I recently finished up a chapter in the book I’m writing and used this illustration in my reflections at the end of the chapter.
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 have also forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13) NIV
On any given Sunday thousands of Christians around the globe will say the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps you can recite it from memory. But has your experience with the Lord’s Prayer been only to recite it or have you personalized it as though talking directly to God? Here’s a look deeper into the prayer as I meditated on it.
Our Father…It is easy for me to make the association between my earthly father and my heavenly Father. I loved my father above all men. The same may not hold true for children with an unloving or absentee father, however. God is the ultimate father. He is not flawed like our earthly fathers. God loves us unconditionally and provides for our needs. We can gain a better understanding of our heavenly Father by examining the life of Jesus. He told his followers, if you have seen me, you have seen God (John 14:9).
(Who is) in heaven…Heaven is a real place and not an idea dreamed up to help us cope with tragedy. I am guessing that most people believe that heaven exists and they will be among its residents after they die based on the premise that he or she was a comparatively good person. Heaven’s draw is the human ideal: immortality, vitality, a life free from limitations,defects and disease. It is also a place of peace, prosperity and rest. Yet, if people don’t know God personally, how much confidence can they have in their belief that they are heaven bound?
My human curiosity wants to define heaven with clear tight boundaries, but God’s heaven is not confined to the atmosphere or the vast reaches of outer space, it’s interdimensional and therefore exists in and around me. From his throne in heaven, God rules over the entire universe. Nothing has dominion over him. When we invite God into our hearts, our relationship with Him gets personal. Those who have a personal relationship with God will certainly join Him in heaven one day (John 14:1-3).
Hallowed be your name…translation: God, I hold your name above all names and with reverence I will honor it. When I hallow God’s name I recognize His power and authority and affirm He is the absolute standard of truth. I also acknowledge that I am not God and that He, not I, occupies the throne in my heart (Isaiah 6:1-5).
Your kingdom come…The Christian is taught this world is not our home, we are but pilgrims. Some Christians, however, are doing so well at managing their finances and careers that they’ve lost focus. They are attempting to build their own kingdoms. The imminent return of Christ to establish his Father’s kingdom here on earth is not something they are looking forward to.
When a believer prays, “your kingdom come” he or she is in effect asking God for two things: in this present age, it’s an invitation for God to occupy the throne of their heart. Secondly, the believer is asking God to establish His kingdom on earth in the age to come for all eternity (Revelation 21:1-4).
Your will be done…for a good part of my life whenever I came to this phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, I winced (lied) when I recited it. To ask God for his will to be done means surrendering the fortress of my strong self-will totally to him. I worried He might ask me to do something I didn’t want to do or couldn’t do for whatever reason? For the longest time there were areas of my life I would not let go of. Eventually I came to understand that refusing to surrender my will to God constituted disobedience, which is a sin in the eyes of God. As a Christian it is my responsibility to see that my will remains in harmony with God’s will. If I deny God my will, I limit his ability to work in my life, and rob myself of untold blessings (Psalm 40:8).
On earth as it is in heaven…God’s will is certainly accomplished in heaven. I believe that in heaven there is no chaos or dissent. In this interdimensional place there is harmony, peace and joy. The folks who make it their home serve God willingly as evidenced by their never-ending joyful adoration and praise.
It is quite a different picture in our physical reality on earth. Here God’s name is profaned with unsettling regularity. Some profess to hate God while others refuse to believe He exists. We watch helplessly as our world embraces hate and violence. Accomplishing God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven” appears to be a losing proposition and beyond the scope of the men and women who love God and serve Him. By praying for God’s will to be accomplished on earth, we are inviting God to work in our hearts and use us to accomplish His will no matter how insignificant the task might seem to us. We are also inviting God to inhabit our broken planet and establish His kingdom here, soon. Will you be a citizen in God’s kingdom (Mark 3:31-35)?
Give us today day our daily bread…Up until this point the Lord’s Prayer has been focused on matters of the soul and spirit. But God knows all our needs, including our physical need for food. The inclusion of food in the prayer links our physical needs to our spiritual needs (John 6:25-35). Not only does God know our needs, He is able to meet them. By praying for bread daily we affirm God’s ability to care for and maintain the world he created. He is not an absentee landlord. Do I trust God to provide for my physical needs?
Forgive us our debts…The NIV translation uses the word “debts.” Other translations use trespasses, shortcomings, sins, wrongs we have done, etc. No matter what the variation of the word used, the fact remains we need to ask forgiveness for our trespasses because sin separates us from God. Humbly confessing sin before God leads to forgiveness (1 John 1:9). As Christians we need to search our hearts continually for the presence of sin. The Bible reminds us,“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). I have reached a point in my walk of faith that I don’t want anything to encumber my relationship with God. I recognize I will always be a sinner in need of forgiveness.
As we have also forgiven our debtors…Have I forgiven those who have wronged me? Am I harboring resentment, jealousy, or bitterness? When I harbor such things within me, it infects my heart like poison. I also need to consider the issue of my pride, is that preventing me from forgiving others?
I may not be able to change the person who is transgressing me but I can change. Is choosing not to forgive someone worth limiting who I am as a person and robbing me of the ability to love others (Ephesians 4:32)? God forgave me while I was still sinning against Him (Romans 5:6-10). He invited me, a sinner, to spend eternity with him (John 3:16). If God forgave me, why can’t I forgive others?
And lead us not into temptation…Temptation itself is not sin but it can lead us into sin if we permit it. By design temptation is personal and specific and designed to entice a given individual’s passions and desires. Unfortunately, the guardian of our passion and desire is our selfish and often rebellious will. Temptations do not come from God but He allows them to happen (James 1:13-15). “Lead us not into temptation” is a plea, an admission that I am weak and vulnerable when it comes to warding off temptation.
But deliver us from the evil one…It is important to understand that Satin is the most brilliant, beautiful and powerful creature ever created. He was given the greatest authority and prominence in all of heaven, yet pride corrupted him when he sought to be like God (Isaiah 14:12-16). If Satin, made perfect in almost every way by our standards, could fall into sin what makes us think we can fare better apart from God. Satan’s future destiny is certain; an eternal darkness awaits him.
We, on the other hand, are headed for a glorious destiny if we remain committed to God. His Spirit will guide us and help us avoid falling victim to temptation if we will but listen to Him (1 Timothy 6:11). It is by faith that we believe in God and trust Him to deliver us from evil. It is by faith that we believe in God and have a relationship with Him.
For more on the subject of the Lord’s Prayer check out W. Phillip Keller’s book, A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer.