The Disciple's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)
The Disciple's Prayer
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)
March 17th, 2019
I. The Prayer
It would seem reasonable, given the number of confessing Christians that have existed and do exist on the planet Earth, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the prayer traditionally known as “The Lord's Prayer”, recorded in Matthew 6:9-13, is the most prayed prayer in all of human history. That's pretty remarkable.
But what exactly does it mean to pray that prayer? First of all, based on the fact that this prayer contains a request for the forgiveness of sins, I think it would be better to refer to this passage as “The Disciple's Prayer”. Second, as we talked about last time, this prayer was given by Jesus, yes, as a daily prayer, but more specifically, as a daily discipline. Remember what we talked about last time:
Jesus taught his followers this prayer because, when it comes to prayer, on the sea of human tendencies, the Lord’s Prayer (this Disciple's Prayer) is meant to anchor us to God priorities.
Keep that in mind as we look together at Matthew 6:9-13.
II. The Passage: "Pray Then Like This" (6:9-13)
Now this morning, I'd like to go line by line and unpack with you the different parts of this prayer. Of course, the danger in doing this is that we end up covering a lot of different topics, and you leave without a main idea, a unifying idea. Well, as I mentioned before, my hope is that the main idea you leave with today is the idea of, through this prayer, being anchored to God's priorities when you pray (and, of course, when you're not praying as well). So we'll make sure to come back to that idea when we wrap things up.
So let's dig into the prayer itself. Ready? Let me read it through first. Jesus declares in v. 9...
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.”
Notice first of all there are two halves to this prayer. Verses 9 and 10 are distinguished by the pronoun “your”. But in verses 11-13, that emphasis shifts over to the pronoun “our” (and “us”). That's important when it comes a word we've already mentioned this morning: “priorities”. When it comes to prayer, “your” should always come before “our”; “his” before “mine”; “He” (capital H) before “me”. But let's see look more carefully at that first half.
1. First, “Your” (vs. 9, 10)
The first thing I want you to notice about this prayer can be summed in the word paternity. The first word in the original Greek version of Matthew is not the same as the first word in our English translation. The first word of this prayer, in the original, is the word “Father”.
Now, when it comes to prayer, the title “Father” is quite familiar to most of us. But when we look at Jesus’ use and understanding of this term, and the cultural setting in which Jesus’ used it, I think you will see that this title is far from ordinary.
Did you know that when Jesus prayed, He only addressed God as Father. There is only one instance in which this is not the case, and that is Jesus’ cry on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”; and that was a quote from Psalm 22:1. In every other instance, in fact, 125 times in our four gospels, Jesus addressed or referred to God as ‘Father’, or “the Father”, or “my Father”.
Now, while this was not unheard of or unknown in the Old Testament and/or the Judaism of Jesus’ day, it was very unusual to address God so consistently as Father.
What is more astounding though is the choice of words that Jesus used to refer to God as Father. Even thought the Gospels were written in the Greek language, listen to how Mark 14:36 reveals the Aramaic language that Jesus spoke: And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Did you hear that? Jesus used the Aramaic word abba. In that culture, this was a word that children and adults alike would use to refer to their father, with the emphasis being on the fact it was my father. The word implied both personal relationship and intimacy. And guess what, verses like Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6, confirm that followers of Jesus can use this same word for “Father”.
AND, as we see here, “Father” is the word Jesus taught us to use in prayer. Ever thought about the fact that no one ever prays to Jesus in the NT, nor are we ever instructed to pray to Jesus? I don't think that means we should never address the Son when pray to the Father, but it does ground us in the amazing reality of God's fatherhood. More about that later!
The second thing I want you to see in this first half of the prayer can be summed up with the word plurality. In our English Bibles, the first word of this prayer is the possessive pronoun “our”…”Our Father in heaven”.
In some sense, the choice of pronouns is not strange because many, if not most, of the standard, daily prayers of Jews in the time of Jesus, and Jews today, are prayed in the first person plural. Why? Because the Jew knew that God was not only his God, but the God of His people, His kin. He knew that he was part of something much larger, and because of this he prayed not only for himself, but also for His people, who were God’s people.
I believe Jesus’ prayer here also uses the first person plural for that very reason. When combined with our first point, we see here how Jesus reminds us that God is the Father of a family and we are members of His family. Individualism is the air we breathe everyday in our modern, Western world. That's one of the reasons this corrective is so important.
If we are followers of Jesus, we do not stand alone; we are part of something much bigger. So when you pray this prayer each day, pray as a member of this family of faith, but also pray on behalf of, intercede for, your church family using this Disciple's Prayer.
