SOTM: Matthew 6:9-13 (The Lord’s Prayer, Part 1)

You may safely skip to 0:55 —

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.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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15 Responses to SOTM: Matthew 6:9-13 (The Lord’s Prayer, Part 1)

  1. brent says:

    Our efforts to not be like the “denominations” or the Catholics have led us to some very strange places at times. This to me is one of the strangest. To basically say it’s wrong to recite the very words of Jesus himself, which I have heard before, is baffling.

  2. Dwight says:

    I have never heard it said that it was wrong to recite the “model prayer” but that to use it as “the prayer” was wrong and yet as is pointed out we don’t turn to it either verbatim, which is good, or in model, which is great. We may make a lesson off of the prayer, but we don’t mine the prayer for the our own application.

  3. Alabama John says:

    In all grades of school this was recited by each class as well as the pledge of allegiance while facing the flag with our hands over our hearts every day before school started.

    We, that attended the Church of Christ or were actual baptized members sat down when “thy kingdom come” was recited and stood back up for the rest.

    No one said anything as they all understood very well our thinking.

  4. Will Ray says:

    Those of us that believe the Lord will reign on earth for 1000 years as clearly stated in the old and new testaments have no problem praying “thy kingdom come”.

    Mr Jay Guin, I am curious where you stand on the millenium since you have good scholarship behind what you write, but most people in the church of Christ are amillenial I think? What do you think?

  5. Jay Guin says:

    Will,

    It’s not a topic I much focus on, but a few years ago, the reader cajoled me into posting my views.

    http://oneinjesus.info/2010/09/the-age-of-accountability-conditional-immortality-the-millennium/
    http://oneinjesus.info/2010/09/the-age-of-accountability-conditional-immortality-the-millennium-part-2/
    http://oneinjesus.info/2010/09/the-age-of-accountability-conditional-immortality-the-millennium-part-3/
    http://oneinjesus.info/2010/09/the-age-of-accountability-conditional-immortality-the-millennium-part-4/

    I’m far more concerned about the divisiveness that surrounds the issue than the issue itself. And I worry about some interpretations that lend themselves to a militaristic interpretation of the Kingdom, as though the Kingdom of Heaven would defeat Satan with guns and tanks. Seems unlikely to me.

  6. Mark says:

    Brent,
    Jesus wasn’t mentioned very often from most cofC pulpits. Some have argued that teaching or preaching on Jesus is too elementary. I know long time cofC members who think simple, one-point sermons aren’t proper.

  7. Dwight says:

    Jay, I fully agree. We make the end of times a dividing point despite the fact that we know very little of what will actually happen, just like we know very little of what heaven really looks like, as we are given but glimpses of all of it. One thing I would like to say is that though things are “clearly stated” those things can have different interpretations. If in the OT, then we can argue for end times or argue for times that defined the end of the Jewish nation…could go either way, but since they were talking to the Jews probably the latter. Will the earth be burned up and destroyed…on what level is there a new heaven and a new earth and if there is a new heaven, does that mean that the old heaven wasn’t good enough, or perhaps this new heaven and new earth is the figurative of replacing everything we know with something better, something eternal, something spiritual. But even having argued for what I think, the problem is I do not know.
    All I really know is that Jesus will come again and that those who know God will be known by God.

  8. Dwight says:

    Mark and Brent, I do not know of what coC you have been to, but Jesus is often preached from the pulpit…of course the drive is to be baptized into Jesus, but there He is. Most sermons are broken down by the pros into three points that make up the body of the point.

  9. Larry Cheek says:

    It has been verified by one of my family members that a Baptist church in this vicinity begins their Sunday service by performing the ritual of reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag. I do know that they have the Christian Flag there also, so I assume that they would be honoring that Flag as they recite the Lord’s Prayer.
    I have doubts that these acts are as pleasing to The Lord as the body there believes.
    Could a Christian Flag be given honor that should be directed to The Lord? If it was not created to give honor to, what would its purpose be?
    Will the Flag be a component to bind the body together in unison, as the flags of nations of the earth rally the inhabitants of a nation?
    If its purpose is not to rally Christians together, is it supposedly to be a symbol of Christianity to be recognized by the world?
    What happened, have Christians stopped being their own illumination of Christianity to the world?

  10. Mark says:

    Christians have the same issues that everyone else in the world has. Some Christians stopped seeing happiness in a faith where the Holy Spirit was given to followers as a free gift and reassurance of better things to come is promised.

  11. Dwight says:

    Pledging allegance to the flag as part of worship to God seems strange. Why do such a thing within the context of each other. Now I do know some that pledge allegence to the Christian flag, which I assume is pledging allegance to God. The flag isn’t a symbol of Christiantiy, we are and our allegence is to God, who we cannot see by faith.

  12. Will Ray says:

    Thanks for responding. I will read up on your links..

  13. Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    I’m far more concerned with the Pledge of Allegiance than the use of a Christian flag. At least the Christian flag might communicate that the Kingdom is not the USA.

    But how would we react to a Chinese church swearing loyalty to the flag of China’s? Why would the church endorse the U.S. and not China? How do we pick which nations the church may endorse? Is there a list of approved nation-states?

  14. John says:

    My father, in his clear tenor voice, would sing “Thy kingdom’s come” to try to distinguish the Pentecost experience. To truly understand His kingly rule, expressed differently through the ages is a much better understanding. I will start working on the list of approved nation states as soon as the number of nation states becomes stable. In the meantime, we will rejoice that some nation states (South Sudan) seek to honor the creator (they are asking for a Bible lesson for every school every day.

  15. Actually, the literal translation of Acts 2 where we read the newly baptized believers “continued steadfastly.. in prayer” would be “in the prayers.” The word is plural and there is an article.

    Does this suggest that there were “set prayers” (such as is found in the Psalms) that they prayed on a regular basis? I’m not suggesting that they only prayed such prayers, but that “set prayers” just may have been a part of regular Christian worship in the very beginning.

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