Now we're turning again today to Matthew's gospel chapter 6, Matthew chapter 6. We've been dealing with these three aspects of righteousness that the Lord Jesus is speaking about - in the Jewish faith they were three holy things that a holy man of God or, woman of God, engaged in. So the Lord is addressing them, and we've already looked at almsgiving, last Lord's Day morning we looked at prayer - both of which were looking at the motivation of these exercises. We looked at 'Why Are You Working For The Lord?' - why are you giving? And also 'Why Are You Praying?'.
The Lord - as He doesn't do in the other two instances of almsgiving and fasting - He carries on speaking about what we should pray and how we should pray. That is what we intend to study this morning, beginning at verse 9. The Lord says: "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses".
Let's just bow in a moment's prayer together: Our Father we thank Thee for the great gift of prayer. We believe that it is probably the most holiest exercise that man can engage in down here on earth. Therefore as we come to Thee through this medium, we pray Thy blessing, we ask for Thy help, we ask for Thy guidance and for the teaching of the Holy Spirit from Thy Word. We need to know how to pray - we come to Thee as the disciples did, and we say 'Lord, teach us to pray'. Teach us how to pray, teach us what to pray and what manner to engage in prayer. So we ask Thy help now, and we ask the filling of Thy Holy Spirit for the preacher and for the people in the pew as they listen, that they may have the grace of God to receive the word of God in their hearts and implement it in their lives. Lord, we need Thee - if anything that is what prayer is: it is the expression of total and utter dependence upon Almighty God. So we need Thee now, and we pray that Thou wilt meet our need, for Christ's sake. Amen.
I don't intend to go into an in-depth study of the Lord's prayer today, simply because we're engaged in a much larger study of the Sermon on the Mount and we haven't got too much time to engage in individual studies within that larger study. If the Lord wills and tarries, hopefully in the future at some time we may be allowed to go into more depth with the Lord's Prayer.
Books on prayer are never-ending. I don't know whether you have been in a bookshop lately, a Christian bookshop, and browsed around the shelves and gone into the prayer section - but there are new books on prayer coming out and being released every week. There's no better subject that books could be written upon, let me hasten to add, and I have probably read more books on prayer than I have on anything else or any other subject. From the reading of books on prayer I am sure you have found, and I have found, that the methods of prayer and men's ideas about what an ideal prayer is, are varied.
What should be the ingredients of a good prayer? It's good to have books, and thank the Lord for books, but it's always important - I believe - when it comes to things spiritual to look to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Author and the Finisher of our faith, to see what He taught and what He did. Here in this prayer that we have, between verses 9 through to 13 in chapter 6 of Matthew's gospel, we have the Lord Jesus' pattern for prayer - if you like: the Master's blueprint for the way we ought to pray. We have the necessary ingredients of prayer according to Jesus Christ the Lord. That is right, and we would expect that simply because in verse 8 the Lord Jesus had already told us: "Your Heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before you ask him". Therefore God knows what we need, therefore God in flesh - the Lord Jesus Christ - is coming to us and, knowing what we need, He tells us what we ought to pray for and how we ought to pray. He is telling us: 'These are the things that you need to pray for'.
If you were here last Lord's Day you would have seen from the first part of verse 7 that when we pray we are not to repeat things ritualistically over, vain repetitions, empty religious systems of men. He is warning against ritualism, He is telling us that prayers must be motivated from the heart - and we have been teaching that, and of course we believe it. But to the other extreme, it is important that when we pray - and I'm thinking, and I believe the Lord is thinking more personally now - in your own home, when you close the closet door behind you and you pray to God in secret where God alone can see and God alone can hear, there ought to be order in our prayer. All things in our prayer life ought to be done decently and in order.
Here we have, in the words of Lord Jesus Christ, the God-given order for our prayers. I believe today, personally, each one of us, it is our responsibility before God and Christ to realign our personal prayer life with the Saviour's pattern. It is commonly called 'The Lord's Prayer', and that's a bit of a misnomer because - yes, it came from the Lord's lips, but it came from the Lord's lips for the benefit and the use of His own disciples. We know that because the Lord Jesus could never have prayed this prayer, because one of the clauses within it asks God to forgive us our sins - and the Lord Jesus was apart from sin, He was always the sinless One. I prefer to call it 'The Disciples' Prayer' - and that is the title of our study today.
