The Lord’s Prayer—so-called—is not exclusively Jesus’ prayer; rather it is a means of prayer, a prayer outline that Jesus taught his disciples upon their request. In fact, it seems that the only time the disciples may have asked Jesus to specifically teach them anything was when they asked Him to teach them how to pray as He prayed. (Luke 11: 1)
The disciples were keenly aware that Jesus prayed much differently than the religious leaders of his day; they were impressed by the way He prayed much differently—and more personally—than anything they had seen or heard previously. There is no indication that Jesus intended the Lord’s Prayer to be a rote prayer to be prayed. He was giving the disciples (and us) a model prayer, an outline that could be used to “fill in the blanks” while praying.
Jesus began teaching the disciples by saying, “Pray in this manner…” (Matthew 6: 9) In saying that, Jesus was not indicating that this was to be the disciples’ only prayer or that those were to be the only words they were ever to use while praying; it was not meant to be a substitute for their ongoing, personal prayers. It seems Jesus was saying that He wanted them (and us) to use these words as a pattern prayer. This teaching includes some of my own thoughts about prayer I’ve learned and used through the years…and some thoughts I’ve gleaned from Oral Roberts, the most prominent “healing evangelist” in the 20th century.
There is another teaching on this website titled Prayer that I invite you to study as a companion teaching to this one.
Here are the words to the Lord’s Prayer as commonly prayed by millions of people in churches throughout the world and when they pray individually at home, at work, at school, etc. There are minor differences in some of the wording in various churches, people groups, languages, and cultures around the world, but this is the wording in how it is commonly taught and prayed in modern English. However, it must be noted that a number of churches still use the wording of the King James translation of the Bible in 1611 A.D.:
Our Father Who is 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 trespasses [sins],
As we forgive those who trespass [sin] against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For yours is the Kingdom
And the power and the glory forever.
I hasten to state that I personally have no problem with people using this as a rote prayer—as long as it does not become “vain repetition” Jesus warned against (Matthew 6: 7) For many years, I have often prayed it as a rote prayer in various setting where it seemed appropriate…but when using it as a rote prayer, I am always aware of the deeper meaning of each of its phrases.
Since it was a model prayer or outline Jesus was teaching his disciples, I will break it down by phrases and teach some of what Jesus was likely teaching his disciples “between the lines.”
The belief that God was a close, personal loving Father was not prominent in the Old Testament life of the Israelites before the time of Jesus; yes, the word Father was used occasionally, but more often other names of God were used when people prayed. The word Father was first used in a deeply personal way by Jesus when He addressed God as Father.
When Jesus called God Father it signified the closeness the Father and Jesus enjoyed. It revealed that Jesus and his Father were intimately and personally related as loving Father and well-loved Son. It was a new dimension—a new reality—that Jesus brought from the Old Testament into the New Testament…and into the NOW, into the present in the lives of people. God was no longer to be understood or seen as distant and aloof, out of the close reach of people when they prayed to Him.
In a sense, the word Father as Jesus used it seemed to “wrap up” and encompass the various names of God by which people approached Him before Jesus came on the scene and taught them this new way of understanding that God was personal and in the NOW of peoples’ lives. All of the various attributes of God characterized by his numerous Names in the Old Testament, are summarized by the New Testament Title, Father (“Abba,” “Daddy”). Three of the more familiar “titles” of God previously used when praying, thinking about, and approaching God were:
Jahweh (JHWH)is God’s covenantal Name—The I Am, The Wholly Self-Existent One (Isaiah 12: 2).
Adonai is another Name used in place of Jahweh, which was considered by many to be too “holy” and sacred to be spoken aloud.
El; Elohim (plural in Hebrew) (2 Kings 19: 15) is God’s transcendant Name—He is the One, True and Living God, the Supreme, Powerful God. The God who alone creates.
