In all the abundant provisions in our relationships with Heaven, the pathway of prayer must surely rank amongst the highest, bringing, as it does, the heart of man into close and direct communication with God.
The schooling and usage of such lines of approach are valued lessons to learn, and must be surely seen in the earnest pleas of the disciples of old to their Master, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’, Luke 11. 1; and how quick was His response in the setting of the great pattern prayer. It seems that the lesson was evidently given upon two separate occasions; first, in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 6. 9-13; and then, at an un-named ‘certain place’, Luke 11. 1-4. The two accounts, although with some variations, contain precious foundation lessons in the nature and character to be marked in the structure of prayer. These can profitably be used as a form of the manner and model, but, by no means, the only form of prayer, which is lawful for christians to employ; taking care always to avoid the spirit of formality in their praying.
The title, ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, as it is so universally called, is perhaps incorrect in being so termed; true, Christ, is its Author and Teacher, but its major direction is set as a pattern of prayer, ‘after this manner pray ye’; and given in response to the request of His disciples, therefore giving them a platform for that which perhaps would be more correctly entitled ‘The Disciples’ Prayer’. In the contrasting context of John 17, we see that which must truly be designated as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, unfolding as it does, the very heart-cry of the Son to His Father, in a way that could never apply to any other man!
In the embrace of this pattern prayer we observe that there are six great petitions, giving a two-fold coverage in such communication from earth to heaven; the first three as relating to God, are seen in the repetition of the pronoun ‘Thy’ as it is linked with ‘Name’, ‘Kingdom’, and ‘Will’, Matt. 6. 9-10; and then, in the second three, applying to man, as he uses the pronoun ‘us’, in ‘give’, ‘forgive’, and ‘deliver’, vv. 11-13. In the context of our study we will consider the first three petitions as they apply to ‘Our Father’, which will thus call for recognition in our threefold acknowledgement of the acclaim for reverence, ‘Hallowed be thy Name’; the acceptance of royalty, ‘thy kingdom come’; and the action of response, ‘thy will be done’.
Here we must note, as the prayer teaches, that such requests, indeed all requests, and approach, can only be made upon the ground of our relationship with God, and taught by The Master as He sets with emphasis the pathway thus, ‘when ye pray say, ‘Our Father’ ‘, Luke 11. 2. How reassuring it is to have such confidence of approach into the presence of One who gladly receives us as His children, into His family, and who with such merciful love and tenderness will give ear and attention to our prayer and supplications, Psa. 86. 6. All this is upon the grounds of the worthiness and work of the Beloved One, as set upon the throne of grace, Heb. 4. 16, and as He brings the truths of Hebrews 10. 19-22, to be embraced by faith, into a living experience. Having thus entered the sanctuary of prayer let there be true heart response to:-
2. The Acclaim of Reverence
The first petition of our prayer is that acknowledgement be made of the holiness of the ‘Name’ of Him who is ‘Our Father – hallowed be thy Name’. Invested in that Name is the very character of God, indeed it is God Himself, not only in the capacity of Father but bonded as ‘The only wise God, our Saviour’, Jude v. 25; and standing alone as the One who is ‘glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders’, Exod. 15. 11.
Again and again the scriptures unfold the acknowledgement and acclaim of such holiness, calling for, and demanding due reverence. The cherubim (plural) will guard it, Gen. 3. 24; the seraphim (plural) will declare it, Isa. 6. 2-3; the four living creatures bear ceaseless testimony, Rev. 4. 8, and, as we have seen, Israel in their song of redemption, Exod. 15. In the light of such acclaim, how much more should there be the sacred exercise of the church as upon her entrance … ‘into the holiest’, Heb. 10. 19, she gladly cries ‘Holy, holy, holy’, Isa. 6. 3; Rev. 4. 8.
3. The Acceptance of Royalty
The second petition contains a plea of heart longing for the fulfilment of the divine programme, ‘Thy kingdom come’, which is of twofold character, prophetic and present. For Israel, the event is future; for to the nation their King came, ‘The Offspring of David’, Rev. 22. 16; as born of the line of Judah. By the nation He was rejected, ‘We have no King but Caesar’, John 19. 15; for the nation He will return, and they, Israel, then with ‘unveiled eyes’ Rev. 1. 7; and endowed with a ‘new heart and spirit’, Ezek 36. 26; will honour and own Him as ‘Kings of kings’, Rev. 19. 16. As Israel’s returning Messiah, He will bring His Kingdom into being, and as ‘King upon the holy hill of Zion’, Psa. 2. 6, He will reign in righteousness and equity over Israel and the nations for a thousand years. So the fulfilment of the prayer will be a restored and exalted Israel and through them blessing to all mankind, as set in the covenant of God to Abraham, Gen. 12. 3.
For the child of God, the answer to his prayer will bring in the present, experience of the King and His kingdom into heart and life; this will be a miniature manifestation of the glory of Christ’s earthly kingdom. The fullness of such answer demands the acceptance of Jesus, first as Saviour, and then as Lord and Christ, indeed Sovereign and King; thus giving Him like placement upon the throne of the whole being, to that which has been given Him in heaven, Acts 2. 36. ‘This same Jesus … made both Lord and Christ’, the cry ‘thy kingdom come’ calls for nothing less than this!
4. The Action of Response
The third petition, ‘thy will be done’, implies the acknowledgement that the One who rules in Heaven as King, has every right, as Sovereign, so to do, in and through the life of each believer. This can only be effected where there is the standard of the example He set in the perfection of His humanity, as He brings the will of heaven to earth in the glad action of His response, ‘Lo, I come … . to do Thy will’; Heb. 10. 7; and so marked in the kingdom of our lives here on earth, as willingly we allow Him to work out heaven’s will, whatever the demand, and in all areas of worship, witness and walk, here on earth.
Such a three-fold embrace of reverence, royalty and response in the movements of prayer must surely set the major manner of all approach to God our Father, as we enter and engage in such high and lofty exercise of prayer and supplication.