Finally, we discover in this first half of the prayer, in fact, taking up the most space in this first half is an idea we could sum up with the word primacy. The word primacy has to do with what is and should be first; what is of greater importance; chief importance. As you can see from verse 9, what is first after the address is a request: hallowed be your name.
But what in the world does this “hallowed” mean? That's a pretty obscure word, isn't it? And we might also ask, how can God’s name be made or become “hallowed”?
Well this infrequently used word is actually the verbal form of a word we use frequently in reference to God. I'm talking about the word, “holy”. Since the word “holy” means set apart, or sacred, or revered, I think a better translation of this phrase would be something like, “May your name be revered” OR “revered as holy”.
Now, remember, the term “name” represented the whole nature of the person in Hebrew thought. Therefore, this is a prayer for the adoration of God, that our Father in heaven would be revered by all people, at all times, in all places.
Now with that mind, I want you to notice how the next two “your” requests are connected that opening request. We are taught to pray, your kingdom come. But what does that mean ? Are we asking for some kind of celestial city to descend from the sky? Not exactly.
The kingdom of God is simply the “rule” or “reign” of God. One day, according to Jesus, and through Jesus, God will put down every rebel impulse in this universe; one day, God will restore all creation to that blessed state of harmony, in which everything is perfectly in line with his desires.
But there is yet another request, a third request connected to the second request. Jesus teaches us to pray: “May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Now, let's be clear. Sometimes the Bible speaks about God's “will” in reference to his grand design, his plan, his overarching purpose. But that's not what Jesus has in mind here. We don't have to pray for God's plan to take place. It has... it is... it will! No, when Jesus talks about God's “will”, He is simply talking about what God desires, what God wants. “May what you want to be done!” This is a prayer seeking and submitting to God's will.
Jesus prayed in this same spirit when he declared the night before his death, “not as I will, but as you will.” In the garden, Jesus gave us a glimpse of heaven. In spite of the pressure, Jesus did what God wanted him to do. And that's what happens in heaven. God is honored all the time, in every way. There is no sin. In heaven, no one says, “My will be done”. They say “Thy will be done.” That's why we pray that earth would become more like heaven.
So stop and think about those first three “your” requests. They are in fact three ways of expressing the same prayer. And it's not overstatement to say that there is no greater request that we can offer up than this one. That's precisely why it is and should always be first. There is no need that does not spring from the condition for which this petition is made. There is no need that will not be met in the realization of this prayer.
2. Then, “Our” (vs. 11-13)
But after the priorities described by those opening lines, I want us to consider where Jesus takes us in the second half of this prayer. He is moving us from “your” focused requests to “our” focused requests. To be clear, that does not mean he is moving us from God-centered prayers to us-centered prayers. But he does want to address the issue of our needs.
But think about the order of the first and second halves of this prayer. These final three requests are not simply all you need to live any life; they represent all you need to lead THE life that God desires; the life that is submitted to His rule and working to spread his kingship in this world.
You see, when our goals for this life are not in line with God’s goal, we see our needs very differently. If our life’s purpose is simply to be happy or successful, we will define our needs differently. But when the purpose of our life is to work for God’s purposes, our needs become defined by that goal.
The everyday needs described in verses 11-13 are what we need to carry out God’s great agenda every day. Jesus wants us to learn what is really necessary to do God’s will on earth, as it is done in heaven. So notice where he takes us with these requests.
First, he addresses the issue of provision. “Give us this day our daily bread...” But is there more to this request than meets the eye? Is it simply a request for rye, a petition for pumpernickel, a wish for wheat? I think it light of everything Jesus taught, and in light of the Old and New Testaments, we could say that the term “bread” in verse 11 represents all of our basic, physical needs.
This is what Paul later described in I Timothy 6 as “food and covering”: for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (I Timothy 6:7, 8)
No matter the condition of our cupboards at home, what we all need to remember is that when we pray for “our daily bread”, we are not simply praying for what God will give, but we are also acknowledging what he has given, AND the simple fact that He is the Giver.
You see, our daily prayer for bread should ultimately be, with extreme gratefulness, a daily confession of our dependence upon the hand of God. As someone once said, the request in verse 11 is for “our needs, not our greeds”. God will provide everything our bodies need to accomplish everything He desires. Thus, this 'Disciple's Prayer' should drive us to a deeper dependence on, and a greater contentment with, God’s perfect provision.
