Lesson Two: The Disciples' Prayer

Lesson Two: The Disciples' Prayer

What is commonly known as "The Lord's Prayer" is recorded in both Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.  The purpose of this Bible study is not to buck church tradition, but it is safe to say that the Lord never prayed this prayer.  The holy Son of God never prayed, "Forgive us our sins...."  He never needed forgiveness, because He never sinned.  Jesus did teach His disciples, "When you pray...."  The prayer would more accurately be called "The Disciples' Prayer," which is the title we decided to use.

In Luke 11:1 we read, "Now it came to pass, as He (Jesus) 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."  The following instruction was Jesus' answer to that disciple's request.  Now turn to Matthew 6.

 

PRELIMINARY TEACHING

First, Jesus expects His followers to pray.  He didn't say, "If you pray," but rather "When you pray."  Christians have access to the Father through the Son by the Spirit.  Why wouldn't you approach the throne of grace?  Prayer is an expectation of Christ.

Second, God isn't impressed with repetitive prayers, the saying of the same thing over and over and over again.  Jesus taught, "Don't use vain repetitions as the heathen do."  Protestants find fault with the reciting of the Rosary by Roman Catholics.  On the other hand, how many Protestant churches thoughtlessly recite the Lord's Prayer week after week?  Jesus Christ didn't teach His disciples to repeatedly pray the same prayer word for word.  Instead, He instructed them, "In this manner, therefore, pray."  He was simply laying down principles for them to follow when they prayed.

Third, God doesn't look favorably upon long, loud public prayers.  Jesus said, "They (hypocrites) love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men."  Seen by men, but unheard by God.  He continued, "They think that they will be heard for their many words."  They may receive a reward of recognition from men, but they will surely reap displeasure from God.  Get out your watch and see how long it takes to say the Disciples' Prayer.  You'll discover that it takes less than one minute.

Finally, the Lord openly rewards private prayers.  In contrast to the hypocrites, Jesus taught His disciples, "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly."  Prayer is a personal matter.  It's nobody else's business.  Those who commune with God in the secret place know the reality of answered prayer.

 

ELEMENTS OF PRAYER

First and foremost, Jesus taught that God should be addressed in adoration.  When we pray, we are speaking to "Our Father in heaven."  How wonderful that God should be our heavenly Father and that we should be His children!  This implies that we have a personal relationship with Him through faith in His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Read John 1:12, 13.  The apostle Paul wrote, "For through Him (Christ) we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access by one Spirit to the Father."  Ephesians 2:18.  Almighty God is one Father who listens to His own.  And we adore Him.

Even though He is "in heaven" He is not far from any of us.  Humanists like to say, "If it is to be, it is up to me."  As you can see, this is a clever saying.  It consists of ten one syllable words composed of two letters each.  David wrote ten words of one syllable in Psalm 145:18.  "The Lord is near to all who call on Him."  This is not only clever, but true.  We cannot get so far away from God that He will not hear us.

Our heavenly Father is holy.  "Hallowed be Your name."  It is difficult to express the meaning of "hallowed" in simple English.  Even modern translations which attempt to use contemporary English wind up using the same word.  The thought here is "to be kept holy."  In the Disciples' Prayer we are taught to honor, respect, and reverence  our heavenly Father.  Even the holy seraphim cover their faces before Him, crying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts."  See Isaiah 6:1-3.  Reverence the Lord when you pray.

Jesus taught that we should begin our prayers with adoration to our heavenly Father, Who is holy indeed.  We might pray, "Father, you...."  Then attribute worth to God.  He is truly great, and worthy of our praise.

Next Jesus taught submission to the will of God, when He said, "Your kingdom come.  Your will be done."  It is written of Jesus, "Then I said, 'Behold, I have come---In the volume of the book it is written of Me---to do Your will, O God."  See Hebrews 10:7.  (We'll explore this theme of Jesus and the will of God later in our study.)

The Lord should have first place in our lives.  His will should be our top priority.  No one can do anything greater than the will of God.  This is the most important thing in the Christian life.  The apostle Paul learned this immediately when He first met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.  Trembling and astonished he asked, "Lord, what do You want me to do?"  Acts 9:6.

Christian theologians have many different ideas about God's kingdom.  For some, the kingdom is something that comes into a person's heart when he or she repents and believes the gospel.  It is an internal, spiritual kingdom.  Others believe that the kingdom refers to Christ's millennial reign on earth as recorded in Revelation 20:1-6.  Still others equate the church with the kingdom, presenting Matthew 16:13-20 as evidence of their view.

For now, we'll leave the controversy with them.  There is a relationship between the kingdom of God and the will of God.  "The Lord is...not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."  Christians should be about their Father's business, sharing the good news of the gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world.  Only those who are born again enter the kingdom of God.  See John 3:1-15.  They can honestly pray, "Your will be done."

