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The Greatest Sermon Ever Told | Prayer 101
November 12, 2023
9Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us this day our daily bread,
12and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
14For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst
To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships
To participate in God’s mission to the world
God, our refuge and strength, the author of all godliness, hear the devout prayers of your Church: and grant that what we ask in faith we may surely obtain; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Responsive Prayer—Psalm 61
Hear my cry, O God,
Listen to my prayer;
From the end of the earth I call to you
When my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
That is higher than I,
For you have been my refuge,
A strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!
Summary and Connection
This week’s discussion is based on Matthew 6:9-15. This section captures Jesus’ prayer, famously known as the Lord’s Prayer. In Matthew 6:5-8, we see Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray. Jesus emphasizes the importance of deeper righteousness that is firmly rooted in the knowledge of God’s fatherly care and prior knowledge of our present and future needs. Jesus contrasts the right orientation of prayer with the hypocritical prayers of the Pharisees and the meaningless verbosity of the Gentiles. According to Jesus, hypocritical prayer is a misuse of the purpose of prayer—diversion from the glory of God to the glory of self. On the other hand, meaningless verbal prayer is a misuse of the nature of prayer—turning real and personal approach into mere verbosity.
In Matthew 6:9-15, Jesus teaches his disciples what to pray. By teaching his disciples how to pray and what to pray, Jesus provides a foundational model and necessary wisdom to perform what he commands us to do. The Lord’s Prayer is a model of a genuine Christian prayer. In other words, Jesus provides a model for us to use and to build our prayers. The Lord’s Prayer contains seven petitions that can be broken down into two parts—divine and human. The first part (verses 9-10) is oriented toward God, and the second part toward human needs and relationships (verses 11-13). Interestingly, Jesus’ prayer, with its divine and human orientation, reminds us of the divine and human orientation of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17). The Lord’s Prayer is fundamentally different from the Pharisaic and the Gentile prayers in that in Jesus’ prayer we are invited to address and acknowledge God as our Father in heaven. The first three petitions collectively describe the longing of a believer for God’s name, will, and kingdom to be fully consummated and established on earth as it is in heaven. The second section recognizes a Christian’s heart orientation—thoroughgoing neediness and dependence on God for life, and sustenance in the meeting of daily needs. In verse 13, we are called to trust God to lead us out of our moment of testing without succumbing to it and from putting God to test by our sin of unbelief. Jesus ends the prayer by exhorting his disciples to forgive the debts of sin committed against them. Jesus locates the motivation to forgive, not in our readiness or determination, but in the gospel reality—we forgive because we are forgiven in Christ.
1. Looking at the Bible
Observation: Read the passage privately. What does the text say? Who are the main characters in this story? What according to you is the theme of this passage?
- How does Jesus teach us to address God in the Lord’s Prayer (verse 9)? Why is this significant, and how will this affect our prayers?
- What is the primary focus of the first section of the Lord’s prayer (verses 9-10)? What is the significance of God’s name, kingdom, and will?
- What are we asking when we pray that God would forgive our debts? How is sin a debt? Is Jesus suggesting that we can earn the right to be forgiven?
- What does Jesus mean by: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”? Does God lead us into temptation?
2. Looking at Jesus
At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.
- How is Jesus the fulfillment of the Lord’s Prayer?
3. Looking at Our Hearts
The following are personal application questions based on the stages of growth in Christian faith.
- In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus provides a model of genuine Christian prayer. Describe your prayer pattern. Is prayer an integral part of your life? How does this passage help you to pray?
- According to you, why is it important for Christians to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?
- God already knows what we need, why should we pray for our sustenance?
- In 6:13, Jesus emphasizes an important truth about the Christian life: There is no promise or guarantee that Christians will be free from testing, trial, and suffering. How do you distinguish between God’s “testing” of your faith for your good, from the evil one’s “temptations” to harm your faith?
4. Looking at Our World
- In the Lord’s Prayer we learn that Christianity is inherently communal. How does this passage motivate you to pray as a Community Group and pray for the community where God has placed you?
God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.
