“Lord, Teach Us How to Pray”
“A certain one of his disciples said to him: ‘Lord, teach us how to pray.’”
1. Why did one of Jesus’ disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray?
ON ONE occasion in 32 C.E., a disciple of Jesus observed Him praying. He could not hear what Jesus was saying to his Father, for it was probably a silent prayer. Nevertheless, when Jesus finished, the disciple said to him: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” (Luke 11:1) What prompted this request? Prayer was a regular part of Jewish life and worship. The Hebrew Scriptures contain numerous prayers in the book of Psalms and elsewhere. So the disciple was not asking to be taught something that he knew nothing about or that he had never done. Doubtless, he was familiar with the formalistic prayers of the religious leaders of Judaism. But now he had observed Jesus praying, and he likely sensed that there was a big difference between the sanctimonious prayers of the rabbis and the way Jesus prayed.
2. (a) What indicates that Jesus did not mean for us to repeat the model prayer word for word? (b) Why are we interested in knowing how to pray?
2 Some 18 months earlier, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had provided his disciples with a model upon which to base their prayers. (Matthew 6:9-13) Possibly this particular disciple was not present at that time, so Jesus kindly repeated the essential points of that model prayer. Noticeable is the fact that he did not repeat it word for word, indicating that he was not giving a liturgical prayer to be recited by rote. (Luke 11:1-4) Like that unnamed disciple, we too want to be taught how to pray so that our prayers will draw us closer to Jehovah. Let us therefore examine the fuller version of the model prayer, as recorded by the apostle Matthew. It consists of seven requests, of which three concern God’s purposes and four concern our material and spiritual needs. In this article, we will consider the first three petitions.
A Loving Father
3, 4. What is implied by our addressing Jehovah as “our Father”?
3 From the outset, Jesus showed that our prayers should reflect an intimate yet respectful relationship with Jehovah. Speaking principally for the benefit of his disciples who had gathered close to him on that mountainside, Jesus told them to address Jehovah as “our Father in the heavens.” (Matthew 6:9) According to one scholar, whether Jesus spoke in a popular form of Hebrew or in Aramaic, the term he used for “Father” is akin to the intimate expressions of an infant, ‘a child’s word.’ Addressing Jehovah as “our Father” denotes a warm, trusting relationship.
4 By saying “our Father,” we also acknowledge that we are part of a large family of men and women who recognize Jehovah as the Life-Giver. (Isaiah 64:8; Acts 17:24, 28) Spirit-begotten Christians are adopted as “God’s sons,” and to him they can “cry out: ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:14, 15) Millions have become their loyal companions. These have dedicated their lives to Jehovah and symbolized their dedication by water baptism. All these “other sheep” can also approach Jehovah in the name of Jesus and call Him “our Father.” (John 10:16; 14:6) We can regularly go to our heavenly Father in prayer to praise him, to thank him for all his expressions of goodness toward us, and to take our burdens to him, confident that he cares for us.
Love for Jehovah’s Name
5. What is the opening petition of the model prayer, and why is this appropriate?
5 The opening petition immediately puts first things first. It states: “Let your name be sanctified.” (Matthew 6:9) Yes, the sanctification of Jehovah’s name should be of primary concern to us because we love him and hate to see all the reproach that has been heaped upon his name. Satan’s rebellion and his inducing the first human couple to disobey Jehovah God slandered His name by calling into question the way God was exercising his universal sovereignty. (Genesis 3:1-6) Furthermore, through the centuries, Jehovah’s name has been reproached by the shameful acts and teachings of those claiming to represent him.
6. What will we not do if we pray for Jehovah’s name to be sanctified?
6 Our prayer for the sanctification of Jehovah’s name shows where we stand on the issue of universal sovereignty
The Kingdom for Which We Pray
7, 8. (a) What is the Kingdom for which Jesus taught us to pray? (b) What do we learn about this Kingdom in the books of Daniel and Revelation?
7 The second petition in the model prayer is: “Let your kingdom come.” (Matthew 6:10) This request is closely related to the preceding one. Jehovah’s instrument for sanctifying his holy name is the Messianic Kingdom, his heavenly government, of which his Son, Jesus Christ, is the duly appointed King. (Psalm 2:1-9) The prophecy of Daniel depicts the Messianic Kingdom as “a stone” cut out of a “mountain.” (Daniel 2:34, 35, 44, 45) The mountain represents Jehovah’s universal sovereignty, so the Kingdom stone is a new expression of Jehovah’s universal rulership. In the prophecy, the stone, in turn, ‘becomes a large mountain and fills the whole earth,’ indicating that the Messianic Kingdom will represent divine sovereignty in ruling the earth.
8 Associated with Christ in this Kingdom government are 144,000 others, “bought from among mankind” to rule with him as kings and priests. (Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:1-4; 20:6) Daniel refers to these as “the holy ones of the Supreme One,” who, together with Christ their Head, receive “the kingdom and the rulership and the grandeur of the kingdoms under all the heavens . . . Their kingdom is an indefinitely lasting kingdom, and all the rulerships will serve and obey even them.” (Daniel 7:13, 14, 18, 27) Such is the heavenly government for which Christ taught his followers to pray.
Why Still Pray for the Kingdom to Come?
