Recently, a well-respected Bible teacher was asked a question. It was asked on a Sunday evening. “I was told that you have written in your Bible, as way of reminder before you teach, ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’ Is that true?” The reply was simple. “No.” “I have written in my Bible, ‘Sir, we would see Jesus.’”
What is Jesus Doing?
There is something missing in The Lord’s Prayer. There is something missing when we think about The Lord’s Prayer and read about The Lord’s Prayer or recite The Lord’s Prayer or even sing The Lord’s Prayer. There is something missing when The Lord’s Prayer is taught. Missing is seeing Jesus.
The first thing to see when it comes to The Lord’s Prayer is that Jesus was sitting (cf. Matthew 5:1). He was sitting when he taught his disciples about when to pray and about how to pray. There is just something different about a teacher and teaching when sitting with the students. And as Jesus sits with his disciples, teaching about when to pray and how to pray, what is he doing? What is Jesus up to?
Is Jesus merely teaching about prayer and praying? Is Jesus merely encouraging his disciples to pray? I thought so. And my aim had been from this passage to encourage prayer. I had been seeking to first encourage private prayer. And it was because in this passage from Matthew 6:5 through Matthew 6:15, there is only verse regarding you and me and us, when the personal pronoun is singular. It is Matthew 6:6. “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” Last week we called this private prayer. And private prayer is that daily and regular set aside time with no distractions and no interruptions to simply just pray.
But the rest of the personal pronouns, when it comes to you and me and us and prayer in Matthew 6:5-15, are each plural. So, it seems that when Jesus sat down and taught his disciples about praying and prayer, he encouraged the necessity for both private prayer and group prayer (praying together). Why? This has been part of my aim for now two weeks, to join with Jesus and encouraging first me and then you and then us in the area of both private prayer and group prayer. “And if our corporate prayer [group prayer] is not fueled by a congregation of people seeking the Lord privately, face to face, in their secret [private] devotions, then we are simply going through the motions, and we will be undone. Your practice of these things in secret prayer are as important as our practice of them in corporate prayer.”
But is this what Jesus is doing here? Simply encouraging us to pray privately and to pray together? The answer is no. This is why I said that when this is taught, The Lord’s Prayer, something is missing and missing is seeing Jesus. What is Jesus doing? See what Jesus is doing. The big idea here is that we would capture this biblical vision of prayer and for praying. Or maybe it is that we would be captured by this biblical vision of prayer and for praying.
If We Pray Then Like This
In our time together we will be in the heart of this section on prayer. And the heart of this section on prayer is Matthew 6:9-13, the section affectionately called The Lord’s Prayer. There are two parts of The Lord’s Prayer. Part one is Matthew 6:9-10 and part two is Matthew 6:11-13. Although for the sake of study we are separating this prayer into two parts, these are not two separate parts. Part one needs part two and part two needs part one. Or another way of seeing it is that part two serves part one.
There are six requests in this prayer. Some may see seven requests, but we are going to see six requests. And the reason The Lord’s Prayer may be viewed in two parts is because of these six requests. Highlight and write down the word request. Sometimes we use the word petition. What is a request? What is a petition?
Anyway, there are six requests in this prayer and two parts to this prayer. If you are thinking mathematically, there are three requests in the first part and three requests in the second part. I want to call this first part, God-centered requests. Listen to each of these requests (Matthew 6:9-10). “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is heaven.” So, each request is about God – his name, his kingdom, and his will. And the second part I want to call we-centered requests and it is because of those plural pronouns. Listen to each of these requests (Matthew 6:11-13). “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 the “us,” “our” and “we.” These are not me-centered requests. This kind of praying helps me though in how to pray for me and you and for our church. But, again, the parts are connected. Part two is not separate from part one. For example, how does praying for bread have something to do with praying for the hallowing of God’s name? How does praying for forgiveness have something to do with praying for God’s kingdom? How does praying for guidance away from temptation and safety from evil have something to do with God’s will?
