“Our Father” – the Lord’s template for our prayers
By Katrina Jenkins, Member at The Angel Church
‘Our Father’ or ‘the Lord’s prayer’ (found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11) is a commonly known prayer and one that we often use when we don’t yet have confidence to pray anything else. There’s nothing wrong with praying this prayer and everything right about it. Jesus’ disciples must have heard Jesus pray and, though they were no stranger to Judaic prayers, they asked our Lord, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
What a wonderful request!
And so, we have the Lord’s prayer – God the Son, who came down to earth to save us, teaching us how to commune with our Father in Heaven.
There are many verses in the Bible that teach us about prayer. But the prayer that Jesus taught us provides us with the perfect template that we can apply into our own lives. From this template, we can compose our own unique prayers to God, which we can use in any situation – trial or thanksgiving – that we are bringing to Almighty God.
Let’s explore Jesus’ template for prayer in more detail, divided into six parts. We’ll find other scriptures in the Bible that also enhance our understanding of prayer and communion with God.
Part 1. Calling out to God by Name, and putting ourselves in proper position to Him
“Our Father, who art in Heaven”
We begin prayer by addressing God directly, with deference, humbly and in proper relationship with Him. We recognise His loving relationship with us, His care for us, as the only perfect Father we will ever have. We acknowledge our Heavenly Father’s position over all things that have been created.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8: 14-15)
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His Name. (John 1:12)
“And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:18)
”Halllowed be Thy Name”
Our prayer continues by praising and glorifying the Father, as is His due. The term ‘hallowed’ means revered or holy. In this phrase, we acknowledge God’s perfection, His holiness. Even His Name is Holy, which is why we are commanded not to use His Name in vain. God, alone, is Holy and worthy of all praise.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him and bless His Name. (Psalm 100:4)
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your Name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness! (Psalm 115:1)
Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)
Part 2. Yielding in submission to God’s perfect will
“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”
Before making our requests known to God, we humbly submit to His perfect will for our lives. The Lord God is sovereign. He already knows what we need and what will be good for us – He is our loving Father after all. For this reason, we seek His will for us. His will is done perfectly in Heaven. We ask for His will to be perfectly done in our lives too, and therein find blessings and peace and joy. Even Jesus – God the Son – submitted to the will of God the Father as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, before He made His ultimate sacrifice for our salvation. How much more should we seek the Father’s will for our own lives!
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
“For I have come down from Heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Part 3. Daily seeking God’s provision and blessing
”Give us this day our daily bread”
After calling out to God by Name, and seeking His will first and foremost, we present our requests to God. We know this is a prayer we can use every day, because we are taught to seek daily bread. This reminds us that our very life and breath depends on God’s provision. As His children, we humbly rely on Him for our daily provision of sustenance, protection and care. We can ask, with confidence, for God’s provision knowing that He desires to grant us our requests and fulfil our needs.
“Let us then, with confidence, draw near to the Throne of Grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)
It should not be lost on us believers in Christ – who live in a post-resurrection world – that after giving us this prayer template, Jesus gave His own life for our salvation. Recall ‘the last supper’ in which our Lord compared His body to the bread they shared (“Take, eat, this is my body” Matthew 26:26) during the Passover meal with His disciples, just before He took all of our sins upon Himself and suffered until death. On another occasion, Jesus also called Himself the life-sustaining Bread of Life.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.” (John 6: 35)
When we ask for “our daily bread”, we can think of our physical provision and needs. We can also be reminded of our daily need for Christ as our Bread of Life.
Part 4. Seeking God’s forgiveness and moral law in our lives
”Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”
Next in our prayer template, we confess our sins, acknowledging our own wrongdoing. We commit to applying God’s perfect moral law in our lives, including seeking justice which does not change from person to person (Romans 2:11) and which is based on principles of mercy and compassion – forgiveness. We can see in other scriptures that our adherence to God’s law of forgiveness is what gives us confidence in seeking His forgiveness. We are not holy. We are sinners. As such, we should see the value of forgiving and being forgiven. God is Holy. He needs no one’s forgiveness. He’s never sinned, nor will He ever be anything other than perfect. He, alone, is perfect. And yet, He offers forgiveness – but He requires that we also forgive others in order that we can receive His Holy forgiveness. Not only does he promise to forgive us, but in His perfection and by Christ’s sacrifice, we can be cleansed of our sin and it will be removed from our lives.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
The LORD our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him. (Daniel 9:9)
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Christ Himself, upon the cross, asked the Father to forgive those who so cruelly beat and mocked him before taking His precious life. Such is the level of forgiveness that we are to emulate as followers of Christ.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)
The apostle Stephen, the first of Christ’s followers to be murdered for his faith, showed us by example how we can – with God’s amazing grace – also forgive with such generosity and love. He asked God to forgive his attackers even while they were stoning him to death because He professed the Gospel of Christ.
