Prayer 101: The Disciples' Prayer

By Grant Hawley

In Matt 6:9-13, Jesus taught His disciples to pray. It is often called "The Lord's Prayer" but it is perhaps better understood as the Disciples' prayer.

"Our Father in heaven," (Matt 6:9)

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He told them to begin by addressing God as "Our Father in heaven" (Matt 6:9). The fatherhood of God is one of the main subjects of this sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, and its focus is on His compassion and care for His children. Jesus says, "What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? (...) how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (Matt 7:9, 11). Thus, when we pray to God, we pray to our Father who has all the resources we need and loves us with a perfect Father's love.

"Hallowed be Your name." (Matt 6:9)

Praising God is good for its own sake—He is worthy of our praise—but praising God in prayer helps give us a right perspective, too. Lifting up God's hallowed name as we pray to Him reminds us that the One to whom we pray is worthy of our faith and more than able to meet our needs. Having this right perspective puts our mind in the right position to honor Him by boldly coming to Him requesting His will to be done.

"Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:10)

"Your kingdom come" (Matt 6:10) refers to the kingdom that was promised over and over throughout the Old Testament. In that day, the Lord Jesus will rule with righteousness (Isa 32:1), the curse of futility will be lifted (Psalm 72:16; Rom 8:20-21), Israel and indeed the whole world will be at peace (Ezek 34:25), and Satan will no longer deceive the nations (Rev 20:3). It is at this time when the next petition, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:10), will be fully realized. Desiring God's perfect will, we should look with anticipation for His glorious kingdom and exclaim with John, "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev 22:20).

"Give us this day our daily bread." (Matt 6:11)

Jesus told His disciples, after praising God's hallowed name and praying for God's kingdom to come and His will to be done perfectly, ask God to "give us this day our daily bread" (Matt 6:11). When God gave manna to the wondering Israelites, He gave it one day at a time (two days' worth on the day before Sabbath so that they could rest instead of gathering). Likewise, Jesus calls us to depend on God daily for Him to meet our needs for that day. And, while God does not promise to meet all of our wants, God does promise to meet all of our needs as we trust in Him (Phil 4:19). He is our loving heavenly Father, so we can confidently leave our care in His hands.

"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matt 6:12)

This verse illustrates that sometimes the work of prayer does not stop with the prayer alone. Forgiveness, restoration of strained or broken fellowship after sin, requires that we forgive those who have wronged us (Matt 6:15). As we forgive those who have wronged us, we are reminded of all that God has forgiven us, and when we are mindful of all that God has forgiven us, we are more easily able to forgive others. Forgiving others can be difficult, especially when someone has hurt us deeply. The ability to forgive is one more thing we can pray for, knowing that God will delight in giving us that ability.

"Do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one" (Matt 6:13)

We know that God does not Himself tempt anyone (Jas 1:13); nevertheless, Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan (Matt 4:1). Thus, knowing the disciples' weakness, He instructs them to pray, "Do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one" (Matt 6:13). This prayer expresses a humble reliance on God. It expresses a deep desire to avoid sin, a desire for holiness. Thus, a prayer that begins with giving glory to God and asking for His will to be done on earth, seeks His will for our lives individually as well. Prayer, Jesus teaches, seeks to align our will with the holy God, our loving heavenly Father.

"For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." (Matt 6:13)

Ending a prayer with praise of God and acknowledgement of His eternal kingdom, power, and glory brings us back around to love and worship for our incredible Father. In the beginning of the prayer, God's compassion and love is stressed, at the end, His majesty. This reminds us that prayer is an expression of the giving and receiving of love and leaves us with great confidence in God's ability and desire to answer our prayers. In this way, prayer builds our faith, leading to sanctification.

Living it Out

Jesus taught the disciples to pray for God's will to be done. As He approached the most difficult trial imaginable, He lived out His own teaching. On the night before His crucifixion, He became "exceedingly sorrowful" (Matt 26:38); so He prayed, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (26:39 emphasis added). He was in such agony that "His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44). But He submitted to God's will and prayed for it to be done and followed that prayer with obedience to God's will. Likewise, Jesus forgave those who trespassed against Him in the most amazing way. Even as He hung on the cross, and He was mocked, He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Jesus lived the same prayer and obedience He calls us to.