The second need Jesus addresses here is our need for pardon... “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In Jesus’ culture the term “debt” was just another way of talking about sin. The praise and obedience that we fail to give to God results is a spiritual ‘debt’. In the same way, those who have failed to treat us in a way that honors God make themselves “our debtors”. And so we might say, “And forgive us of our sin-debts, as we also have forgiven those who are sin-indebted to us.”
When you prayer this 'Disciple's Prayer' as a daily discipline, you are providing yourself with a course correction.
You are reminding yourself that even though you’ve prayed for God’s will to be done, you have also failed to do God’s will in terms of your thoughts, words, and actions. Therefore, you are reminding yourself that you are in daily need of God’s forgiveness. You are reminding yourself that you only stand by God's grace.
But notice the last half of the request: “as we also have forgiven our debtors”. Jesus indicates that our need for God’s forgiveness is inextricably linked to our need to forgive others. We'll explore that idea more next week. But it's enough for now to emphasize how this daily prayer reminds us of the critical importance, not only of God’s pardon to us, but also God’s pardon through us. Each day, the Lord’s Prayer should humble us as we are reminded that, to do His work, we need God’s forgiveness, and we need to demonstrate God’s forgiveness to those around us.
The final request here is a prayer for protection... “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Let me first point out that “being tempted” and “being brought into temptation” are two different things. Remember what happens at the end of this Gospel in the Garden of Gethsemane? Matthew writes,
And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40, 41)
Clearly here, falling into temptation is not simply being tempted, it is yielding to the power of evil. As Augustine wrote over 1500 years ago: “We should pray then not that we may not be tempted, which is impossible, but that we may not be brought under the power of temptation, which happens to them who are caught and captured by it.”
So what we have here is a prayer for protection from the power of evil. This is confirmed by the second half of the request where the converse of this request is stated: “DON’T bring us under the power of temptation, but DO deliver us from evil.” Or we could say, “Do not deliver us over to the power of temptation, but deliver us from evil” (in fact, I think the better translation is “the evil one”; that's more consistent with the other occurrences of this phrase in Matthew’s Gospel).
Each day we should be reminded that not only is evil is insidious, it is also intelligent. There is a force of wickedness that moves, not randomly, but intentionally, with deliberation. You see, through “The Prayer”, Jesus wants to remind us that we are engaged in a spiritual battle with a cunning enemy who will stop at nothing to derail God’s Kingdom agenda in this world, and in each of our lives individually.
And each day, God wants us to be prepared for the fight and eager to pass the tests that will undoubtedly come. But above all of this, He wants to remind us that our preparedness and our protection rest in His hands. Our ability to face the trials of life with faith, to respond to temptation with obedience, is not the result our spiritual maturity or mastery over this or that sin. Our faith and obedience are always a result of God’s protection and deliverance.
Think about this: God not only delivered us at the cross of Jesus, he delivers us each day because of the cross of Jesus! And that point points us to the astounding reality that powers this very prayer.
III. What He Taught, What He Bought
Think for a minute about what we've seen this morning in terms of the content of this prayer: paternity, plurality, primacy, provision, pardon, protection. Every one of these realities and requests is only possible because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
How is it that you and I can address God, who is infinite and eternal, a holy and awesome God, how is it that we dare address him as abba? Jesus addressed God as abba because of a natural relationship. But we address God as abba because of a supernatural relationship. Only through Jesus, we can be sons and daughters of God. Only through Jesus we are connected to one another as the family of God.
Only through Jesus God's kingdom is coming. Only through Jesus God haters become God lovers. Only through Jesus we find power to do God's will on earth (albeit imperfectly), just as it's done in heaven. Only through Jesus can we receive assurance of God's fatherly provision. Only through Jesus can we know exhaustive and eternal forgiveness. Only through Jesus can we find power to forgive as we've been forgiven. And only through Jesus are we protected from the devil's dominion.
Brothers and sister, this prayer from Jesus is powered by the good news about Jesus; the gospel. You see, not only does Jesus teach us this prayer, but only Jesus makes it possible for us to pray this prayer, and experience the fullness of God's response.
We can't forget the main point we wanted to leave with today: Jesus taught his followers this prayer because, when it comes to prayer, on the sea of human tendencies, the Lord’s Prayer (this Disciple's Prayer) is meant to anchor us to God priorities. Brothers and sisters, let's lift up this prayer every morning. And as we do, let's do so slowly, thoughtfully, humbly, gratefully, allowing its truths to shape us and the rest of our prayers throughout the day.
And in all this, let's keep looking to and learning from Jesus, the one who taught us this prayer and the one who bought us with his own blood, that we might be able to pray this prayer as forgiven and free children of God.