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For some reason, we in the Churches of Christ are reluctant to recite the Lord’s Prayer in church. Really. I mean, just as soon as I say the words, the absurdity of it becomes plain. And so I need to disabuse us of some very serious errors in our understanding of this passage.
1. We so like to appear superior to our “denominational” neighbors that we sniff and stare down our noses to say, “Jesus spoke many prayers. This is not ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ as though this were the only prayer Jesus ever worded. No, it’s the ‘Model Prayer.'”
Yeah, and that makes us sound oh-so-very smart and attractive. Especially when we say this but don’t make the least effort to model our prayers on the Model Prayer.
In Luke’s version, Jesus says,
(Luk 11:2 ESV) And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. …”
And so, for the hyper-literalists among us, we should pray the prayer verbatim. (But in Matthew, Jesus says “Pray like this.” So either view can be supported.)
2. We were taught by Foy E. Wallace, Jr. that the prayer is an anachronism. Because the Kingdom came at Pentecost, we should pray, “Your kingdom be extended …”
Well, such a prayer would be a perfectly fine prayer, but this teaching reveals that we missed the point. You see, “on earth as it is in heaven” modifies all that goes before.
The three clauses are rounded off with the phrase on earth as it is in heaven, which, in view of the careful balance of the three preceding clauses, is probably to be taken with all of them rather than as an extension of the last.
R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 1; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 139.
When we recite the Lord’s Prayer, we should hear —
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name [on earth as it is in heaven][,]
10 Your kingdom come [on earth as it is in heaven],
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
That’s changes everything, doesn’t it? This is a prayer for the kingdom to be extended already. Jesus was well ahead of us 2,000 years ago.
3. In my teenage “leadership” classes, I was taught that the Model Prayer teaches us to begin with praise. You see, we used the KJV, and so “Hallowed be Thy name” sounded like a praise, but it’s not. It’s a prayer — a request that God’s name be considered holy on earth as it is in heaven.
Praise of God is entirely proper in prayer, but there’s no rule that we must butter him up before we make our requests. After all, the real praise in the first verse is found in “Our Father.” God has chosen to adopt us as his children, and therefore he is anxious to hear our petitions — because he has a special love and concern for us. And so the praise that God wants to hear from us is that we call him “Father.”
(Mat 6:9-10 ESV) 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
This is a petition that God’s reign be extended to the ends of the earth. Indirectly, it’s a petition for the Second Coming, because once the Kingdom’s borders extend to every person on the planet, when all bend their knees before Jesus the Messiah, then this age will be over. (Not that it couldn’t happen sooner, but I don’t see it taking longer, not that I really know these things.)
But, implicitly, it’s also a pledge to join God in his mission to accomplish this. I mean, what hypocrites we’d be to pray for the extension of the Kingdom while unwilling to help God do what we’re asking for.
(Mat 6:11 ESV) 11 Give us this day our daily bread,
This is a really hard one. We Americans want enough bread to endow our bread needs for life and the lives of our children and our grandchildren. Jesus teaches us to pray for today’s bread today. God, please help us in our unbelief.