We come now in our portion of Scripture where Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. In context, it is in section of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus exposes the Pharisee’s hypocritical public praying ministry. Jesus wanted his hearers to understand the piety that result from being a member of God’s kingdom. Rightly understood, prayer as a means of grace enables Christians to exercise God’s sustaining work in us to express our petitions and thanksgivings before him. It is the way we demonstrate our dependence on God as our Father on everything physical and spiritual.
The Lord’s Prayer comes with a specific form and content. Jesus intends for us to capture the sum and substance of what he expects us to pray for. He reminds his disciples that “your Father knows what you need before you ask him (verse 8b).” In the previous verse, Jesus warns them using vain and empty words (verse 7). So from verse 9 to 13, he instructed them to pray for these things. The first part forms part of the address (verse 9a) . The second and third part contain a series of petitions (verse 9b to 13).
Now, the petitions come to us as a pair of threes. The first three focuses on God and his kingdom while the second three lists our petitions before God. This particular order God before our needs properly orients us as we approach God in our prayer. More than anything else we pray God to acknowledge who He is and what does in our lives. Our needs while pressing and demands our immediate attention do not trump God’s position in our lives. He is our ultimate need and the proper object of our attention.
This morning we will hear God’s word preached to us into two parts. Today, we will study as Part One: A) The Address: Our Father; B) The First Three Petitions. The list of petitions are concerned about God and His Kingdom: 1) The Hallowing of God’s Name; 2) The Coming of God’s Kingdom; 3) The Doing of God’s Will. Next week, we will continue with Part 2: A) The Second Three Petitions; B) The Conclusion.
Before we begin, let us pray…
The Address: Our Father
verse 9a: “Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven…”
Jesus forms prayer as an address to God as our Father. The possessive noun “Our” in its plural form reminds us that our in prayers we commune with God in a collective sense. As our Triune God is perfect community of three personalities, we too commune with each other as part of God’s community here on earth. We are united to Christ through faith and by the Holy Spirit and as part of his body, we commune to God in fellowship with one another. Our prayer relates us to God and to each other.
So in a sense, prayer address God as our Father. It assumes a relationship exist between the addressor and addressee and as a result, we are confident in our approach to Him. Jesus wants his disciples to address God as their Father as he calls God as his own Father. Jesus extends the privilege of adoption to them. Prayer is an expression of our personal intimate relationship with God. We pray to God as our Father means it is tied with our personal relation with him.
Praying to God as our Father means we relate to him to two senses.
First, God, as our Creator, supplies everything we have and will ever need in this life. While this relationship comes in common to all creatures, Christians acknowledge God as source of everything good and glory God for it. We address God as our Father as a way for us to invoke his Name and properly recognize him for who He is and what He does in our lives. God is our Creator and Sustainer. As creatures created in His image, we approach Him in our prayers with reverence and awe.
Second, God, our Redeemer, accomplishes and applies everything we have and will ever need not only in this life but more importantly, in the life to come. This makes the Lord’s Prayer exclusively a Christian prayer. It assumes we have filial relationship with God. And because of this, we are confident in our approach to Him. Addressing God as our Father makes us his adopted children. To become adopted into the family God through Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior is the highest privilege for Christians. Jesus affirms this privilege to us when he teaches his disciples to address God as their Father. He extends God’s grace to us by granting us the right become children of God (John 1:12).
Therefore in a specific sense, the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer for a regenerate believer only. It assumes conversion to faith and repentance. Uttering these word do not make one Christian because as Jesus warns others, it becomes vain and empty to some. The unregenerate and hypocrites recite these words but never really pray to God because they are void of any vital relationship with God. On the other hand, Christians who are indeed God’s children can boldly approach God’s throne because they personally know Him and understand the privilege of becoming adopted by Him.
Christian, let us boldly approach the throne of God in prayer knowing we have a Father who listens and attends to our needs. Jesus reminds that we have a “Father who is in heaven” and who knows what we need before we even ask (verse 8). The way we address God in our prayer is so important that Jesus made sure we understand this important truth. God is our Father and we are his children and he will always hear us and provide us everything we need.
The First Three Petitions
verses 9b-13: “…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.”
Before we continue to our second sermon point, let us side-track for a moment, take an excursion, and ask the question: “Do we really need to pray the Lord’s prayer repeated in exactly the same way as others are in the habit of doing?” This is quite a common question and it is often asked when we include the Lord’s Prayer as part of our corporate prayer in public liturgy.
