“This is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.’” (verses 9-13)
This is a model prayer given us by Jesus, carrying his full endorsement, introduced with the words “This is how you should pray.” What more encouragement do we need? But don’t recite it by rote; rather, be shaped by it as you communicate with the Father. Ready? Let’s plunge in.
Our Father in heaven … Behind this familiar phrase is the intimate familiarity that Jesus, as Son, enjoyed with his “Abba Father,” an intimacy into which he now invites us. What shocking surprise that the Lord God Almighty, King of the Universe, has adopted us into his family, allowing us to come to him, be embraced by him, and know him as “Abba.” The tenderness and immediacy are profound. Yet, he is still “in heaven.”Our God is wholly other – above and beyond, the Sovereign Lord. This profound stretch – earth to heaven, familiar to divine – is captured in this one, simple, exquisite phrase: Our Father in heaven.
… hallowed be your name … It’s not that God needs to be made holy – he already is, from all eternity! But the longing of our hearts is that he would be made known as holy, exalted in all the earth – that the knowledge of the Holy One would expand ever outward, touching more of our world, touching more individual lives. Indeed, shaping our own.
… your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The kingdom for which we pray is not a geographical space, but rather the dynamic rule and reign of God, experienced in human lives. We know the fullness of this kingdom will only come in that great future day – this prayer looks ahead with anticipation, while also yearning for more of his rule and reign right now. More of his will to be done. More of heaven’s atmosphere to permeate earth.
Give us today our daily bread. Martin Luther rightly said this includes everything we need, including shelter, clothing, peace, good family, good government, good friends. It reminds me of Peter’s statement: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). We pray Jesus’ prayer with that compelling confidence.
Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. Keeping short accounts with our Lord is crucial, acknowledging sin and asking forgiveness. But we’re also pressed into honest accounting for the grace we should extend to others. Have we truly forgiven those who’ve sinned against us? Keep short accounts here, also.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. James tells us that “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13). Knowing this, we confidently ask the Lord to preserve us during bouts of temptation, knowing also that he has promised to always provide us a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). We put ourselves into his rescuing hands, trusting his deliverance in “the evil day” as he equips us to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13).
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name …
Pray: Make this part of your daily prayer over the next week. Embrace the meaning of each phrase. Allow the Lord to shape you through it. Continue in the weeks ahead.