The Lord’s Prayer: what does it mean?
What better way to learn the meaning of the Lord's Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13 than to read it! So let us read these beautiful words of Christ below.
The Lord’s Prayer(KJV)
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
For Thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, for ever Amen.”
Meaning of the Lord's Prayer
Many of us have repeated the Lord’s Prayer since childhood and know it well. So we will look at its seven petitions one by one. But before we consider them, let look at the first sentence, which is praise to God.
Our Father which art in heaven
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.” Jesus teaches us that we are to call God “Father,” and He is not ashamed to call us brothers. God loves us, and we are to love Him. We are His children. Notice, we are not to say “My Father” in this model prayer, but “Our Father.” You see, the heart of a child of God is a brotherly heart. It asks nothing for self alone but in fellowship with all Christians. And this is a prayer for Christians. It is for the children of God.
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17).
You can trust in your heavenly Father. He loves you, and all the resources of the universe are His. You are the child of a king. We are made sons by faith. “As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:13).
But the Lord's prayer is for those whose sonship is based on the new birth. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12,13).
Our Father is in heaven; He rules the angels and unfallen worlds. “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).
Hallowed be Thy name
With what reverence should we use the name of God—never in jest or a careless manner. In Psalm 111:9, it is written, “Holy and reverend is His name.” When you pray, “Hallowed be Thy name,” you ask that it may be hallowed in you—that you may bring no dishonor on the “worthy name by which ye are called” (James 2:7).
“For behold, He who forms mountains, and creates the wind, who declares to man what his thought is, and makes the morning darkness, who treads the high places of the earth—The Lord God of hosts is His name” (Amos 4:13).
Thy kingdom come
God is not only our heavenly Father; He is also the King of the universe. The interests of God’s kingdom should be our interests. While God’s spiritual kingdom is now being established in those who have willing hearts, the full establishment of God’s literal kingdom will not take place until the Second Coming of Chris.
Then “The kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High” (Daniel 7:27). At that time, they will inherit the kingdom prepared for them “from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
Jesus said that before the coming of that day, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).
His kingdom cannot come until the good news of His grace has been carried to all the world. So, as we work to win souls to God, we hasten the coming of His kingdom. You see, only those who devote themselves to His service, saying in genuineness, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8), are the ones who pray, “Thy kingdom come.”
This prayer shows the certainty that the world is wrong; the certainty that only God’s kingdom will set it right; the certainty that it can put it right; the certainty that it will. Like that dying thief, we re-echo the cry, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven
But some may ask, “Will it ever be?” It can be, or Christ would not have taught this prayer. It will be, for all God's commands are enablings. Here obedience is set forth as the end of all divine revelation. God’s will is to be done here then as it is done in heaven now. The highest form of worship is obedience. Of God's true children, it is said:
“Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).
This petition seeks obedience in our hearts here today and reaches over to that wonderful renewed world when the righteousness of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
Give us this day our daily bread
The first three petitions are in regard to the name, the kingdom, and the will of God—that His name may be honored, His kingdom established, His will performed. When we have made God's service first and best in our lives, we may ask with confidence that our own needs may be supplied. To pray is to adore; to pray is also to ask.
We have to say, “Our Father,” and we also have to say, “Give us” —knowing that if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto our children, much more does the heavenly Father know how to give good things to them that ask Him (Matthew 7:11).
Do not worry about tomorrow's bread. Remember, the manna fell each day as needed. We have God's assurance, “Thou shalt dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed” (Psalm 37:3). The God of Elijah still lives. The meal did not rise up and fill the barrel, but there was always enough in the time of need. When we say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray for others as well as ourselves. We acknowledge that even our food comes from God's hand and that what He gives us is not for ourselves alone. The prayer for daily bread includes not only food for the body but food for the soul. Jesus said:
“Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27). And again, He declared! “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors
Whatever we owe to others or to ourselves, we owe also to God. The King of heaven reckons offenses against others as against Himself. What a startling cry is this, “Forgive us as we forgive.” Our forgiving is the condition of our being forgiven. We cannot ask God to do for us what we will not do for others.
God in Christ gave Himself for our sins. Upon the cross He bore for us the burden of guilt, “the just for the unjust,” that He might reveal His love and draw us to Himself. And He says: “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
And lead us not into temptation
The form of this petition is sometimes questioned, but it is simply a form of speech common in Christ's day. God is said to do a thing which He only permits or suffers to be done.
The last petition we considered has to do with the past—this one concerns the future. We are to pray for God to lead us not into but through and out of temptation. Temptations and trials come to all, but we do not desire them. Our Savior said: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Every temptation resisted gives us a new experience, makes us stronger. Knowing our weakness, we pray this prayer that God will guide us into safe paths. We shall wait for His hand to lead us, and shall listen for His voice, saying, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
One man who was being tested in fiery trials said: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
The great Scottish writer, George MacDonald, tells of a woman who, in trials and troubles that she could not understand, once said, “Oh, I would to God I had never been made.” “Why, my dear child,” replied a friend, "you are not yet made; you are only being made, and you are quarreling with God’s processes.”
If we commit ourselves to God in this prayer, “Bring us not into temptation,” we have the assurance that He "will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). This thought leads us to the last petition of the Lord's prayer.
But deliver us from evil
This is a prayer to be delivered from all evil—not only from sin, but from its consequences and from the power of Satan in all its forms. This was the prayer of the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:18, “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”
Thank God, we are not left alone to meet the adversary of our souls. "Behold,” Christ says, “I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).
This petition for deliverance from evil goes beyond our present experiences. It is a yearning for full redemption, and it will be fully answered someday when: “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10).
The prayer of Christ for His own will be answered here and now, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
Friend, He will deliver you; He will deliver me. He will give us the victory over evil and a place in His kingdom forevermore.
Our Father is above all things
The last, like the first sentence of the Lord's prayer points to our Father as above all power and authority and every name that is named. He will bring to naught the purposes of wicked men and His people will be safe in His hands. When the wars and strife and sin of earth have passed away as the memory of a tempest when the winds are still, we can say through the endless ages as we look at our father—our heavenly Father: “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen!”