By Wolfgang Schneider
The first words which Jesus teaches in this pattern for prayer instruct us to whom we are to pray. We pray solely to our Father in heaven, to God. Jesus directed his prayer to God, and nowhere in the Bible is this instruction modified in any way, such as that we now are to pray to Jesus or someone else. All prayers are directed toward God, the Father of our lord Jesus Christ. We, as believers of the church of God, who live after Pentecost and are born again of God, we also pray to God, our heavenly Father, and we do it in the name of Jesus Christ whom we have confessed as our lord.
Furthermore, we can see that we are not concerned first with our own things but rather with the things of God. Before the prayer is dealing with items concerning “us”, the view in our prayer is directed first to those things concerning God – “thy name … thy kingdom … thy will”! This is a remarkable difference to the prayers of the hypocrites in which they themselves and other people are the main concern. The person praying must be conscious and aware of whom he is dealing with, that he actually enters God’s presence and is approaching Him.
Even when and where the prayer is concerning us, God is still first. God, His name, His will, His kingdom and rule are to have impact on our lives. Prayer is not to be where we recite a listing of things we want or desire to have apart from His will. We do not come unto God and demand of Him more or less loudly that He should now get busy doing what we already have figured out without Him. Jesus had already pointed out such things in those parts of his teaching which preceded the prayer here. He had emphasized the great importance of meekness and humbleness before God. He had set forth how a pure heart is necessary in order to then do and teach God’s will. A walk in righteousness must be far above what the Pharisees were demonstrating. The outward actions are not the decisive element, but rather the thoughts of the heart preceding those actions.
Our love for God should be our motivation for prayer, as well as our wish and desire for Him and for fellowship with Him. He must always be in the center, in the fore front of our prayer, and we pray to Him in accordance with His will. Our desires and what we pray for must be in harmony with God’s will – in harmony with those things which He has promised in His Word. This again becomes evident in Jesus’ instruction, for each one of those components of his pattern for prayer has a basis and is anchored in scriptures from the Old Testament!
God’s will is decisive, and we pray that His will be done on earth. We are concerned with wanting to see God’s will being realized in the matters of our lives. Our prayer is not just “as it comes”, “non-chalant”, “without effort or concern”. We do not show up before God like spoiled little brads and demand without any consideration something which is to satisfy our greed of the moment. We cannot come to God like fools, present ourselves in highmindedness and pride before Him and let Him know in a demanding voice what we would like to have. God is not an ATM machine which must give us what we tell it to do! We dare not diminish and demote God in our hearts and become of the opinion that He now has to do what we want Him to do. No! We must come unto Him in meekness, we must give Him honour and show the reverence due Him – we must “hallow His name”! We come unto God in our prayer with an attitude of humbleness and meekness. We acknowledge who is God and who is man. We do not forget who is the Father and who is the child.
After having first spent some time in our prayer to approach God and come unto Him, to come unto His throne of grace, to turn to Him as our heavenly Father, then comes the time to make our request be known before Him. “Give us this day [day by day] our daily bread” is an indication that it is important for us to go to God each and every day. He cares for His own, and there is not one single day when He would not be ready and willing to grant that which we may need. We do not pray once a week, once every month, or once each year, no – it is absolutely necessary that we pray daily to Him! Also, the term “bread” includes all that which we may need for our physical life. All of that God will supply day by day when we ask and pray to Him and when we thank Him for His goodness and grace which He is willing to extend to us.
A very important aspect of prayer follows next: To live out of God’s forgiveness for us and to therefore forgive others. We will not pray successfully and effectively if we are not conscious of our own sin which we do commit against God and by which we become debtors before Him and for which we need His forgiveness. Since God forgives us when we go to Him and seek forgiveness from Him, we can and must also practice forgiveness toward others when someone has a quarrel against another. It is interesting that Jesus picks up this point of forgiveness again immediately after the close of his teaching on the pattern of prayer, and he explains it further which leaves no doubt as to the importance of this part of our prayer.
Then follows the praying for God’s protection, that He keep us from the evil one, that He save us from the evil of temptations. God of course does not lead us into temptation in a sense that He would try and tempt us to do something evil – no! The expression “lead us not into temptation” is perhaps to be understood as an idiom and in a passive sense so that it would have the meaning of “do not permit us [let us not] be lead into temptation”. These would be temptations to do evil, it concerns evil in temptations. God may certainly lead us to be experiencing a trial or proving situation (cp. Luk 4:1,2 – Jesus “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil.”), in which case God always sees to it that there be a way out of the temptation (cp. 1Co 10:13). With prayer we can so to say erect a spiritual hedge of protection, build a wall around us, behind which we are safely protected by God from the enemies.
At the close of this pattern for prayer follows an acknowledgement and confirmation of the greatness and majesty of God, where we declare that He indeed is above all, that He can do all and beyond what we may pray, ask or understand.