Sermon on the Mount - The Lord's Prayer

(Matthew 6:5-15)

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Power of Prayer, Sermon on the Mount, Sermon on the Mount (Bible Study)

Matthew 6:5-15

  • We are to use the words Jesus provides in this prayer.
  • There are two groups of three petitions, six in all; some might add a fourth in the second group.
  • In the first three, there is the repetition of “your,” as in: your name, your reign, your will. These are all God-centered. This is along the vertical line involving our relationship with God.
  • The second group has “us”: Give us; forgive us; lead us not, but deliver us.
  • Now in a sense, these are completely comprehensive. Give us daily bread—that’s prayer for our present need. Forgive us our sins—that’s prayer for the past. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us—that’s prayer for the future. So in these six petitions, we have basically covered all of life.
  • Let’s start with Our Father. This is a possessive pronoun. God belongs to us; we belong to God. This is the only time Jesus uses the phrase, Our Father. Whatever is the nature of his relation to the Father is also the nature of our relation to the Father.
  • The Aramaic word undergirding the English translation of Father is Abba, the most intimate, affectionate, informal address possible. It is the way a small child would call for his or her daddy.
  • While some might find this to be somewhat irreverent, it speaks to the bond of tenderness and trust inherent in a father-child relationship. These are qualities of love, intimacy, trust, responsibility, and strength.
  • The next phrase is in the heavens. That could also be translated, “In the sky,” furthering that idea of inclusiveness. If the Father is in or over everybody’s sky, He is universally the God of the world – personal but still transcendent. God and Father. This is the great leveler. Each relationship is very special, but not exclusive.
  • There is no petition here. This is just getting us in the right mood, developing the right attitude.
  • The first petition is Hallowed be thy name.
  • Hallowed from the Greek usually means holy, set aside, central.
  • It is also in the passive. Praying this way gives the doing of the petition over to God. God is the unexpressed doer. God is actively doing the hallowing.
  • We’re here to witness God’s reality, centrality, and sacredness. God Himself has made Himself central. Only God is equipped to handle His name. God makes Himself known. Only God can reveal God. God’s nature, identity, is, by definition, hallowed.
  • Thy kingdom come. The verb in this passage is in the aorist. That means once. Most people see this as a future event. Other scholars see this as present reality. Thy kingdom is come.
  • The two viewpoints are not automatically in opposition. If we are going to be praying for a future hope, it certainly affects the present. One must live in accordance with that ideal future for which we are praying. We are essentially preparing ourselves for it.
  • The kingdom is the society where the will of God is done perfectly. Being in the kingdom and doing the will of God is the same thing.
  • Thy will be done. God’s will must correspond to Himself; it must be good and only for good. God has nothing to do with material things; He is infinite Spirit. Being wholly good, He cannot be associated with evil.
  • He is all-loving, which rules out any elements of fear. He is ever-present, and that precludes any separation or distance or momentary lapses of care. His will, His intention, then, must reflect His nature exactly. It has to be infinitely spiritual, wholly good, all-loving, and ever-present.
  • The complete statement is that His will be done. This is written in the passive. Ultimately this is a prayer that petitions God to do His will, to supply the power for His will to be expressed on earth. The impulse and initiative are totally God-derived.
  • To pray that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven invites activity.
  • On earth as it is in heaven: earth and heaven in this context give it a cosmic dimension. God is infinite; He is bigger than we can possibly imagine. So our prayers can be bigger, wider, more inclusive.
  • Our prayers for God’s honor, His reign, and will affect everybody, not just us. The heavens are a clear reminder that there is more than just earth.
  • The fourth petition moves into human concerns. This is the beginning of the horizontal line involving our relationship with people. Give us our daily bread. Some scholars say it means physical bread; others say it means spiritual bread.
  • It is a petition for daily bread, the simple and ordinary things of life. God isn’t just for the big moments. He is also involved in the ordinary events of living.
  • The use of the plural in this prayer precludes selfishness. My wants cannot be at another’s expense.
