The Lord’s Prayer
Some of you who have already read our understanding of prayer viz, “The Lord’s Prayer,” there are those of you who have sent E-Mails requesting more information on the meaning of his prayer beyond what has been limitedly provided.
The Standard for Christian Prayers
Man's inner outreach, seeking help and support from a Supreme Being is expressed in words of supplication. This supplication is prayer, an entreaty, an act of earnest request. It is also an offering of adoration, confession and thanksgiving to God. The word form of prayer is a formula of supplication addressed to God. Prayer is a form of religious service in corporate worship and for individual use, the words of which usually connote humility before God. There are various kinds of prayers reflecting the varying hopes and faith of each believer. There are prayers for individual, group and family concerns; prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude to Almighty God. There are all kinds of styles and patterns of thanksgiving and gratitude to Almighty God. There are all kinds of styles and patterns of prayer. Prayer and worship are expressions of one's hope, which is a blessed gift carrying the deepest human aspirations. This hope has in its very nature the assurance of God's assistance. Genuine prayer, by which hope is enriched, is a privilege of the human race; it is a noble means to reach toward the inaccessible Source of divine grace. Such prayer presupposes a steadfast hope in God and sanctification of the human will.
Prayers are found in the Bible's Old and New Testaments. The sacred writers of the Bible recorded many prayers. Great personalities of the Old and New Testaments prayed constantly, and left to the Church a treasury of prayers of various form and content. These prayers are expressed with inspiration and reverence because of the need felt within a person. This need was felt by the Apostles of Christ, which led them to ask Him to: "teach us to pray" (Lk. 11:1). The Apostles' request was answered: "Pray then like this" (Mt. 6:9), and Christ taught them the Lord's Prayer, which became the classic epitome of all prayers recorded in Scripture.
The Lord's Prayer is the crowning one of all. It includes human petitions; it has depth; it has theology, yet it is not doctrinal. It is short, yet nothing is missing. The Lord's Prayer penetrates the human soul; it has warmth; it has the breath of the Lord, His personality and dimension. This Prayer is a transforming prayer. The Lord's Prayer is recited by Christians time and again; in privacy and in public; in sorrow and in happiness; to advise and to teach. This crowning prayer is recited by heart; it is whispered to each other. The believers chant and sing it as a solo and in chorus. Every instrument is used to catch the depth of the Lord's Prayer; notes and colors contribute to its meaning. The Lord's Prayer is heard under meager shelter and in king's mansions; it is recited by the sick in bed and by the devout kneeling and standing.
When people are in danger and fear, the Lord's Prayer gives them courage; when they are thinking of great things, the Lord's Prayer reassures them. In war and peace, in tranquility or turmoil, the Lord's Prayer is a comforting companion. It has a governing authority over people and their acts. It has its glory in every separate Christian group. The Lord's Prayer brings people together.
THE MEANING OF THE LORD'S PRAYER
The Lord's Prayer is a meaningful religious poem consisting of an address, two stanzas of three petitions each and a doxology. This Prayer was given by Jesus Christ at the request of His disciples as an example of the significant meaning and substance that prayer should have. Christ recited the Lord's Prayer on a mountain while preaching the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. chs. 5, 6, 7). Christ's proclamation to call peoples was: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt. 4:17). To accomplish His mission, Christ called His disciples to follow Him. His first step was to train them, so He called them to a mountain "and taught them" in private. Christ taught them the Beatitudes, a new interpretation of the old law, especially about almsgiving, prayer, fasting, and religious life in general. The only time His disciples interrupted Christ was on the question of prayer, as it is recorded by St. Luke: "One of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray,' and he (Jesus) said to them, 'When you pray, say,' ' and recited the prayer which reverently bears His name, the Lord's Prayer. This Prayer was not taught as the only prayer, but as an example for other prayers for devout Christians. Every believer should have a further knowledge of the meaning of the Lord's Prayer, which will enlarge the depth of understanding of every other prayer and encourage the individual to create his own prayers "after this manner" when glorifying God.
