February 9, 2014
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Jesus on Prayer
#6—The Lord’s Prayer
This is the final talk in this series, Jesus on Prayer, in which we’ve looked at Jesus’ teaching on prayer. In the first talk, we looked at Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6, which included the Lord’s Prayer. I encouraged you to pray the prayer one phrase at a time. I decided to add one more week to this series, and actually do that with you. So this talk is actually going to be part talk and part praying the Lord’s Prayer together.
In 1535, Martin Luther’s lifelong friend and barber, Peter Beskendorf, asked Luther for a simple way to pray that an ordinary man could use. In response, Luther wrote a booklet, “A Simple Way to Pray,” subtitled, “How one should pray, for Peter, the master barber.”
“Dear Master Peter: I will tell you as best I can what I do personally when I pray. May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I! Amen.”
Luther then describes his practice. He “warmed his heart” by reciting the Ten Commandments, the Creed and some words of Christ. I love that! He did warm ups for prayer! Then he said the Lord’s Prayer, word for word. After that, he prayed it one phrase at a time, elaborating on it, as we’ll do today. He said that the thoughts in the Lord’s Prayer were meant to “stir and guide” our hearts in prayer, and can be expressed in many ways. Luther also said that he prayed differently from day to day, “depending upon my mood and feeling,” but let the Lord’s Prayer form the common frame for his prayers. He wrote that some days he may “get lost in so many ideas in one petition that I forgo the other six.”
“If such an abundance of good thoughts comes to us we ought to disregard the other petitions, make room for such thoughts, listen in silence, and under no circumstances obstruct them. The Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of his sermon is far better than a thousand of our prayers.”
If time permitted, Luther recommended doing the same thing with the Ten Commandments and the Creed.
So today, we’re all going to be Peter, the master barber, and learn a simple way to pray. We’re going to pray through the Lord’s Prayer one thought at a time.
The Big Idea: Jesus gave us a model prayer. Pray it thoughtfully each day.
Let’s begin by saying it together:
Matthew 6:9–13 This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
1. Adoration: Our Father in heaven.
The first two words are revolutionary. Jesus taught us to address God as Father.
Before Jesus, the Jewish people were familiar with the Old Testament analogy of God as their Father, but no one dared to address Him as such. God was holy, pure and righteous, and was only approached through sacrifice and mediators. There were exceptions, like Moses, who talked with God “face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” (Exodus 33:11) But these were exceptions, not the rule. As a rule, people approached God at best as one would a king; they came as a subject, not as a son or daughter. And the tendency was to multiply titles ascribing greatness to God.
1 Kings 8:23 (Solomon) “Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.
Nehemiah 1:5 (Nehemiah) “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments…
Nehemiah 9:32 Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love…
Lord, God of Israel, God of heaven, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps His covenant. All true, and all good prayers. But a very different approach from, “Our Father.”
ILL: How do you address the President of the US? Mr. President. Even his closest friends and advisers address him that way.
When John F. Kennedy was president, his two young children, Caroline and John Jr. had the run of the White House. It wasn’t uncommon for President Kennedy to be in a meeting, and the door to fly open and John Jr. run in. Or you might see a scene like this one. Everyone else in the Oval Office called him “Mr. President.” Not John Jr. He called him “Dad.”
Before Jesus, everyone called God, “Mr. President.” Jesus called Him “Dad.” Jesus addressed Him as Father, using the Aramaic word for father, “Abba”.
ILL: When my grandsons, Zealand and Stejer, arrived from Ethiopia, Zealand called Zac, “ababa”. Still does. It’s Amharic for father, from the same root as the Aramaic, abba.
Jesus prayed, “Abba…Father.” And He taught us to pray the same.
Galatians 4:6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
When we pray, we are coming to a loving Father who knows our needs and wants to give good things to us. Jesus made this clear.
Matthew 7:9–11 Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
How many of you parents want to do good things for your kids? It’s almost universal. I sure do! How much more will our heavenly Father do for those who ask Him! Take the best parent in the world and multiply by infinity, and you get some idea of the Father-heart of God.
So we start here: Our Father.
And it’s “our Father,” not just “my Father.” Jesus showed us that we’re part of a family, that we’re not alone in our praying or in our living. I say it all the time: Christianity is a team sport. We do it best together. Luther wrote to Peter the barber,
Never think that you are kneeling or standing alone, rather think that the whole of Christendom, all devout Christians, are standing there beside you and you are standing among them in a common, united petition which God cannot disdain.
