One of the easiest ways to search out the matters of truth that God has hidden in the Scriptures is to harmonize multiple accounts of the sayings of Jesus. We discover such an example in the accounts of “The Model Prayer”. In Luke’s gospel, we find:

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1

Notice that the disciple did not ask Jesus “how to pray”. As you might expect, “how” is a very common word in the Bible. In fact, it appears 550 times in the New King James Version. So why is it absent here?

I am convinced, and I hope you will consider, that the disciple was asking for more than instruction in prayer. I believe he recognized that Jesus’ way of prayer was so far removed from their own that what they had been calling prayer might as well have been called “apple”.

Jesus’ way of prayer was about life and relationship. It availed much. It was full of humility and trust. Matthew records His thoughts on the contrasting prayers of men.

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. Matthew 6:7-8

The prayers of men are about men, and what men want. The prayers of Jesus were (and are) about the Father, and what the Father wants. In this saying, Jesus reveals that learning to pray, at its core, is more about finding the right position before the Father than about what we have to say.

“The Model Prayer” is a model of prayer for our positioning before our Father in heaven. We must come into the Father’s presence through the model He has given us. Without this positioning, all that we have to say are the vain repetitions of man.

Even this prayer has become a vain repetition in our churches. Perhaps this is so because we are not praying with a heart that desires a humble and trusting position. Perhaps we are more interested in what there is in it for us. Perhaps we fail to trust that the Father knows what we need and it is His good pleasure to give it to us (Luke 12:32).

Before we jump in, please consider these two encouragements: First, the fervent prayer of a righteous man, woman, or child avails much – even altering the weather (James 5:16-18). Finding the righteous position before God is worth the time and effort. Secondly, the investment we make in meditating on each verse counters our inclination for vain repetition.

The Proper Relationship

When we choose to desire what the Father desires, we find that the desire of His heart for prayer is relationship with His children. With this perspective, let’s look at the prayer in detail to learn what we are to do with this saying of Jesus. (NOTE: I am using Young’s Literal Translation; as it provides some important revelations.)

Thus therefore pray ye: “Our Father who [art] in the heavens! hallowed be Thy name. (v. 9)

First, we must recognize the Father’s position and the pure holiness of His name. This is not a passing acknowledgement, but a determined and energetic reckoning; for His position and holiness are not a small matter. Such a reckoning will bring fear, awe and humility.

Thy reign come: Thy will come to pass, as in heaven also on the earth. (v. 10)

The gospel of the kingdom is the goods news of the reign of God in the hearts of mankind (Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:18-19). It is the cure for our rebellion – our getting off the throne, that Jesus Christ might reign there on the Father’s behalf.

We must regularly and persistently acknowledge Jesus’ position and agree with His Father’s will for the kingdom that has come, that it would keep on coming. This reminds and encourages us that the Father is working in us to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13), which is to give us His kingdom (Luke 12:32). It is His work, not ours.

The Proper Requests

Our appointed bread give us to-day. (v. 11)

Instead of the demanding tone of “give us this day our daily bread” (as so many translations read), the literal rendering first acknowledges that God appoints our portion. We are then free to ask for it, with thankful hearts.

Meditating on this verse has been particularly enlightening and encouraging. While doing so, the Holy Spirit revealed that God-appointed bread comes in four forms:

  1. Bread for our physical sustenance;
  2. We shall live, not by bread alone, but by the word of God (Matthew 4:4); His word sustains spiritually.
  3. Jesus is the bread of life; everyone who comes to Him shall not hunger (John 6:35).
  4. Jesus’ food was to do the will of His Father (John 4:34).

Understanding God-appointed bread in this way stirs the desires of my heart to be God’s instrument of relief to the physically and spiritually hungry people I encounter. Meditating on God’s goodness encourages me to further pursue a proper relationship with Him.

And forgive us our debts, as also we forgive our debtors. (v. 12)

At the risk of controversy, let me point out that the Greek word used here (opheilēma) is not the same as that translated most often as sin (hamartia). Consequently, our response to this saying should be the recognition that we do indeed owe a debt to God; a debt we cannot pay. Why? Because, in ourselves, we have nothing to offer. It is a debt that must be remitted, if we are to enter His presence.

As a condition for His remittance, we must do the same. We must consciously, intentionally and with finality, forgive what others owe us. Note that this includes all debtors, not just the brethren.

And mayest Thou not lead us to temptation, but deliver us from the evil… (v. 13a)

Here, we recognize – and must seriously consider – the Father’s supreme sovereignty. He will lead us where He wills, though He does not tempt us Himself (James 1:13).

Furthermore, we are solely dependent on Him to deliver us from “the evil”. This introduces an important point about translations: they may miss the intended meaning of the text. Searching out the literal meaning often reveals important distinctions (Proverbs 25:2).

In this verse, we discover a significant difference between “the evil” and “the evil one”. Reading this verse with the common translation, we assume God’s intention is deliverance from Satan. While there is truth in that assumption, the literal translation aligns better with the overall purpose of the prayer (i.e., finding our humble position before God).

Why? Because “the evil” is our rebellious, carnal nature, and deliverance from our old man must be our primary concern. It is “the evil” which stands opposed to Jesus’ reign, inhibits the Holy Spirit’s power, and seeks to usurp the Father’s glory – bringing us to the model prayer’s closing declaration.

The Proper Proclamation

…because Thine is the reign, and the power, and the glory — to the ages. Amen. (v. 13b)

Many who follow Jesus – even for many years – fail to recognize the surrender and submission offered in this proclamation: complete abdication of our throne to Christ Jesus, total dependence on the Holy Spirit’s power, and whole-hearted desire to see our Father in heaven glorified.

From this position before the Godhead, the poorest among us may ask anything of the Father, in Jesus name, and we shall receive it – that our joy may be full!

And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:23-24

Praying the model prayer takes diligence and perseverance. Most of all, it takes a passionate desire for eternal life – to know God and His Son (John 17:3). If we will be soft before Him, He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4).

The fervent prayer of a righteous man begins in the proper position of humility and trust before God. I pray that you find that position soon and often.

Humbly yours and forever His,