The Lord's Prayer
Many of us can recite the so-called Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:5-13 or Luke 11:1-4. How many of us could explain what it means, phrase-by-phrase? When I was a child, I used to say the prayer seven times each Sunday night thinking that it was smart to get prayer over and done with for the whole week! (No wonder I grew up to be an economist.)
Seriously, in all likelihood, the prayer was intended by Jesus to establish a pattern, not a formula. Furthermore, He prefaced the prayer with the words:
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father…”
So, prayer is not meant to be a public spectacle but an intimate conversation with a Father who knows us well enough to know our every need before we even frame words around it.
Regarding each phrase:
"Our Father in heaven" – No longer is He to be regarded as the somewhat distant Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with the future promise of the covenant, but He is the here and now, relational Father of the New Covenant with us as individuals and as community.
"Hallowed be your name" – He is worthy of praise, honor and glory!
"Your kingdom come" - We acknowledge His coming kingdom: coming in the sense of here and now and its full consummation when Jesus returns. The original verb mood and tense essentially says, ‘Father, let Your kingdom come right now.’
"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" – Has application to us personally, to us as the church (the body of Christ), to our nation, and to the nations. God’s will is always preferable to the will of man or, worse, the will of Satan.
"Give us today our daily bread" – This is about material provision. Our faith is not to be treated like a supermarket where the currency is faith. God answers this prayer by calling people to vocation and assignment. Business is an important institution in this context because it is people, responding to calling, who work in businesses to produce our daily bread.
"Forgive us our debts (or sins) as we also have forgiven our debtors (or those who have sinned against us)" – The greatest antidote to sickness and sorrow is to forgive those who have wronged us. God sets the pattern by first forgiving us.
"Lead us not into temptation" – Temptations in this context are trials and testing. I believe that this is actually an affirmation that when we have relationship with God through Jesus we are not subject to temptation except as we allow it (1 Cor 10:13). It is arguable that this could be translated, ‘Lead us away from trials and testing’.
"But deliver us from the evil one" – A confession that we depend on God to lead us away from Satan and towards Himself.
"For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever" – An affirmation that this prayer is more about Him than us. The Lord’s prayer is about us surrendering to Him, conforming to His will, accepting that by grace He has provided all we need in the here and now, and in eternity, in things material and in things spiritual. This sentence does not appear in Luke. (Compare 1 Chron 29:11).
There you have it – something to think next time you say the Lord’s Prayer.
Questions for discussion
1. Do you think the Lord's Prayer is intended to be used as a formula or patter?
2. In what ways might business be used by God to establish His kingdom on earth?
3. Do you agree that God uses business to 'give us today our daily bread'?
4. What temptations to sin are there in the context of business?
5. How might God receive glory in business?