Our Father. Someone wrote that there is no “I” or “my” in the Lord’s Prayer. You can’t pray it without praying for one another. It “our Father.” It is “give us our daily bread.” Others are included in every request.
So we start with “Our Father,” and I think we say it with love, with adoration.
Pray: Our Father in heaven. Father, we love you. We are so grateful that you have adopted us, and called us Your children. We are so thankful that you are our great God, and our loving Father. Lord, I want to do good things for my kids; how much more You want to do good things for us. You are the perfect Father, who loves, cares, provides and guides His children. So we come to You with confidence that we can present our requests to our Father, and trust You to sort them out and do what is best for us. Thank you, Father.
Father I adore you.
A quick word here about praying together. I don’t want you to just listen while I pray; I want you to pray with me.
Matthew 18:19 Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
We talked about this a few weeks ago. The word “agree” is the Greek word sumphoneo; we get the word “symphony” from it. To agree is to harmonize, to symphonize together. So as we pray through the Lord’s Prayer together, I’ll lead us in prayer—I’ll be the melody—and I invite you to agree and symphonize with me. So when I pray something that resonates with you, just murmur an affirmative response: “Yes. Amen. Rock on! Me too.” (Try it!) Let’s not shout it—that could be distracting to others around you. But add your voice to mine and let’s symphonize in prayer. Deal?
After addressing God as Father, we come to a series of six requests, divided into two parts of three requests each. First, we pray about God’s concerns, and then we pray about our needs.
2. God’s concerns: Your name, Your kingdom, Your will.
Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Many scholars think that the qualifying phrase, “on earth as it is in heaven,” is meant to apply to all three requests. I’ll give a brief explanation of each and then we’ll pray it together.
A. Hallowed be your name.
ILL: One young boy prayed the Lord’s Prayer this way: “Our Father in heaven, how’d you know my name.” Makes sense.
The word “hallowed” means, “make or keep holy.” May your name be kept holy. May your name be honored. In Biblical times, as now, the name stood for the person. So this is not just respect for God’s name, but for God Himself, who is represented by His name.
May God be reverenced, respected, worshiped and adored. This request reflects a passion for God’s reputation, for God’s glory. May all the world see God as He really is and give Him the honor and respect He deserves.
ILL: I was talking once with someone who called my best friend a liar. I immediately jumped to my friend’s defense. “I know him. He’s not a liar. He may have been mistaken, or you may have misunderstood. But he is a not a liar, and I won’t let you call him one.” I had a passion for my friend’s reputation, because I know him and love him.
I think that’s what’s behind this request. We know God our Father and love Him and want others to know and love Him too. Luther taught Peter the barber to pray:
Convert those who are still to be converted that they with us and we with them may hallow and praise thy name, both with true and pure doctrine and with a good and holy life.
Let’s pray it together.
Prayer: Hallowed be your name, on earth as it is in heaven. There, everyone worships and honors you all the time. Let it happen here! Let your name be honored both in us and throughout the whole world. Father, let it begin with me; help me to live my life in such a way that it brings honor to you. Help me to honor you not only with my lips, but also with my life. And what I pray for me, I pray for us. Let our lights so shine that others will see our good deeds and give praise to You, our Father in heaven. It’s all about You, not us. Give us a passion for your honor, your glory. Help us be more concerned about your reputation than our pleasure.
May you be honored and respected and loved here in our church, but also in our community. Use us to spread your love, your light, your good news across our community and around the world, so that you would be honored everywhere. Lord, for those who don’t honor you, we pray that you would soften their hearts and open their eyes to see Your goodness. Turn their hearts toward you so that they can join us in honoring and praising You! Hallowed be your name! Everyone said: Amen.
A word about the Amen. Most of us say it at the end of our prayers without thinking. The word “amen” is a strong affirmation of what is stated. It means, “let it be, let it happen, that’s right, that’s true, right on, I agree with that!” Luther told Peter:
Finally, mark this, that you must always speak the Amen firmly. Never doubt that God in his mercy will surely hear you and say “yes” to your prayers. Do not leave your prayer without having said or thought, “Very well, God has heard my prayer; this I know as a certainty and a truth.” That is what Amen means.
Let’s try it again, firmly. Everyone said, Amen!
B. Your kingdom come.
C. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
I’m going to put the next two together: your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Many scholars think that this is an example of Hebrew parallelism: the two phrases are parallels, two sides of one coin. The Kingdom of God is God’s reign or rule, and where God reigns, His will is done. So to pray “your kingdom come” is also to pray “your will be done” since God’s will is done wherever He reigns.