In addition, here are some of the other most familiar names and attributes of God used throughout the Old Testament. There are many more; I carry in my own prayer guide a listing disclosing over 100 (!) more names and titles of God found throughout the Old Testament:
Jahweh-Tsidkenu: God my righteousness (Jeremiah 23: 6)
Jahweh-M’Kadosh: God who cleanses me (Leviticus 19: 2)
Jahweh-Shalom: God my peace (Judges 6: 24)
Jahweh-Shammah: God is always a Living Presence in my life (Ezekiel 48: 35)
Jahweh-Rapha: God who heals me (Exodus 15: 26)
Jahweh-Jireh: God provides for me (Genesis 22: 14)
Jahweh-Nissi: God under whose banner I serve (Exodus 17: 15)
Jahweh-Ra’ah: God my Shepherd (Psalm 23)
Jahweh-Saboath: God, my Commander-In-Chief (1 Samuel 17: 45)
Jahweh-Tsaba: God of Wealth Disbursement and Distribution (Zechariah 2: 8 and 9)
El Shaddai: My All-Sufficient One (Psalm 91: 1)
El Olam: The One who is Self-existent and Eternal (Deuteronomy 33: 27)
El-Elyon: The Most High God (Genesis 14: 18; Acts 7: 48)
El Roi: The God Who sees me (Genesis 16: 13)
Immanuel: The God who is eternally, fully present in me (Isaiah 7: 14; Matthew 1: 23)
Jehoshaphat: Jahweh is Judge (Joel 3: 2)
It seems that when Jesus appeared on the scene and began using the title Father in a more intimate manner than had been used previously, He was summarizing and encapsulating all these Old Testament concepts of God all “rolled” into the one word Father, with whom He shared a deep and intimate relationship. It was that relationship He was teaching his disciples to enter into also when He taught them to pray to “Our Father Who is in Heaven.”
This is an important little phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray, we are praying to a God who is—a God who is in the NOW—the present—of our lives. He’s not a God who was or who will be; He’s the one true and LIVING God! He’s the God who IS…who never changes. Yes, God is in the NOW of our lives. He is ever-present in our lives. He is the seven-day-a-week—the 24/7–the 365 days God. He is with us every moment, every day, everywhere. GOD IS! God is never on vacation. He never sleeps nor slumbers.
He is always attentive to our every need: body, soul, and spirit. The challenge is that often we simply don’t acknowledge his personally present IS-ness; we all too often feel He might be too busy to listen to us. Not so! To God who is outside of time and space (but also fully present in time and space) everything is always absolutely simultaneous…and He always has ample time to devote to each one of us, to hear each one of us as we pray, to meet our needs when we present them to Him. Yes, God IS. He is always fully present and fully attentive to each of us!
Jesus wasn’t attempting to help us “locate” God. Humans who believe in God instinctively know He is in Heaven. The challenge is knowing He is also on earth. When Jesus spoke of God as his Father in Heaven, He was speaking of the eternal resources God “stores up” in Heaven to dispense to us when we pray to Him. Jesus is reminding his disciples—and us—that when we pray, we must remember that God is in Heaven. And in God’s Heaven there is no shortage of any good thing. God’s riches through Jesus are laid end-to-end in Heaven waiting to be given to us when we ask Him to meet our human needs here on earth.
In regard to this particular part of Jesus’ teaching about prayer to his disciples, one day a number of years ago while I was praying using the Lord’s Prayer as an outline, I had the following vision that helped me “see” more deeply what was going on in Heaven when we prayed:
“I had just begun my daily, early morning time of prayer and intercession. When doing so, I often envision myself and the people I pray for that day striding up to massive, golden, double doors into God’s throne room. Huge angelic beings often open the doors for us so we can stride boldly through them into the room. Then, as we humbly bow in front of God, I sweep my arm around me to show Him the people I brought with me for whom I will be interceding. As I did that this time, Jesus glanced to our left; I followed his glance and noticed he was looking at a door labeled “Supply Room.” Another angelic being opened that door so I could peer inside. It was a huge room, appearing much like a Sam’s Club or Costco with rows and rows of shelves reaching higher than I could see and stretching into the distance farther than I could see. It is an infinite storehouse full of unlimited items. I knew as I interceded for various people that morning, other angelic beings would emerge from that supply room to give people with me that for which I was praying and interceding.”
Hallowed (Honored) Be Your Name…
Jesus seemed to have deep feelings about the Name of God. He never used it irreverently, nor in vain, or as an obscenity. Coming down through 2,000+ years to us, I believe He is saying to us: “Have the same reverence I have for the Name of God.” My own brief prayer in respect to honoring God’s Name goes something like this: “God, your Name represents You and all that You are. Your very Name, God, tells me You are sovereign over all the affairs of your vast creation. You are sovereign over the affairs of my life today. Your Name says it all for me, and I honor You and your Name above everything else in my life today!”
