The Lord’s Prayer: Its Form

 

The prayer is arranged in three main parts: the address—“Our Father who is in heaven,” six petitions, and the doxology. We will focus, in this blog, on the six petitions.

 

The Six Petitions

As for the six petitions, the first three are directed toward God and His purposes, and the second three are directed toward man and his needs.

The first three petitions are:

1 That the name of God will be revered—“Hallowed be Your name,”

2 That the role of God would be established—“Your kingdom come,” and

3 That the will of God be done—“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Notice how each of these petitions is dependent on and related to each other. The hallowing of His name is dependent on the coming of His kingdom, and the coming of His kingdom requires the doing of His will.  Each is a separate petition but they all are closely tied together.

As to the function or purpose of these petitions, though they obviously serve to bring glory to God, when we faithfully pray these petitions we are also benefited. For when we pray “hallowed be Thy name” we see who He is in all of His holiness.  When we pray “Thy kingdom come” His kingdom captivates us.  In a sense, we enter into His house and we see all of His glory.  Last, when we pray “Thy will be done” He invites us into His mind, where He shares with us His great plans and purposes for us.

The second three petitions are as follows:

4 For daily provision—“Give us this day our daily bread,”

5 For daily pardon—“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” and

6 For daily guidance and protection—“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Notice, first of all, the relationship of this second set of petitions with the first set; again they are dependent on each other.  In order for His will to be done and His kingdom to be established through us, we must have sustenance, forgiveness, and guidance.  On the other hand, we would not know to pray for our daily needs, we would not see the significance of it, unless first we pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Secondly, you will notice that the three petitions for daily needs cover all the aspects of our being: our body, soul and spirit.  Daily bread I think primarily refers to the body or to physical things; forgiveness refers to the soul or the mind; and the prayer for our guidance and protection corresponds to the spirit.

These three petitions also cover all aspects of time: forgiveness covers the past; daily bread covers the present needs; and “lead us not into temptation” speaks of the future.

So here is briefly how the prayer is structured.  Now the question is this: why is it structured as it is?

 

The Purpose Of Its Form 

 Here are three possible reasons why Jesus composed this prayer as He did:

1. As to its short outline form, I think the main objective Jesus had in mind was that it would be a teaching tool or a mind jogger, but not a prayer to recite. He wanted this prayer outline to be a starter prayer for us. Once we get started in prayer, I think He wants most of our words of prayer to be our own.

2. Jesus wanted to show us the order and priority in prayer. He wants us to learn that the things of God always come first before our own needs. Therefore, with this prayer in the back of our mind as we pray, we will be more aware of praying for His desires first: things that concern His name, His kingdom and His will.  Then after we pray for those things it will be natural for us to cry out to God for the things we need—things we lack to do His will: our daily bread, forgiveness and guidance.

3. Jesus wanted to show us the primary purpose of prayer: to hallow His name, and to bring in His kingdom and will. He also wanted to teach us that we are dependent on Him for all our daily needs: for daily sustenance, daily pardon, and daily guidance and protection.

Now let me conclude this section by adding that it was not Jesus intention that we follow this form exactly every time we pray.  Jesus Himself, when He prayed, did not follow this form exactly (e.g., Jn. 17); and if you look at other prayers in the Bible, they do not follow the form exactly either.  When Jesus told His disciple that they should pray “in this manner” He was not referring to the form.  Manner, I believe, has to do with the principles of prayer, not to the form and words of prayer.

The form and words of this prayer were meant to be an example of prayer and to express the substance of our petitions; however, He never meant that we were to follow that example exactly.  The manner of prayer means, mainly, that our prayers are to correspond to Christian principles—to His kingdom principles.  We are to pray not as hypocrites and pagans, but as those who follow God and Christ, and who are led by the Holy Spirit.  Yes, we are to pray in this manner of prayer—according to God’s principles of prayer, but never are we expected to follow any exact form of prayer.

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Honoring Veteran’s Day with the President: Video’s

Prayer for Trump and Country

Today I will copy a few short speeches from our President to honor Veteran’s day.

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The Lord’s Prayer: Its Sources

 

Someone once said to me, “None of us really has any original thoughts.  Whatever we think and say and write, we have heard from someone else, or have read it somewhere.”  If we look at Jesus in His humanity that is also true of Him and of this prayer He has composed.  He got it from other sources—basically from two sources: from Jewish prayers, and from the Old Testament Scriptures.

