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Devotionals : The Lords Prayer: A Meditation Matthew 6:9-13
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The Lords Prayer: A Meditation Matthew 6:9-13

By Dr. Kieran Beville, Pastor of Lee Valley Bible Church, Ballincollig, Ireland
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“Our Father…”

What a privilege for disciples of Jesus to be invited to pray in this way. This opening phrase of the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that we belong to God; that we have been purchased by his precious blood. We are his treasured possession. He delights in us and we delight in him. We have immediate and unhindered access to God. These words also teach us that we have a unique and intimate relationship with God. Not only that but they also inform us that, as believers, we have a very special relationship with our fellow disciples. The Chief Executive Officer of a multinational corporation had his office on the top floor of a skyscraper in New York. Outside his office there was another office where his personal assistant organized and monitored all his appointments. The C.E.O. was an exceptionally busy man and could only meet with people of like status in the business world such as directors of large organizations. Appointments were usually made several months in advance and he would never see anybody without a scheduled appointment. However, a person without any appointment got into the elevator went all the way to the top floor. As he entered the personal assistant’s office. She looked up from the document she had been typing and looked at him over the rim of her spectacles. But before she could say a word he moved quickly to the C.E.O.’s door, opened it and entered. Once inside he moved toward the C.E.O. and was greeted with open arms in a loving embrace. He was the son of this powerful executive and never needed an appointment. This is how it is with Christ’s disciples. We can enter God’s presence at any time and know that we will be lovingly welcomed.

“…in heaven…”

God is a transcendent being who is infinitely other than all that we are and yet he became flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus who was fully God and fully man. This is a mind-boggling mystery. But Christ no longer lives on earth. He has ascended into heaven to take his rightful place of glory with the Father. Our heavenly Father is the sovereign God of the universe. His power is unlimited and his love is unrestricted. God created the universe out of nothing. The oceans are like a drop in bucket to him. When we pray we should be conscious that the one who receives our petitions is not constrained by human limitations. Heaven is the place from which God governs all things. It is a place where his will is obeyed immediately and joyfully. Angels, archangels, cherubim and seraphim worship him who is seated on the throne. He is a holy God. Although we have easy access to our heavenly Father we should not be flippant or too casual about approaching him. Sin will not be tolerated in his presence. So we must confess our sins and be cleansed before we expect to be heard. The phrase, “in heaven” might seem to indicate that he is distant or aloof. But when it is taken together with the opening phrase of this prayer, “Our Father” it gives a sense of balance about how we ought to approach him; not casually but confidently. There is no greater authority than the authority of heaven. This holy and awesome God who dwells in regal majesty in heaven is slow to anger and abounding in love. As the hymn reminds us he is, ‘slow to chide and swift to bless’. We have limited understanding and skills but we have access to the unlimited power of our heavenly Father.

“…hallowed be your name…”

God’s name and nature are inseparable. His name is revered in heaven and on earth. But his name is not revered by all the inhabitants of this planet. Sadly many take his name in vain. If we challenge people about this they dismiss us as cranks or crackpots. Frequently on the radio the ‘F’ word is bleeped over but Christ’s name is abused without any regard for him or those who object. People jealously guard their reputations and will go to great lengths to protect their names. Often there are court cases which arise out of slander or defamation. When we pray like this we are expressing our desire to see God’s name revered more. We want Christ to be more than just a swear word on the lips of others. We want others to understand who he is and to love him and worship him. He was called Jesus because he would deliver people from sin. It is a title which speaks of his work. May Christ’s name be hallowed in our workplace and our homes! We cannot expect everybody to revere Jesus but we can hope and pray that those with whom we have contact will come to respect that sacred name. Let us revere him in our thoughts, words and deeds. There is an ‘already’ but ‘not yet’ sense to this element of the Lord’s Prayer. His name is hallowed in heaven and partly hallowed on earth. But one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Until that day there will continue to be many who are apathetic to or antagonistic to the name of Jesus. As Christians we bear the noble name of Christ and we should do all that we can to promote and defend it whenever and wherever it is traduced.

