The Model Prayer
Jesus is the exemplar for man in every consideration (cp. I Pet. 2: 21). Jesus' life and teaching constitute the ultimate and the very epitome of righteousness (cp. Heb. 4: 15; Matt. 7: 28, 29). Jesus' prayer life and teaching regarding prayer are certainly no exception. Man often calls Jesus' teaching about prayer found in Matthew 6: 9-13 "Jesus' prayer." It is Jesus' prayer in the sense that he taught it. However, John 17 would be Jesus' prayer in the sense of a prayer Jesus prayed. Jesus' presentation of prayer in Matthew 6: 9-13 is correctly called the "Model Prayer." There is no question but what this prayer is the most famous prayer ever presented. Please consider it:
"9: After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10: Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11: Give us this day our daily bread. 12: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13: 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."
As is the case with so much of the teaching of the New Testament, the Model Prayer is taught in the setting of controversy. The Sermon on the Mount itself was originally presented by Jesus as an exposť of Phariseeism (Matt. 5: 20). In fact, the prayer stands in sharp contrast with the pretentious acts of the Pharisees (Matt. 6: 1-8). Prayer is meant to be genuine and not a show or ritual, Jesus explains (Matt. 6: 1-13). Let us now briefly examine the famous prayer of Jesus:
Exposition of verse nine. Jesus said, "our Father." W. E. Vine remarks of "Father" (pater) as follows: "From the root signifying a nourisher, protector, upholder" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). God is the Father in that he is the progenitor or Creator of all men (Gen. 1, 2). He is also a caring Father in that he provides, both physically and spiritually (Matt. 5: 45; 6: 33). God is "in heaven" which is reflective of God's regal authority and superiority over man (cp. I Kgs. 8: 30 ff.). The expression, "hallowed be thy name" is indicative of the respect and reverence that is due the Father. "Hallowed: (hagiazo, Greek) simply means to make holy. Man tends to forget the lofty position God occupies in relation to man. Hence, regarding some, there is "no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom. 3: 18). However, the teaching of the scriptures is: " whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12: 28).
An examination of verse ten. God's Kingdom (basileia) is essentially his reign (cf. Lk. 19: 12, 14). "Kingdom" and "church" (ekklesia) are used interchangeably by the Lord (Matt. 16: 18, 19). The church or called out saved are those over whom God reigns, his territory. Unless we understand "thy kingdom come" as referring to a resurgence of the kingdom, we must understand that this part of the prayer is time dated, because the kingdom subsequently came (Col. 1: 13). The kingdom came in Acts chapter two (see Mk. 9: 1, Acts 2). Jesus explains about the coming of the kingdom when he further stated, "thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Man is to obey God (Acts 10: 34, 35). Jesus asked, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Lk. 6: 46). Jesus will only save the obedient (Heb. 5: 8, 9).
Verse eleven, dependence upon God. The greatest of reliance on God is found in the expression, "Give us this day our daily bread." "Bread" here stands for the necessities of life (cp. Matt. 4: 4). "Give us" indicates man's awareness of the source of the physical needs (Phili. 4: 13, Matt. 6: 25-30). Jesus later taught that God will supply the necessary matters of life if we will put God's kingdom and his righteousness before everything else in our lives (Matt. 6: 33). Please appreciate the fact that Jesus said "daily bread." Jesus taught "taking life one day at a time" (see vs.34). Many problems can be solved if we focus on "today," not yesterday or tomorrow. We need to also understand that God often provides for man through man's own efforts. We are commanded to work and provide for our own (I Tim. 5: 8). God's spiritual provisions are similarly viewed. God provides salvation, but man must participate in his salvation (this is salvation "by grace through faith," Eph. 2: 8-10). God will not provide for those unwilling to work; neither will he save those unwilling to obey (see 2 Thes. 3: 10; I Cor. 15: 2). However, man cannot claim to have earned either the physical or spiritual blessings (Tit. 3: 5).
Verse twelve, the matter of forgiveness. In the simplest of terms, Jesus said, "And forgive us our debts ." All are sinners, even God's people (Rom. 3: 23, I Jn. 1: 8-10). Jesus' reference to seeking forgiveness was doubtless a blow to the Phariseeistic thinking (cp. Lk. 18: 9-11). Confession of sin is required (I Jn. 1: 7 ff.). There are, indeed, conditions to receiving forgiveness. The Christian must ask in faith, ask unselfishly, and ask in a state of obedience (Jas. 1: 6; Jas. 4: 3; I Jn. 3: 22). Another condition (I realize man does not like the word "condition") is, "as we forgive our debtors." Jesus explained, "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (vs. 15, see Matt. 18: 23-35). The non-Christian obtains forgiveness through baptism that is preceded by faith, repentance, and confession of Jesus' deity (Jn. 8: 24; Lk. 13: 5; Rom. 10: 9, 10; Acts 2: 38).
Verse thirteen, the desire to avoid temptation. Jesus' statement, "And lead us not into temptation" must not be understood that God does solicit man to do evil. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man," James wrote (Jas. 1: 13). It is the case, however, that God exercises his care over us in such a way as to lead us into circumstances which become the means of testing and purifying us (Jas. 1: 3, 4, I Pet. 1: 7). God has promised that his children will be provided a way to escape each temptation (solicitation to do evil, I Cor. 10: 13, see vs.5-12). The language, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen" is found, with variation, in many authorities, some ancient. However, many translations omit it from the text. If retained as in the case of the King James, Jesus is assigning proper tribute to the regal God of the universe in the doxology.
In conclusion, there are many wonderful lessons taught in Jesus' model prayer. An intimate relationship with the Father; reverence for God; God's will and sovereignty being honored and performed; dependency upon God, taking life a day at a time; desire to be forgiven; forgiving others; God's providence is seen in "deliver us" and the dislike of evil is taught. In this prayer, we see the need of being taught to and how to pray (Lk. 11: 1; Matt. 6: 9). Jesus' simplicity and sincerity rebound throughout the prayer (Matt. 6: 1-13). Prayer is customarily addressed to the Father, the Model Prayer demonstrates (Matt. 6: 9). However, Jesus and the Holy Spirit play a role in prayer (Rom. 8: 26; I Jn. 2: 1). You will notice that the Model Prayer does not involve "in Jesus' name." Prayer in Jesus' name did not occur until Jesus' resurrection and glorification (Jn. 16: 20-26).