We could also look at Jesus from the perspective of His divinity. In this light, we would say that all things originated from Him, including this prayer. It would be good for us to keep this in mind.

I would like to look at this prayer, however, from the perspective of His humanity, that having laid aside His divinity (Phil. 2:7), He had to study and learn like any other man.  Therefore, we will consider now the two sources of this prayer mentioned above.

 

From Jewish Prayers

There is clear evidence in The Lord’s Prayer that Jesus was quite familiar with the Jewish prayers of His time. According to the Interpreters Bible, “Nearly every phrase is paralleled in the Kaddish and the Eighteen Benedictions3 (which are Jewish prayers).

In Barnes Notes, Barnes gives us some of those parallels.  For example, corresponding to the phrase, “Give us this day our daily bread,” the Jews had a prayer like this: “The necessities of thy people are many, and their knowledge small, so that they do not know how to make known their wants: let it be thy good pleasure to give to each one what is necessary for his sustenance.”4

Likewise, in relation to the phrase, “And deliver us from evil,” the Jews prayed, “Be it thy good pleasure to free us from an evil man, and an evil event, from evil affections, from an evil companion and neighbor, from Satan.”5

As you can see, the phrases are similar; and since Jesus, being Jewish, no doubt was familiar with these prayers, His composition had to be influenced by them.  The difference obviously is that the Jewish prayers are much longer.

Perhaps Jesus’ intention in composing a short prayer was so that anyone could memorize it and learn it quickly.  Also, I think He meant it to be just an outline—so that each one praying by this prayer could fill it in with his own words.  I don’t think Jesus wanted His disciples to be restricted in prayer as to always have to pray the same words.  He wanted them to pray in their own words, so He gave them this short prayer outline as a guide.

 

 From the Old Testament Scriptures

Besides learning from Jewish prayers, Jesus studied and became quite familiar with the Old Testament scriptures. His prayer shows this, for if you examine it you will see that each part can be cross-referenced to numerous Old Testament passages (I will bring this out later in our study).  Therefore, we know that this prayer of His was not something strange or different from the scriptures.  It supported the scriptures.  In fact, it came from the scriptures.  Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount just before He gave the Lord’s Prayer, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17).  Therefore, this Lord’s Prayer helps to fulfill the Old Testament scriptures.

So we see clearly from Jesus’ own words that He didn’t mean to compose something different, but He meant to reaffirm what was already written about prayer in the scriptures.  He also meant to reaffirm the Old Testament traditions and prayers, which were based on the scriptures.  John MacArthur points out in His book, Jesus Pattern of Prayer that “The Jews had a great heritage of genuine prayer.”6   Sadly, however, something went wrong along the way: Jewish prayer was corrupted and it became hypocritical (Matt. 6:2).  Therefore in this prayer Jesus seeks to bring the Jews back to the scriptures and to the way they use to pray.  And the prayer also points us back to the scriptures.  It gives us a sound scriptural basis for our prayers.

 

3 George A. Buttrich, Editor. The Interpreters Bible (Abingdon Press, 1952), p. 309.

4 Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft.

5 Ibid.

6 John MacArthur, Jr., Jesus’ Pattern of Prayer, p. 18.

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Christ and the Old Testament

 

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (Matt 5:17-19)

We have been going over the sermons by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, recorded for us in his book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. In this post, from Chapter seventeen of his book, we will cover what he spoke on concerning what Jesus said to His disciples about the Law and the Prophets—or the Old Testament. I have four major points.

 

How Jesus’ teaching was different than the Pharisees’ and the Scribes’ Teaching

All that Jesus taught was in harmony with the Old Testament, however, it was in disharmony with Scribes’ and Pharisees’ teaching. And He was not reluctant to criticize them. In fact, He frequently exposed and denounced it.

Jesus was not like the Pharisees who spent all of their time teaching the law (from the Old Testament). He instead focuses His teaching on grace and the love of God. And he was quite different in the way He acted toward people; he mixed with all people, even with sinners. And He seemed to deliberately break the rules and regulations of the law—that the Pharisees were so adamant about keeping.