He didn't give us this prayer to be recited a certain number of times on the Lord's Day, or even days during the week. He gave it to keep us from using vain repetitions, so we ought not to take this prayer and vainly repeat it without any meaning or without any heart. Let me say this: it is not wrong to pray this prayer, what we need to guard against is praying it in vain repetition without our hearts being in the midst of it. Note please that the Lord Jesus didn't say: 'Pray in these words', He said: 'Pray after this manner' - that is, use this prayer as a pattern, not as a substitute for what is in your heart. Some have said that this is only a Jewish prayer, of course some believe that the Sermon on the Mount is purely Jewish, and therefore this prayer is not meant to be used by the church today but by a Jewish remnant in the Great Tribulation period in the future. I am sure that it indeed will be used in that period by that Jewish remnant, but to say that ought not to be used today in the church of Jesus Christ, I would say to you is verging on the error of ultra-dispensationalism. Now, we haven't got time to go into that today, but perhaps again we will go into it.
The very fact that it is found not just in Matthew's gospel, but in Luke's gospel - a Gentile gospel - is an indication that God wanted this prayer to be used as a pattern by Jewish and by Gentile believers. If you take a casual look down at this prayer you will see that there is nothing in it that cannot be used by Christians who are Gentiles. In fact, the fact that God is addressed as 'Our Father' is all the warrant that we need to use this prayer as members of the family of God. Certainly the epistles that we have in God's further revelation would add more to this prayer, things that we need to pray about that Paul tells us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But we can use this prayer today as a pattern in our personal lives.
The theme of this prayer, I believe, more than anything is the will of God for us. God's will, all that He desires to accomplish speedily in our lives, what He expects the church - believers - to pray for during the thousands of years of His absence. So let's look at it, let's look at the ingredients of prayer. I've divided it into two, and the first point is simply this: our praying should be God-centred, our praying should be God-centred. If you want to give a theological name to that you could call it: 'Adoration' - coming with God on our minds as we come in prayer. If you count down this prayer you find that the word 'thy' appears three times, and the word 'us' appears four times. As you read it doesn't take long to find out that there is a reversal of the order of person in life's grammar. What I mean by that is simply this: our English grammar, the different persons, goes like this: the first person is 'I', the second person is 'you', and the third person is 'he'. But we find in this Disciple's Prayer that that is an old-style, and now there is the new order and, if you like, the new grammar of the Christian is reversed. The first person is 'He' - God, the second person still remains 'you', and the third person is put last - 'I' must come last.
The Sermon on the Mount is paralleled in the law of God in the Old Testament, we've seen that in how the Lord addresses specifically the ten commandments. I think I told you in recent weeks that the first half of the commandments are our responsibilities God-ward, the second half of the commandments are our responsibilities to God man-ward. You find it in the Sermon on the Mount reflected from the law, and now we are finding it in the Disciple's Prayer - the first half of the prayer is God-ward, and the second half is man-ward. So there are three things that I want you to note - God-ward - how we are to make God the centre of our prayers. It divides into three: relationship, reverence, and reversal.
Let's begin with the first: relationship. The Lord Jesus says: 'Pray after this manner: Our Father which art in heaven'. Now does this mean - and here we go, people read into these things - does this mean that we cannot pray to the Lord Jesus? Does this mean that we cannot pray to the Holy Spirit? I do not believe it does mean these things, but what I believe the Lord is instructing us to do is: the normal practice of prayer, the norm, is to address God the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. Verse 9: 'Our Father which art in heaven' - He is the object of our prayer. What the Lord is focusing us to at the very beginning of His instruction and His teaching on prayer is: our prayer must be directed to God, for God is the Place and the Person that assures us of love, and power, and dignity, and majesty, and deity. We come and we name God's name as our Father because, at that very outset of prayer, at the introduction when we begin to pray, that name 'Our Father' will raise our affections, will confirm our confidence in God, and the effectiveness of what it means to pray to God.
He is a divine being, but the reason why we address Him as 'Our Father' is because He is a divine being with our best interests at His heart. Oh, it's thrilling, isn't it? We are invited to draw near to Him. John could say: 'Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God'. He is our Father by covenant relationship through the Lord Jesus Christ. He said before He left this earth to His disciples: 'I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to your God and to My God'. He is our Father by regeneration, Peter tells us that when we are born-again of the Spirit of God we are made partakers of the divine nature.
