Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So He said to them, “When you pray, say:
“ Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”
The prayer is in plural and collective. When “you guys” pray Our Father. The default voice of prayer all is collective. The disciples ask collectively to be taught to pray and he gives them collective prayer. Our Father in the heavens to call God father is to make ourselves the brothers and sisters of Jesus This is a very bold and presumptuous thing to do Jesus has taught them to call themselves sons of God But this is not a statement about who we are by nature but rather who we may become by grace.
When we unite ourselves to Jesus through our prayer with Jesus. Our prayer with Jesus is not simply a matter of words It is the prayer of the Word, Jesus. Prayer with Jesus is death with Jesus, since his death is a sacrifice, His death is a prayer and an intercession for the world. That is the nature of his death. Therefore if we pray with Jesus, we carry our cross with Jesus and our whole lives and our deaths are an offering of intercession. All this is implied just by saying “our father”
Hallowed be thy name
Hallowed means that it is holy Hallowed is simply an older word When we have learned to pray using certain words, we are very uncomfortable giving those words up, even when we no longer really understand what they mean. If we were to translate the Lord’s prayer into English for the first time today, we would write: “Let your name be holy.”
It is a strange thing to ask for. Is God’s name not already holy? This is a Greek way of asking for God’s name to be known to be holy. A good example of how this works is from John 5 when Jesus is accused of “making himself equal to God.” But he did not cause himself to be equal to God, and not at that time. He is eternally begotten from the Father. No, “making himself equal to God” means that he is telling people that he is equal to God. In that same sense when we say “let your name be holy,” we mean “let people know and see that your name is holy.”
Furthermore it is not simply that the name of God that is known to be holy because of the sounds we use to pronounce his name are holy sounds. In the Hebrew mind, the name of someone Is its essence. The name exists first before you say it. Discovering what something is, is to know its name. Think for example of Adam in the garden of Eden God brought all the animals to Adam to see what he would name them. The task was not to name an elephant an elephant, but to discover the nature of living things and understand how to interact with them.
“Let your name be holy” means Let people understand that you are a holy God. Let people fear and serve you As the only true God And let them all become sons of God By the grace of your son. All of that, in only two lines.
Thy kingdom come.
We are asking that our lives become part of the kingdom that Jesus announced by saying “repent and believe.” Jesus started his ministry with these words “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” We are saying “Let repentance and faith become our reality. Teach us to leave our sin and to follow you.
Thy will be done
We are asking to be made obedient. We are turning our prayers into something holy. Prayer is not primarily “God, give me this thing that I want,” but primarily “let me do the things that you want me to do.” “Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God” (as we sing in the Great Doxology). You may always ask God for anything that is on your heart and God hears. God answers prayers: sometimes in the way we were hoping. Mostly prayer causes us to change, not God. God does not change. But you should always ask whatever is on your heart after you have prayed with the words that he has given you.
Thy will be done as in the heavens so on the earth
The will of God being done “in the heavens” does not simply refer to God telling the angels what to do “up there,” and they do it. “In the heavens” refers to the invisible reality of God, and his intimate but invisible connection with all of the world. God is not “up there.” That is not the meaning of “heavens.”
God is in our midst, right beside you He is present when each event happens, using all events for His glory, even though we cannot see how evil and sad events can possibly be sanctified. We cannot understand how our disappointments and grief would be turned into something good. But God is “in the heavens” right beside us, causing all things to become part of the Kingdom of God. We say, “Glory to God in all things.”
So we ask God, “Let this also become part of the visible reality. Let our lives and our choices and the things that we can see become visible manifestations of your presence. Though you are invisible, make yourself visible in us.” Of course there has been a time when God was visible. Jesus, God from God, light from light was the visible God who taught these words.
Give us this day our daily bread
What bread is that? It is the body of Christ. Give us the bread of communion Every day. Most of us do not attend a divine liturgy every day But Jesus has taught us to ask that his death and his subsequent resurrection be our reality every day. Help us to be part of your body which was broken for us. Help us to accept the calling to change our ways. Help us to make heroic self-sacrifices today and every day. Help us to pray fervently through our actions.
When a man is ordained as a deacon for the first time, he is allowed to touch the communion bread that has become the body of Christ. That is a very fearful thing. We approach this task with the utmost care and reverence. And when he is ordained to the priesthood, he is given the “lamb,” that is, the cube of bread which has been blessed (the whole thing that is going to be communion for everyone in the church during that service) on a small plate, to hold in his hands for a few minutes while the service prayers continue before communion. The bishop tells the newly ordained priest to keep this carefully until the last judgment. The bishop is referring not only to the communion, not only is he telling the priest to steward these sacraments with reverence and faithfulness, he is also telling the priest to steward the body of Christ, i.e. the church. Hold the people of the body of Christ with the same care and reverence.