Your Kingdom come…
Jesus expressed concern about the nations—the kingdoms—that then existed on the earth. But He was even more concerned about another Kingdom—a higher Kingdom—God’s Kingdom. We happen to live in earthly kingdoms (nations, governments, etc.). These kingdoms are always rising and falling—even the “kingdom” you presently live in will ultimately fall. All earth’s kingdoms are temporary. They are only so powerful, they are limited. Jesus knew that such earthly kingdoms would never fully conquer all humanity. He knew that such kingdoms had their limitations—that they all rise and fall over time.
Jesus lived in the mighty Roman Empire, a kingdom that had spread over the then known world. It had conquered many other nations during its rise to power. But Jesus knew Rome would eventually fall and lose its power and control over multitudes of people. Jesus was always focused on God’s coming Kingdom that would eventually cover the entire earth—a Kingdom in which people were free with liberty for all under God’s eternal, benevolent rulership.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
Every time we pray using this portion of the Lord’s prayer as a springboard for our prayers, we are praying a revolutionary, radical prayer. We are literally praying for a new kind of Kingdom to come into being: an eternal Kingdom of peace, of justice, of freedom, of equality. We are praying that what is in Heaven will come to be…down here on (and in) the earth, and that starts with me…because our bodies are made from the substances that are in the earth. The will of God begins in Heaven where it is worked out perfectly, but comes to earth where it is not yet perfect. It must be lived out in this “earthen vessel” as the Bible calls our bodies, our “earth suits” in which we live during this mortal life. (2 Corinthians 4: 7)
For me personally, when I pray using this portion of the Lord’s prayer as an outline, I have a listing of various people, events, and things I pray for—that the will of God will prevail and be accomplished in myself, my loved ones and close friends, my local church, my nation, the world at large, my readers and students, China and Chinese workers, and Belarus—the latter two nations are where I have visited and shared Good News about Jesus. I pray also for other nations I have visited, but my main focus is on China and Belarus.
You do know, don’t you, that many people are afraid of the will of God? They feel if they do God’s will, somehow He will make them do something against their will or that is difficult or distasteful. They mistakenly feel that doing God’s will might restrict their life, that their lives might become of less worth, but all I can write is that for me—doing God’s will—has given me a life of great joy!
“God’s will be done” does not mean giving up my personal ability to make choices. It does mean I let go of thought patterns, attitudes, and ways of living that limit me, so God can lead me in better ways. The will of God flows from his great love for us and for all humanity and is full of the love of God. It is not difficult to live out the will of God because it is a life where one is right in the center of his will, and He lovingly provides all that is needed to do his will.
Give us today our daily bread…
I’m so glad Jesus didn’t leave this provision out in his model prayer. In the English vernacular, bread is sometimes considered to be money, our material needs. We are asking God to provide all our daily needs (not necessarily our wants—although sometimes our wants and needs are the same). Jesus knows all about what we need to successfully live this life. I’m so glad Jesus didn’t tell us “”God, sell us this day, our daily bread,” because we could never pay for or buy all God provides each of us—life itself, air, water, food, clothing and shelter, love, joy, peace, friendship, relationships, etc.
I believe Jesus is saying we need to see our loving heavenly Father as our ultimate Source of our total supply. He’s talking about our loving heavenly Father who knows our needs for food, clothing, shelter, and—in our culture—reliable transportation, a house that becomes a home, decent clothing appropriate to our station in life, loving family relationships, and simply about God meeting all our needs by means of his “riches in glory” provided for us by Jesus through his completed and finished work on our behalf. (Phillipians 4: 19)
Forgive us our trespasses [sins] as we forgive those who tresspass [sin] against us…
After Jesus concluded giving his disciples this pattern prayer, He then told them this: “While you are praying, make sure you forgive the sins of others, for if you forgive the sins of other people, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you withhold forgiveness from others, your Father will withhold forgiveness from you.” (Matthew 6: 14 and 15)
By telling the disciples this, Jesus was clearly indicating that we all sin! We do things we shouldn’t do. We say things we shouldn’t say. We think things we shouldn’t think. We are sinners, and God is loving and gracious to forgive us all our sins through the completed work of Jesus on our behalf. There is one main Forgiver…and that is God. But we must follow his example, and forgive others as He forgives us—freely with no strings attached.
