As Jesus taught His Sermon on the Mount, He explained how God wanted His disciples to pray. The people of Jesus’ time were not to follow the models of their culture. The religious leaders who used prayer to show off their own piety. Instead, He taught them a prayer that they could use as a different kind of model. The words of His model was never meant to be uses as a kind of chant. Jesus explained that chants were the way of the pagan religions. They thought they could manipulate their idols and deities by repeating things over and over again in a mantra. But the God of the universe is alive and listening. He doesn’t want to hear mindless babble. God wants His children to talk to Him thoughtfully and meaningful as a child talks to a good Father about what is on their heart.
So Jesus gave a very clear and simple format to help retrain how His disciples approached their God in prayer. Sometimes it is called the Lord’s Prayer. Others have said it should probably be called the Disciples Prayer since it is the one He gave to us to help us come to Him. For this blog, we’ll look at the outline of the prayer. It is a way to take notice of what themes were important to Jesus in our prayers. For the next blog we’ll take a deeper look at its meaning. This is what He said:
“‘This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in Heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth
as it is in Heaven.”
According to Jesus, when we come to God, we come to our Father. He is not a roaring terror of a tyrant, a distant but noble King that demands our allegiance, or a wimpy deity who needs our help. Jesus said He is our Father, just as God is His Father. We are part of His family, we belong to Him, and because He is a good Father, He loves us with deep, rich loyalty. We can go to His throne of grace and pray with total confidence. And what do we do when we get there?
First, Jesus said to praise Him. He is high and holy and utterly worthy…so much so that even His name is hallowed.
Then we pray that His Kingdom will come. Until it does, we are to pray that His will would be done on earth just like His will is always perfectly honored in Heaven.
After spending time worshipping and honoring God and His ways, Jesus tells us to pray to God about our own needs. He knows that we need things like food and water. His prayer shows that He wants us to depend on God for them. He said to pray:
“Give us today our daily bread.”
When we read this, we should remember the way God did this for the Israelites in the Old Testament. Every morning as the children of God wandered through the wilderness on their way to the Land of Promise, they woke up to find manna bread waiting for them. It was always just enough for them to eat for the day. When Jesus’ audience heard Him say to pray for daily bread, God’s faithfulness to their ancestors would have jumped to their minds. It was meant to provoke them to trust God as well. Those ancient stories can help our faith, too. Jesus went on:
“Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven
It was important to Jesus that we come to God to seek forgiveness for our sin all along the path of our lives. And all along the way we to meant to forgive the people that sin against us as well. Think how important this must be to the Lord! This is a very short prayer, and Jesus had to reduce everything we should talk about with God into a few sentences…each line was selected with extreme care. Jesus makes it clear that seeking and giving forgiveness is an important part of our ongoing prayer life as we live for God in a broken world. Jesus went on:
“And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the Evil One.’”
Finally, Jesus tells us to pray for strength against temptation. When we ask not to be led into temptation, it is a way of saying, “Lord, lead us to righteousness instead of temptation.” Jesus also wants us to ask for protection against the vicious work of the Evil One. Think about that. It was important to Jesus that we address the fact that we have a real enemy, the demonic character of Satan and all of his evil followers. His goal it to attack God by destroying humanity because we are precious to Him. The Evil One, otherwise known as Satan, loves to figure out the weaknesses that humans have and play on them to draw them away from the Lord. Jesus tells us to ask for these things because it is God’s plan and desire to help and protect us from our own weakness to temptation and the Enemy of our souls.
In many parts of the world, and especially the West over the past few hundred years, the idea of Satan as a real, evil being is mocked. But I’ve never heard the people that scoff at the idea give a better explanation for all of the evil going on in the world. Every major world religion has beliefs about demonic spirits. Could it be that this is because the members of every civilization has experienced their oppression? It is the arrogance of the West that assumes it can point to every other culture (including the major belief system of it’s own culture) and declare them backward and ignorant simply because the limitations of their own scientific framework presumes to disregard the supernatural. As science discovers more and more things that it cannot fully grasp…such as the multiple dimensions of string theory, or the presence of dark matter and dark energy (which, according to scientific estimates, make up more than 95% of the universe, yet are totally unknown to us in terms of what they actually are), it might behoove us all to reconsider how much we think we know, and how much we should mock things that we might falsely assume we understand. For Christians who believe the Bible is true, the choice is clear. Satan is real, and so are his minions, and God wants us to call upon Him for protection.