THE INVOCATION "Our Father who art in heaven" (Matthew 6:9)
"Father" is used to imply the loving care of the All-Good God for His followers. This invocation is the declaration of sonship for the human race and the excellence of fatherhood of God to man. As an heir, the believer accepts the privilege of sonship; the believer feels that his is a member of the household of which God is the head; as an heir, one has the courage to ask and converse, to disclose his ambitions and to consult the Father for one's expectations. When the believer calls God, Father, he feels His companionship; feels His tender hand wiping his tears, encouraging him in life.
The words our father express the believer's communion with God, an acceptance of His companionship. The believer pledges to live according to the meaning of being an heir. One is aware of God's loving tenderness and mercy, which gives one encouragement to face difficulties of life. This sonship is offered without discrimination to all who are equal in the sight of God, equal in their ultimate destinies, equal in the substance of their souls and equal in sharing God's love and grace. In the word our all barriers and fences become bridges of communication in thoughts and goods — a real communion of believers grows from our father. It is the only gate leading the heirs to His Kingship, for we are children of God not because we love Him: "not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiration for our sins" (1 Jn. 4:10).
The believer prays to Our Father "who art in heaven."
There is no physical heaven any more, for God was and is everywhere. God is Spirit, and He is ever present in every place at every time, even though He is beyond these categories. The phrase who art in heaven is to be understood metaphorically as an indication of the majesty of His sovereignty. God is not like a man, neither is God like a blind, powerful law. He is called Father to lower Himself to our understanding in our human language. The words in heaven were added to the Father in order to make distinction from anything of human nature. As the seat of God in heaven is the infinity under His personal direction and love — it is His Kingdom, the source of all life and abundance indeed!
When the believers pray, Our Father who art in heaven, they feel their hearts are a part of it — a part of His Kingdom within God's personal presence. The words in heaven are an expression of spiritual excellence found in the soul of the believer, which by nature is immortal.
THE FIRST THREE PETITIONS
"Hallowed be Thy name" (v. 9).
This is the first petition, which exalts the holiness of God's name. The name is mentioned because all Hebrew names in the time of Christ were important. In the prayer, the name is an external quality of God's nature, which has been revealed in the Christ. The name of God is continued by the Christian by being baptized in His name and preaching in His name. God's name, His quality, His nature are to be hallowed and sanctified by Christians. Their virtues and love, their faith and deeds are instruments of sanctifying God by sanctifying themselves.
To hallow means to glorify. Christ, with His Gospel and sacrifice, glorified God's nature and name. The believer is expected to glorify God in his own way. Christ admonishes his disciples and followers, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt. 5:16).
"Thy kingdom come" (v. 10)
In this second petition the kingdom is evaluated in the context that Christ, as the king of heaven and earth, prepared it through His Sacrifice on the Cross. The phrases kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God appear in the New Testament interchangeably. The word heaven often is used interchangeably with the name of God. Christ begins his official ministry by saying: "Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (literally: "has drawn near") (Mt. 4:17). This declaration remains the theme throughout the New Testament. An understanding of the meaning of the kingdom is the foundation for knowledge of the atoning message and work of Christ. The invitation to enter the kingdom requires that one be prepared according to the Gospel which instructs: "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mk. 1:15). Still, this basic preparation encourages only one's willingness to enter the kingdom; it does not provide one, within itself, with the right to enter. Entrance is a privilege, a gift granted to one: ''for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Lk. 12:32). It is a matter of course that the kingdom is THE gift proper of God to everyone, as St. Matthew recorded: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which a man . . . goes and sells all that he has and buys that field" (13:44; cf. 13:45-46).
The complete glory of the kingdom will come in the future, which is made manifest to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In answer to the question, "When shall the kingdom of God come?" Christ proclaimed: "The kingdom of God comes not with observation . . . for behold, the kingdom of God is within you," within His disciples and followers. The devout Christian feels the dawning of the kingdom in his heart and abundant spiritual confidence, feels blissful and expectant of an indescribable glory in the future, fulfilling the age-old plan of God for his salvation in Christ.
Christ is the Founder, Governor and Head through the ages of the Church; the Pillar and Bulwark of the truth. Angels and saints, men and women belong to the Church, in the past, present and ages to come. All Christians are equal members of this precious and sacred Body of Jesus Christ.
This Church is, in fact, the Kingdom of God. Jesus proclaimed that "the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. . . and sorted the good into vessels, but threw away the bad" (Mt. 13:47, 48). The Church was built by Christ as He declared to Peter in response to his statement: "Thou art the Christ." Christ said, "Upon this rock (of faith confessed by Peter) I will build my church." Christ built it so strong and unshakable that the "powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 16:18).
