray. Would our Lord teach us something to pray that he would not pray? God forbid! There is no doubt that He was praying to God the Father when He spoke the words. Further, can it be rote if He said “After this manner therefore pray ye.”?
Can this be rote? That was the question presented in our last paragraph. The answer of course is yes. If we only recite the words endlessly, with no other thought in mind it becomes rote. I am convinced that every Christian, as well as most Jews, and many other religions can recite the Lord’s Prayer. But in order to make it meaningful we must thoughtfully grasp this wondrous prayer and think of it as a “family prayer”. Christ knew both our need and the Father’s good will toward us. Therefore every aspect of prayer is included in this most basic of prayer. Adoration in its opening clause, thanks giving at the close, confession of sin is implied. Its petitions are seven in number, showing the completeness of the outline here furnished us. It is virtually an epitome of the Psalms and a most excellent summary of all prayer. Every clause in it is taken from the Old Testament, denoting that our prayers cannot be acceptable unless they be scriptural. “If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us” (1st John v, 14) and God’s will can only be learned from His Word.
I will now take up the quill and penmanship of brother, A.W.Pink and offer a brief exposition on the Lord’s Prayer.
“Our Father which art in heaven.” The opening clause presents to us the Object of our affection. Christ, by directing us to “Our Father which art in Heaven” assures us of His love and power. It is to a Divine person, One who has our best interest at heart. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us” ( 1st John 3:1). God is our “Father” first by creation: (Mal. 2:10). Second, He is our Father by covenant relationship, and this by virtue of our federal union with Christ—because God is His Father, He is ours (John 20; 17). Third, He is Father by regeneration: when born again we are “made partakers of the Divine nature” (Gal. 4: 6: II Peter 1: 4). It is blessed to see how the Old Testament saints, at a time of peculiar trouble and distress, boldly pleaded this relationship to God. They declared; “Thou (we) didst terrible things…behold Thou (God the Father) art wroth.” They owned, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” They acknowledged, “Thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us because of our iniquities.” And then they pleaded, “But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father”. Though we have conducted ourselves very undutifully and ungratefully toward Thee, yet we are Thy dear children: through Thou hast chastened us sorely, nevertheless Thou art still our Father. To Thee therefore we now in penitence turn, to Thee we should apply ourselves in prayer, for to whom should we look for succor and relief but our Father! That was the language of faith.
It is also noteworthy to observe the opening two words “Our Father”. Christ did not say “My” father, nor “Ye father of the Jews”, nor “Ye father of Christians”, nor even “Ye the father of the heathen”. He said; “Our Father”. How large is this word “Our”? It incorporates “All” not only those who were present but all men who were on the earth before this discourse and all men who came after, even until this present day. God is likened to “All” of us in the words “Our Father”. By directing us to address the great God as “Our Father”, we are assured of His love and power: this precious title being designed to raise our affections, excite to reverential fear and confirm our confidence in the efficacy of prayer. It is to a Divine person, One who has our best interest at heart, that we are invited to draw nigh: “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us” (1st John 3:1). “Our Father” also teaches us to recognize the Christian Brotherhood, to pray for the whole family and not for ourselves only. We must express our love for the brethren by praying for them: we are to be as much concerned about their needs as we are over our own.
“Which art in heaven”. Here we are reminded of God’s greatness, of His infinite elevation above us. The words should fill us with humility and awe. It is true that God is everywhere, but He is present in heaven in a special sense. It is there that He has “prepared His throne”: not only His throne of government, by which His kingdom rules over all, but also His throne of grace to which we must by faith draw near. We are to eye Him as God in heaven, in contrast with the false gods which dwell in temples made by the hands of man. These words, “which art in heaven,” should serve as a guide to direct us in our praying. Heaven is a high and exalted place, and we should address ourselves to God as One who is infinitely above us. It is the place of prospect, and we must picture His holy eye upon us. It is a place of ineffable purity, and nothing which defiles or makes a lie can enter there. It is the firmament of His power,” and we must depend upon Him as the One to whom all might belongs. When the Lord Jesus prayed He “lifted up His eyes to heaven,” directing us whence to obtain the blessings we need. If God is in heaven then prayer needs to be a thing of the heart and not of the lips, for no physical voice on earth can rend the skies, but sighs and groans will reach the ears of God. If we are to pray to God in heaven, then our souls must be detached from all of earth. If we pray to God in heaven, then faith must wing our petitions. Since we pray to God in heaven our desires and aspirations must be heavenly.
