Sermon on the Mount

Making the Most of the "Lord's Prayer"

Photo of Gary DeLashmutt
Gary DeLashmutt

Matthew 6:7-15


Life in God's kingdom is different from religion. Jesus teaches his followers how to truly pray. Instead of reciting empty words needlessly, God wants us to connect with him. As we take time to understand who God is, what He has done, and who we are before him, we can pray in a genuine and real way.


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Remind of THEME of 5:17-6:18: how life in God's kingdom (with Jesus) is different from religion.

In 6:7, Jesus points out yet another contrast between religion and God's kingdom (read).

In prohibiting the use of prayer as "meaningless repetition," Jesus sets himself apart from virtually all of the great world religions (OCCULTIC SPELLS; BUDDHIST PRAYER WHEEL; ISLAMIC PRAYERS).

He also sets the stage for what is perhaps the most ironic passage in the whole Bible. Rather than explain the irony to you, let's watch this brief video . . . 

Why is Jesus so against this? Because it communicates several things that are profoundly inaccurate about God--that he is impersonal, that he is tight-fisted, and that he can be manipulated. Isn’t it true that many of us have learned to use the "Lord's Prayer" in exactly this way--as an impersonal, repetitive act that will hopefully persuade God to forgive us, give us what we want, etc.?

If we're not to use the "Lord's Prayer" in this way, how should we use it? Actually, it can be very helpful for developing a healthy and effective prayer life--if you can break out of autopilot, get rid of the KJV language, and think about what he is saying.

Jesus did not say "pray with these words"--he said "pray in this way"/along these lines. It is an example of personal communication with embodies a proper view of God and proper attitudes toward God. When translated into modern English, informed by the rest of scripture and applied personally to your own life, it can be a very helpful framework for talking to God--especially when you lose your way, need focus, etc. That's how I use it, and I hope this teaching will help you to use it in the same way.

The prayer has three clear sections, arranged in an order that is important, each of which informs our relationship with God. Let's go through it (in modern English) and see how it does this . . . 

"You are my loving Father, and I am your child."

Read 6:9a. I don't know what this communicates to you, but I know that it communicated something very radical to Jesus' hearers.

The religious leaders of Jesus' day never addressed God in this way. They used terms like "Sovereign Lord," which emphasized God's power and authority. For them, God was a far-off, distant authority figure--to be addressed formally.

But Jesus addresses God as "Father." This is the Aramaic word "Abba"--which is roughly equivalent to "Papa." It is a term of endearment, connoting a close personal relationship between a loving father and his child. This prayer begins with "You are my loving Father, and I am your child."

By praying "Our Father," Jesus is not only claiming to have an intimate personal relationship with God because he is his unique Son; he is also inviting each one of us to enter into and enjoy this same kind of relationship with God. That is why he came.

He came to live a perfect life and offer himself as a sacrifice to pay for your sins, so that you can draw near to God at any time and be confident that he will accept you and welcome you into his presence (Heb. 10:19,22a).

His payment for your sins makes it possible for God to indwell you through his Spirit, who will help you to relate to God personally and personally experience God's love for you (Rom. 5:5; 8:15,16).

That's why, in order to get anything out of this prayer, you must have a personal relationship with God. Do you know him as your personal, loving Father? Can you draw near to him at any time with confidence in his love and acceptance? Do you experience his loving care in your life?

If not, you can begin this kind of relationship with God right now, today. All you have to do is receive Christ (Jn. 1:12). If you will do this, the walls will go down and you will begin to experience a love relationship with God that will revolutionize your communication with him.

For those of you who have received Christ, do you begin your prayer by remembering this and thanking God for his grace, your salvation, his faithfulness, etc.? I find that this is where I need to start, because above all else, prayer is an opportunity to be with my loving Father.

"You are my rightful Ruler, and I am your servant."

Read 6:9b,10. Notice that he imagery for God changes, from loving Father to ruling King. Jesus is saying (and calling on us to say), "You are my rightful King, and I am your servant."

