66 Words. 30 Seconds.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matthew 16:9a “After this manner therefore pray ye:”
The Lord’s Prayer, only 66 words long (KJV) and easily recitable in thirty seconds, is treasured by God’s people as a beautiful, precious crystal of pure devotion. Only John 3:16 and Psalm 23 are more widely known.
Its exact wording is not the only way to pray. Even the two forms of it in the Bible vary. Sadly, it is often our prime example of the vain repetition and thoughtless verbosity it was given to combat. In rituals, it is often repeated monotonously by rote. In crises, it is often repeated mechanically, as a magic incantation. It is a viable prayer, but only if offered with fervency and sincerity.
The Lord’s Prayer provides a synopsis of what to pray for. It was given more to guide thoughts than to prescribe words. Prayer is an adventure, a quest. We need to know the parameters in which we should guide our thoughts. The Lord’s Prayer blazes a trail for us, and carves out for us the best path to follow.
It provides a good outline to expand. Speaking in generalities, it leaves particulars to us. We fill in the details, and flesh out the skeleton. The prayer encompasses every major category of prayer: adoration, confession, petition, intercession. One could use each phrase as a heading for a whole subset of prayers, a custom adopted by the famous Methodist pastor, Charles Allen.
Matthew 6:9b “Our . . .”
In this prayer, the first person pronoun is always plural. We belong to a huge family, even when praying alone. We have an ingrained selfishness which threatens even our holiest acts. We must discard this selfishness when we pray.
Praying for others is better than praying solely for ourselves. Intercessory prayer lifts us out of selfish absorption and adds nobility to our prayers.
Matthew 6:9c “. . . Father, . . .”
What a privilege it is to serve a God who lets us call Him “Father,” a title of nearness and dearness. We pray not to a cosmic force or a world-spirit, but to a real, living, personal God who wants to enjoy intimacy with us.
We know God cares for us. We speak of His actions among us as providence, provide-ence, a word bespeaking His kind, giving nature.
Matthew 6:9d “. . . which art in heaven, . . .”
Having a Father “in Heaven” helps us retain respect for Him. Heaven bespeaks a realm above our ordinary existence on Earth. This uplifted thought makes us think of God as One higher than we are. We look up as it were to One who, above us in status, must be high and lifted up in our thoughts.
Having a Father “in Heaven” aids our worship. “God is spirit; and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24 NAS). Knowing He is in Heaven “delivers us from worship of the visible and from worship by means of the visible” (Maclaren). We must not let visible rituals and ceremonies detract from our worship of the invisible. Forms meant to point to God can easily replace God in our worship.
Having a Father “in Heaven” boosts our confidence. Heaven is the realm of victory. Our Father not only loves us; He also has the power to get things done for us. Be confident in prayer. Heaven’s resources are available to us.
Having a Father “in Heaven” heightens our anticipation. It gives us a home to look forward to. God is present everywhere, but has one remarkable abode where there is the supreme ongoing uninterrupted manifestation of His magnificent presence, where He rules from His throne without Satanic opposition, where He indwells a palace fit for One whose name is Wonderful, where He has a home He wants to share with us.
Having a Father “in Heaven” distinguishes Him from our fathers on Earth. The term father can carry much bad baggage. Absent fathers, abusive fathers, unaffectionate fathers, and indulgent fathers have tainted the title.
Don’t let a bad earthly father ruin our enjoyment of our perfect heavenly father. Define the earthly title by its heavenly original, not vice versa. Many who never feel loved or accepted by an earthly father subconsciously try to win their father’s affection. They unwittingly transfer this to trying to win the heavenly Father’s love. May we cease trying to earn what is already ours.
Matthew 6:9e “Hallowed be thy name.”
“Hallowed” means set apart, reverence. It is the opposite of profanity, dishonor, and disrespect. “Thy name” is a shorthand way of referring to all we know about God. He could have rightfully kept Himself hidden and secret. The fact He identified Himself to us at all is amazing. “Hallowed be thy name” is a request for God to receive from mankind, the race to whom He graciously reveals Himself, all the profound reverence He deserves.
The world at large does not revere the true, living God. Multitudes use the name of God and Jesus as oaths in anger or to accent a point. Even believers often stumble here. We sometimes use the Holy One as the punch-line of a joke, invoking God’s name to provoke human frivolity. This is not right.
Matthew 6:10a “Thy . . .”
This second person possessive pronoun is significant. We waste time trying to promote God’s kingdom if we are not first promoting the kingdom’s God. Only if He is important to us will His kingdom be, too. Until passionate for Him we will not be passionate for His work. In all we do, God must be first and foremost, our everything.
Matthew 6:10b “. . . kingdom . . .”
God rules a moral and spiritual kingdom whose adherents give absolute allegiance solely to King Jesus. It is an inner kingdom, setting up its throne within the hearts of its citizens. God’s kingdom is not built on armies or earthly governments. It knows nothing of man-drawn boundaries, political entities, or time. All earthly kingdoms come and go, rise and fall; God’s Kingdom abides.
Matthew 6:10c “. . . come.”
The fact we have to ask proves the advance of God’s kingdom is not automatic. There is opposition to overcome. Another spiritual kingdom is at work. God’s reign of light is resisted by Satan’s reign of darkness.
God created this world to be His, but Satan seduced our race into a rebellion so successful that the Bible calls him “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan sought to keep Earth solely to himself, but God refused to abandon our race to the sinister foe. The whole drama of human history has been the epic struggle of God’s progress in taking back this world. God continues marching forward, consistently reclaiming the peoples of Earth for Himself.
Matthew 6:10d “Thy will be done . . .”
“Thy will be done” tells us God’s will can be known. It would mock us if God told us to do His will, but never told us what His will is. God’s will, His desires, plans, and purposes for us, can be known. In the Bible, He articulates His will in very clear, straightforward words easily understood.
“Thy will be done” tells us God’s will must be obeyed. It is not enough to know it, we must do it. His will is to be the standard for human actions, beginning in us. Pray, “Thy will be done, and be done first in me.” Doing God’s will is the most important activity in the world. Holiness matters most.