The Ultimate Prayer
One glance at a newspaper today, replete with its accounts of murder, rape, terrorism, drug addiction and related in humanism, would lead one to believe that the world had gone MAD! In the United States, the best apparent single solution to these problems is to spend more money—a solution that so far has eluded all the spending efforts of politicians, government agencies and do-gooders. The ultimate solution and the one which man will resist at all cost, is to turn to God! In turning to God we must do so in prayer.
But, how do we pray?
Jesus himself gave us the admonition to pray and then taught us how to pray.
The ultimate prayer given by Jesus himself in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:9) is the Lord’s Prayer. We find in this magnificent 66-word prayer all the important elements which could basically be our set of Golden Rules. First, He mentions the Father in Heaven, God’s Name, God’s Kingdom, and God’s will. This is followed by a petition for food, forgiveness, sin via temptation, delivery from the Prince of this World-Satan, and concludes acknowledging the Kingdom, Power and Glory of the Father.
When Jesus gave us this prayer, the Lord charged the multitude not to say repetitive words, but to pray as He taught them. He said, “Our Father who art in Heaven….” We should note that He did not say My Father, but Our Father. If, therefore, He is our Father, we must then be His children. Here Jesus clearly set the record straight. Because God is our Father in Heaven and us His children on earth, we are clearly heirs to the Grace of God and the Kingdom of God (Gal. 4:6, 7). We therefore occupy a unique relationship—that of a Father to his child.
The good Father will give the inheritance of His Kingdom to his children, His Love, protection, security, guidance, favors, food and clothing; moreover, these gifts are freely given in love by the Father. The Father is also bound by His Love to chasten (Heb. 12:7), guide, lead and protect His children.
As children of God, recipients of His many blessings, we are free to accept or reject the gifts of the Father. Well do we know how man from time immemorial has refused the gifts of the Father to follow the uncertain paths of his own weak judgment. We have the power of obtaining all things since the Father, in His Love for us, is a kind and loving Father; all we need to do is ask (Matt. 7:7).
The Father is in heaven, not here on earth. Since the Father is not on this earth, we need a contact to bridge the gap between Heaven and earth; and that bridge is Jesus Christ (Jn. 3:16). He came to earth, died and is alive today to return soon in full glory as ruler of the Kingdom of God (Rev. 19:11).
HALLOWED BE THY NAME
Why would Christ so early in this prayer stress the importance of His Holy Name? Clearly, God alone should we worship (Ex. 20:5). We should hold the name of God in reverence and always praise His name.
How can we praise the name of God?
We can praise the name of God by reflecting on the handiwork of His creation. As Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air” or “consider the lilies of the fields” (Matt. 6:26-28). Notice how Jesus turns to the marvelous works of the Father in presenting lasting images – images that indeed have survived over the years. These marvelous works of God: the trees, birds, flowers, and the grasses of the fields are all gifts of God from above (James 1:17). By recognizing these wonders and appreciating its source, we can praise God.
THY KINGDOM COME
The Kingdom of God is mentioned many times by Jesus directly and in parables. Why did Jesus pray for the coming of the Kingdom? He fully realized the imperfect governments controlled by man, replete with sin, graft, greed, corruption and chaos was in no way to be compared to a government ruled by God and characterized by eternal peace and justice. There would be no need for laws, armies or police forces in a Kingdom where Love of God and neighbor is the rule practiced by all (Lk. 10:27) freely and in love for God and fellow man. We as Christians need more than ever to pray for the coming of His Kingdom.
THY WILL BE DONE
God’s will, not our will! How often have we prayed for our will to be done? If we look back on some of the requests we have made to God, we may be surprised to find that we tend to look at the small picture, while God sees the big picture. We would also be pleasantly surprised to find that, when God answers our prayers, it is to His greater glory we receive many times that which we requested; truly our cups run over! We should also remember that God says ”NO;” and this is indeed an answer, although we are not always prepared for the negative response and do not recognize that it is God’s answer.
In many cases, God answers in His good time. Long after we give up, we may find that He still remembers and gives to us abundantly. Consider Elizabeth and Zachary. The angel said to Zachary, “Your petition has been heard (Lk. 1:13). By the time that Elizabeth had conceived, it is doubtful that she and Zachary were still praying for a child, yet their earlier petition was miraculously answered—God did not forget, and the birth of John the Baptist was to the greater glory of God. Since God’s will is also done in Heaven, He is therefore ruler of the universe—all things are under His control, as indeed it is!
