The Lord’s Prayer—Part 2
By Peter Amsterdam
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When Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, He said: “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’” (Matthew 6:9–13).
The word Jesus used in prayer when addressing His Father was the Aramaic word Abba, which meant Father. It is understandable that Jesus, as the unique Son of God, would call His Father Abba, but the remarkable thing is that He taught those who believe in Him to address God as Abba as well.
Within His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus puts an emphasis on “your Father” by using the phrase eleven times. From the Sermon onward, Jesus would also frequently speak of God as His own Father in a way which seems to exclude others from that special relationship. As the unique Son of God, Jesus’ relationship with the Father is different from ours.
This is seen earlier in Matthew, at Jesus’ baptism, when God said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). It is most clearly expressed in the first recorded prayer of Jesus in Matthew: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).
While Jesus is the unique Son of God, we too become children of God through belief in Him. The early church understood that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, believers were members of the family of God and therefore could call God their Father, Abba.
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:4–6)
Praying “our Father” implies a sense of intimacy, that we are addressing one who loves us and cares for us. Prayer isn’t meant to be a complicated formal manner of addressing an unpredictable entity, but rather is communication from the heart. The prayer Jesus taught was short and unpretentious, a simple heartfelt communication by those who know that they depend on their Father for their daily needs, who need their sins forgiven, and also need His protection and care.
By beginning the prayer with “our Father in heaven,” Jesus also reminds us that the one we address as Father is supremely great, for He is in heaven and we are not. There is a balance here, as we address God intimately while also being aware of His might and infinite greatness. He is God Almighty, the all-powerful Creator of everything that exists. He is also our loving “Abba,” and we are His children who have confidence in Him and depend on Him.
Those who believe in and receive Jesus can call God their Father. “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Of course, God is the Creator of all things and all people and has given life to everyone, and in that context, everyone is part of “God’s offspring” (Acts 17:28–29), but that is not the way the New Testament writers use the father-son imagery with respect to God and His children. The relationship with God as Father has to do with those who believe in Jesus. It is a gift of God and a great privilege to address God as “our Father.”
After the opening address, Our Father in heaven, six petitions follow. The first three pertain to God directly—His name, His kingdom, and His will. These are followed by another three which have to do with us directly—our physical needs, sins, and temptations.
As far as a pattern for prayer, we learn from the opening of the Lord’s Prayer to begin our prayers by putting our focus on our Father in heaven, who is a personal Being with whom we are in relationship. We enter into His presence, we praise and worship Him. We come before Him with the understanding that our relationship with Him is as that of a child with a loving parent. He loves us, knows our needs, wants to take care of us, and wants the best for us. Because of our relationship with our Father in heaven, we trust Him, count on Him, and know that He has our best interests at heart. This is a foundational understanding of Christian prayer.
After the introductory sentence of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus followed with three phrases that have to do with God’s honor, kingdom, and purpose, followed by three which address our needs. The first three phrases which refer to God are “Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Here we have three petitions: may your name be sanctified, may your kingdom come, and may your will be done. These express our prayer for God’s glory in relation to His name, rule, and will.
The word hallow means to honor, sanctify, set apart, treat with the highest respect. When we pray hallowed be your name, we are honoring God and asking Him to help us give Him the reverence that is His due, and also asking Him to act within our world in ways that will cause those who don’t reverence Him to change and give glory to His name as well.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are asking the Lord to cause His name to be glorified everywhere and fully. In asking Him to make His name holy, we are asking Him to act in the physical world, and particularly through us, His followers, so that all humanity may honor Him as God.
In reading the Gospels, we see that Jesus was always concerned about glorifying His Father. His actions caused others to glorify God. In His prayer in John 17, He stated: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. ... I have manifested your name to the people” (John 17:4, 6). We too can manifest His name to others; we can cause God to be glorified through our words, our lives, by being a reflection of the greatness and glory of God. We are also remindedthat while He is Abba, our loving Father, He is also God Almighty, and we should respect and revere Him.
The second petition, your kingdom come, is similar to the first in that it is a request for God to bring forth His kingdom in our world. We are praying for God to bring about His reign, power, and authority throughout the earth. The kingdom was inaugurated with Jesus’ entrance into the world. Though the kingdom wasn’t physical, it was nevertheless present through Him while He was on earth, and continues to be present today. He also spoke of it in future tense. The dynamic reign of God is both a present reality introduced through Jesus’ life and ministry as well as a future manifestation which will be made complete after He returns.
When we pray your kingdom come, we are asking God to move in ways that will cause the gospel to be preached throughout the world, so that people will receive the message and will enter the kingdom through belief in Jesus. We’re praying that those who come to believe in the Lord will increasingly let Him reign in their lives. At the same time, we’re praying that Jesus will return and fully consummate the kingdom of God. We’re looking forward to the time when all sin and everything opposed to God is done away with. We’re praying, like the words at the closing of the book of Revelation: Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20).
The third petition, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, builds on the second. When God reigns, His will is done. Here we pray for the full realization of all that the kingdom means.
In heaven, God’s kingship and will are already acknowledged and fulfilled, but on earth they are yet to be fully recognized. To some extent, the kingdom is present in the hearts and lives of believers, but not “as it is in heaven.” God’s will is already done in heaven; His name is already holy, He is already King, and there is nothing in heaven that keeps His will from being done.
In praying the Lord’s Prayer, we are asking our Father to work in our world to change the hearts of humanity; and as part of that, to help us participate in bringing about change in the hearts of others. In the present time, our world does not do God’s will as it is done in heaven, but at some future point, God’s will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.
When we petition our Father in heaven to make His name holy and ask for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, we are setting things in proper priority—putting God first. By praying for God’s name to be made holy, we are committing to honor, love, worship, and praise Him, for He alone is holy.
When we pray for His kingdom to come, we recognize that besides asking that He bring about His reign in this world, we are asking Him to reign in our lives as well. Asking that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven is requesting that His kingdom, power, and reign be given greater priority than our own, and that His will be given precedence over our own.
Originally published July 2016. Adapted and republished May 2023. Read by Reuben Ruchevsky.