'Our Father' - that's mighty! Don't miss that word 'our', for that means that all Christians know - all true Christians - know God as their Father. Now the world cannot address God in this way. The Lord Jesus said: 'If you're not saved, ye are of your father the devil' - and there is nowhere in scripture, in God's word, that we find the universal fatherhood of God to all men. My friend, if you're saved you can call God 'Father' - but if you're not, if you're unregenerate and unconverted you can't come to God knowing Him as a loving Father, you can't ask for the things that are prayed for in this prayer. My friend, I would urge you to come to God through Jesus, the Son. There is no universal fatherhood of God in the scripture, but what there is is the universal brotherhood of Christians - 'Our Father'. You go right through this prayer and there are no singular pronouns - you don't find 'I' in it at all, everything is plural. God is saying: 'When you come to Me as your Father, remember that you're not an only child. When you come to Me, remember that you're one of a great company, a worldwide family of believers. Therefore, when you come, don't just ask for yourself'. We express our love for our family, don't we, in various ways in our own homes? God is simply saying: 'You're in the family of God now, and the way I want you to express love to your worldwide family is to pray for them, to pray for their needs over and above your own needs'.
'Our Father which art in heaven'. If 'Our Father' speaks to us of the worldwide family of God and the nature of God toward us in compassion, and love, and goodness; 'which art in heaven' must speak to us of faith as we come to God, that we're realising that God is above us but we are putting faith in Him as above us. Without faith it's useless to pray. You see, that's what Paul meant when he said in Hebrews: 'Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is'. When we come to God and say: 'Our Father which art in heaven', that's meant to be a declaration that we believe that there is a God in heaven. We bow before that God, and that whole introduction of this prayer is meant to raise from our breast such feelings and emotions, and it's meant to extract from the names of God, and the character and attributes of God, such a sweetness of our relationship with God that it inspires us to pray and to know that, as we come to God, He is a God who can and wants to answer our prayer.
Boy, what a relationship! My friend, do you have that relationship today? 'Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name'. The fact that God is in heaven should fill us with humility. We are only creatures of the dust, it should fill us with awe, we should fall at God's feet as dead men. I know, and you know, that God is everywhere - we cannot limit God to simply being in heaven. But within the Scriptures heaven is seen as the place of God's presence in a special sense. It's seen to be, if you like, the place where God has prepared His throne for judgement - but it's more than that: it's the place where God has prepared His throne in grace. That's why we talk about coming to the throne of grace.
There was a little military drummer, on one occasion, who was asked why - if God is everywhere - the Lord's Prayer speaks of Him as being in heaven? With the smartness of a little soldier he answered: 'Because that's headquarters!'. Isn't that it? When you think about it for a moment: God is there, our Lord is there, our names are there, our life is there, our future inheritance is there, our citizenship is there, and our heart ought to be there! Oh, what have we been learning in the Sermon on the Mount? Whether it's alms, whether it's prayer, whether it's fasting - who has our eyes to be on? Has your eyes to be on the Pastor, or on the members, or on the elders, or the deacons, or so-and-so across the road from you? No, our eyes are to be on God! If our eyes are on God, we will see His majesty, His reverence, and His greatness. Our eyes are not upon men, our eyes are not upon false gods in temples on the earth, but we are the people that worship the God of heaven - the true and the living God!
It speaks of His transcendence, and I would ask you today: what difference would it make if, when you came to God in prayer, you had a disposition that was saturated and enthused and soaked in the recognition of who you were coming to, and in the awareness of where your voice was heard - in heaven? It's lovely when I read, and it was in my reading this morning, where the Lord Jesus Christ - it says He lifted His eyes toward heaven. Do you know why He did that? Because He knew that's where power was, He knew that was where the place was where we obtain blessings that we need. Prayer needs to be from the heart, it needs to communicate with God not with the lips but with the heart - the reason being: there's no physical voice on earth that can rend the skies and go into heaven, but it is the heart pangs, the voice of our sighs and our groans before God, that will reach His own ears. If that's the case, if we are praying: 'Our Father which art in heaven', we need to be severed, divorced, detached, and wrenched from this earth! Some of us have our moorings tied and our foundations dug deep, and our desires are not heavenly.
This is what God enjoins His children throughout all the centuries to do: to worship Him, to hallow His name! Isn't that what the Lord taught us? That is worship, and when we go into the Old Testament we find there that King David felt that this part of prayer - adoration - was so important that he appointed a select group of men who did nothing else in the temple but praise and worship God day and night! In the book of the Revelation, we see four special angels - John saw them - and they existed solely to worship God, and they rest not day and night saying: 'Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come'. Do you remember the words of the Lord to the Samaritan woman in John 4: 'The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship' - notice it doesn't say 'worship God' - 'worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him'. You can't worship God unless He is your Father, and you can't have Him as your Father unless there is that regenerated covenant relationship. Do we have the relationship? Now listen, in a world that thrives on, and a church that loves a casual approach to God: is there reverence?