And the provoking thought is, what if we pray then like this? What if I pray then like this in my private time? What if we pray then like this together? And what if both are happening, richly affecting the other, private prayer and group prayer? What could happen?
There are five things to keep in mind if we pray then like this. 1) Be loving those you are praying with whether your spouse; your family; your fellow elders; your church family. 2) And may there be unified togetherness when we pray (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 4:2). 3) This, numbers one and two, richly affect when I pray for you and us. 4) Remember that we belong to a family. 5) And remember that we belong to a family with this kind of Father.
The Sweet ‘Our’ of Prayer
Pay attention to the last sentence of Matthew 6:8. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” We belong to a family with this kind of Father! He knows what we need before we ask him! So, Jesus then says next, “Pray then like this: Our Father…” And what follows are six requests or six needs, six things we need. And so when we pray privately and together, we are not only saying this is what I need, but what we need and we need these things as a church, or we will be undone. And when we pray like this, both privately and then together, we are saying, “We need you God. We need you God to do among us what is really essential, what matters most.”
And so the prayer begins with “Our Father” or the sweet ‘our’ of prayer. And what are we asking? First, we are asking, “hallowed be Your name.” We left last week with seven days to think about this question: what does it mean to ask God to hallow his name? The word hallow is an older word which means to make holy or to revere. Now here is what is interesting; God’s name is holy (cf. Leviticus 22:2; 32; 1 Chronicles 16:10). So, is this request asking God to make holy that which is holy? No. Keep in mind that this is the first of six requests or six needs, six things we need. And to pray this request is to say, “We need this; we need God’s name to be hallowed.” Since it is already holy, are we asking that his name be regarded or understood as holy? Maybe, but not really. The demons regard God’s name to be holy. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). So, what does it mean, hallowed be your name?
Listen to Psalm 5:11. “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.” Listen to Psalm 86:11. “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” And listen to Nehemiah 1:11. “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Hallow means to make holy, to revere, to love, to delight, to value and to treasure. We need this and we need God and we need God to do among us what is really essential, what matters most. And what matters most is the revering and the loving and the delighting and the valuing and the treasuring of God’s name above everything else.
And what is his name? First, it is Father. Oh, to revere and love and delight in and value and treasure that we may call him Father! But there is more. His name is who he is. Listen to Exodus 34:6-7. “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And what matters most is the revering and the loving and the delighting and the valuing and the treasuring of God’s name above everything else.
How Does Part Two Fit With Part One?
How do the two parts of this prayer then fit together? Each request in part one seems to correlate with each request in part two. If I am satisfied to revere and love and delight in and value and treasure God’s name above everything else, then I am content with daily bread, just what I need to live and get through the day. My delight is not in the New York Strip and the new car and the latest and greatest and my house and my clothes and my checking account. And I pray for his kingdom to come with Jesus reigning over this entire globe. Why? Why is this a need? Why is this a need now? “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). How then do I regard the forgiveness of my own sins? And show that regard? I am thankful to be forgiven and therefore I am quick to forgive others instead of taking pleasure in holding a grudge. And I want to be able to enter that kingdom holding onto no grudges.
And I pray that his will be done on earth, perfectly as the angels do it in heaven with joy and loud singing and worship and awe. Does it not make sense that if I value his name above all else, I then want to do his will above my own? How does this correlate with that sixth and final request? “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” What is the point of temptation? What is the point of evil and the evil one? To not do God’s will! To value my own wants and desires above God’s wants and desires. But instead be like Moses who chose “rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25).
And we ask these things, these needs for ourselves personally and for one another and for our church because we need God and we need these things and we need God for these needs, to do among us what matters most. We need him!
And it is my hope as your pastor that you be praying privately and that your private praying would fuel our congregation to be praying together – husbands with wives; parents with children; men with other men; women with other women; elders praying together and our church as a whole setting aside times with no distractions and no interruptions to pray like this together. What could happen? “These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:6-7).