Can We Pray Like Jesus?
Recently we’ve been discovering the supernatural beauty of prayer, and we’ll continue today. Have you ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer? Chances are if you’ve been a believer awhile you’ve memorized it. Some of you may pray it in church, or daily, or even before meals. Why is it so popular? Some believe that the Lord’s Prayer is a condensed version of all of Jesus’ teachings. Repeating it often and thinking through its meaning is an excellent way to practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer and meditation, which are essential for cultivating a close relationship with Christ.
Today we’ll look at the first half of the prayer which deals with our vertical relationship with God. Next month we’ll investigate the second part of the prayer which addresses our relationships with others. (Thanks to Joe Boyd with RightNow Media for thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer!)
(Read chapter six of Matthew for full context.)
“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.'”
Why do you think Jesus teaches His disciples to say our instead of my? Ephesians 4:16 explains that the whole body of Christ, “joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (ESV). No one can be a believer alone. Saying our instead of my helps us to focus on the communal nature of Christianity. It helps us pray for other Christians in the world who may be struggling through persecution, sorrow, sickness, or need.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, God wasn’t often referred to as Father but with other names denoting power. Jesus, however, calls God Father often, as in this prayer. God sees us as children and loves to be responded to as a parent. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (ESV). Remember that we can trust God as the perfect Father, no matter how imperfect we are.
Or “our Father in the heavens,” this phrase would have meant to its original readers that God inhabits all the space around us, above us, and beyond us. God is big and great and far away, but He is also here and now and intimately involved with us. Jesus’ message is that God has come to reign and is present in every moment. Psalm 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (ESV). When you pray this, remember that He is as close as the air we breathe.
Hallowed be your name
In the ancient world, a name meant authority and destiny. Here Jesus changes the politics of the world: ultimate power and authority belong not to Caesar, or any king, or any president, but God alone. The Old Testament is filled with examples of God having complete power over the evils of the world. Psalm 22:28 says, “For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (ESV). Remember to rest secure when the forces of economics, politics, and violence seem to reign the world knowing that our God has control over all.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
This phrase is the core of the Gospels and the heart of what Jesus teaches. His main message is to repent, turn from old ways of sin and death, and start walking with God. Jesus came to bring heaven (the Kingdom of God, or the reign of God) to earth. Each of us has experienced moments of heaven, moments of hell, and every kind of moment in between. When we pray “your kingdom come,” we’re not asking that God’s reign come into existence but rather come and rule every part of our lives: our families, hearts, desires, neighborhoods, cities, churches, world, and inner lives. We ask that God would have everything exactly as He wants it. Romans 14:17 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (ESV). When you pray “your will be done,” remember that our lives are not our own but for His purposes.
Schedule time to talk with someone about Matthew 6:9-13 this month. Try praying the Lord’s Prayer every morning this week, taking your time to really think through the phrases. Set aside thirty minutes one day to journal about what it means for God’s kingdom to come fully in your life. And join us next month for more exploration into this beautiful prayer!