Then there is reversal. He says: 'Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven'. The reason why I call that reversal is simply: God's will is always done in heaven, but the Lord wants us to pray that God's will would be done on earth - it's a reversal of what we know to be the norm. First of all let me deal with this: 'Thy kingdom come'. Now the Greek tense of the word 'come' in this passage, I'm led to believe, indicates a cataclysmic arrival of the kingdom of God in one specific point of time, in one act. It speaks of the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ that is prophesied in the Old Testament and seen in Revelation chapter 20 - the kingdom of God established on the earth. Of course it can also mean the spiritual, for on earth at this moment men do not carry out God's will on earth, do they? The purpose of God right throughout all time, from the beginning to the ending, will be to have His will and purpose done on earth as it is in heaven - for in heaven God's name is hallowed, in heaven God's will is done. Yet on earth there is another name that is hallowed, for this old world lieth in the lap of the wicked one - he is the god of this age, he is the prince of this generation.
We are going to and fro, and meant to be preaching the Gospel, in order that people will be released from the bondage of the god of this world, and that they will have the kingdom of God in their hearts - in order to deliver them from hand of the evil one, so that they may hallow God's name and submit themselves to His authority. That's what this is talking about: submission before God. It is our monumental responsibility to bring the kingdom of God to earth. How are we to do it? Through prayer. How has God ordained that He bring His purposes into planning and into actuality in this earth? Through your prayers. So prayer is not, as commonly thought, the means of getting our will done, it is the means of getting God's will done on earth as it is in heaven.
Now in the remaining time let's look at the second half. We've looked at how our praying should be God-centred adoration. We're to have a relationship, we're to have reverence, and there's to be reversal. But now we look at our praying and how it ought to be needs-motivated. Needs-motivated, if you like, petition - the first half is adoration, the second half is petition. In verses 9 to 10 we've found that God comes first, and that has to be the way. You see, you can't pray aright for your friends, for your loved ones and for the lost, unless you honour God, unless you have that relationship and reverence, unless God's will is in your life. Unless God is dominant in your heart you may forget about praying for other people! I think it's interesting to look at these three things: first of all provision, pardon, and preservation. That's what you find here, and all three of these things that the Lord instructs us to pray for: there is a Member, a Person of the Trinity, that is involved with each of them.
Father is the one who provides, in His kindness, for our temporal needs. The Son is the one who, through His sacrificial death, provides mediation and atonement. The Holy Spirit is that one, through His gracious operations, who delivers us day by day from evil. Let's look at the first: provision. He instructs us: 'Pray: Give us this day our daily bread'. Now this has come forcibly to my heart, Watchman Nee said: 'Because Christians do not hoard on earth, therefore they must ask for their daily bread'. We'll be taught later in this Sermon not to hoard on earth, but to build our treasures in heaven. We need to pray for our daily bread because we do not value things down here. There is the daily nature of this prayer, the daily bread, and that means we need to be praying daily for all our needs. Job could say, concerning the word of God: 'I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food'. Prayer is the same: we ought to see prayer and God's word more necessary than feeding ourselves - and we'll see this in the next study where we come to fasting, because fasting is when you come to God with a need that is so necessary that you haven't time to eat, you don't even have a desire to eat!
I love the rendering of 1 Peter 5 verse 7 that goes like this: 'Casting all your care upon Him, for it matters to Him about you'. My friends, we can ask for our daily bread because we have a Heavenly Father that loves us! It's not just bread, the Lord is communicating to us that whatever we need, whatever is lacking in our lives that is necessary - not our wants now, but our needs! - we have a Heavenly Father that would give it to us! Parents, does it matter to you if your child is fed? Do you not think it matters to God? A little child was once explaining to a grown-up what happened in heaven when she prayed, and she said this simply in her childlike faith: 'When I say my prayers, God stops all the music and He says: 'Quiet please! There's a little girl down there who wants to talk to Me''. Isn't that lovely? He hears us because we are His children.
A busy mother, through all the clamour of life downstairs, is wonderfully able to hear the faint cry of the child upstairs, isn't she? So the Father, above all the din of this world, all the turmoil, and even all the delight of heaven, is able to hear the cry of the least of His children! Do you remember Ishmael being left behind that bush, dying of thirst? We don't read in the Scriptures that he said anything, but we do read this: 'God heard the voice of the lad' - He heard his cry! It's not words, it's the heart.