When we pray “your kingdom come,” we are of course asking Jesus to return—we are praying for the final and full coming of God’s Kingdom. But we are also praying for right now, that God will rule in us and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven in us, right now. May we submit to God’s reign and do His will, right now. So it’s both now and then. May God’s reign on earth grow now and come fully soon.
To pray this is to pray that life on earth may more closely resemble life in heaven. God’s will is perfectly and fully done in heaven; we want more of that on earth.
I like to pray this for myself and my family, for our church and community and world. Let’s pray it together—symphonize with me.
Prayer: Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Father, let your kingdom come and your will be done in my life. Show me what You want me to do, and when You show me, give me the will and the power to do it. I pray this for my family as well—let each of my kids and grandkids do Your will and live under Your gracious reign. I pray this for my friends. My friend Paul is sick—may your will be done in his life, on earth as it is in heaven. Heal him, please! I pray this for our church: may You reign in our church and may Your will be done here when we meet, and may Your will be done by us when we leave. Let every one of us live under Your reign all week long, and do Your will wherever we are, each day.
We pray this for our community: may Your kingdom come and Your will be done here in Spokane as it is in heaven. May the gospel grow and advance; bring many to Christ. May churches grow and be healthy. May the sick be healed, the hungry fed, the poor helped, and the oppressed freed. Father, free those who are addicted, comfort those who are lonely and set them in families, and provide a loving and safe family for every child. Let our schools and our young people flourish; raise our high school graduation rates. Bless our economy so everyone has meaningful and profitable work. Let your kingdom come and your will be done in Spokane.
We pray this for our world. There is so much brokenness in our world. One day, every harm will be undone, every injustice made right. Let it begin to happen now. Let Your kingdom come and Your will be done all across all our world. Let every Christian in every nation become a doer of God’s will. We pray for missionaries who carry the gospel across cultural and language divides. Empower and use them to bring the good news of God’s Kingdom everywhere. We pray for Christian relief agencies like World Vision and Compassion International, that are alleviating poverty in Jesus’ name around the world. Bless and multiply their efforts so the gospel advances and the poor are helped.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen!
So we start by praying for God’s concerns: His name, His kingdom, His will. This is good for me because I am selfish and naturally tend to think only of my name, my kingdom and my will. “My will be done” is how I usually pray, and the Lord’s Prayer reorients me so I pray, “Your will be done.”
Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
The Lord’s Prayer puts God’s Kingdom first, and then we ask for what we need. That’s next.
3. Our needs: give us, forgive us, lead and deliver us.
A. Give us today our daily bread.
ILL: A five-year-old said grace at family dinner one night. “Dear God, thank you for these pancakes…” When he concluded, his parents asked him why he thanked God for pancakes when they were having chicken. He smiled and said, “I thought I’d see if He was paying attention tonight.”
He is. Give us today our daily bread. Luther suggests that the bread represents all that we need in the physical realm: food, drink, good health, good weather, a roof over our heads, good jobs, good government, and so on. He included this sentence in his book for Peter the barber.
Give us favorable weather and good harvest. I commend to thee my house and property, wife and child. Grant that I may manage them well, supporting and educating them as a Christian should.
This then is a prayer for all the daily necessities of life.
Jesus isn’t suggesting that we don’t work, and just pray for food. We do both. The old maxim applies here: “Pray like it all depends on God; work like it all depends on you.” This prayer is a reminder of our humble dependence on God. We are to live a day at a time, trusting our Father to care for us.
And notice it’s not a “me-prayer” but a “we-prayer”—give us our daily bread. Most of here have no shortage of daily bread; if anything, most of us have too much. So when we pray this, we must also pray for those who have too little or nothing at all. Let’s symphonize.
Prayer: give us today our daily bread. Lord, you know what we need. You know our daily necessities. Please provide for us. Lord, I have everything I need, and more; for this I humbly thank You. So I pray today for those in our church who don’t have what they need. I pray for those who need money, or basic necessities like food and shelter and heat—provide what they need. Provide jobs for the unemployed and better jobs for the underemployed. I pray these same things for the needy in our community. Help us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. I pray that no child would go to bed hungry in our town. I pray for all the single moms struggling to provide for their kids—bless them with everything they need. Bless us so that we can bless others. Bless our businesses so that we can provide jobs for those who have none. You said that if we have two coats we should share with those who have none. Help us share our abundance with those in need right here in our own church or community.