“Your kingdom come…”

We should have this burning desire within us for the coming of God’s kingdom; that the name of God may be glorified and magnified over all. When Christ is recognized and obeyed in our lives there are many blessings of the kingdom which are ours. So there is an extensive and intensive dimension to this prayer. Regarding the extensive dimension we should want to see the kingdom become more widespread. Regarding the intensive dimension we should work toward a more mature faith so that we might increasingly acknowledge God as sovereign ruler in our lives. It is only when the heavenly Father, on the basis of the Son’s atonement, and through the operation of the Holy Spirit, rules in people’s hearts that the kingdom has truly come. So this aspect of the Lord’s Prayer reflects an earnest desire for the coming of the reign of God in human hearts. Because it is only partly fulfilled this prayer is still relevant today and will continue to be relevant until the Lord returns. Although the kingdom is already here in one sense it nevertheless is still absent in many hearts today. The real prayer of many hearts today is my kingdom come! This is the ardent yearning of people that aspire to self-gratification. Many people are too busy building their own personal, commercial empires and are not bothered with the kingdom of God. It takes the transforming grace and power of God to enable people to say, ‘Your kingdom come’. It is only then that God’s desires, priorities and values become ours. The Christian church must uphold the principles of the kingdom of God by being a people of benevolence and blessing.

“...your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

The appropriate attitude of prayer is one which accepts the will of God. Our attitude should be that his will is preferable to ours. This implies an acknowledgement that our wishes and desires are imperfect. This is a prayer that his will would be unhindered. In heaven the will of God is always being performed perfectly. In heaven the will of God is gladly and unconditionally accepted by all. In heaven the will of God is continuously obeyed by all. In heaven the will of God is spontaneously obeyed by all. In heaven the will of God is joyfully obeyed by all. It should be our ardent desire that the Lord’s will be done as heartily and as immediately as it is in heaven. In this part of the Lord’s Prayer we are seeking to bring our minds and hearts and wills under the lordship of Christ so that his will is unobstructed and enacted without delay. Certainly there may be times in our lives when we have difficulty discerning the will of the Lord in particular circumstances, perhaps relating to career, marriage partner and a host of other areas. Life is complex. Not everything is black and white and the answers to our dilemmas are not always clear cut. The Bible does not give us unequivocal answers to all of the questions or predicaments we face. But it does provide us with sound principles and frequently very specific advice on many issues. We find advice there on our roles, responsibilities and relationships. We can find advice about what to do and what not to do. This is the wisest of all prayers in various circumstances and we should be content to accept his perfect will in all situations. Praying like this demands faith and confidence in God.

“...give us this day our daily bread…”

When we consider the order in which these petitions appear it is somewhat surprising that this particular request comes at this point in the prayer. Thus far the prayer has been a sublime spiritual petition focused on exalted themes and lofty issues. It has been a wonderfully uplifting contemplation. We might expect that the spiritual needs of man would come next. But surprisingly the Lord starts with our physical needs before going on to deal with spiritual needs. There is nothing mundane or banal in this request for food. We are given permission to pray about the basic physical needs of our existence. This tells us that we should not take such things for granted. It is appropriate to petition God in relation to our present and practical needs and to acknowledge his provision to us of what is necessary for living. Although prayer is a spiritual activity it may legitimately address physical needs. If God withheld the rain and the sunshine there would be no bread at all, our land would become barren. We should have a greater appreciation of God’s providential care. We need a more developed and conscious realization that we depend on God for physical survival and this should be reflected in our prayers. Some may think that prayer for our material needs is trivial and un-spiritual but God made us body and soul. The Lord’s Prayer encompasses the totality of our being. Clearly we may ask God for our daily bread. The request for daily bread shows that this prayer is a daily prayer. God expects us to come to him regularly. We are not encouraged here to ask for vast resources that would eliminate our sense of dependence on God.

