The Lord’s Prayer—Its Meaning for You
THE Lord’s Prayer, as given by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, is found in the Bible at Matthew chapter 6, verses 9 through 13. Just before giving this prayer, Jesus said: “When praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do, for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words.”—Matthew 6:7.
Clearly, then, Jesus did not intend that the Lord’s Prayer be recited word for word. True, he later repeated this prayer for the benefit of another audience. (Luke 11:2-4) But the wording of the prayer differs somewhat in the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke. Moreover, later prayers by Jesus and his disciples did not rigidly adhere to the specific words of his model prayer.
Why is the Lord’s Prayer recorded in the Bible? Through this model, Jesus teaches us how our prayers can be acceptable to God. In this prayer, we also find answers to some of life’s basic questions. Let us therefore consider each part of the Lord’s Prayer.
What Is God’s Name?
“Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” (Matthew 6:9) These opening words of the model prayer help us to draw close to God by addressing him as “our Father.” Like a child, who is naturally drawn to a loving and understanding parent, we can approach our heavenly Father confident that he wants to hear us. “O Hearer of prayer,” sang King David, “even to you people of all flesh will come.”—Psalm 65:2.
Jesus instructs us to pray for God’s name to be sanctified, or set apart as holy. But what is God’s name? The Bible answers in these words: “You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18) Have you ever read the name Jehovah in the Bible?
Actually, God’s name, Jehovah, appears nearly 7,000 times in ancient Bible manuscripts. However, some translators have gone so far as to remove this name from their versions of the Bible. Rightly, therefore, we pray for our Creator to sanctify his name, or make it holy. (Ezekiel 36:23) One way to act in harmony with such a prayer is to use the name Jehovah when we pray to God.
A woman named Patricia was raised a Catholic and was quite familiar with the Lord’s Prayer. How did she react when one of Jehovah’s Witnesses showed her God’s name in the Bible? “I couldn’t believe it!” she exclaimed. “So I got my own translation of the Bible, and it was also in there. Then the Witness showed me Matthew 6:9, 10 and explained that God’s name is tied in with the Lord’s Prayer. I was really excited and asked her to study the Bible with me.”
God’s Will to Take Place on Earth
“Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) How will this part of Jesus’ model prayer be fulfilled? Most people imagine heaven as a realm of peace and tranquillity. The Scriptures refer to heaven as Jehovah’s “lofty abode of holiness and beauty.” (Isaiah 63:15) No wonder we pray that God’s will take place upon earth “as in heaven”! But will this ever happen?
Jehovah’s prophet Daniel foretold: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these [earthly] kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Daniel 2:44) This heavenly Kingdom, or government, will soon take action to bring about global peace under righteous rule.—2 Peter 3:13.
Praying for God’s Kingdom to come and for his will to be done on earth is an expression of faith that will not lead to disappointment. The Christian apostle John wrote: “I heard a loud voice from the throne say: ‘Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. 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.’” Then John added: “And the One seated on the throne said: . . . ‘Write, because these words are faithful and true.’”—Revelation 21:3-5.
Prayer and Our Physical Needs
By what he said in the model prayer, Jesus showed that our primary concern when praying should be related to God’s name and will. Yet, the model prayer continues with personal requests that are properly addressed to Jehovah.
The first of these is: “Give us today our bread for this day.” (Matthew 6:11) This is not a request for material wealth. Jesus encouraged us to pray for “our bread for the day according to the day’s requirement.” (Luke 11:3) In harmony with the Lord’s Prayer, we can pray in faith that God will provide for our daily needs if we love and obey him.
Undue anxiety over economic problems could cause us to neglect our spiritual need and thus fail to do what God expects of us. But if we put the worship of God first in life, we can be sure that our petitions for material needs, such as food and clothing, will be favorably heard. Jesus said: “Keep on . . . seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:26-33) Seeking God’s righteousness is a challenge, since all of us are sinful and in need of forgiveness. (Romans 5:12) The Lord’s Prayer addresses that matter too.
Our Prayers and Forgiveness
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) In Luke’s record of the Lord’s Prayer, these “debts” are referred to as “sins.” (Luke 11:4) Will Jehovah God really forgive our sins?
Although King David of ancient Israel had committed serious sins, he was repentant and confidently prayed: “You, O Jehovah, are good and ready to forgive; and the loving-kindness to all those calling upon you is abundant.” (Psalm 86:5) What a comforting thought! Our heavenly Father is “ready to forgive” the sins of those who repentantly call upon him. Just as surely as a debt can be fully canceled, so Jehovah God can forgive our sins completely.
However, Jesus mentioned a condition: To be forgiven by God, we must forgive others. (Matthew 6:14, 15) Although the righteous man Job was mistreated by three companions, he was forgiving and even prayed for them. (Job 42:10) If we forgive those who sin against us, we will please God and be in a position to benefit from his mercy.
God’s willingness to hear our petitions should move us to seek his approval. And we can do so even though we are imperfect. (Matthew 26:41) Here, too, Jehovah can help us, just as Jesus showed by concluding the model prayer with a vital request.
Help to Pursue a Righteous Course
“Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.” (Matthew 6:13) Jehovah does not abandon us to temptation or cause us to fall into sin. His Word states: “With evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) God does allow us to be tempted, but he can deliver us from the Great Tempter—“the wicked one” known as Satan the Devil.
The apostle Peter urged fellow Christians: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” (1 Peter 5:8) Why, Satan even tempted the perfect man Jesus Christ! What was the Devil’s goal? To draw Jesus away from the pure worship of Jehovah God. (Matthew 4:1-11) If you are seeking to serve God, Satan’s goal is to devour you too!
Through the world that is under his control, the Devil may tempt us to engage in practices disapproved by God. (1 John 5:19) So it is vital that we regularly turn to God for help, especially when we are facing a persistent temptation. And if we worship Jehovah according to his inspired Word, the Bible, he will deliver us by helping us to resist the Devil. “God is faithful,” the Bible tells us, “and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”—1 Corinthians 10:13.
Faith in God Essential
How heartwarming it is to know that our heavenly Father is interested in each one of us! He even had his Son, Jesus Christ, teach us how to pray. Surely this makes us want to please Jehovah God. How can we do so?
The Bible states: “Without faith it is impossible to please [God] well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) How can such faith be acquired? “Faith follows the thing heard,” says the Bible. (Romans 10:17) Jehovah’s Witnesses are delighted to talk about Scriptural matters with all who yearn to serve God in true faith.
It is hoped that this discussion of the Lord’s Prayer has deepened your appreciation for its meaning. By taking in further knowledge of Jehovah and his rewards for “those earnestly seeking him,” you can strengthen your faith in God. May you learn more about him and his purposes so that you can enjoy a close relationship with your heavenly Father forever.—John 17:3.
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“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
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Jehovah provides for the needs of those who love him
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God also helps us to resist the Devil
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If we, like Job, forgive those who sin against us, we can benefit from God’s mercy