Zacharias Ursinus in his commentary of the Heidelberg Catechism addresses this same question. He reminds us how in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus summarizes for us everything we should petition before God. It orders our priorities and itemizes the content of our prayers. Jesus guides us on how to prayer by addressing God as our Father and confidently praying for our petitions before Him but as the same time, he teaches us what to prayer for in our petitions. And while the list is not exhaustive in its details for providence leads us to different circumstances, it summarizes for us everything we can ask God namely, His Kingdom and our needs in relation to it. We seek God’s Kingdom first and its righteousness and as God promised, all these thing will be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).
This lead us to the first set of threes Jesus ask us to pray for and as matter of priority, we pray for God and His Kingdom. The first three petitions are: 1) The Hallowing of God’s Name; 2) The Coming of God’s Kingdom; 3) The Doing of God’s Will.
What is God’s Kingdom and why must it concern us in our prayers?
Simply put: God’s Kingdom is where God is and when He comes, rules over His people. This is the ultimate reality of our lives. Sinful people imagine an alternate universe hoping to escape the inescapable truth that God reigns and he rules over all the heavens and earth. For Christians, the ultimate reality of God’s kingdom come to us in his Word and we affirm it in our lives by the inward work of the Spirit. It has been established for us by Christ himself by his atoning death at the cross and the spiritual reality of God ruling over us comes to us by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. So while, in a sense, we all await the final consummation of God’s kingdom here on earth, its presence comes to us by the ministry of God’s Word and its power by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. This is our ultimate concern and as members of God’s kingdom, it is our utmost priority.
1) The Hallowing of God’s Name
First, we pray God’s Name is revered and praised. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, and no matter what concerns us in our daily in our lives, let us properly acknowledge God for who he is and what He does in our lives. Properly understood, our first petition to God comes in a form of invocation and thanksgiving. We invoke God and rightfully appropriate perfections to His Name. God alone is wise, good, and perfect. He is holy, merciful, and just. God is all grace, all love, ever present, and all powerful. No one is compared to him for He alone is God and for ever be praised. Amen. To hallow God means to give God what is due to him and as creatures, we worship God and give thanks to him for everything He does. This first petition rightfully orients us that while God is our Father and we can confidently approach him with our petitions, we are rightly to petition for his glory and praise. He is our first priority. We are depended on Him and we pray for His kingdom and will. And in thanks giving to Him, we pray in gratitude for His rule and care.
2) The Coming of God’s Kingdom
Second, we pray God’s kingdom to come. Let me quote Zacharias Ursinus directly because he specifically answer this question in his commentary. How this kingdom comes to us? Ursinus asks. He answered: This kingdom comes to us in four ways:
- By the preaching of the gospel, which reveals unto us a knowledge of the true and heavenly doctrine.
- By conversion, when some are converted to God, who grants unto them faith and repentance.
- By increase and development. When the godly make progress in holiness, or when the gifts peculiar to the faithful are continually being increased in those who are converted. “He that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy let him be holy still. (Rev. 22:11)
- By the perfection and glorification of the church at the second coming of Christ. “Even so come Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:2)
Our prayer consists of praying for the God and His kingdom specifically, God’s kingdom here on earth. Visibly contained in the ministry of the church, we pray the preaching of the gospel and for Christ’s saving message to reach all men. We pray for the special office of our ministers, elder, and deacons as well the general office of all believers in their partnership to proclaim God’s saving work. Invisibly extended to God’s elect, we pray for the conversion of God’s people. We petition for the maturity of every members of the church. We submit to God our plans for the ministry. And eschatologically considered, we pray for God’s second coming. We groan to God and ask him: Maranatha!
3) The Doing of God’s Will
Third, we pray for God’s will. We pray God conforms us to the image of His son. We petition for God to continually softens our hearts to obey Him and submit to His will. We know God’s will are written in Word and as part of our petition before Him is to mold us and change us to increasingly desire and will them. Jesus made sure before we ask in the next three petitions we ask God to reform our attitudes about it. Yes we can rightfully ask God everything we need but we need to pray for them in the proper Spirit. So we pray for God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
ZCRC(Imus), we have a Father in heaven who cares and provides for our needs. We come to him as children in need trusting his faithful providence. Let us approach the throne of God with boldness and humility. May we pray for God kingdom and his will in our lives. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.