When people come to church and offer their time and their energy and their money and their whole lives to God, they are sacrificing to God. What they give is their “prosphora” (which simply means offering). They are bringing bread to the church, whether literally or figuratively. And when you the layperson serve in the church, teaching church school or cleaning or making dinner or serving on a committee, you are holding the holy things. Just like the priest holds the bread in his hands and says “the holy things are for the holy,” you are holding these offerings of the people in your hands.
What a fearful thing it is! What a responsibility! What an awesome calling, full of joy and wonder, and yet it has such a heavy responsibility. We must not misplace a single crumb. This is also what we speak about when we say, “give us this day our daily bread.” Give me the calling to serve your people with joy. Give me that fearful and awesome task.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
There are two versions of this line in the gospels. In Matthew it says, literally, “Forgive us what we owe, as we forgive others what they owe us.” In Luke it says “forgive us our sins as we forgive others what they owe us.” Matthew has written “forgive us what we did not do” And Luke says, “forgive us what we did that was not what we should have done. The notion of debt and the notion of sin were very closely connected in the culture of that time. To do right was to do what you were obligated to do You owe it to someone to do what you should do. So if you failed, then you had a debt to repay. We are asking for the debt to be cancelled and for our sins to be forgiven.
But the interesting thing is that we qualify this request Forgive us if we have forgiven. Forgive us if we are generous. This is a request for accountability. Do not let us become presumptuous and lazy. Help us to stay motivated and committed to the ongoing project of being conformed to the stature of the likeness of Christ.
And lead us not into temptation
Actually, it a truer translation into modern English would say “do not abandon us in our temptation” And temptation in this context does not mean a general desire to sin. We are not asking God “do not entice us and try to make us sin.” God never does that. He never causes or initiates that temptation.
Temptation in this context means persecution and the pressure we might feel to become apostates in the face of persecution. We are saying “We know persecution will come And we know that we will be tempted to deny you. We know that what we have committed to will be hard for us. We know that we will be tempted to give up. We will be tempted to stop coming to church. We will be tempted to stop trying to love our families. We will be tempted to stop trusting that you are with us. But do not abandon us in that hour. Deliver us from the evil one Who is trying to make us doubt you. Help us to stay the course.”
“For thine is the power and the glory …” are not part of the original prayer, but are something we have added to sum up what we are praying.
This is the essence of the Lord’s Prayer. We want to live as Jesus lived, and we want to die as Jesus died because that is the only true life that is available Everything else is misery and destruction.
Now Jesus continues
And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, “Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
We are pestering God to give us this life in Christ that we have asked for. God will not fail to give it to us when we ask over and over and over. Jesus says ‘I say to you ask, and it will be given to you.” This is you plural. “You guys.” You guys ask and you guys will receive. He is not saying this to one person but to the whole church. Collectively ask. Pray with the church. Seek and knock together. Has God answered your prayers in the way you expected? It is so that you may continue your life of serving him together with the rest of the church. Has God not answered your prayers In the way you expected? He has simply answered them in a way you do not know about, or did not foresee. But he knows what you need and he will make all things good in the end.
That is easy enough to believe as far as it pertains to me as an individual. I can suspend judgment and believe that without seeing it. I can even believe that the church as a whole Is being provided for, even if I cannot see at a given moment how God’s will is being done. But it is a very different thing to believe that God is present in the lives of those I love, when I can’t see or understand it. How are the vulnerable being provided for when they suffer? Where is God when children suffer? We need to pray this prayer so often because we are being taught to hope and believe that God is present whenever distressing things happen. God is our father, the father of the little ones and of the big ones. God is giving us his body as our bread; giving this healing and sanctifying and life-giving mysteries to the little ones as well as to the big ones.
There is a great temptation that we face, and it is one of main temptations in which we ask God not to abandon us. This is the persecution and horror of watching those we love suffer or wander away from the true path. Do not abandon us plural in the face of persecution. Let me not falter in my belief that you are holy and good. Let your name be holy in my mind and in my heart. Let me continue to have your goodness and love in the centre of my consciousness, snd in that way do not abandon me or those I love in the time when (inevitably) the persecution and temptation comes.
God hears your prayers. That is why we pray in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.