Provision: He will provide your needs. Then there's pardon, for He instructs us to pray: 'Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors' - forgive! Now, there's often confusion comes with this verse, because what the Lord is speaking of here is not the forgiving of justification, the initial forgiving of salvation. That is once-for-all and never needs to be repeated, but what the Lord is speaking of is the daily defilement that we pick up of sin, as we move around in this world. It's not the bathing of the body, as the Lord illustrated, but it is the washing of the feet. It's not salvation, but it speaks of fellowship, it speaks of keeping short accounts with God in confession - but the mighty thing about this passage that rocks us all is this: if we are not willing and able to forgive others, we will not obtain this forgiveness of the Father! Not that you won't be saved - that's initial forgiveness - but if you want to walk in fellowship with the Lord and have no clouds in between, you must forgive other people or you will not have that fellowship!
Verses 14 and 15 bear that principle out. There was once a boy who thought this prayer went like this: 'Forgive us our trash baskets, as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets' - very apt, isn't it? People who shovel things upon you: hurt and pain - and you forgive them, it is essential that you forgive them for the question the Lord asks is this: 'Will God allow two believers who are at odds with one another to enter His kingdom together?'. Either neither of them will enter in, or one of them will fail to enter. That's what John said in his epistle: 'If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?'. Guy King says this: 'More Christians than one cares to contemplate are spiritually bereft and barren because they will not make up with someone with whom they have quarrelled. Well, let them not delude themselves: singing hymns, performing duties, making vows will be of no avail - they will walk this earth unforgiven of the Father until that thing has been put right. Only then will they have the peace of mind again, when in all humility and honesty they can pray: 'Forgive us as we forgive''.
Provision, pardon, and finally: preservation. He teaches us to pray: 'Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from all evil', or the evil one. This, perhaps, is the hardest verse in this passage, and one of the hardest verses to understand in the Bible - because the word of God teaches that temptations, or a better word is 'testings', are necessary for the believer. In fact, of themselves they may be an evil temptation, but if we as God's children resist them they are helpful - and God allows them in order that we be strengthened in our faith, and be able to resist more and be more holy. Therefore what the Lord is saying here is, not that we be prayed out of any testing and that we have an easy ride as a Christian, and our life is free from all testing, but the Lord is asking us to pray that we be saved from being overcome by temptations, that we be saved from being overcome by fresh sin. After we confess our sins, forgive others their sins, that when we come and face that sin again that we will not be overcome - it's a recognition of our own weakness before God.
Isn't it apt to come to something like this? I hope as you've been going through the Sermon on the Mount that you have a desire in your heart to try and live it - I have, but it's difficult. That's why we need to come to God and present our weakness to Him. God doesn't tempt us, but He allows temptation to strengthen us. God never promised to keep us from temptation, but what He has done is promise to preserve us through temptation. I think the best commentary on this verse is Paul's words in Corinthians: 'There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way of escape' - a fire escape - 'that you may be able to bear it'. All the trials and all the troubles within your life, not all of them are designed to make you sin - God allows them at times in order to strengthen you. But this prayer is not for total exemption from them, but for absolute preservation in them! We see the Lord lifting up His holy face again to heaven, and saying: 'Father, I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but shouldst keep them from evil'.
'For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen' - a doxology of praise to finish with, as He has started. He is telling us prayer and praise must go together, but He is using God's attributes, God's person, as a plea to enforce His petitions. He's coming to God and presenting to Him that He is a loving God, that He has got power, that He is in charge. He's bringing these requests with scriptural arguments before God in order to encourage God to answer His appeal. There's nothing in ourselves, but oh that we would come with arguments for God's goodness and God's mercy. Then He finishes with 'Amen' - so be it. So be it! Or we could translate it: 'it shall be so'! A statement of faith!
That's what we need to pray. What a prayer: a personal relationship with God and with other believers. We are to exercise faith, we are to worship God, we're to be expectant of His second coming, we're to be submissive to His will, we're to bring before Him petitions, confession. We're to dwell upon His compassion, we're to show dependence and we are to acknowledge His greatness. He knows everything that you and I need, and every aspect of prayer is included in this prayer: adoration, thanksgiving, confession, petition - and the things that are asked for are seven things, which is perfection, the completeness of this outline for prayer!
The purpose of it all is to glorify God's name and to accomplish God's will on earth. It begins with God's name, God's kingdom, God's will. It's the Disciple's Prayer, you can only pray this prayer if you're a disciple. Let us bow our heads, and as we bow our heads we do not do this ritualistically, but I would ask you that you would join with me as we recite these words that are only a pattern - but they are scripture - that we may impress them into our hearts today. Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourteenth tape in his 'Sermon On The Mount' series, titled "The Disciples' Prayer" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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