Topical Scripture: Matthew 6:9–15
Millions of people recite the Lord’s Prayer each day, but few stop to consider what we’re asking God to do. While serving as pastor of a Dallas church, I spent nine months teaching its truths and felt that I never began to exhaust them.
If we employ what Jesus modeled and then pray as he taught us, we align our lives with his will and make him King.
In this new year, how do I make him king of every aspect of my life? Let’s look at the prayer he taught his disciples for guidelines.
Jesus opens his model prayer by telling us more about the One to whom we pray than any other verse of Scripture can teach. As we begin learning how to pray and live in Jesus’ will for us, let’s start with his first petition: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9).
These words were truly revolutionary. You see, Jesus was without question the first Jew to address God as Abba, “Daddy.” The first words a Jewish child learned were “abba” (daddy) and “imma” (mommy). No Jew would have thought to address the Creator of the universe in this way. But Jesus spoke to him in this extremely intimate way. He called him “Father/Abba” in the Garden of Gethsemane and from the cross. Jesus continually saw God as Father. Now he invites us to see him the same way.
We can call God our Father only if Jesus is our Savior. Paul taught us, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Galatians 3:26). The Bible says that “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
This word makes clear all our relationships. God is our Father, not a genie in a bottle. We pray to our Father, not a Father, not the Father or even my Father. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, people of worth, for the God of the universe is our Father. We are valued, not because of our performance, possessions, or popularity, but because we are the children of God.
Make God’s name holy
Now we come to the petition we are to make to our Father God: “hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). What does this mean? How does praying these words align our lives with God’s will for us?
The Jewish people knew their God to be “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3). Hallowed means “to be made holy.” God’s name refers to his character and reputation. We seek God’s help to glorify and honor him with all that we pray and do each day.
God will not share his glory. Whenever we seek to glorify him with our lives, we will have his power and guidance as we fulfill his will. There is room on the throne of your heart for only one king. Put him there every morning. Say with the Psalmist, “The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting” (Psalm 93:1–2).
Say with Hezekiah: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth” (2 Kings 19:15). And with Zechariah: “The LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one” (v. 14:9).
In his catechism Martin Luther asks, “How is God’s name hallowed amongst us?” and his answer is, “When both our life and doctrine are truly Christian.”
Charles Spurgeon exhorted us: “May his name be treated reverently, and may all that is about him—his Word and his Gospel—be regarded with the deepest awe! It is for us so to walk before the Lord in all lowliness, that all shall see that we reverence the character of the thrice-holy One. Then we can truly pray, ‘Hallowed be thy name,’ when we hallow it ourselves.”
Make God’s Kingdom ours
Now we turn to Jesus’ second petition for us: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). This is an example of Hebrew parallelism, where the second line relates to the first. In this case, the lines amplify one another: God’s Kingdom comes wherever his will is done. He is our King wherever and whenever we are his subjects.
How do we know his will for us?
First we must believe that God does in fact have a plan for our lives. Some evolutionists say that life began as a chance coincidence, with no particular plan or purpose at all. Many postmodernists say that truth is relative, that there is no overriding purpose to life. So, does God have a plan for us, or is life a random coincidence?
Here is God’s answer: “I know the plans I have for you … plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). God has a plan for every part of our lives.
Our Father has a perfect will for us (Romans 12:2). It is bigger and more exciting than any we can imagine for ourselves: “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Living in his will is the key to living the abundant life Jesus came to give (John 10:10). How can we know it?
Before every decision, opportunity, and problem, pray for God to reveal his will to you and help you to follow it. Surrender to him as your King and choose to serve as his subject, and you will know his perfect will for your life.
Give our needs to the Father
Now we turn from these foundational commitments to the specific issues of our day. We start with our present needs: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
Bread was the staple of life in first-century Israel. But the people had no way to preserve it. So every morning people baked the hard, round loaves of bread they would carry with them through the day.
In the same way, Jesus teaches us to bring every need to our Father when it arises. You can cast “all your anxieties on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus promises that “everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). Paul assured us that “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
But we must pray first. God will not do for us what we try to do for ourselves. The omniscient God cannot lead us if we will not follow; the Great Physician cannot heal us if we will not trust our pain to him.
So develop the reflex of praying first about everything you encounter each day of the new year. When you face a decision, turn it over to your Father. Give him your opportunities and problems as soon as they arise. Turn your temptations over to him immediately. You don’t have to fold your hands and close your eyes to breathe a prayer of submission to your King. You can “practice the presence of God,” as Brother Lawrence taught us, by simply talking with your Lord about your day all through the day.
Forgive and receive forgiveness
Many of us find news distressing. There’s not much we can do about what we hear and read. But we are responsible for what God finds in our hearts. That’s why Jesus included in the Model Prayer the petition, “forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
Debts can be translated sins or transgressions. Jesus assumes that we have incurred such debts with the holy God, that we have each sinned and fallen short of his glory (Romans 3:23). Forgive in the Bible does not mean to excuse behavior or pretend it did not occur. It is to pardon, choosing not to punish, as when a governor pardons a criminal.
God balances holiness and forgiveness. He wants us to hate sin as he does (Psalm 97:10). We are to be holy in every dimension of life and honor God with our lives (1 Corinthians 6:18, 19–20). We are called to holiness in all our attitudes and actions. At the same time, our Father is ready to forgive our failures when we confess them to him.
But with this caveat: “as we also have forgiven our debtors.” I must forgive those who have sinned against me to be forgiven by God. This is the only phrase in this model prayer which receives further commentary by Jesus: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (vs. 14–15).
Is this works-righteousness? Absolutely not. If I will not pardon your sins, I am obviously not in position to receive the pardon which God offers by his grace. A hateful, vengeful spirit will neither offer grace to others nor receive it from the Lord. A closed fist cannot give or receive.
Has someone sinned against you? Have you sinned against God? Then you have business with your gracious Father.
Turn future fears over to God
Now we turn to our future fears: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). This phrase bothers many people, as it seems to suggest that God might lead us into temptation unless we ask him not to. What does Jesus mean?
This verse is another example of Jewish parallelism, a figure of speech where two lines amplify each other. It could be translated, “Don’t lead us into evil, but rather rescue us from it.” The evil one is seeking your ruin right now: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). How are we to defeat him? “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Note the order: first submit to God, then you will have his power in resisting Satan’s temptations. So, begin each day of the new year by surrendering it to your King. Ask him to lead you through the day. Pray through your plans, giving them specifically to him. Seek his direction and protection. As you come to a decision, give it to him. As you face a temptation, turn it over to him.
Walk through each day with your King and his strength will be yours.
No matter what the new year bring, we can know that at the close of the year, Jesus will still be the only King. He came to announce his kingdom: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). He taught us to seek his kingdom and righteousness before all else (Matthew 6:33), and when he returns, the name by which he will be revealed to the world is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).
As fallen people in a fallen world, our “default” position is to be our own king. Jesus will be king of this year only if you deliberately, intentionally submit it to him. He will be king of your decisions and problems this year only if you give them to him.
If you want his power and purpose in your life today, make him your King.
Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuits, and made this prayer theirs:
Teach us, Lord, to serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and not to ask any reward,
Save that of knowing that we do your will.