 

Two Flawed views of Jesus’ teaching of the Old Testament

The first flawed view is this: that Jesus in the Gospels was merely a teacher of the Law—that it was basically ethical and moral teaching and instruction, which came from the Old Testament; but it was Paul that was the founder of Christianity, and the one who began to teach on justification by faith and sanctification, etc. So these people say that the teaching of Jesus and Paul was vastly different.

The second flawed view is this: that Christ abolished the law completely and gave us grace in its place. The law was given by Moses, and grace was given by Jesus. Hence, the Christian should have nothing to do with the law (the Old Testament).

 

Defining three important terms in this passage

Law. The law here means the entire Old Testament, which consists of three parts: the moral law, the judicial law, and the ceremonial law. The moral law is basically the ten commandment and the teaching of it. The judicial law is the legislative law given to Israel to order their behavior. The ceremonial law concerned the burnt offerings, sacrifice, and rituals. This part of the law included teaching on various types, mainly to teach prophecy about Jesus Christ. I suppose we can debate about how much of the law was meant only for Israel and how much is meant for the rest of us. And it is something we should wrestle with and try to get to the truth. Certainly, all the law, in some way, will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Prophets. The Old Testament prophets were the teachers of the law, and they were both forth-tellers and fore-tellers.

Fulfill.  This term does not mean to complete, to finish, or to add to something. Hence, it does not mean that the Old Testament began, was carried to a certain point, and then Jesus carried it on a stage further. The meaning, rather, is to carry out or to obey.

 

Jesus teaching on the Old Testament – 5 points

1. Jesus makes two statements from Matthew 5:17-18: (1) the law cannot be changed; it is eternal and absolute; therefore, (2) He has not come to destroy or change the law, but to fulfill it—that is, to carry it out or obey it.

2. All the Law and the Prophets point to Him and will be fulfilled in Him down to the smallest detail. He is the fulfillment of the law. What a claim!

3. In light of the above statement we must conclude that Jesus has put His seal of authority on the Old Testament. He quotes the Old Testament frequently in the Gospels. Hence, our attitude toward the Old Testament should reflect our attitude toward Jesus.

4. Everything in the Old Testament is the word of God. Everything has meaning. Everything is inspired by God—every word! And every word will be fulfilled by Christ. Question: Will His word come to an end when it is fulfilled at the end of time? Well, since His word is eternal, I think it will continue in a fulfilled state for eternity. But I suppose we could talk about what that would look like.

5. Since He came to fulfill (obey) the Old Testament, we (His followers) must do the same—as best we can. And we can only do it in Him. He is our guiding light.

 

This theme of Christ fulfilling the Law and the Prophets will be continued in my next blog—according to what D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has given us from His book.

 

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The Lord’s Prayer: Its Two Settings

The study of prayer would not be complete without examining the Lord’s Prayer. It is no doubt the most comprehensive piece of work on prayer ever composed.  Here in this very short prayer Jesus has woven every possible principle of prayer together and has given it to us to show us how to pray.  It is the best and simplest prayer tool we could possibly have.  John MacArthur, in his book, Jesus’ Pattern of Prayer, said, “It [The Lord’s Prayer] is an absolute masterpiece of God’s infinite wisdom to somehow encompass every conceivable element in prayer and reduce it to one simple pattern.”1

In this first blog on the Lord’s Prayer, as an introduction, I want to talk about its settings. In upcoming blogs we will talk about its sources, its form, and generally what it teaches us about prayer.

 

The Two Settings of the Prayer 

 Since the prayer was introduced to the disciples at two different times and places, the prayer obviously has two different settings.

In the first setting, recorded in Matthew 6:9-11, Jesus brings the prayer to His disciples in His famous Sermon on the Mount.  He introduces it as a better way or as the right way to pray in contrast to the way hypocrites and pagans pray.  So here He preaches to them and says, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men (v. 5)…And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words (v. 7)…In this manner, therefore pray: Our Father in heaven…”

When He says, pray in “this manner” (v. 9), He is referring to the prayer that He will give them, in contrast to the manner of prayer that He just talked about (vv. 6-8).  It is a manner that is the exact opposite to the hypocritical way and the pagan way.  It is prayer that does not draw attention to ourselves (v. 6); it is prayer that is private and personal—to God alone, “who is in the secret place”; it is prayer that is not repetitious, but believes that God is listening and knows our needs before we ask.  In this short prayer Jesus gives us everything that prayer is.  But overall, “this manner” of prayer is the correct manner or way, the true and Christian way; hence it is the opposite way of the hypocrite and the pagan.  Therefore, He is saying here, Look, don’t pray the way others pray; pray My way instead.  It is the right way, the way of My kingdom.