View Study Guide Notes
Question 1a. Jesus invites us to address and acknowledge God as our heavenly Father. The Pharisaical prayers diverted the purpose of prayer and the Gentiles’ prayers distorted the nature of prayer. In contrast, the Christian prayer acknowledges God as the Father, while giving him all the glory as the sovereign Lord. Jesus teaches us to address God in the same way as he does—Father in heaven. God, as our heavenly Father, knows what we need before we ask of him and invites us to approach him with familial intimacy. This posture in our prayer significantly impacts our prayers: as the children of God, we approach the Father without fear of rejection or condemnation. Since God is our heavenly Father who knows us intimately, we are freed from the burden of earning our right to be heard by our piety, penance, or moral performance. Because God is our heavenly Father who provides us what we need, we are assured of his love, compassion, and goodness, even if we don’t receive what we want. Finally, to address God as our Father in our prayer is to acknowledge the privilege and responsibility of being a member of God’s family. In other words, our prayers reinforce our faith and inform our thoughts, words, and actions as the children of God.
Question 1b. The Lord’s Prayer, like the Ten Commandments, can be classified into two parts: The first part is oriented towards God, and the second part is oriented towards human need and relationships. The first three petitions can be summed up as the deep desire for God’s honorific name and sovereign reign to become a consummated reality on earth as it is in heaven. To “hallow” means to sanctify, or make holy. By acknowledging God’s name as holy, we acknowledge God as holy. God’s name is God himself, in himself, as he has revealed himself. To pray that his kingdom ‘come’ is to pray that the kingdom that Jesus has already inaugurated on earth may be fully consummated when Jesus returns in glory. To pray for God’s will to be done is to long for the heavenly reality of God’s name, kingdom, and will to become patently and fully so on the earth. In other words, in our prayer, we acknowledge the brokenness of the world and our sinful rebellion that resists God’s will. However, we also long for the day when God, in Jesus, fully establishes his name, kingdom, and will on earth as it is in heaven. As one commentator puts it, “This heavenly age, time, space, and experience are what every believer is looking forward to and what provides the fundamental orientation for the Christian life.” Thus, to experience true human flourishing on earth is to honor God’s name, to seek God’s kingdom, and to discern, desire, and do God’s will before we seek to fulfill our needs.
Question 1c. The second section of the Lord’s Prayer is oriented towards human needs and relationships. Jesus’ words here emphasizes our thoroughgoing neediness and dependence on God for life, breath, and sustenance. Our posture of dependence in prayer reflects and inculcates the virtue of humility and faith. Forgiveness is as indispensable to life and health of the soul as food is for our physical body. Like our dependence on God for our daily necessity of bread, we are utterly dependent on God for forgiveness of our sins. Sin is likened to ‘debt’ because it is a reminder of the poverty of our souls, slavery to sin, and our bondage to the law. Sinners owe God a debt that deserves to be eternally punished. However, God freely forgives the sinners by remitting the penalty and dropping the charges against them. Forgiveness is free for sinners, but for God it is infinitely costly. Jesus pays the ransom—his righteousness, on our behalf, and suffers the punishment for our debts on the cross.
Christians are redeemed and forgiven sinners, and the chief evidence of a truly redeemed and forgiven sinner is the desire and ability to forgive the sins of others. Jesus emphasizes the importance of inward righteousness by stating it in stark terms for rhetorical effect: either you forgive others when they sin against you or you cannot expect God to forgive you for your sins against him. We see the theme of love, mercy, and forgiveness further elaborated in the parable of unforgiving servant (Matt. 18:21-35).
It is vital for us to understand that Jesus is not suggesting that we can earn our forgiveness by forgiving others. Rather, Jesus is reminding us of the consistent theme of the Scriptures about forgiveness: The forgiven people of God in Christ must have a righteousness that is greater than mere external obedience and outward appearance. Adolf Schlatter makes an insightful observation: “There is no serious prayer for forgiveness except on the lips of the forgiver.” Thus, Jesus’ words here do not contradict the doctrine of justification by faith. Rather, Jesus here shows that a habitually vengeful person is not a true Christian who believes in God’s forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in Christ.]