Petition is a legitimate part of prayer.  Three areas of petition are mentioned in the Disciples' Prayer.  The first is petition for personal needs"Give us this day our daily bread."  Many American Christians have their cupboards and refrigerators full of food.  But every day a large percentage of the world's population goes to bed hungry.  In some situation bad weather means that some people cannot work, so they cannot earn money to eat on that particular day.  Poverty is a real tragedy in our world.  Poor beggars lined the streets and highways where Jesus walked in Israel.

Food is a basic necessity, a human need.  No one can live without it.  Jesus is telling us to bring our personal needs to God.  An Old Testament name of God is "Jehovah Jireh," which means "the Lord will provide."  Read Genesis 22:1-14.  Paul wrote to the generous Christians at Philippi, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:19.

It has been said that God hasn't promised to fill our wants, but our needs.  That isn't necessarily true.  The psalmist David wrote, "Delight yourself also in the Lord; and He shall give you the desires of your heart."  Psalm 37:4.  It must be noted that this is a heart that delights in the Lord, and wants His will.  If He wants to give you the desires of your heart, will He be less desirous to meet your personal needs?  Of course not!  "Let your requests be made known to God."  Philippians 4:6.

Moving along we find the fourth element of prayer, confession"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."  Jesus isn't referring to unpaid bills, but moral debts.  Sins.

Unfortunately, many Christians are preoccupied with the sins and moral shortcomings of others.  This was depicted in a cartoon where a parishioner approached a priest and said, "Father, I have come to confess my neighbor's sins."  Instead of judging others we need to examine ourselves, and confess our own sins.

If we want God to forgive us, we must be forgiving in our relationship with others.  Jesus said, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."  Matthew 6:14, 15.  The Lord also taught this truth in a parable.  Read Matthew 18:21-35.

We must be careful here.  This is not the way of salvation.  God doesn't save us because we are loving and forgiving.  We are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  Galatians 3:26.  We have been redeemed through the blood of Christ, and have received the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace.  Ephesians 1:7.  Because we have already been forgiven, we should forgive others.  Ephesians 4:32.  Here we are dealing with a filial relationship.

There is a promise of forgiveness for sinning Christians.  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  1 John 1:9.

Earlier we mentioned the first petition in the Disciple's Prayer, a petition for personal needs.  Now we will consider the second petition, a petition for guidance"And do not lead us into temptation."  Temptation is real.  Satan is the tempter, the great deceiver.  He can appear as an angel of light.  In Revelation 20 we read about the millennial reign of Jesus Christ on the earth.  At the end of the thousand years the devil is depicted as deceiving many.  It's amazing that he could fool so many people after the revelation and reign of Christ.  In ourselves we are no match for him.  We need the Lord to lead us, and He does.

Jesus is the good Shepherd.  He leads us "beside the still waters," and "in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake."  Read Psalm 23.  He knows the way through the wilderness.  We don't.

Isaiah described us accurately when he wrote, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way."  We need to be led by One who loves us, and knows the way that is best for each one of us.

The final petition is a petition for deliverance"But deliver us from the evil one (or evil)."

Praise God for the victory that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul wrote, "Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us."  2 Corinthians 1:9.  Notice that the God of the resurrection has delivered us (past), does deliver us (present), and will deliver us (future).  That's the God in whom we trust.

We appropriate the reality of this deliverance by faith.  We don't depend upon ourselves.  The Lord is our refuge and strength.  It's like the child who said, "When Satan knocks at the door of my heart, I let Jesus answer it."  He is the mighty Deliverer.  We are the delivered.  Prayer lets Him know that we want Him to answer the door.

The Disciples' Prayer ends on a note of praise"For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen."

You should be aware that this doxology in Matthew 6:13 is omitted in some New Testament manuscripts.  Roman Catholic translations of the Scriptures do not include it.  They accuse Protestants of adding to the Scriptures.  However, almost all study Bibles make reference to this omission from some autographs, so nobody is trying to deceive anyone.  The truth expressed in the doxology may be found in 1 Chronicles 29:11.

The kingdom is His, so let it come.  The power is His, so we know that He can meet all of our needs and forgive our sins.  The glory is His, so we bow our heads and our hearts before Him, and reverence Him as our holy, heavenly Father.  Praise His wonderful name forever.

The Disciples' Prayer consists of the ABCs of prayer.  It is for the young child in the faith.  And it is also for the most mature.  Even as the scholar in all his learning cannot dispense with the ABCs of the alphabet, the believer cannot pray effectively without these elementary principles of prayer: adoration, submission, petition, confession, and praise.

 

Lesson Three: The Gethsemane Prayer

 
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