  • Moreover, it says daily bread; it focuses on the present. Take one day at a time. Take this moment and rest it in the goodness of God.
  • And it is bread. It’s not riches; it’s not power and jewelry, fancy cars, or mansions. It isn’t even cake. It’s bread.
  • To pray this is to express our dependence on God, to place our trust in Him, and to pledge that we will allow Him to make it possible to give to us.
  • Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. When we pray this, it presupposes debt. Luke, by the way, has a word for sins at this point. If we have no consciousness of debts or sins, we don’t have to pray this. On the other hand, having no consciousness of sin might be the biggest sin.
  • Any honest look at our human situation makes us pretty aware of our debts and our need for forgiveness.
  • But this is only half of the petition. Texts vary at this point: some will say as we forgive; others will say as we have forgiven.
  • If it is in the present, we are asking, “Forgive us as is our practice to forgive.”
  • If it is in the perfect, we are asking, “Forgive us as we have in fact forgiven.”
  • The big problem really lies with the as. It expresses similarity or proportion. It can mean forgive us in the same way, or forgive us in proportion as we forgive others. In either case, this suggests a very close relationship between the divine and human realms of forgiveness. He who is unforgiving cuts himself off from forgiveness.
  • Now this works in two ways. It includes the one who is unforgiving and is the injured party as well as the one who is unforgiving and who has done the injuring.
  • Thinking about this, there is a great danger in this petition. If we are praying this while we are unforgiving, we are asking God not to forgive us.
  • In a very real sense, we are judging ourselves every time we pray this prayer. The one who doesn’t want to, or can’t forgive, had best not pray this. We are asking to be treated as we have treated others.
  • Lead us not into temptation. Thinking deeply about this petition ahead of time might have helped prevent some of those situations for which we have need of forgiveness.
  • But this petition comes after the one about forgiveness. And the order makes a good deal of sense. It is the case that after we’ve been forgiven, we want very much to be better. Sometimes it takes forgiveness, that reconciliation to God, to bring us to that point.
  • The word temptation can have the sense of meaning a temptation, but it can also mean a testing.
  • Temptation suggests an enticement to do wrong, to commit an evil; God has no part of that.
  • A testing, however, is an event or a situation that tries a person. It tries one in the sense that it is difficult to bear. While temptation oftentimes can have a very negative result, a testing can be very positive in that our reaction shows what kind of a person we really are.
  • The word for into temptation in Greek can mean into, like going into a new situation. But it can also mean “into the hands of, under the influence of.” So it’s like saying, “When temptation comes, don’t abandon me.”
  • The other half of this petition says to deliver us from evil. It could also be the evil one.
  • The aim of evil or the evil one is simply to separate, to cause a breach between us and God. The word for deliver is a very strong word. It has the connotation of “rescue, snatch away.”
  • This petition does three things. First of all, it faces the danger of the human situation. It freely confesses our inadequacies to deal with them. And it takes both the danger and the weakness and puts them under God.
  • Now there is an epilogue in the King James Version of the Bible which isn’t in any of the reliable ancient manuscripts. It says: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Many people consider this to be a part of the prayer.
  • God is king. He actively reigns in His kingdom; we’re His subjects. He is power. God not only listens, but He also has the power to act. The glory is His; it is that reverence that the earth is penetrated and permeated by Him. In a way, this is somewhat like the first statement. Just as that one put us in the right mood in order to begin, this one gets us in the right mood at the end.
  • The Lord’s Prayer has some other interesting features. It stands as another reminder to us that we are to give in order to get. It starts with the Father, and ends with the evil one.
  • It literally goes from heaven to hell. In between, there are six or seven petitions which pretty much cover every aspect of life.
  • It begins with the mercy, the intimacy of God as a father, and ends with a warning of the evil one who threatens our life.
  • The epilogue reasserts that everything occurs in God’s kingdom. He has the power and glory to guide us in all our endeavors.
  • This is how we should pray.

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