Sermon preached on Matthew 6:9-13 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 6/29/2014 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
The Lord’s Prayer
As we continue today our sermon series in the Sermon on the Mount, we come a third time in a row to consider the subject of prayer. We’ve been learning how to pray from the Lord Jesus himself. Today we will see how Jesus teaches us to pray specifically in what has become to be known as the Lord’s Prayer. We will study this prayer to learn further about how to pray. Now often when this prayer is studied, it is done one petition at a time. There are six petitions, or prayer requests, and so often a pastor will taken each one as a sermon or a lesson at a time. I was tempted to do that also, but decided that I would not at this time. I’ve done that in the past in Sunday School, and there are many good resources out there to help you do that: The Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms as well as the Heidelberg Catechisms would be good resources if you would like to do that.
Instead, today, I’d like to examine the prayer as a whole. As we do that, we can see how this prayer fits into the context of the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ Messianic ministry. Specifically, we’ve been talking about how this Sermon on the Mount is concerned with the kingdom of heaven. Being a part of Christ’s kingdom, will affect how we pray. That’s what I want us to see then in today’s message. I want us to see how Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of heaven informs the Lord’s Prayer, and it should inform our prayers.
To that end, we’ll consider this in three points. First, we will observe the six petitions briefly. I want us to see what each are basically saying. Second, we will specifically identify the kingdom of heaven connections in this Lord’s Prayer. Third, we will see how all the petitions in this prayer each find their answer in Jesus — Jesus who is the king of this coming kingdom.
So then, let’s begin with our first point. Let’s observe each of the six petitions. I want us to make sure we have a good working knowledge of each of the petitions. As we look at these six petitions — again a petition is a prayer request — we can divide them into two sets of three. The first three petitions deal with God — God, and his purposes and his glory. So you have the petitions to hallow God’s name, for God’s kingdom to come, and for his will to be done. The last three petitions, on the other hand, deal with our personal needs. Our need for daily bread, for the forgiveness of sins, and for help and deliverance amidst temptation.
I’ll briefly define each. We’ll start with the first set of three. First, verse 9, “Hallowed be Your name.” This prayer request is asking God to sanctify and set apart his name. To talk about his name is getting at his glory and renown. We want his glory to be revealed and heralded everywhere and by everyone. We are praying that us and others would rightly set him apart and praise him in the way that he alone deserves. The next petition is in verse 10; there you have the prayer request of, “Your kingdom come.” To ask for his kingdom to come, we should think in terms of his reign and rule. God’s kingdom of heaven is where his reign and rule is overtly manifest. That’s what we are praying for. We want that glorious reign and rule to be openly and directly and immediately visible and manifest everywhere and over everyone. This includes that all opposition to his kingdom would be done away with. That means that to pray for the coming of his kingdom includes an evangelistic component — that rebels would become subjects of his kingdom. It also has a spiritual warfare component — that the kingdom of darkness — Satan and his demons and all those who follow him — that they would be conquered, as part of the establishment of his kingdom. The third petition is similar; verse 10, the prayer request is “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Here we might pause and make a distinction between the secret will of God and the revealed will of God. The secret will of God is that which actually does come to pass, that can include even things against God’s revealed will. For example, God might permit a person to commit an evil, even though that would be against his revealed will. In contrast, God’s revealed will is that which he communicates to us of his laws and precepts where he tells us how he wills for us to live. And so to pray this prayer request of “thy will be done,” involves our submission to his secret will, but we are also especially praying for us and others to obey God’s revealed will. That all creatures of our God and king would live out all his revealed will.