9. Why is it appropriate for us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come?
9 In his model prayer, Christ taught us to pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom. The fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that the Messianic Kingdom was established in heaven in 1914.* Is it, therefore, still appropriate for us to pray for that Kingdom to “come”? Certainly. For in Daniel’s prophecy, the Messianic Kingdom, symbolized by a stone, is on a collision course with human political governments, symbolized by an immense image. The stone will yet come against that image, striking it a blow that will reduce it to powder. Daniel’s prophecy says: “The kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”
10. Why do we long for the coming of God’s Kingdom?
10 We long to see God’s Kingdom come against Satan’s wicked system of things because this will mean the sanctification of Jehovah’s holy name and the removal of all opposers of divine sovereignty. We fervently pray: “Let your kingdom come,” and with the apostle John, we say: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20) Yes, may Jesus come to sanctify Jehovah’s name and vindicate His sovereignty, so that the psalmist’s words may come true: “That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”
“Let Your Will Take Place”
11, 12. (a) What are we asking for when we pray for God’s will to “take place, as in heaven, also upon earth”? (b) What else is signified by our prayer for Jehovah’s will to be done?
11 Jesus next taught his disciples to pray: “Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) The universe came into existence because of Jehovah’s will. Powerful heavenly creatures cry out: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) Jehovah has a purpose for “the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” (Ephesians 1:8-10) By praying that God’s will take place, we are, in fact, asking Jehovah to carry out his purpose. Furthermore, we thus show that we long to see the divine will done throughout the universe.
12 By this prayer we also manifest our willingness to conform our lives to Jehovah’s will. Jesus stated: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) Like Jesus, as dedicated Christians, we take delight in doing God’s will. Our love for Jehovah and for his Son moves us to live our lives “no more for the desires of men, but for God’s will.” (1 Peter 4:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15) We strive to avoid doing things that we know are contrary to Jehovah’s will. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5) By buying out time for Bible reading and study, we “go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is,” which includes our having an active share in preaching “this good news of the kingdom.”
Jehovah’s Will in Heaven
13. How was God’s will being done long before Satan’s rebellion took place?
13 Jehovah’s will was being accomplished in the heavens long before one of his spirit sons rebelled and became Satan. The book of Proverbs portrays God’s firstborn Son as wisdom personified. It shows that over untold aeons of time, God’s only-begotten Son was “glad before him all the time,” happy to do his Father’s will. Eventually, he became Jehovah’s “master worker” in the creation of all things “in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible.” (Proverbs 8:22-31; Colossians 1:15-17) Jehovah used Jesus as his Word, or Spokesman.
14. What can we learn from Psalm 103 about how the angels accomplish Jehovah’s will in the heavens?
14 The psalmist shows that Jehovah’s sovereignty is above all and that the angelic hosts listen to his words of instruction and to his commands. We read: “Jehovah himself has firmly established his throne in the very heavens; and over everything his own kingship has held domination. Bless Jehovah, O you angels of his, mighty in power, carrying out his word, by listening to the voice of his word. Bless Jehovah, all you armies of his, you ministers of his, doing his will. Bless Jehovah, all you his works, in all places of his domination [or, “sovereignty,” footnote].”
15. How did Jesus’ receiving Kingdom power affect the doing of God’s will in heaven?
15 After his rebellion, Satan still had access to the heavenly courts, as indicated in the book of Job. (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7) However, the book of Revelation prophesied that the time would come when Satan and his demons would be evicted from heaven. That time apparently came shortly after Jesus Christ received Kingdom power in 1914. Since then, no longer is there any place for those rebels in heaven. They are confined to the vicinity of the earth. (Revelation 12:7-12) No voice of dispute is to be heard anymore in heaven, only voices joined in acclaim to “the Lamb,” Christ Jesus, and in submissive praise to Jehovah. (Revelation 4:9-11) Jehovah’s will is indeed being accomplished in heaven.
Jehovah’s Will for the Earth
16. How does the model prayer disprove Christendom’s teaching concerning mankind’s hope?
16 The churches of Christendom exclude the earth from God’s purposes, claiming that all good people go to heaven. But Jesus taught us to pray: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) Can it be said, by any stretch of the imagination, that overall Jehovah’s will is being accomplished today on an earth plagued by violence, injustice, sickness, and death? By no means! We should therefore earnestly pray for God’s will to be done on earth, in line with the promise recorded by the apostle Peter: “There are new heavens [the Messianic Kingdom government by Christ] and a new earth [a righteous human society] that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.”
17. What is Jehovah’s purpose for the earth?
17 Jehovah had a purpose in creating the earth. He inspired the prophet Isaiah to write: “This is what Jehovah has said, the Creator of the heavens, He the true God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited: ‘I am Jehovah, and there is no one else.’” (Isaiah 45:18) God placed the first human couple in a paradise garden and instructed them: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:15) Quite clearly, the Creator’s purpose is that the earth be inhabited by a perfect race of righteous humans who happily submit to Jehovah’s sovereignty and live forever in the Paradise promised by Christ.
18, 19. (a) What must be done before God’s will fully takes place on the earth? (b) What other aspects of Jesus’ model prayer will be examined in the following article?
18 Jehovah’s will regarding the earth can never be fully accomplished while the earth is peopled with men and women who defy his sovereignty. Using mighty spirit forces under Christ’s leadership, God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” Satan’s entire wicked system of things, with its false religion, corrupt politics, greedy and dishonest commerce, and destructive military, will be wiped out forever. (Revelation 11:18; 18:21; 19:1, 2, 11-18) Jehovah’s sovereignty will be vindicated and his name sanctified. All this we pray for when we say: “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.”
19 In his model prayer, however, Jesus showed that we can pray about personal matters too. These aspects of his instruction on prayer will be examined in the following article.
See chapter 6 of the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
By Way of Review
• Why is it appropriate for us to address Jehovah as “our Father”?
• Why is it of primary importance for us to pray for the sanctification of Jehovah’s name?
• Why do we pray for God’s Kingdom to come?
• What is implied when we pray for God’s will to take place on earth as in heaven?
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Jesus’ prayers differed greatly from the sanctimonious prayers of the Pharisees
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Christians pray for God’s Kingdom to come, his name to be sanctified, and his will to be done