“...forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…”

God’s grace and mercy to us should cause us to be gracious and merciful to others. We ought to be generous in forgiving others because God has been generous in forgiving us. If a person is unforgiving one would have to doubt his Christian credentials. To be forgiving is to be like Jesus. When we are forgiving we bear a family likeness to God. Jesus told the parable of the unforgiving servant as a stern warning to those who have an unforgiving nature. Such people do not belong to him. They are pretenders and impostors. We are to forgive sincerely from our hearts. In this sense forgiveness is not merely a matter of saying the words, “I forgive you”, though that is a start. We must be liberal, bighearted and open-handed in forgiving because this is the way we would want to be forgiven ourselves. We are not to be tight-fisted in forgiving others. Even if we take Christ’s words in a literal sense we are to forgive a person 490 times (i.e. 70 X 7). The principle is that we are to repeatedly forgive and never tire of forgiving. Not many of us have been tested to forgive on such a scale. But God provides special grace in special circumstances. We are to be imitators of Christ, not imitations. Forgiving others imparts peace of mind and heart and it glorifies God. The sin of un-forgiveness can blight our Christian life and rob us of joy. When God forgives us he does not keep us at a distance. That would be a forensic technicality; a legal absolution but not appropriate in a family context. The forgiveness that God gives is one where there is reconciliation and restoration of right relationship.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”

Here we humbly confess that we are prone to sin. And so we plead with God not to allow us to be brought into situations and conditions that involve temptation. We are asking God to shield and protect us from the onslaughts of the devil. Jesus exhorted the disciples to be diligent in prayer as a preventative to temptation, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38). So we are to be alert about this and this means constantly bringing our desires under the scrutiny of the Lord so that our motives and ambitions might be purified in prayer. Essentially Jesus is telling his disciples to petition God for the grace and power to keep them from failing when their faith is challenged by some test. But we must be careful not to put ourselves in the way of temptation. What does this involve? This must be worked through by every individual believer because we all have different strengths and weaknesses. But, for example, married men or women should not allow themselves enter situations that are potentially compromising. We paint and varnish sheds and boats and wooden fences in water repellent substances so that they do not decay in the outdoor conditions. Prayer is the means by which believers put on a protective layer to enable them not to be susceptible to the prevailing temptations of this world. This aspect of the Lord’s Prayer is about asking God to lead us on a path where we will not encounter temptation. As such it is a preventative prayer insofar as it is more about avoiding temptation than overcoming it. How many of us pray like that?

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

These uplifting and sublime words bring a sense of poetic closure to the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave this prayer as a model for real prayer. It was different from the prayers of the Pharisees and heathen. It is not to be said hypocritically. It is not to be said mechanically. The problem with the hypocrite is selfishness. Even in his prayers he is obsessed with his own self-image and how he looks in the eyes of the beholder. But in this prayer Christians are preoccupied with God; his name and honor, his kingdom, his will and his glory. Our prayers are to be saturated with a sense of his glory. As such it is the exact opposite of the exhibitionism of the hypocrites. They used prayer as a vehicle for their own glory. The error of heathenism is mindlessness; babbling empty, meaningless words. This prayer is God-centered, not self-centered. This prayer is intelligent, in contrast to the mechanical incantations of the heathen. It is intelligent in the sense that it engages the mind to express a thoughtful dependence on God. Therefore when we come to God in prayer we are to be focused on him not those around us. We are not to be engaged in seeking to please or impress others or try to gain their approval. We are not to indulge in mechanical mindless mutterings. The fundamental difference between right and wrong praying rests in the different images of God which underpin them. The tragic mistake of hypocrites and heathen is to be found in their false image of God. God is our Father in heaven. He loves his children with deep and tender affection. He is approachable and available and loves to listen to his children.
 

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Comments


This break down was a blessing to me. Thanks
8/27/2013 9:08:19 AM - Blessed123, Member of Delve into Jesus since 8/27/2013


I have been saved and reading the Bible, listening to the preached word, and teaching of many for approximately 30 years and have never heard or seen or experienced an explanation of The Lord' s Prayer, as is expounded in this devotional. Thank you!
9/5/2013 6:07:47 AM - JT, Member of Delve into Jesus since 9/5/2013



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