By Dolores Smyth, Crosswalk.com
Jesus, Himself, gave us the words to the Lord’s Prayer, found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4). More specifically, when one of Jesus’ disciples asked the Lord to teach the disciples how to pray, Christ responded by giving us this short prayer that perfectly summarizes what Christians believe and how Christians should live.
The Lord’s Prayer, also known as the Our Father or Pater Noster, contains seven petitions. The number seven often connotes completion or perfection in Scripture, and the Lord’s Prayer is just that — a complete and perfect summary of divine teachings.
The prayer opens simply enough, with an address to Our Father, who art in Heaven. This address reaffirms our core belief as Christians that God is our celestial Father, both with us in spirit and above us in the perfect realm of Heaven. This opening address also unites Christians worldwide into one community of worshippers as we pray to “our” Father and not individually to “my” Father.
After this address, invoking the Lord, the seven petitions follow:
1. Hallowed Be Thy Name
Hallowed means holy or sanctified. God’s name is holy, as God is the epitome of sanctity. “There is no one holy like the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:2).
We, as Christians, understand that the Almighty Father is to be revered and praised above all else. In this petition, we pray that the entire world will recognize the holy name of God as the one true God of all, the Creator and Ruler of the universe.
2. Thy Kingdom Come
This petition is two-fold. First, we pray for the Kingdom of God to take form in the here and now so that we can live in a world characterized by faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Second, we pray that the promise of a “new heaven and a new earth” be fulfilled. When that promise is fulfilled, the faithful will live with God in His Kingdom eternally as members of a Holy City in which there is no death, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:1-4).
3. Thy Will Be Done on Earth as it Is in Heaven
God reigns from Heaven with compassion and justice (Isaiah 30:18). His will is that we praise Him and love one another. We know this because Jesus summarized the entirety of God’s Word into two commands — love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40).
Praying this petition is an act of selfless surrender to the will of God. In particular, we humbly request here for God to give us the strength to follow His will, not ours, in living a life that glorifies Him and shows compassion and justice to others.
4. Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Just as good food nourishes the body, the Good News nourishes the soul. The Bible instructs that “man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
In this appeal, we pray for spiritual sustenance so that we can have the fortitude to go out into the world and spread His Message through our words and actions. This nourishment comes from the Word of God and from communion with Christ, who is the “bread of life” that comes down from Heaven so that “whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (John 6:48-58).
5. And Forgive Us Our Trespasses, as We Forgive Those Who Trespass against Us
This section of the Lord’s Prayer may be the toughest to pray and follow. However, this request contains much wisdom. While anyone can ask to receive forgiveness, reflecting on the way we forgive others can lead us to patience and grace than can be transformative.
For times when forgiving someone proves especially difficult, the Bible teaches that a good time to extend forgiveness is during prayer when our minds and hearts are united with God (Mark 11:25).
By choosing to replace resentment with forgiveness, we reflect God’s love and mercy in our actions. This, in turn, enables us to walk more confidently toward God, who wants our every step to be toward Him.
6. And Lead Us Not into Temptation
Temptation can cause us to sin and lead us away from God in ways that can be cumulative. God doesn’t lead us to sin; we do that all on our own because of the free will our Creator gave us. But our God is faithful and promises to provide a way out of any temptation that we may face (1 Corinthians 10:13).
In this supplication, we acknowledge that our free will brings with it human weaknesses. To overcome those weaknesses, we pray here for God to extend His guiding hand over us and grant us the discernment necessary to steer clear of temptation and sin.
7. But Deliver Us from Evil
This petition covers the many times that we do fall prey to temptation and sin. During these times of entanglement, if we continually seek the Lord, He will answer us and deliver us from all of our fears (Psalm 34:4).
In this appeal, we ask, during those times when we’re mired in sin, that the Almighty Father will reach down and liberate us from evil’s grip. This petition is also one for protection, as we ask God to protect us from the devil’s grasp in all future circumstances.
What Does This Mean?
The Lord’s Prayer is much more than a handy guide on what to pray when no other words come to mind. The prayer, if we meditate on each petition, serves as a moral compass that reveals the best way to go before the Father in requesting His guidance and protection.
The Lord’s Prayer focuses our thoughts on what’s important in life by summarizing all that we must do to be “good and faithful servants,” namely: revere God, accept His will, know His Word, love each other through forgiveness, and resist evil.
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Dolores Smyth writes about her life’s passions — faith and family. Her work has appeared in numerous print and online publications. You can read more of her work on Twitter @LolaWordSmyth.