“And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:60)
Part 5. Rightly asking for God’s righteousness and protection
”Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”
We ask God for His holiness and grace to keep us moral, so that we can walk the strait and narrow (Matthew 7:14). We seek His help in staying clear of the path of destruction which we naturally tend towards without God’s saving grace. In this phrase, we acknowledge that we can do nothing good or righteous without God’s help, neither can we be safe from the attacks of the evil one without God’s refuge. But God’s grace is sufficient and His power is perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9)
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His Heavenly Kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:18)
Timothy’s prayer follows the next step in Jesus’ perfect prayer template: we exalt the Father for all His glory and majesty, and recognise His eternal nature!
Part 6. Rightly exalting our King and Lord for all eternity
”For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen”
We exalt our Lord, Most High God, acknowledging and rejoicing in His sovereignty. We rejoice because He is all-powerful and mighty, yet He chooses to love us, to save us, though He is so very far above us. He is King of all kings, above all lords and He can never be defeated. The Majesty Himself, All-powerful, Creator of all things – loves and cares for us. He deserves all praise and exaltation. He doesn’t need our praise. We glory in His Glory – it is our benefit and privilege to know Him. The scriptures show us that our natural response to knowing God is awe, praise and glorifying Him for His wondrous love and eternal power as our Creator. All of creation showcases His majesty and beauty. Recognizing the eternal nature of God our Father also reminds us that we, too, have an eternal nature in Him as His children.
“The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.” (Psalm 93:1)
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (Luke 2:14)
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)
“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as Head over all.” (1 Chronicles 19:11)
“Around God is awesome majesty.” (Job 37:22)
The Psalms are just full of the praises of God’s glory and majesty. When we can’t find our own words, we can read aloud the wonderful Psalms in worship and praise for God’s Kingdom that will never end. There are many ready-made prayers in the Psalms, such as Psalm 4.
Elsewhere, the Bible gives us a picture of our Father in Heaven. The Book of Revelation (in the New Testament) tells us of the Throne of Heaven, as does the Book of Ezekiel (in the Old Testament). These are terrific and terrifying visual descriptions of God’s immense majesty, His perfect Holiness, His beauty, beyond what we can imagine and unlike anything on this earth.
Revelation 4:3 describes the “appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the Throne”. In Chapter 4 of the Book of Revelation, we read that God’s Throne is surrounded by twenty-four elders and seven spirits of God, and four living creatures who are covered with eyes in front and in back, who never stop saying, day and night, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come”. (Revelation 4:8).
Ezekiel 1 describes a similar picture of the Throne of Grace:
“Then there came a voice from above the vault over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. Above the vault over their heads was what looks like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the Throne was a figure like that of a Man. I saw that from what appeared to be His waist up, He looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down, He looked like fire. And brilliant light surrounded Him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around Him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the Glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown…” (Ezekiel 1: 25-28).
Reading Ezekiel’s description, I can just imagine how I, too, might react. I know I would fall on my face in awe and worship. I know I would seek His mercy and forgiveness. I know I would gaze lovingly at His awesome beauty and majesty! How else could we react to such immense power and glory?
When we read these descriptions, we are reminded of God’s power and just why we stand in awe when we come into His presence. We remember why we enter His presence with thanksgiving and praise. The immense awe and joy I feel when I stood, staring, across the majestic Rocky Mountains – that was only a fraction, only a foggy reflection, of the incredible beauty and power that is our Holy God who made those mountains and everything in them, and above them.
All descriptions of Almighty God that we find in the Bible show us that He is so far beyond what human words can capture, so we can only use the best visual language available to us to understand Who God is.
Each description offers a glimpse into God’s nature, helping us to understand Who it is that we are speaking to. As an aside, it also highlights to me why we need Jesus to be our Mediator, to enable us to approach such Immense Holiness, in our unworthy and imperfect state – but that’s a story for another study.
“For now we see through a glass darkly, but then, face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We know one day, after we pass from this life into the next, we will face God and somehow try to find our own words to describe His indescribable glory. I have no doubt that we, like Ezekiel, will fall on our face in worship and awe of His perfect Holiness, His flawlessness, His absolute majesty above all things.
Our prayers to our Father should always reflect the fact of Who He is. God is our Father. God is love (1 John 4:8). He cares for us in a personal way and there is no request too small or too complex to bring to God, even though He is so Almighty and so far above anything in heaven or earth. Even requests that we don’t have the words to – we can bring our feelings, our heavy heart, to Him, in assurance that He knows us better than we know ourselves (Jeremiah 17: 9-10). He made us, after all!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6-7)
Enjoy the privilege of prayer, dear sisters and brothers in Christ. His word assures us that He wants us to pray to Him. He taught us to pray, and even how to pray. So, pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16), with confidence, expressing awe at His goodness, humbling ourselves in our need for Him in all things, and therein finding peace and strength beyond what we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
With love and endless prayer – because both love and prayer are gifts from our Father in heaven,