The Lord’s Prayer is a significant prayer in the Bible that has been passed down from generation to generation, from parents to children, and from churches to the world. It is a prayer that many recite and know well. Even those who do not know the Lord have heard the Lord’s Prayer before. However, many do not know the context and do not understand its significance in the time it was shared and its continual significance today. Let’s take a look together at the history and meaning of the prayer and its application for us today.
The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 gives instruction for how to live. Jesus was preaching to a large crowd of people, including his disciples. He was teaching them how to live and act. The Jewish culture was ingrained in the people and their religious leaders were corrupt. Jesus did not come to abolish the law and its practices, but more to fulfill it. He came to teach mercy and grace just as He lived and would die for the people’s sins. It was especially important to teach His disciples these truths, for they would be the ones to carry His message and would eventually die for the truth. He begins this part of the Sermon on the Mount by telling the people about prayer. He explains that when you pray, you should not be like the hypocrites and pray publicly for all to see, but instead go privately and bring your requests before the Lord. He said this because the religious leaders of that time had lengthy prayers that came from false motivations and prideful hearts. He then tells them that their Father in Heaven knows exactly what they need. This is a beautiful description of a close relationship with the Father God. He knows what His children need; He just longs for them to reach out to Him. This would be especially important for his disciples after He was gone. They would need to cling to God and His words when they brought His message to other lands and nations. They would need to understand how to live as Christ did.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever. Amen
His prayer has a meaning that goes beyond just words on a page. First, He begins by addressing our Father in heaven and recognizing who He is. This shows us two things about praying. It says “our” which means that when we pray, we pray together, in unity, as the body of Christ. The prayer also says the words “heaven” and “your kingdom,” (in the New Living Translation) which tells us that this is a God of authority. He reigns on earth and in heaven. He also says “May your name be kept holy,” or “hallowed be thy name” as the King James Version says. He is a holy God; may we always remember how great and holy He is. Jesus then prays for God’s will to be done. Jesus knew what God’s will was for His future, and this was also a model for His disciples and those listening. They would need to seek after God’s will for their lives, knowing that that would include joys and pains. So verses 9-10 show us how to pray to God as the authority of our lives. The next three verses would present requests on behalf of man. “Give us today the bread we need,” would teach the people to rely on God for physical needs as well as spiritual. He is our nurturer. The next part of the prayer asks for God to forgive our sins (or debts) as we forgive those who have sinned against us. This is the theme of the gospel: forgiveness. There can be no forgiveness of sins if you are unwilling to forgive others. Christ was teaching them to be a forgiving people because they would come across many people who would wrong them as they shared the gospel. Just as we need forgiveness, those around us need our forgiveness. The last plea in this beautiful prayer is a request to not let man fall into temptation, but rescue men from evil. He was asking God to protect us from the enemy, the devil. He schemes and does whatever he needs to do to try and entice us away from God the Father. Jesus was modeling the urgency in praying for God to rescue us from sin.
This prayer not only had great meaning for the disciples and people listening to Jesus, but it also has great application for us today. Jesus gave this as a model for how to pray to the Father, God. There were many false teachers out there trying to preach a different gospel as there are today. It was so important to teach the people how to pray so they could draw near to God and communicate with Him. This is significant for us today. He has shown us how to pray. We can follow this model by: first recognizing who God is and praying in His will, then presenting our requests before Him, both physical and spiritual needs, and finally for protection from sin. God knows the hearts of man and knows what we need, so who better to ask than Him, the Creator? Romans 8:26 tells us that when we don’t know what to pray, the Spirit intercedes for us. So even when we are struggling with what to say, we need to go before the Father and talk with Him.
The Lord’s Prayer was an important example for the people of that time, especially the disciples, and also for us today. When we model our prayers after the Lord’s Prayer, we will find peace in knowing God has a plan for us, grace in knowing His forgiveness, and hope for the future. We need to pray daily for ourselves and others to keep pressing toward the goal of knowing God in a more intimate way. We also need to come together with others in unity, so we can begin to discern His will for His people and His church. When we follow Christ’s teaching we will see wondrous things happen.
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