And we pray this prayer for daily bread for the poor and needy around the world. Help us eliminate extreme poverty and eradicate the senseless diseases that kill 25,000 kids a day. Provide sustainable food sources for the hungry, clean water for the thirsty, medical care for the sick, and education and training to lift people out of poverty and make their lives better. Father, let what breaks Your heart break ours. We have everything we need—don’t let that become an excuse to be selfish, but let it become a reason to share what we have and work for the welfare of others.
Give us—our church, our community, and our world—our daily bread. Amen!
B. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.
ILL: Some translations have “forgive us our trespasses.” One four-year-old prayed it this way: “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets. ”
This is a prayer for forgiveness. The first request was physical: daily bread. This is spiritual: forgiveness for our sins. Jesus used the word “debt” which was often used for sins.
In Matthew 18, Jesus told a story about a king whose servant owed him an enormous debt: 10 million lifetimes of salary. The servant begged for time to repay (impossible), and to everyone’s surprise, the king had mercy on him and forgave the whole debt. Soon after, the servant bumped into a friend who owed him 4 months wages—a tiny fraction of what he’d been forgiven. You think he’d be in a generous mood, but he refused to forgive and had the friend arrested. When the king heard about this, he called the servant back and reinstated his debt and had him arrested. The moral of the story:
Matthew 18:35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
That’s the same idea here. You’ve been forgiven everything, so forgive others.
Forgive us our debts. We are asking God to forgive us, and at the same time are forgiving those who have sinned against us. This is a prayer of both confession and forgiveness. We admit our sins to God and ask His forgiveness. At the same time, we release everyone from our judgment and forgive them. Jesus makes it clear that you can’t do the first without the second. You can’t ask for and receive forgiveness without giving it. So let’s pray it together.
Prayer: forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. Lord, I confess my sins to You. I’d rather not get too specific here in front of all these people. I confess that I’m a selfish pig—forgive me and help me be more selfless. I confess that I’m addicted to approval, that I often care far more about what others think of me than what You think. Forgive me. I can be greedy and constantly want more, when I already have more than I need. Forgive me. I could go on, but I’d rather not. I’ll save the rest for when it’s just You and me.
Forgive us Lord. Forgive us as a church for being complacent about our friends and family who are lost and far from God. Forgive us for sometimes losing the plot, and getting sidetracked by trivial concerns, and not doing what you called us to do. Help us keep the main thing, the main thing. Forgive us for not loving You with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. Forgive us for not loving each other as we should, and for not loving others. Have mercy on us and forgive us.
And we forgive those who have sinned against us. We forgive our spouses, and our kids, our neighbors and our co-workers. We forgive our friends and our enemies and our frenemies. We forgive those who have annoyed or irritated or frustrated us. We let it all go. We won’t hold them in judgment or speak against them. We forgive them now, just as you have forgiven us.
And help us to spread this forgiveness everywhere we go. Let our church be a beacon of forgiveness, and let us spread it across our community and around the world, so everyone can know the joy of being fully and freely forgiven! Amen!
And so we come to the last prayer.
C. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
ILL: Here’s a great prayer: Dear Lord, So far today, I’m doing alright. I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, or selfish. I have not whined, complained, cursed, or eaten any chocolate. I have charged nothing on my credit card. But I will be getting out of bed in a minute, and then I think I’ll really need your help!
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. We’re treating this as one request, asking God to lead us and deliver us. Some people wonder why we would ask God not to lead us into temptation. He would never do that anyway, right? Right. Let’s say it another way: lead us away from temptation. Help us avoid temptation, and when it does come, deliver us from the evil one. The Message translates it this way:
“Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.”
I like that.
The first request was physical: give us our daily bread. The second request was spiritual: forgive our sins. The third request is moral: lead us away from temptation and deliver us from the evil one. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. Physical, spiritual and moral: the Lord’s Prayer expresses our dependence on God in every area of our lives, and reminds us that we can pray about anything.
When you pray this, you can be specific about your temptations. Name them and ask God for His help. And it’s another we-prayer, so ask God to help others face and conquer their temptations as well.
Prayer: lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Father, keep us safe from ourselves and the devil. You know the particular temptations that each of us face. Make us aware of those, and give us the strength to resist temptation, to say “no” to sin so we can say “yes” to You. Empower us by Your Spirit so that we live new and different lives. Fill us with the Spirit so that we’ll be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You know our weakness. Keep us filled with You so that we don’t become complacent or lazy and cave in when we should be standing strong. Give each of us friends who will stand with us so none of us stand alone. Keep us safe from ourselves and the devil. And even more, fill us so full of You that we’ll be dangerous to the devil! Amen!