“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 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.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Understanding And Applying the Text
We profane God’s name when we pray to get glory and honor from others. Christ mentioned how the hypocrites pray in the synagogues i.e. churches. I have seen this. Someone prays a beautiful and flowery prayer. But then you ask, “Are they talking to me or God.” Some preachers will use prayer as an opportunity for a second sermon. The hypocrites want others to notice their beautiful prayers. They want us to recognize their piety.
Christ gave his disciples the correct manner of prayer. Some have claimed this meant we are not to pray in public. This is absurd. It rips Christ’s statement out of context. Read the rest of the sermon. We are not to draw attention to our prayers. Christ is addressing motive. He was addressing the “why” we do things. He said, “For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.” Christ is not speaking against public prayer. He speaks against why they do what they do. Their motive was to have others think of them as pious and holy. They cared little about glorifying God.
We must not take Christ’s word to enter a room as literal. Christ did not order us to avoid people when we pray. Nor did Christ intend to say our prayers are only correct when there are no witnesses. There are several passages that command us to pray to God and praise Him, in public. (Matthew 19:13;21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 18:10;19:46; Acts1:14; 1:24; 3:11; 6:6 ;8:15 ;14:23 ;20:36 ;21:5 ;28:8 These are only a few. ) We are to testify to others about our faith and gratitude to God. This is so others may glorify Him as well.
Christ prohibits the use of repeating empty phrases. This brings to mind the repetition of the rosary. Even if we do not take into account its idolatry. It violates Christ’s command. It is repetitious. Christ’s words are clear. He forbids it. I tried to understand the why behind the repetition. I read several Roman Catholic writers. They proclaimed the beauty of repetition. They made an analogy to the repetition of getting up and going to work, and changing diapers. I do not deny the marvelous beauty of the repetition of daily life. But here Christ forbids repetition in our prayer. One writer claimed the rosary is not a prayer. Rather it is a meditation. Say what? The rosary askes Mary to pray for them now, and at the hour of death. If that is not prayer what is? True, it is an idolatrous prayer. But it is a prayer.
Rome is not alone in this. Many Protestants repeat the same thing over and over. They think if they keep asking they will wear God down and He will relent. Or they think it shows God their sincerity. Like He does not know. Or He has to be convinced. God’s grace is not obtained by repetition. Rather God requires a devoted heart.
Music is a form of prayer. So much of what churches call praise music is only meaningless repetition. They have even received the nickname 7 – 11 songs. Seven words 11 times. Their purpose is to evoke emotion in us. It tries to make us feel worshipful. In other words, they are man-centered, not Christ-centered. And don’t forget the choir or should I say, the praise band. They try to show their pity by raising hands, closing their eyes, head back, and swaying back and forth. They have their reward.
God knows what we need before we ask for it. A single request is enough. Well, if that is true, what is the advantage of requesting anything? Christ answered that in the design of His example prayer.
Believers do not pray to notify God of their needs. Nor do we pray to motivate God into action. Our prayers remind us of our reliance on His mercy and grace. We remind ourselves that all good things come from Him. Plus, God promises He will grant all good things in our prayers. We must hold to both of these truths.
Christ gave an example of prayer. We are not to repeat this prayer as if it contained magic words. What did Christ say? Don’t pray empty repetitions. This is an example, a model, an outline. It is not a sequence of magical phrases.
The prayer contains six petitions we are free to ask from God. The first three relate to God’s glory. The last three relate to what is necessary for us and for our salvation.
The prayer starts with, “Our Father.” When we pray we should bear two things in mind. First, we have access to God. Second, we can rely on Him with unshakable confidence. We can rely on His love toward us. We can count on his unlimited power. God receives us through His grace. And he is ready to listen to our prayers.
The first petition is that God’s name is hallowed. Hallow is not a word we use much. So a legitimate question may be, what does it mean to hallow God’s name? Hallow means to honor as holy. So our petition is that we and the whole world honor God’s name as holy. Well, what does that mean? The first and most obvious is to not use God’s name in a crass and obscene manner. There is hardly any movie or television show that does not use God’s name as a curse word. They would not dare mention the name of Allaha, Momamuhda, Buddha, or any other false God or prophet. That might offend someone. They do not care rather they offend a holy God. It is the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Father they abuse and slander. Yet it is so common we hardly notice.