That’s the first set of three petitions. Let’s briefly define the last three now, the ones focused our needs. Verse 11 has the fourth petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” I love how this prayer request, the first really focused on our needs, starts with our physical needs. It looks to our material needs in this life. We need bread to survive here and now. By application, we realize it’s appropriate to bring to God our requests for our various temporal needs: clothing, shelter, concerns of health, etc. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount goes on to talk about how God does provide for such needs — 6:31-32. The fifth petition is in verse 12, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Here we are asking for divine pardon for our sins. Our sins, referred to as debts in the translation here, are described as something we owe. That’s what our sin does. It leaves us in debt to God. We have the debt of our guilt before God, and we can’t repay. We need it to be forgiven. This now is obviously a prayer request of a spiritual nature; of our great spiritual need for the forgiveness of sins. The last petition is a two part one. It’s in verse 13. “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.” Satan is the chief evil one that tempts us. We can also think of the world and even our own sinful flesh as sources of temptation. We ask here that God would keep us from that. This is an interesting prayer request, because it rightly acknowledges that God is in control of whether or not someone is tempted. And yet, he is never the one who actually does any tempting of someone with evil, per James 1, for example. We see pictures of this, such as with the book of Job, when Satan asks God for permission to test Job. Or we see how Jesus told Peter that Satan asked permission to sift Peter as wheat, evidently referring to the temptation of Peter that would result in Peter denying Jesus three times. And yet Jesus also tells Peter that he prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail and that he would ultimately turn back, which he did. That’s like this prayer request then. We do ask that God would spare us from allowing such temptations in our life, but should God decide to allow some, then we are asking that we would have sufficient grace to persevere in faith and ultimately be delivered from the afflictions of evil.
So then, we’ve briefly surveyed the content of the Lord’s Prayer, observing the six prayer requests. Let’s turn now to our second main point for today. I want us to notice the kingdom of heaven emphasis in this prayer. Remember, Jesus started his earthly ministry announcing that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and that we should thus repent and believe in the gospel. In this Sermon on the Mount, he’s been talking about how blessed it is for us who belong to his kingdom. And similarly he’s talked about how to enter his kingdom. So then, notice that this prayer is for those who belong to his kingdom of heaven.
Notice then first, the general statements here that get us to think about this other-worldly kingdom of heaven. We see the kingdom referenced explicitly, for example, in the second petition: thy kingdom come. Or we think of the kingdom of heaven, when we see right at the start of the prayer that we are praying to our Father who is in heaven. That shows this is the prayer of those who belong to this heavenly kingdom — our father is the one who is up right now glorious in this kingdom of heaven — our Father in heaven — and we can pray to him! The kingdom of heaven emphasis is also seen in all the explicit spiritual qualities and concerns that are given in this prayer. In other words, this prayer is not just about earthly concerns. You might expect a pagan prayer, for example, to be all about earthly and material concerns. But Jesus teaches those who belong to his kingdom of heaven to be concerned not just with things of this world. But things beyond this world. Not just with material things, but especially things of a spiritual nature. So, you have prayer requests like the hallowing of God’s name, and about the forgiveness of our sins, and concerns about out temptations and battles with evil. These have largely spiritual dimensions to them. Since we belong to a kingdom not of this world, that will be reflected in what we pray for. There will be other-worldly concerns in our prayer life. There will be a heavenly-mindedness to our prayer content. It’d be easy for us to just take that for granted, if you’ve been in the church long enough. But don’t miss this here in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s something here in this prayer that shows us we need to have this emphasis in our prayer life.
Let me say this another way. In some sense you have five prayer requests that are largely of a spiritual and heavenly and religious sort of concern, and only one primarily of a physical, material, concern — that prayer for our daily bread. Surely this tells us something of Jesus’ heart for our prayers. The other-worldly nature of Christ’ kingdom surely shows itself in this. The spiritual and heavenly nature of his coming kingdom surely imprints this emphasis on our prayer life. And yet as true as this may be, the emphasis in this Lord’s prayer is not strictly other-worldly, nor strictly future. And I’m not just talking about this one prayer request for our daily bread. Even in the other prayer requests that surely strike a much more spiritual and heavenly and even future feel to them, they also have a concern for what is going on here and now and on earth. To say it a different way, there is an already and a not yet dimension to the Lord’s Prayer, centering around the idea of the kingdom of heaven.