"Thy will be done" (v. 10)
The third petition is found in the two previous petitions of sanctification and kingdom. When the believer fulfills the Will of God, he in reality helps apply God's blessings; the believer is a steward of God's blessings, and his participating in His Will is God's energy working through this believer. Thus the Kingdom of God is a realm of joy; knowledge of His Will, ability to execute it and obedience to follow it are required. When the believer prays that God's Will “will be done,” it means complete obedience to His Will. God asks us to dedicate ourselves, our very beings to Him; we cannot serve Him with what we have if we are not at His disposal; we would only be pretending that we were doing the Will of God, and it would be a hypocrisy, and acting out of a part. The believer, by doing the Will of God, is beseeching Him to "make me as one of thy hired servants," (Lk. 15:19 KJV). Obedience to God's Will depends upon the believer's humble attitude and willingness to apply His Will constantly in his everyday life.
"On earth as it is in heaven" (v. 10).
This verse applies to the previous three petitions: Thy name, kingdom, will. In Scripture there is no separation between heaven and earth; they are one, for there is one God, one creation, one world and one Church. The Christian belongs to the Triumphant Church in heaven or the Militant Church on earth. Both churches are founded and headed by Christ. Therefore, both churches are One, for Christ is One and His Gospel is One. The believer on earth lives in the "stadium" of life where he exercises his spiritual abilities to hallow God's name; he accepts the reality of His Kingdom, and executes His will until the time of his departure to everlasting life and the Triumphant Church.
THE SECOND THREE PETITIONS
"Give us this day our daily bread" (v. 11)
This verse begins the second group of three petitions. This fourth petition refers to man's physical and spiritual sustenance. Man's body and soul need proper nourishment, not only because both are created by God, but as preparation for spiritual achievements and redemption. The word "day" is concerned with day-by-day needs, and the phrase "the day" implies immediacy, as opposed to the anxiety implied in, "Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow" (Mt. 6:34), or for luxury. Care is urged for the body and soul, but not through despair, anxiety or lack of hope. "Bread" in this context is man's physical and spiritual nutrition. Physical food such as food, shelter and clothing is for the preservation of life itself. However, spiritual bread is indispensable. Christ calls upon believers to take this spiritual bread: "I am the bread of life. . . I am the living bread which came down from heaven . . . and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" (Jn. 6:480; this refers to Christ and His Gospel. At the institution of the Eucharist, the most precious gift to the Church, Christ "took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat: this is my body' "(Mt. 26:26).
The Christian prays "give us" through work, effort, toil and pain the divine gifts of health, strength, understanding, good weather and seasons and all things of personal worth. The believer plants and waters, but it is God only Who gives growth and abundant gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 3:8). Those who are negligent and idle cannot pray to God, give us. The good soil is prepared by man to accept and cultivate the seeds of God for man's physical and spiritual needs (cf. Lk. 8:4-15). Christ blesses one's toils and nurtures his efforts to be worthy of God's daily gifts.
"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (v. 12).
This fifth petition acknowledges the forgiveness of sins as the main teaching of the promise and fulfillment recorded in Scripture. By forgiving "our debtors," our sins can be forgiven by God. God alone forgives and absolves sins, making possible reconciliation with God the Father. Forgiveness is the highest gift of God to mankind, and is granted freely to the sinful ones who sincerely repent and invoke God's grace of absolution. This forgiveness of God is clearly depicted in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (cf. Mt. 18:23-25), stressing the forgiveness of man to his debtors. We must first forgive our fellowman as an example of our understanding of the forgiveness of our thousand-old sins and debts. The more we recognize our sins, the easier it is to forgive our debtors. This is a fundamental requirement for the forgiveness of our debts by God. Otherwise, "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart" (Mt. 18:35).
Three words are used for the object of forgiveness: debt, trespass and sin. A sin is not merely a debt; a debt easily can be paid. Sin is the violation of God's integrity; sin is expensive if the sinner evaluates the quality and size of the violation. To forgive one's debt is not to be viewed as compensation; the more worthy attitude is to forgive the debtor, reconciling and restoring friendship. To show the debtor the Christian realm of brotherhood and love is our goal. The road to a Christian life is one, for it has been paved by Christ and His Apostles. Therefore, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 4:23).