When we don’t forgive others, our unforgiveness festers and grows inside us until it becomes what the Bible calls a “root of bitterness.” (Hebrews 12: 15) That root of bitterness can actually make us ill in both body and mind, and–sometimes—actually kill us. The older I get the better I can “read” people: their facial expressions, their body language, their eyes, etc. I often see in people such extreme unforgiveness and bitterness to the point where it even shows in their faces and in the way they walk. I have learned through the years this maxim: For me, if it’s not instant forgiveness, it’s unforgiveness! I don’t practice that perfectly, but I’m very sensitive to try to forgive others instantly.
A man once said, “I will never forgive so and so.” The person he told that to replied, “Then pray that you will never sin and need forgiveness yourself!”
In practical terms, how do we live in an ongoing state of forgiveness? We need to thank God for forgiving us our sins. We need to instantly forgive others who sin against us—and release them from any unforgiveness we are secretly harboring, so our unforgiveness doesn’t grow into the deadly root of bitterness. We need to thank God for forgiving those who have sinned against us. Daily, we need to set our wills to continually forgive those who sin against us.
If we don’t forgive others, we often feel that holding on to our unforgiveness will somehow hurt them or remind them what they’ve done to us, when in fact most often our unforgiveness doesn’t hurt or affect them at all. But unforgiveness can grow inside of us like a slow acting poison and hurt us rather than hurting the ones we don’t forgive.
If we are going to joyfully live in a daily state of being forgiven by God, we must forgive others!
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…
Elsewhere, the Bible is very clear when it states that God doesn’t tempt anyone: “When you are tempted, don’t ever say ‘God is tempting me,’ for God is incapable of being tempted by evil and He is never the source of temptation. Instead, each person’s own inner desires and thoughts drag them into evil and lures them away into the darkness of sin. Evil desires give birth to evil actions, and when those evil actions fully mature they can kill you. So my friends don’t be fooled by your own desires.” (James 1: 13 – 15)
If we are tempted to sin, here’s another biblical reference that helps us deal with such temptation: “When we experience temptation to sin, God will be faithful to us. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every temptation we face, so that we can bear it. Each temptation is an opportunity to trust God more, for along with every temptation God has provided a way for us to escape the temptation, so that He will bring us out of it as victors!” (1 Corinthians 10: 13)
For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever…
When Jesus said these words, He was living in a remote outpost of the mighty Roman Empire. Most (not all) Roman soldiers and rulers were barbaric and cruel, often putting people under cruel servitude and dismal lifelong slavery. The Roman masters and soldiers behaved as if Rome was going to rule the world forever…that Rome would always be the master kingdom. But Jesus looked beyond Rome, beyond every other kingdom that would arise until the end of time…and He said: “Father, Yours is THE Kingdom…and it’s full of all your power and all your glory for all time and eternity!”
Jesus was proclaiming that there is something far greater and more stable than the kingdom of Rome or any other earthly kingdoms…and that greater Kingdom is ruled by the King of kings and Lord of lords. It’s interesting to note that Jesus will be King over lesser kings and Lord over lesser lords in God’s coming Kingdom. Who are those lesser kings and lesser lords? We will be! (Revelation 1: 6 and 5: 10)
Some of what I pray when using the Lord’s prayer as a pattern prayer is that Jesus will one day sovereignly rule over all the kingdoms and nations of earth…including ruling NOW over my own “internal kingdoms” I have mistakenly established. I also pray to clearly comprehend that there is only one ultimate power in the universe (not two or more warring powers where the outcome is uncertain), that one ultimate power being God’s. I pray that the only authentic power in my own life will be God’s…and thatI will submit to his inner power daily. I pray to understand that there is no power in the universe and in my life except the power of Almighty God.
Finally, I pray that I will continually honor God and humbly give Him all the glory due Him for all the ages of time and in coming Eternal Realms.
Amen means so be it…let it be done…it is accomplished…I give everything in my life over to God…God, work out in my life and in the lives of those for whom I’ve prayed your eternal good purposes for them…I believe You will do everything I’ve asked You to do…
Revised and Updated March 2023