“Hallowed be Thy name.” Thus begins the petitionary part of this blessed prayer. The request are seven in number, being divided into a three and a four: the first three concerning God, and the last four (ever the number of the creature) our own selves—similarly are the Ten Commandments divided: the first five treating of our duty Godward (in the fifth the parent stands to the child in the place of God), the last five our duty manwards. How clearly, then, is the fundamental duty in prayer here set forth: self and all its needs must be given a secondary place and the Lord freely accorded the pre-eminence in our thoughts, desires and supplications. This petition must take the precedence, for the glory of God’s great name is the ultimate end of all things: every other request must not only be subordinated to this one, but be in harmony with and in pursuance of it. We cannot pray aright unless the honor of God be dominant in our hearts. If we cherish a desire for the honoring of God’s name we must not ask for anything which it would be against the Divine holiness to bestow.
By “Thy name” is meant God Himself, but more particularly His “name” signifies God as He is revealed. It has pleased the Maker of heaven and earth to make Himself known to us, not only in His works, but in the Scriptures, and supremely so in Christ. In the written and the personal Word God has displayed Himself to us, manifesting His glorious perfections: His matchless attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence: His moral character of holiness, righteousness, goodness and mercy. He is also revealed through His blessed titles: the Rock of Israel, Him that cannot lie, the Father of mercies, the God of all grace. And when we pray that the name of God may be hallowed we make request that the glory thereof may be displayed by Him, and that we may be enabled to esteem and magnify Him agreeably thereto.
In praying that God’s name be hallowed we ask that He will so act that His creatures may be moved to render that adoration which is due Him. His name has indeed been eminently glorified in all ages, in the various working of His providence and grace, whereby His power, wisdom, righteousness and mercy have been demonstrated before the eyes of angels and of men. We therefore request that He would continue to glorify these perfections. In the past God has in the magnifying of His name employed methods and measures which were strange and staggering to finite intelligence: often allowing His enemies to prosper for a time and His people to be sorely persecuted—nevertheless, they glorified “the Lord in the fires” (Isaiah 24:15). And so now, and in the future, when we ask for God to be glorified in the prosperity of His Church, the dissemination of the Gospel and the extension of His kingdom, we must subordinate our request to the Divine sovereignty and leave it with Him as to where and when and how these things shall be brought to pass.
“Hallowed be Thy name”: how easy it is to utter these words without the slightest thought of their profound and holy import! If we offer this petition from the heart, we desire that God’s name may be sanctified by us, and at the same time own the indisposition and utter inability to do this of ourselves. Such a request denotes a longing to be empowered to glorify God in everything whereby He makes Himself known, that we may honor Him in all situations and circumstances. Whatever be my lot, however low I may sink, through whatever deep waters I may be called to pass, get to Thyself (God) glory in me and by me. Blessedly was this exemplified by our perfect Saviour. “Now is My soul troubled: and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour: but for this cause came I into this hour. Father, glorify Thy name” (John 12: 27, 28): though He must be immersed in the baptism of suffering, yet “Hallowed by Thy name.”
“Thy kingdom come: Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” The first petition has respect to God’s honor, the second and third indicate the means whereby His glory is manifested on earth. God’s name is manifestatively glorified here just in proportion as His “kingdom” comes to us and His “will” is done by us. This is why we are exhorted to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness: (Matt. 6: 33). In praying “Thy kingdom come” we acknowledge that by nature we are under the dominion of sin and Satan, and beg that we may be the more fully delivered therefrom and that the rule of God may be more completely established in our hearts. We long to see the kingdom of grace extended and the kingdom of glory ushered in. Accordingly we make request that God’s will may be more fully made known to us, wrought in us and performed by us: “in earth as it is in heaven”: that is, humbly, cheerfully, impartially, promptly, constantly.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” This is the first of the four petitions more immediately relating to the supply of our own needs, in which we can clearly discern an implied reference to each of the Persons in the blessed Trinity. Our temporal wants are supplied by the kindness of the Father; our sins are forgiven through the mediation of the Son; we are preserved from temptation and delivered from evil by the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit. By asking for our “daily bread” a tacit acknowledgement is made that “in Adam and by our own sins we have forfeited our right to all the outward blessings of this life, and deserve to be wholly deprived of them by God, and to have them cursed to us in the use of them; and that neither they of themselves are able to sustain us, nor we to merit, or by our own industry to procure them, but prone to desire, get and use them unlawfully; we pray for ourselves and others that they and we, waiting upon the providence of God from day to day, in the use of lawful means, may of His free gift, and as His Fatherly wisdom shall deem best, enjoy a competent portion of them, and have the same continued and blessed unto us in our holy and comfortable use of them and contentment in them” (Larger Cat.)