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from (the) evil (one)" (v. 13)
It is the nature of human beings to be confronted with "temptation". Even before his "fall", man sought to test his free will in choosing good and evil. When Adam and Eve "fell" by the tempter in Paradise, they were left with the inclination to be tempted by evil from within and without. The Christian prays for strength to face temptation, overthrow evil and not become prey to evil forces. Temptation exists in order to test one's free will. With God's grace the believer can overcome the evil spirit by preparing himself ceaselessly as Christ admonished: "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation" (Mt. 26:41; cf. Mk. 14:38; Lk. 22:40, 46). However, many fail to adhere to and practice this divine command. We are not aware of the tragedy; most of us are unprepared to avoid the trap. We take everything for granted, either through negligence or arrogance. We do not care until the tragedy, moral or physical, is inevitable. This is so because we did not use the gifts we already had to shield and protect ourselves. Protection requires much less effort than does cure; it requires only watchfulness.
Without the knowledge of Scripture, one accepts evil forces as natural and ordinary, and has no reason to resist them. By arrogance, ignorance and negligence one falls prey to temptation, and does not accept nor recognize divine help to overthrow temptation. The pious Christian, however, knows that preparation and protection from evil forces requires much less effort than does the cure. Temptation comes from the evil one, the fallen angel, Satan. Scripture emphasizes this, and calls the believers to be alert and steadfast, to "stand, therefore . . . with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and . . . above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one" (Eph. 6:14, 16).
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen" (v. 13).
This closing verse of the Lord's Prayer is a doxology — a praise to God. This doxology is not found in all ancient manuscripts. It is a later addition. Without the doxology the Prayer would end with from evil. It is, however, found in an early Christian discourse (the Didache) (without the phrase, "the kingdom and…"). There are many passages in Scripture in which this doxology is found (cf. Psalm 72:19; 1 Chronicles 29:11). For liturgical purposes, the Church added after the word glory the following: "of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, now and forever and from all ages to all ages." Kingdom, power and glory are words in human expression of majesty attributed to God. God has the kingdom into which He invites us; He has the power to grant us petitions and armor against evil; He has the glory to uplift us from the pessimistic pace of life. The words power and glory were added to the kingdom because the Apostles witnessed the glorification of Christ after His Resurrection. Christ was Risen; His Church expanded; His Apostles preached the Gospel; the world was converted; superstition was abolished; empires submitted to Him; the truth reigned; the true God was revealed; salvation was wrought.
As in the first petition, this doxology ends the prayer by exalting the glorification of God. Thus this conclusion of the Lord's Prayer projects the triumphant reign of Christ and His Gospel forever.
Christ and His Gospel brought all these to life for the least of us, even the sinner; for the world at large. God loves the world — the highest love with the highest sacrifices.
THE CONTENT OF THE LORD'S PRAYER
The beginning three petitions of the Lord's Prayer refer to the attributes of God: hallow, kingdom and will. They depict what God is in essence and in energy, transplanted on earth. The last three petitions: daily bread, forgiveness and deliverance from temptation and the evil one depict the needs of the believers. In the doxology, the glorification is attributed to Our Father. The Lord's Prayer was bequeathed to the faithful believers in this concise form to provide them with the pattern for other prayers, both for the individual and for liturgical and corporate worship.
The Lord's Prayer, as the model and epitome of all prayers, is treasured by the Church as the most significant prayer taught by Christ Himself. This Prayer has inspired believers in all ranks of life, from the highest to the lowest, uplifting their hearts and minds to Almighty God.
The Lord's Prayer is a part of the Divine Liturgy, and is recited before the elevation of the "Amnos" — the blessed Body of Christ. At this time, the believer asks God to grant him the understanding to utter the Lord's Prayer, and beseeches Him: "Deem us, O Master, worthy with boldness and without condemnation, to dare to call upon Thee, the Heavenly God, as Father and to exclaim":
"Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth and 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. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."
For an understanding that shows another perspective, especially when used for those who have learning disabilities, we recommend you click on “The Lord’s Prayer - Part I”. And, might we suggest you also consider Praying the Holy Scriptures.
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