The Lord’s Prayer: A Gospel-Centered Prayer
Throughout history, prayer has often been misunderstood. Jesus himself critiqued certain methods of prayers during the Sermon on the Mount. The Pharisees prayed to receive honor and acclamation from others (Matthew 6:5) and the Gentiles prayed as part of their man-centered, pagan rituals (Matthew 6:7). In the effort to make their prayers effective, the Jews valued their own righteousness and the Gentiles valued their own dedication in prayer. Perhaps we struggle with the same things. Maybe we think God won’t hear our prayers if we sinned today or that only 30-minute prayers please God. Maybe we have been shamed or felt guilty for not praying enough. In any case, Jesus wants to radically shift the paradigm of how we view prayer.
Our Lord says to His disciples,
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.’
The Lord’s Prayer values simplicity, humility, and faith. In this article, we are going to walk through this prayer and analyze it through the lens of the Gospel.
Our Father In Heaven
One of the greatest privileges as a Christian is to call out to our heavenly Father. The way we became children of God was through Christ who was “born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law…” (Galatians 4:4-5a). God the Son took on human flesh to redeem human flesh. Though we have disobeyed God’s Law and deserve death, Jesus perfectly obeyed the Law to be our righteousness before God and died the death we deserved “so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5b). When we go before God in prayer, we ought to never think our sins that we are currently struggling with keeps us from Him. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15). Our Father hears our prayers and begs us to approach Him as child would approach his earthly father.
Hallowed Be Your Name
This is a petition for God’s name to be honored and revered by the world, but also for God to exalt His name. God’s name ought to be honored and revered in prayer because He is holy. The holiness of God primarily refers to His divine transcendence. He is “set apart” from creation. He is uncreated and does not derive His existence from His creation. He created and sustains the universe by His power and not one atom moves apart from His sovereign hand (Isaiah 46:9-11). The holiness of God also refers to His moral purity. God is one who will “by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7). There must be complete justice for sin or else God’s holiness would be compromised. But God is merciful. The same God who decreed all things that would come to pass, decreed to save a people for His own possession (1 Peter 2:9). Before the foundation of the world, in love, God “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…” (Ephesians 1:5). God sent forth His Son so that, at the cross of Christ, the justice of God and the mercy of God would meet. This is why God is both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). For those who are in Christ, the One who reigns sovereign over all creation is for us (Romans 8:31) and “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). He loves us and infinitely cares about what His people experience in this life.
Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done, On Earth As It Is In Heaven
The Kingdom of God is populated by the people of God who have ransomed by the blood of the King Himself, Jesus Christ. We live everyday under His divine rule as we strive for excellence in our everyday lives. The Kingdom of God is not advanced by militaristic might, but by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. We pray for God’s Kingdom to come because ultimately, we believe that He’s the one who removes hearts of stone and gives hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). The glorious thing is that He uses broken people like us to advance His Kingdom. We can pray with confidence for God’s will to be done, because He is sovereign. As we live in this world, knowing that we have received “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28), we can have hope as we evangelize, reform the church, and seek justice in this world, because one day, Christ will come again to consummate His Kingdom (Revelation 19:11-16).
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Though the prosperity gospel movement falsely promises health, wealth, and prosperity for all who believe in Jesus (and give money to the celebrity pastor preaching to them), we must not go to the opposite end of the spectrum, thinking that God has no concern for material reality. When God created the heavens and the earth, He called it good (Genesis 1:3, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). Jesus, who came in both body and soul, came to redeem not just the soul, but the body as well, and to establish “a new heaven and a new earth” (Romans 8:23, Revelation 21:1). God cares about what we eat, where we live, and what we wear (Matthew 6:30-32). Yet He promises to give us what we need to advance His Kingdom, not extravagant gifts. The primary means by which God meets our needs is through the vocations God has given us to glorify His name as we live as sojourners and exiles in the “already, but not yet” period in redemptive history. In any case, we ought to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and trust our Father that “all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
And Forgive Us Our Debts, As We Also Have Forgiven Our Debtors
If you have been a Christian long enough, you’ve realized that you’re still a sinner. Shocker, right? Day by day, “the desires of the flesh” and “the desires of the Spirit” wage war within us (Galatians 5:17). But it seems like we often lose the battle to the flesh. With Paul, we lament that we do not do what we want but the very thing that we hate (Romans 7:15) and keep on doing the very thing that we hate (Romans 7:19). We may be tempted to think that God will never forgive us after what we’ve done and even keep struggling with. If that’s you, then you’re the type of person Jesus came for. Romans 5:6 states, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Christ’s heart for wretched people like us did not cease at the cross. On the contrary, “he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). It’s the love of God that bids us to run back to Him in repentance. He hears our tearful prayers of repentance and He will not restrain His mercy from us (Psalm 40:11a). Though our sins may overtake us and be more than the hairs on our head (Psalm 40:12), God’s steadfast love and faithfulness will preserve us (Psalm 40:11b). The Christian life is characterized by the constant return to the cross for us to know that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). Since we have received forgiveness from our gracious Father, how could we not in turn be gracious and forgive those who sin against us? We are commanded in Colossians 3:12-13, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” But then again, praise God that He forgives us infinitely better than we forgive our neighbors.
And L3ead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil
It’s fitting to close a prayer that exalts the love, sovereignty, care, and forgiveness of God to petition to Him to go before us as we go back out into the world. There’s temptations and evil all around us for “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).” But our Father is not Satan that He would allow us to be devoured by the powers of darkness. We can rejoice because the Father sent the Son, who has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15). We have been united to the One who has conquered sin and death so that we’re no longer slaves to sin and death (Romans 6:5-11, John 11:25). The Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit to us so that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). If you are in Christ, you are in the hands of the triune God. Nothing is capable of separating us from Him (Romans 8:38).