Question 41: What is the Lord's Prayer?
Answer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
The first three petitions of the model prayer are focused on God:
(1) Hallowed be your name.
(2) Your kingdom come.
(3) Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus teaches us to pray with greatest concern for God's name, kingdom, and will. When we pray for God's name to be "hallowed" (revered as holy), we are praying for the hosts of heaven and the nations of earth to join in praising, thanking, and obeying him. This is a prayer that I often pray in concentric circles: first that God would be hallowed in my heart this day, then in my family, then in my church, then among all nations of the world. This first petition shows that our greatest desire must be for God's glory among all the creatures he has made.
The second petition asks for God's kingdom to come. In one sense, the kingdom has already come through Jesus' resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father, where he now reigns over all. But the kingdom will come in its fullness when Jesus is revealed as Lord over all at his coming, when the final judgment comes, and when there is a final separation between the righteous and the wicked. We must pray, "Come, Lord Jesus!" with confident hope that one day, all enemies of Christ will be defeated, and we will be delivered from this present, evil age.
The third petition seeks that God's will would be done on earth in the same way that it is done in heaven. Although we can speak of God's will as his unchangeable decree or plan, it seems that Jesus is speaking here of God's moral will. In other words, Jesus is referring to the things that God approves of in themselves, those actions that he commands should be done. This prayer asks that God's holy, moral law be honored by obedience among all nations of the world, and it is a prayer that will not be fully answered until Christ comes again and all sin and disobedience are purged from this world. But we can also pray for God's moral will to triumph with respect to particular issues we face today, including abortion, the family, sexual perversions in our society, oppression of the weak, and religious liberty.
Ultimately, these three requests are forward looking. God's name will be most glorified in the new creation, where God's kingdom will be fully realized, and where heaven and earth will become one, so that God's moral will is always obeyed. Let us pray consistently with an eager longing for that day to come.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Spend this week meditating on Jesus' teaching on prayer from Matthew 6:5-15. What does Jesus teach us not to do in prayer, and why? What do we learn about how we should pray from this passage?