But that is not the only way we abuse the name of God. Those who claim to speak in His name, blaspheme it. Whenever you tell someone “God told me to tell you something.” You blaspheme the name of the Lord. The very first petition is requesting God’s help in honoring His name as Holy. Hallowing His name means to give God the deepest veneration.
But that does not answer how can we honor God’s name? We honor God’s name by obeying His commands. We honor God through praise and worship.
The second petition is asking for God’s Kingdom to come. Here we ask that the Father remove anything that may hinder men from submitting to His dominion. And that He leads them to a holy life.
God accomplishes this by the power of the Spirit through the preaching of the word. So we pray that God would exert His power, both by the Word and by the Spirit.
The third petition is that God’s will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. If the petition was only that God’s will be done. it would be a non-sense petition. God does accomplish His will. There is no other option. But the petition is God will be done like it is in heaven.
Men oppose God. Men try to overturn God’s will. But Christ commands us to pray that everyone submits and obeys without opposition or reluctance. “As in heaven.” The angels are always ready to execute God’s commands.
The fourth petition is a request for our daily bread. The first three petitions were for God’s glory. The last three are for ourselves. We should always remember that is the order and priority. We are to seek God’s glory first. Then we are to pray for our salvation and welfare. Our salvation and welfare are for God’s glory.
Daily bread means daily, necessary, future, or tomorrow’s bread. Some have understood this as a three-fold meaning. First the reference to the bread at the Lord’s table. Second, symbolizing life in the coming kingdom. Third, it is a request for the provision of our daily physical needs.
But I believe the plainest and most ordinary view is the best one. It is a request that God provides for our physical needs and sustains our physical life. A prayer that ignored our physical needs would be incomplete. Several passages tell us to throw all our cares on Him. (Psalm 84:11; Philippians 4:6; 1John 5:14-15)
Here we are not only to ask for food but that God supplies all we need for this present life.
The fifth petition is a request for forgiveness of sin. The last two petitions deal with eternal salvation.
Christ has offered a free reconciliation by not counting our sins against us. (2Corinthians 5:19). He promised the Spirit will engrave the law on our hearts. And he commands us to ask for forgiveness.
Christ refers to our sins as debts. That is because we owe duty and honor to God. When we sin we steal that glory and honor from God. So we have a debt. It is a debt we cannot repay. So we need that debt forgiven. Paul outlined this in Romans “the whole world may be held accountable to God.” (Romans 3:19)
Our forgiving our debtors does not refer to those who owe money or anything else. It refers to those indebted to us because of offenses they have committed against us.
No one can presume to approach God while harboring resentment to others. We can not ask for forgiveness while resenting others. Do not get confused. God’s mercy and forgiveness are not dependent on our forgiving others. Rather Christ commands us to forgive others.
Christ told His disciples if we forgive, the Father will forgive us. But if we don’t forgive the Father will not forgive our debts. This sounds like the Father’s forgiveness is conditional. It sounds like our salvation is dependant on our work. If we take this in isolation that would be a valid conclusion. But that disagrees with the reset of scripture. e.g. (Romans 3:24,28;5:1; 2 corinthians 3:18; Hebrews 2:10 et.al.)
Christ did not mention this to point to the cause of our regeneration. It is the result of our regeneration. He only reminds us of what our reaction ought to be towards others. If we desire to reconciliation with God we must reconcile with our fellow men.
The sixth petition is to not be led into temptation. We should not trust ourselves. We must rely on God to maintain our salvation. Salvation is through Christ alone. And our sanctification is through Christ alone. We do not earn it nor maintain it. We must trust in God’s mercy and grace. The Father will test us to bring about our sanctification (1 Chronicles 29:17; Psalms 7:9;11:4 2 Corinthians 8:1-2). But we are not tested beyond our capacity (1 Corinthians 10:13)
In this petition, we show we are conscious of our own weakness. We know we need God’s protection.
Temptation refers to any type of trial. We experience temptation in both adversity and prosperity. Each is an occasion for self-reliance. Christ is not asking that we pray God removes all temptations. Wicked emotions are part of our daily life. Everyone is tempted by their own lust. (James 1:14) We are to ask that the Lord does not allow us to fall, or we become overwhelmed, by temptations.