 The second time the prayer is introduced, in Luke 11:2-4, the setting is quite different.  Here, instead of being surrounded by a crowd, Jesus and His disciples are by themselves.  Jesus had just finished praying, and one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

There are two things I want to mention from this verse—Luke 11:1.  First of all, Jesus’ disciples noticed that the prayers of John the Baptist and his disciples were different than their prayers (the prayers they grew up with). According to Dr. Lightfoot, from Mathew Henry’s Commentary, “…Whereas the Jews’ prayers were generally adorations, and praises of God, and doxologies, John taught his disciples such prayers as were more filled up with petitions and requests; for it is said of them that they did deeseis poiountai—make prayers, Luke 5:33.”2

I can imagine that they were tired of their common Jewish prayers, which were nothing more than religious ritual.  They were curious about, and more interested in the petitionary prayers of John’s disciples.  Their prayers, I suppose, seemed more personal and from the heart.

Secondly, since they were constantly observing Jesus praying, and since they came to Him and asked Him to teach them to pray, they not only wanted to pray as John’s disciples, they wanted much more to pray as Jesus prayed.  They were not necessarily asking Jesus to teach them word for word how to pray, but I think they saw Jesus’ great heart for prayer and they recognized that when He prayed He was on a higher level.  I think they also perceived the intimate relationship He had with His Father.  And so, these are the things they were curious about and desired.

So here are the two settings of this prayer.  The first was given out of a sermon and was taught in contrast to hypocritical and pagan prayers; the second was given as an answer to the disciples request—“Lord, teach us to pray.”  In the first prayer, Jesus taught them the manner of prayer—or the principles of prayer and the correct way to pray.  In the second prayer, since it is almost identical to the first (it is an abbreviated form of the Matthew prayer), I believe He wanted to teach them the same principles of the first prayer, but to also illustrate His heart of prayer and to answer their question.  Therefore, after He recited to them the prayer He had previously taught, He added to it a story to teach them about prayer from His heart (vv. 5-13).

In the rest of our study, we will look mainly at the Matthew prayer, but we will also consider the Luke prayer, as each of them in their own settings have something to teach us about how to pray.

1 John MacArthur, Jr., Jesus’ Pattern of Prayer (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), p. 13.

2 Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

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The Border Wall Is Being Built

Pray for the safe completion of the border wall.

Prayer for Trump and Country

The media is telling you that there is no border wall.  Watch this video for the truth.

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Let Your Light Shine

Jesus said in Matthew 5:16,

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

In a few verses earlier (verses 13 and 14), Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

In Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, he explains that if we are true Christians we are salt and we are light. We cannot help but to be salt and light. That is who we are. That is what He has made us.

Now some will say that they are Christians. But these in reality are Christians only in form. That is, they have a form of Christianity, but they deny its power. They have the appearance of a Christian but they are not. They, in fact, reject Christ. They have no salt and no light. Their salt has no saltiness and their light gives no light.

They may desire to be a Christian, but for the wrong reasons—perhaps to escape hell, or maybe to find happiness with some people in the church who have loved on them. But for certain, they will not find real fellowship. These people have one foot in the world and one foot in the church. They are salt without salt and light without light. And in the end they will be cast into outer darkness.

A true Christian cannot be hid. He will stand out. He will be like a city set on a hill. And he will not desire to hide his light. However, for any Christian, there may be times when the thought, the temptation, to hide your light, enters you head. But you ought to know that that thought in your head is not natural for a Christian. It is of the devil and we must reject it. The natural desire for a Christian is always to let your light shine brightly.

The more you continue to read the word of God and pray, the more you will be strong in your desire to let your light shine brightly—to be different from the world.

 

How are we to let our light shine?

The key word in the KJV is “so.” The NASV has translated it, “in such a way.”

So, in what way is that? How are we to let our light shine? The answer is in the next phrase: that they (the world) may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Therefore, our works should not call attention to ourselves, but to Him, that He may be glorified.

Yes, we hope that people will see our good works. But the reason is not to bring glory to us, but that God would be glorifies.

 

Our light is a reflection of His light. When the world is drawn to our light it will be drawn into His light.

 

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