TO ADDRESS the Almighty and share our most intimate thoughts with him is an inestimable privilege. Yet, many people are unsure about how to pray, and others want to improve their prayers. Some of Jesus Christ’s early followers were evidently concerned about the quality of their prayers. One of them said to him: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” (Luke 11:1) Jesus responded by giving a model prayer, often called the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. That beautiful, yet simple, prayer not only helps us to address God in an acceptable way but also sheds light on the main message of the Bible.
Jesus’ Model Prayer
Jesus said: “You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth. Give us today our bread for this day; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.’”—Matthew 6:9-13.
Note that Jesus said: “You must pray, then, this way.” The point? Jesus did not want his followers to parrot his words, or recite them. Indeed, he had just discouraged this practice. (Matthew 6:7) Rather, his prayer is a lesson in priorities—what is important in God’s eyes, not just ours. In order to understand what those priorities are, we need to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words. Let us, then, examine his words point by point.
The Model Prayer Explained
“Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” Jesus rightly addressed God as “Father” because He is loving and protective, like a good human father. He also has a personal name—Jehovah—which should not be confused with his many titles, such as Almighty, God, and Lord. * (Psalm 83:18) Why, though, does God’s name, which involves his reputation, need to be sanctified, or made holy? Because it has been reproached and slandered.
Some people blame God for their trials, when the real cause may have human roots or can be attributed to their simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Proverbs 19:3; Ecclesiastes 9:11) Others have accused God of causing natural disasters. However, the Bible says that “with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) And many religions teach that God punishes the bad by torturing them forever in a fiery hell, a teaching that surely offends the God of love. (Jeremiah 19:5; 1 John 4:8) “The wages sin pays is death,” says Romans 6:23, not eternal torture! *
“Let your kingdom come.” God’s Kingdom is a royal government in the hands of Jesus Christ, its King. He will soon take full control of the entire earth. “To him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom,” says Daniel 7:14. God’s Kingdom will “come” when it intervenes in human affairs, crushing all opposing rulerships and taking full control of the earth.—Daniel 2:44.
“Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” Under Kingdom rule, mankind will submit to the will of God. As a result, genuine peace will prevail and all humans will worship God in harmony with truth. Divisive politics and false religion will be no more. Figuratively speaking, “the tent of God” will be “with mankind,” says Revelation 21:3, 4, “and he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”
“Give us today our bread for this day.” Having given priority to God’s name and Kingdom, Jesus then turned his attention to our needs. His words indicate that we must avoid striving after much more than we need “for this day.” Instead, we ought to heed the advice found at Proverbs 30:8: “Give me neither poverty nor riches. Let me devour the food prescribed for me.”
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Here, the word “debts” means “sins.” * We all owe God obedience. So when we disobey him, or sin against him, we accumulate debt, as it were. Jehovah, though, is willing to forgive that debt when we kindly forgive those who sin against us.—Matthew 18:21-35.
“Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.” “The wicked one” is Satan the Devil, also called “the Tempter.” (Matthew 4:3) Because our imperfect flesh is weak, we need God’s help to resist Satan and his human agents.—Mark 14:38.
May Jesus’ model prayer help you to improve your prayers, perhaps by adjusting your priorities. How, though, does Jesus’ model prayer shed light on the main message of the Bible? In harmony with Jesus’ words, the main theme of the Bible is the sanctification of God’s holy name, the removal of all wickedness, and the peaceful rulership of the earth by God’s Kingdom. Yes, what spiritual riches Jesus packed into his model prayer!
^ par. 8 In the original languages of the Bible, mainly Hebrew and Greek, the divine name occurred some 7,000 times. Sadly, many modern versions use God’s titles instead of his holy name.
HAVE YOU WONDERED?
● What did Jesus mean when he said: “You must pray, then, this way”?—Matthew 6:9.
● As a general pattern, what matters ought to come first in our prayers?—Matthew 6:9, 10.
● What are “our debts,” and why should we forgive people who sin against us?—Matthew 6:12.
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Jesus’ model prayer can help you set priorities that are important in God’s eyes, not just yours