The best-known part of the Sermon on the Mount – you could recite it by heart.

What is it to be called? A model prayer, the disciples’ prayer, the family prayer.

It is a prayer to use (Luke 11:2), and also a model for our prayers (9).

The Big Question: Who is the God addressed in this prayer?

The God we are privileged to called Father

Our Father . . . hallowed be your name. Prayer begins with God, who he is and what he has done. His character is expressed in his name. The name YHWH was especially holy, this was the very name God had revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Puts in perspective the times when people are so flippant about God in the language they use or the jokes they tell.

Jesus in this prayer teaches his followers to God ‘Father’ (Abba, a word of warmth and intimacy). Jesus is eternally the Son of God, he addressed God as Father, but here he encourages and teaches his followers to do the same. What a unique privilege. How sacred and special it is to call God Father. When we pray, it is only possible because Jesus died to open up the way for sinful people to approach a holy God. When we call God Father, we are reminded that it is only through Jesus that we can be born anew and made members of his family. Even to call Father is hallowed, a unique privilege that comes from salvation, being united with Christ and calling his Father our Father. What a presumption to call God Father when we do not know him as Father, nor know Christ as Saviour nor through the Spirit enjoy membership of his family.

The God who rules and provides

Your kingdom come, your will be done. God rules, in heaven of course, and on earth. But we do not yet see that perfect rule fully and visibly here on earth. This prayer looks forward to that day when Jesus will return to judge and rule in power. But each day is a day closer and we pray that it will be a step nearer, that life on earth will be a little more like heaven.

Imagine what would be different about life here if it were like God’s rule in heaven. No courts, no police, no keys, no PIN codes. We’d all want some of that. But the problem with such a prayer is that it has to start somewhere; really it has to start with us. Are we prepared for God to rule in our lives, for his will to be put first in our lives?

Daily bread Because God rules, he is in control of the basics of our daily lives, represented by daily bread: the necessities to sustain us day by day. We are not to ask for an unlimited supply, nor for luxury, but rely on God each day.

A recent episode of Family Fortunes posed the question: what do you pray for? (‘Forgiveness’ did not feature as a ‘top six’ answer.)

Family Fortunes

Most of these answers might really come under the category of ‘daily bread’, immediate needs as we see them, But how lopsided our prayers would be if we lost sight of the other needs we have also: daily forgiveness as well as daily bread, spiritual protection as well as provision.

The God who rescues and protects

Forgive our debts… (also verses 14-15) Does this mean we are to forgive other people in order to earn God’s forgiveness? Matthew 18:21-35 sheds some light. An attitude of forgiveness shows that you understand what it means to be forgiven. When we look at the cross we understand the great debt that was paid there. That gives us a sense of perspective to deal with the wrongdoings of others against us. Again this is talking about our personal relationships, not the state and its duty to punish crime (Romans 13).

These are relatively simple words to understand, but profoundly difficult to practise. Again the Sermon on the Mount shows how much we need the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit is we are to live the life of God’s kingdom. You might wonder, how can I forgive someone who has never said sorry, or has never realised the enormity of what they have done?

This is speaking about our attitude. If we are people who rely on Christ and benefit from his forgiveness day by day, we are to live lives of forgiveness. That is our attitude; the person who has wronged us will never know the reality of that forgiveness until they repent. Only when they seek to reconcile will they experience actual forgiveness.

Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil.

God protects us spiritually: away from (not into) temptation. Part of that protection is in providing a way out when we are tempted – look out for God’s exit route. (1 Cor. 10:13) Because God is the one who rules heaven and earth, he is able to rescue us from anything in heaven and earth.

These parts all go together: daily bread, daily forgiveness, daily rescue from temptation and from the evil one. We are depriving ourselves if we are neglecting any of these needs.

The prayer as we say it often ends with ‘thine is the kingdom’. This came later, as the prayer was used in the church. How could a prayer end on the word ‘evil’? So we have a powerful reminder of God’s rule, power and glory.

The prayer is a challenge and an invitation. Do we pray this way, focussed on God’s kingdom and glory? Do we call upon him for forgiveness and spiritual life or just for daily bread?

It is an invitation to join in the privilege of calling God ‘Father’, to be part of his kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ and to know his power through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and to live that new life in his family, to his glory.

 

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