Notice also that the mode of communication changes from personal address to request. All three requests are for the same thing--the spread of God's dominion in human hearts. "Hallowed by thy name" means "May you be recognized as the one true God." "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" means "May humans down here acknowledge you as their rightful King in the same way that angels do up there."

In order to appreciate this part of the prayer, you have to understand what God's will/plan is. This is the main theme of the Bible. God is the rightful Ruler of all humanity. The root problem of the human race is its revolt against and alienation from God. God in his love has launched his rescue operation to enable us to come back under his loving leadership, and Jesus is the key to that rescue operation. His death provides the way for us be reconciled to him. At the end of human history, Jesus will come back to forcibly establish God's kingdom over all the earth. In the time between his comings, he is advancing God's kingdom through us as we share this good news and invite people to voluntarily receive his kingdom (2 Cor. 5:20).

So this is not just a request that God will ultimately re-establish his kingdom on earth. It is a statement of personal enlistment for the present stage of this plan. It is presenting yourself to God as his servant, consciously aligning yourself with his purpose and plan, and personally offering yourself to be his instrument to invite people into his kingdom and help them become effective servants for him (read Rom. 6:13).

Put differently, it is to remind myself that the world does not revolve around me and my desires, but around God and his plan. Prayer is not the means by which I try to persuade God to do my will; it is the means by which I align myself with God to do his will. When you talk to God with this perspective and attitude, it leads to many related matters.

Am I letting your kingdom advance in my own life? Do I have a controversy with you that I need to resolve? What do you want to change in my character so I can be a better ambassador?

Please give me opportunities today to share your love and good news with people who don't know you. Open my eyes to see these opportunities at work, school, in my neighborhood, with my family, etc.

Show me more clearly the unique role you have for me to build up your people. Give me opportunities to do this today.

It also involves praying for people who don't yet know Christ, and for more Christians to become serious-minded servants (Matt. 9:37-38).

"You are my faithful Provider, and I am dependent upon you."

Read 6:11,12. Here are three more requests--this time personal requests. This may be the most familiar and understandable part of this prayer--even though it has some perplexing verbiage. But notice two important things about these requests.

They are requests for the resources to do his will (preceding context), not simply a wish list purely for my own enjoyment. Like a soldier being authorized to requisition materiel for his mission, Jesus is inviting me to ask for what I will need today to fulfill his mission for my lives.

They are requests that express recognition that I am not self-sufficient or adequate to do God's will by my own power or ingenuity. I am weak, and I need God to supply me daily/situationally with the resources to do his will. "You are my faithful Provider, and I am dependent upon you."

I see these three requests as pertaining to three important areas in which I need God on a daily basis in order to serve him effectively.

Re-read 6:11. I need him for the physical and material provision to do his will (STAMINA; FINANCIAL SUPPORT; HEALTH).

Re-read 6:12. Let's talk about the apparent problem here during Q & A. The main point is that I need him for the ability to love other people the way he wants me to love them (OTHER-CENTEREDNESS; INSIGHT; COURAGE).

Re-read 6:13a (6:13b is evidently a later addition--true, but not part of the original prayer). "Lead us not into temptation" doesn't imply that God wants to make me fall unless I remember to ask him not to. It means "Help me not to succumb to temptation; deliver me from the evil one." I need him for spiritual protection from Satan because my allegiance to God has made me Satan's enemy (INSIGHT INTO HIS TACTICS; STRENGTH TO REMAIN AT MY POST; POWER TO DEFEAT HIM IN MY LIFE & OTHERS).

Notice that Jesus says "our," not "my." This means that I should pray for other Christians along these same lines . . . 


SUMMARIZE. Give this a try! If you begin to talk to God along these lines on a consistent basis, your intimacy with him as your loving Father will increase, your commitment to him as your rightful King will grow, and your dependence on him as your faithful Provider will deepen.