In other words, even though we are praying as those who are now a part of this kingdom of heaven, we are praying as those still living on earth. Even though we are praying with a view toward an eternity in the new heavens and new earth, we are praying as those right now in 2014 living in this old earth. We are praying in one sense about future things — about the kingdom to come, and yet we pray right now. We pray right now, believing that he will give us what we need here and now. We pray about this kingdom to come because right now we are already a part of this coming kingdom — and we believe that gives us an access and an audience to the king of this kingdom.
And so think about this in light of the content of this prayer. Notice the already/not yet dimension that is so tied up with this kingdom of heaven that is already and not yet here. Walk through the prayer with me and let’s look for that. Start with the address to God. We can call God our father here, because of the reality that we are already a part of this kingdom that in some ways is not yet here. He is already our father. He is up in heaven, in this kingdom of heaven. But we are not. We are here on earth. But we can call upon him, and know he hears our prayers — that we have an audience with him.
And then move onto the first petition: hallowed be your name. There’s a desire for God’s name to be hallowed even here and now. While at the same time, this will ultimately come in the future consummate kingdom. It will be fully hallowed then, and yet even now we pray for this to happen in our lives, and in others around us.
The next petition especially shows this when it prays for the coming of the kingdom. Not only does this look forward to the future when the kingdom will come in its fullness of glory. But we are praying that right now God would advance his kingdom here and now through the church. That even now his kingdom would be pressing into our daily realities, visibly through the church, into the hearts of new converts, and on his disciples, combating Satan’s army even right now, etc. Yet, the fullness of the coming kingdom is still in the future. Well, as we move into the third petition, much the same could be said there too. Notice the language that helps us to particularly consider this. We pray not just for his will to be done, but then he says, “on earth as it is in heaven.” We know that this will not be answered in the full until the coming of the kingdom in glory, but we still want to see some beginning of that right here and now: on earth, in our lives, and in the lives of other Christians, especially.
As we move on to the fourth petition about our daily bread, even there this reality of the already and the not yet dimension of the kingdom of heaven is recognized. If life for us was now just about the future kingdom of heaven, we wouldn’t need bread for today. But we do need bread for today. God knows that! Because right now we live as citizens of this heavenly kingdom, but we live in physical bodies on earth. And those bodies need daily bread to live.
Moving on to the last two petitions, we are confronted with the very real reality of sin and temptation. This is about life in this age. But it’s in view of the coming kingdom of heaven that we pray like we do here in these last two petitions. So, for example, we come praying about the forgiveness of sins, knowing that in light of our justification, we already have a forgiveness of sins ultimately before God. Yet we still struggle with sin, and so we still pray for that fatherly forgiveness. We pray as a way to grow us, that here and now we would learn more about what it will be like to live in eternity in a kingdom where there will be no more sin. Likewise, to pray against temptation and for deliverance from evil, is something that will be a final reality for us when the kingdom of heaven comes in glory. There we will face no more temptation. There we will be fully delivered from all evil. But since we live right now, before that day, we have to pray for help amidst temptation. This is prayer for those of his kingdom, who live on this earth, this place where the enemy still is active and afflicting us.
So I hope this has been clear. This prayer has a kingdom of heaven focus. That gets us to think not just of the physical and the material and the here and now. It gets us to think of heavenly things and spiritual things. And it gets us to look toward eternity. And yet there is an already / not yet component to the coming kingdom of heaven, and that is therefore reflected in our prayer life as well.
Well, let’s turn now to our third point for today. If we are going to think about the connection of this prayer with the kingdom of heaven, we have to think about it in connection with the king of that kingdom. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One — he is the king of this coming kingdom. How does the prayer relate to Jesus? What’s his role in regard to this prayer? Well, besides teaching us the prayer, he’s also instrumental in fulfilling it. In other words, we pray this prayer to the Father, and he answers the prayer through Jesus. Let’s walk one final time through the prayer to recognize this.
