The Disciples’ Prayer – Matthew 6:5-15

Today we’ll look at a passage that is well known and often called, incorrectly, the Lord’s Prayer. One only has to look at verse 12 asking for forgiveness of debts (sins) to understand this is a prayer Jesus would not need to pray. It is important not to get into a semantics discussion, but the prayer is focused on how Jesus’ disciples should pray.

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!  But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters,  since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.  Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him. “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing,  your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

Verses 5-8 set up the general guidelines for prayer.

  • Public prayer is not condemned, but public prayer to draw attention to yourself is.
    • Those who pray to draw attention to themselves are hypocritical in their pious behavior; there is a direct correlation between hypocritical prayer and hypocritical giving in the previous section. Both represent a heart problem.
    • They will receive their “reward” from other people but forfeit any reward from God.
  • Repetitious or babbling prayer is condemned.
    • Rote repetition without thinking is useless.
    • This is how the pagans prayed to their gods.
    • Using this method to manipulate God is foolish.
  • Long prayers are not condemned – Luke 6:12 During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.

Verses 9-13 represent the format on how to pray, not a formula or rote memorization without thinking about what Jesus’ followers are to pray.

  • Jesus is not commanding His followers to pray, but He is inviting them to pray.
  • Jesus is giving a model for how to pray, not verbatim repetition.
  • The order in the prayer falls in line with Old and New Testament practices of placing God first and then personal need in the context of community.
  • It ranges from honoring God’s name, kingdom, and will to the daily themes of food, sins, and temptations.

It begins with the term “Father,” which in the Greek is “Abba,” a term used by children for their earthly fathers and indicates a sense of warmth and intimacy in the security of their father’s presence. There is another connection here. The expression “our Father” indicates a relationship with have not only with God but with other believers. We are part of the spiritual family of God.

Following the initial address to God in verse nine, there are six appeals. The first three pertain to God, the vertical relationship. The last three concern human needs, the horizontal relationships. We are always to place God first and then our needs and the needs of our neighbors. This is the same order that the Ten Commandments take.

  • That God’s name is honored as holy.
  • The final Kingdom of Jesus would come.
  • God’s will would be done.
    • John 4:34  “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work,” Jesus told them.
    • Matthew 26:39  Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
    • Romans 8:18-25
  • Asking for daily sustenance Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
  • Confession of our sins (debts) – this area should decrease as we mature.
  • Preparation for spiritual battle – this area should increase as we mature.

Note that the word “and” appears between the last three. This emphasizes that these are the constant needs of God’s people. Also, note that there is no “and” between deliverance from temptation and deliverance from evil. They belong together as one request as the evil one is the one who tempts. God may test us but never tempt us.

Another fascinating thing to note about the last part is the unity and the three periods of time that all humans experience in bringing things before God.

  • Asking for bread brings the needs of the present.
  • Asking for forgiveness brings the past.
  • Asking for help in temptation commits the future into God’s hands.

We are to lay the past, present, and future before God and trust in His grace, mercy, and provision.

Verses 14-15  Jesus reemphasizes the fifth appeal of forgiving others. Our salvation does not depend on our merits or what we do. It is solely on the mercy and grace of God. Once we have received God’s forgiveness and salvation, we are to extend that same forgiveness to others,

Matthew 18:21-35. Receiving God’s forgiveness should motivate us to forgive others.

Applications

  • Examine your prayer life in multiple areas.
    • Do you have a prayer life? Is it vibrant? Is it more than 5 or 10 minutes a day? Do you do it for show? Is it mechanical?
    • Some people view prayer as either a mystical activity or a formula activity. Yes, there is an element of mystery, but I would encourage you to approach prayer as if you’re talking to your father because you are!
    • Spill out your heart but don’t worry about sounding eloquent. God is not worried about form over substance in our prayer lives.
  •  Look at the format of the Disciples’ Prayer as a skeleton that you fill in the rest with your words.
    • Honoring God.
    • Praying for Jesus’ return.
    • Praying for God’s will to be accomplished.
    • Praying for our needs and the needs of others.
    • Confessing our sins.
    • Preparation for spiritual warfare.
  • Two acronyms to structure your prayer life
    • ACTS
      • Adoration
      • Confession
      • Thanksgiving
      • Supplication
    • TACS
      • Thanksgiving
      • Adoration
      • Confession
      • Supplication
  • Forgiving others
    • Do you forgive, or do you become resentful and try to “get even?”
    • Just as we are forgiven, we are to forgive others.
    • This is challenging as our “human” tendency is to retaliate in some way. Followers of Jesus are expected to refrain from that. Instead, extending mercy and grace to those who harm us in some way.

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