God’s will on earth is also done. Consider the birth of Jesus that was promised hundreds of years before its occurrence (Isa. 7:14). The unusual circumstances surrounding His birth and the events preceding it are too numerous to cite. For example: the Birth of John the Baptist and the Annunciation in which God through that forced the birth to occur in Bethlehem and not Nazareth, thus fulfilling the prophecy His angel Gabriel intervened into the events on earth. The occurrence of the census ( Micah 5:2) and the announcement to the shepherds are sufficient examples to show the way in which God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
GIVE US THIS DAY
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus chided the people for being anxious about material things. He cited the birds of the air – how His heavenly Father feeds them (He still does!). He also exemplified His power over food in His miraculous extension of the loaves and fishes (Mk 6:41). We can still see His hand today in the abundance of food He provides for us. One need not be reminded how, in a single night, a chilling frost can wipe out a whole year’s crop.
It is His hand that can stay the devastation of the weather, control our food supply, and His mercy that provides the abundance of food to feed the earth. More dramatic was the manner in which He fed the Israelites for forty years in the desert (Ex. 16:4, 5) and the widow at Seraptha (3 Kings 17:14). How often do we take for granted the gift of our daily bread? Imagine a worldwide season of bad weather – portions of which we witnessed in the Midwest, Israel, and Russia in the year 1972. God can and does control our daily bread (Mk. 11:20).
AND FORGIVE US
Jesus pointed to the fact that we are all sinners in His rebuke of those who condemned the woman taken in adultery (Jn. 8:7). No one there could counter this single charge: “Let he who is without sin among us cast the first stone.”
We all sin, but have a means for forgiveness by recourse to the Father. He who forgives also reminds us to forgive in kind those who sin against us. If each of us would take the admonition seriously and practice it to the letter, we would have a vehicle for world peace that could transform the world from its present confused, hopeless state to a paradise on earth. Here again we see the tremendous impact of this powerful prayer. The greatest difficulty lies in man’s ability to practice forgiveness to others.
AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
We walk a tightrope to salvation! We are constantly buffeted on all sides by numerous daily temptations: lust, greed, envy, anger, hatred, selfishness and materialism. These temptations are not mean distractions. Ever since Adam and Eve first succumbed to the first temptation, man has been living in a constant deluge of temptation (Gen. 3:1-5). We are so concerned today with materialism, status, conformity, being relevant and consenting, that moral values have been suppressed to an awesome level. We hear a lot about four-letter words and the overworking of the word LOVE. Yet, a three-letter word is a key to our fall and to our salvation.
All of man’s troubles can be laid to one word: SIN. Sin caused our loss of paradise, and sin is the ultimate cause of all of our troubles today, as it has been in the past. Fortunately, we have salvation in the one GOD who will overcome SIN. Jesus through His death convicted the world of sin, and God will save us from sin! (Jn. 16:8)
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Here some translations refer to the evil one—the devil—Satan. Jesus wisely included this petition in His prayer. To those who are inclined to scoff at the existence of the devil, note the prominent part he played in the New Testament.
Recognizing the impending threat that Jesus posed to his kingdom, Satan intervened early in Jesus’ public life. The temptation must have been awesome and one which few, if any, could have successfully resisted. Imagine being promised the wealth of the kingdoms of the earth vs. death on the cross. Who could turn such a temptation down?
The world is still in the clutches of the devil, but fortunately he has already been judged (Jn. 16:11). We must only await the execution of the sentence promised in Revelation 20:9; only then can true peace exist on the earth. Regardless of how we try to achieve peace, we are no match for the devil.
Consider the United Nations, an organization dedicated to peace in the world. This body has become a weak tool of the devil in its inability to achieve or enforce peace. It is interesting to note that the U.N. was doomed to failure from its inception in that it slammed the door in the face of the Prince of Peace. If God had been the cornerstone of its charter, perhaps that body would not be the weak, sterile organization it is today.
KINGDOM AND POWER
Truly His is the Kingdom, Power and Glory. How fortunate that we are to be on the other side of the promise. Consider those who before Christ’s time had the promise, but did not see the salvation of Jesus and the revelation of His Kingdom to come. Our salvation is now assured; the ransom has been paid! It is only for us to accept His free gift of salvation to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (Rev 21:1). The constant reminder of His Kingdom in this Ultimate Prayer—The Lord’s Prayer—should be a hope, comfort and a joy to all who believe in the LORD JESUS CHRIST!