First prayer request — hallowed be your name. Jesus is the reason we as God’s people will hallow his name. To make this point, I refer you to Ezekiel 36. There it basically talks about how God’s people in the old covenant were profaning God’s name — that’s the opposite of hallowing God’s name. There in Ezekiel, God prophesies of a future covenant that he would enact, whereby he would cleanse his people from their sins. Ezekiel 36:23 says that this would be the result then — that God would be hallowed in us his people before the world. Of course, that’s all possible through Jesus. Through the saving and cleansing work of Jesus, God is hallowed before the world in us his people! Wow!
Next prayer request — thy kingdom come. This one is easy. His kingdom is going to come as the king leads in and ushers in his kingdom. Christ as king performed an initial conquest of Satan at the cross. Christ as king will lead his church here and now in victory over Satan in this age as his gospel goes out to the nations. And Christ as king will usher in his kingdom finally in glory as he comes again in the clouds on that last day.
Third prayer request — thy will be done. Hebrews 1 talks about how we know God through Jesus. In other words, God’s will to us is chiefly revealed to us in and through Jesus! And not only that, Jesus came to earth to do his Father’s will, to go and die on the cross, and make us right with God. And per Jeremiah 31:33, part of our salvation of Christ included the goal to have God’s law written on our hearts. In other words, in Christ and because of Christ we each begin to keep God’s will for our lives.
Fourth prayer request — Give us this day our daily bread. Well, in a general level, with regard to our daily needs in this life, we can remember that later in this sermon Jesus says to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and promises that all the other things will be added to us. Thus, we need not worry, Jesus says, about the things of tomorrow. So, certainly Jesus as king of his kingdom says that we don’t need to worry about these material concerns if you set your heart in following him — King Jesus will see to your care. That being said, and that all being true, I remember that Jesus teaches us something very important on this point in Matthew 4:4, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. That we need God to satisfy us even beyond earthly sustenance. And so then keep in mind how Jesus says that he is the bread of life that comes down from heaven to feed us. Wow again!
Fifth prayer request — that prayer for the forgiveness of our sins. I hope this one is a especially easy to see how Jesus is the answer. Jesus died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. He did it to forgive us. And as he lives within us now, he even works that forgiving spirit in how we interact with others — that we too can forgive others who sin against us, because Christ is in us.
And the last prayer request — “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Jesus went through this himself, of course. The Spirit of God actually led him into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan, and he overcame the evil one there. As such, Christ “knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (a reference there to 2 Peter 2:9). And Jesus is not just our source of strength for overcoming the evil one. Read 1 John and the Book of Revelation and you see repeated references to either us or Jesus overcoming the evil one. The point in those books is that we as Christians overcome the evil one because we are united to Christ who himself overcomes the evil one.
And so here is a snapshot of how this prayer finds its answer in Jesus Christ. We talk about praying in the name of Christ. This is part of what that means. He’s the answer to our prayers! And so if you are here today not having known Jesus as your Lord and Savior, call upon him today. Cry out to God to be saved through Jesus Christ. Put your faith in him. Begin with a prayer today to God for Jesus to be the answer to your prayer to save you. And you will be saved.
And then may we all as Christians, continue on in our prayers. May the already and not yet dynamic of your salvation, power your prayer life. And may what we talked about today help you to know that this is part of what it means to pray in Christ. It is so much more than a slogan to throw at the end of your prayers. Let us then pray the Lord’s prayer in the Lord, finding that biblical balance between the heavenly and the earthly, between the physical and the spiritual. Not that it’s a one in six kind of thing, that only one in six prayers should be of a physical nature — no, that’s not what we are saying. But rather in all your prayers, may you see the interconnection between the physical and the spiritual, between the heavenly and the earthly, and between the present and the future. That you would realize the greater nature of the spiritual over the material. That you would see the coming end of the things of this age, and the lasting significance of those things of the age to come. That these perspectives would color your prayers. To the praise of God to whom is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, amen.
Copyright © 2014 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.