I enjoy praying the Lord’s Prayer. Whenever I am not sure what or how to pray, it can help me approach God’s throne boldly. For example, I often pray the Lord’s Prayer during the wee hours on Saturday mornings, while I am driving the two dusty miles through the dark to my brother-in-law’s house before we head off to market. I add my own words, but the Lord’s Prayer helps my sleepy brain waken and center on God. I know I am always praying the Lord’s will when I pray the Lord’s prayer.
You may have noticed that the Lord’s Prayer has two main halves, with the turning point being the words “give us.” In the first half we pray big-picture prayers about God’s will. In the second half we pray in-the-trenches prayers about our survival. This structure helps us to remember that God is bigger and more important than we are.
Here is the prayer, ever old and ever new, as Matthew records it1:
“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. (Matt. 6:9-13)
The first word, “Our,” reinforces our smallness; we come before God as one of many of his children. This is both humbling and deeply reassuring. I am neither the center of God’s universe nor a faint, solitary voice trying to catch his attention. Rather, I come to God with you, and you come to God with me. He chooses to place us, together, at the center of his love.
While praying the Lord’s Prayer this morning I noticed that I often pray the first half of this prayer with my own needs and desires in mind. I look at the evil and trouble in the world around me—things that are burdening my heart whether or not they are directly mine—and I ache and plead for God to bring in the fullness of his kingdom on earth. I pray for him to end all sin and suffering. I think this is a good and right way to pray these lines. God’s kingdom is the answer to our deepest needs and longings, and God is honored when we recognize this and pray accordingly.
On the other hand, what impressed me this morning is that my world—no, our world—will only be set straight when God is set in first place. And so the Lord’s Prayer is a reminder to me that God’s name must be hallowed, not mine. His kingdom must come, not mine. His will must be done, not mine.
This becomes even more startling when we contrast the requests in the two halves of the prayer. God gets his name exalted to the highest place in the universe; I get bread for my dusty body. God gets the kingdom; I get forgiveness for my many sins. God gets the complete fulfillment of his will; I get rescued from the temptations and evil that would otherwise overwhelm me.
(No, we, not me. There I go again.)
And yet, because this God is our Father, we share in his exaltation! Today I am thankful that Jesus gave us a prayer to set the world in order.
How has the Lord’s Prayer helped you? Share your reflections below. This is our prayer.
- Some manuscripts and versions include the familiar lines “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” While these words may have been added by a later scribe, I often pray them alongside the saints of the past centuries. ↩