Question 1d. This verse is fraught with interpretive challenge, partly due to its familiarity. Here Jesus instructs his followers to pray that they not be led into temptations, but rather be delivered from the evil one. This raises an important question: why would God, who is our heavenly father, lead us into temptation? According to New Testament scholar Jonathan Pennington, the key to understanding this is to recognize the broadness and play in the Greek words—peirasmos (noun), and peirazo (verb). In English these two words are distinguished as “test” and “tempt.” The Bible is consistent with the theme of God testing his people to refine and discipline them for their good. (Deut. 8:2-3, 16; cf. Gen. 22:1). God does not “tempt” his people. In other words, God does not seek the downfall and destruction of people through trials. Temptation is the work of the evil one (Matt. 6:13b; cf. James 1:13-14).
This verse does not indicate to us to request God to not lead us into temptation, but rather to be delivered from the time of testing. The wilderness experience of Israelites is a good example of challenging God by doubting his goodness during the “time of testing” by God. In other words, in our trials and sufferings, we should not doubt God’s goodness or challenge God’s authority. Instead we are called to trust God to lead us out of our moment of testing without succumbing to it. To succumb is to fall into the bondage of the evil one, like the Israelites who challenged God and suffered the consequences.
Furthermore, this verse provides an important insight into Christian life: there is no promise or guarantee that Christians will be free from testing, trial, and suffering. In fact, to flourish in the kingdom of God is to overcome suffering and trial by displaying greater righteousness rooted in Jesus. One commentator puts it aptly: “The point of the petition in 6:13 is not for avoidance of all tests of faith and trials but for protection in trials so that the disciple is not tested beyond what he could bear, and lest he or she put God to the test.”
Question 2: As we have already learned, the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are divided into two sections—orientation toward God (verses 9-10) and orientation towards human needs and relationships (verses 11-13). Jesus fulfills all the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer through his life, death, and resurrection.
As the son of God, only Jesus can address God as his Father. Jesus invites his disciples to address and acknowledge God as he does—Father in heaven. How can people who are dead in sin, address the holy God as Father? It is because of our union with the Son of God. We have access to God in prayer to God, only in the name of Jesus, our mediator. We are the children of God, in and through the Son of God.
Jesus hallows God’s name by his perfect obedience in his life, and in his death on the cross, and his resurrection. Apostle Paul captures this reality in Phil. 2:8-11, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus ushers in the kingdom of God by the proclamation of the gospel. He heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, and restores the broken hearted, thereby establishing shalom of the kingdom of God. As Christians we look forward to the final consummation of the kingdom of God when Jesus returns in glory. Jesus fulfills the will of God on earth as it is in heaven. In John 3:16, we learn about the will of God for humanity. Jesus ultimately fulfills the will of God by purchasing our redemption by his death on the cross.
Jesus also fulfills the second section of the Lord’s Prayer. We see Jesus feeding the multitude on several occasions. In John 10, we see Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper wherein the disciples are instructed to eat his body (bread) that is broken for them, and drink the blood (wine) that is shed for them. Whenever we partake in the communion, we are nurtured by the person and work of Christ. Furthermore, Christians around the world long for the ultimate wedding banquet of the lamb (Rev. 19:6-9) where we partake of the bread and wine with Jesus in the new heavens and the new earth.
God forgives our ultimate debt of sin against him in and through the finished work of Jesus on the cross. As the redeemed sinners, we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to forgive others who sin against us. We can forgive, as we have received forgiveness in Jesus.
In Matt. 4:1-11, the Spirit of God leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The devil tempts Jesus by challenging his allegiance to God the Father. Jesus does not doubt God’s goodness, neither does he challenge God’s authority. He trusts God to deliver him from the evil one, and we see Jesus upholding the name of God through his faith, and obedience. Thus, Jesus, the true blessed one, shows us the path to human flourishing by hallowing God’s name, seeking God’s kingdom, and discerning, desiring, and doing God’s will.
Question 3: These are personal application questions.
Question 4: This is a personal application question.