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” As it is contrary to the holiness of God, sin is a defilement, a dishonor and reproach to us; as it is a violation of His Law, it is a crime; and as to the guilt which we contract thereby, it is a debt. As creatures we owed a debt to obedience unto our Maker and Governor, and through failure to render the same on account of our rank disobedience we have incurred a debt of punishment, and it is for this latter that we implore the Divine pardon. In order to the obtaining of God’s forgiveness we are required to address ourselves unto Him in faith and prayer. The designated connection between this and the preceding petition should not be missed: “Give us…and forgive us”; the former cannot profit us without the latter—what true comfort can we derive from external mercies when our conscience remains burdened on account of a sense of guilt! But since Christ here teaches us that He is a giving God, what encouragement to look unto Him as a forgiving God!
“And lead us not into temptation.” The “us” includes all fellow Christians on earth, for one of the first things which grace teaches us is unselfishness; to be as much concerned about the good of my brethren as I am about my own—not only for their temporal welfare, but especially for their spiritual. In the preceding petition we have prayed that the guilt of past sins may be remitted, here we beg to be saved from incurring new guilt through being overcome by fresh sin. This request makes acknowledgement of the universal providence of God, that all creatures are at the sovereign disposal of their Maker, that He has the same absolute control over evil as over good, and therefore has the ordering of all temptation. It is from the evil of temptations we ask to be spared: if God sees fit that we should be tempted objectively (through providences which, through good in themselves, offer occasion to sin within us), that we may not yield thereto, or, if we yield, that we may not be absolutely overcome.
“But deliver us from evil.” All temptations (trials and troubles) are not evil either in their nature, design, or outcome. The Saviour Himself was tempted of the Devil and was definitely led into the wilderness by the Spirit for that very end. It is therefore from the evil of temptations we are to ask for deliverance, as this final petition indicated. We are to pray not for a total exemption from them, but only for a removal of the judgment of them. This is clear from our Lord’s own example in prayer: I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 27: 15). To be kept from the evil of sin is a far greater mercy than deliverance from the trouble of temptation. But how far has God undertaken to deliver us from evil? First, as it would be hurtful to our highest interest: it was for Peter’s ultimate good that he was suffered temporarily to fall. Second, from its having full dominion over us, so that we shall not totally and finally apostatize. Third, by an ultimate deliverance when He removes us to heaven.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” Thus the family prayer closes with a doxology or an ascription of that glory which is due unto God, thereby teaching us that prayer and praise should always go together. It is to be carefully noted that this doxology of the Divine perfections is made use of as a plea to enforce the preceding petitions: “deliver us from evil for Thine is the kingdom,” etc.—teaching us to back up our request with scriptural reasons or arguments. From the Divine perfections the suppliant is to take encouragement to expect a gracious answer. There is nothing in or from ourselves which is meritorious, and therefore hope must be grounded upon the character of Him to whom we pray; His perfections are not evanescent, but “forever.” The concluding “Amen” expresses both a fervent desire, “so be it,” and an avowal to faith. “It shall be so.”
Having now concluded the comments of Brother Pink, I would like for our readers to consider the Lord’s Prayer for oneself. It is quite obvious that this is a unique prayer if for no other reason because it was offered by our Our Lord Jesus on a special occasion. He was speaking to the “multitude”. This is a prayer that resounds throughout the ages. There is no absolute distinction between Jew, Gentile, Heathen, or any other religion: nor any distinction regarding any time frame, past, present and future. The people asked Jesus to teach them to pray and his oratory was meaningful to all mankind. First give glory to God the Father; anything after that acknowledgement and subsequent humbleness is a petition and should be presented therewith in that condescending attitude as a servant unto Him. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6: 33). Surely if we ask God to bless us, the least we can do is to bless Him. If we do not praise God for His mercies, how can we expect Him to bless us with His mercies?
May God bless you in understanding of this “Study” upon the Lord’s Prayer. Please pass these Studies onto others and feel free to contact me with any comments or should you want to be removed from our e-mail list contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.