After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name.
This is the model prayer. It is not simply one form of prayer intended to supersede all others, or to take its place among prayers of a different character. It is the type and pattern of all prayer. "After this manner therefore pray ye." Let us note its leading characteristics.
I. IN FORM IT IS BRIEF, CLEAR, AND SIMPLE. This is offered in contrast to the vain repetitions of the heathen. It is not the length of a prayer, but the reality of it, that finds acceptance with God. He does not need to be urged with piteous entreaties, the frantic shrieks, leaping, and gashing with knives that the dervishes of Baal resorted to. He is close at hand; he is always ready to hear; he knows what we need. Some prayers are sermons preached to God. We have neither to inform God as though he were ignorant, nor to persuade him as though he were reluctant to help. We have simply to make him the confidant of our hearts' desires.
II. IT IS ADDRESSED TO THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD. The "Pater noster" has its key-note struck in its two opening words.
1. God's fatherly nature. The character of our prayer depends on our conception of God. Christ delighted to set before us the picture of God as our Father. Here is the basis of faith. All confidence is justified by this great face.
2. Our relation to God. He is not merely the "All-Father." He is "our Father;" this personal appropriation of God is necessary for the most real prayer.
III. IT HONORS THE HOLINESS OF GOD. God loathes adulation, but he accepts adoration. High-sounding titles and elaborate ascriptions of praise mar the simplicity of genuine worship. It is enough to address God as "our Father." Still we must remember that he is in heaven. The familiarity of love must not forget the reverence due to holiness. The essence of prayer is worship.
IV. IT SEEKS THE GLORY OF GOD. Thoughts of God come first - that his Name may be treated with reverence; that his kingdom may come, his will be done. Many prayers are too narrow, selfish, and worldly. The model prayer fills our minds and hearts with large thoughts of God and his kingdom. If we have the Christian spirit in us, these thoughts will lie very near to our hearts; if that spirit is developed and enlarged, they will be predominant, so that we shall more eagerly wish for the coming of the kingdom and the doing of God's will than for the satisfaction of our personal desires. But, alas! few of us have reached that standard.
V. IT TRUSTS GOD'S DALLY CARE. Now we come down to the personal prayer. It begins with a most simple, universal want - daily bread.
1. Bodily food. This comes from God, who makes the corn grow, and finds us the providential means of a livelihood. Christ recognizes the need of common earthly things; God supplies them.
2. Necessaries. Merely "bread."
3. The moment's need. "Daily" bread. We can leave the morrow.
VI. IT CONFESSES SIN AND ASKS FORGIVENESS. This is of universal application. The saint must confess sin as well as the sinner. This is of daily necessity. We sin daily. But this recognizes God's forgiving grace - to cover all sin. Yet it is conditioned by our forgiving spirit.
VII. IT CRAVES DELIVERANCE FROM EVIL. If possible we would be spared temptation. If we must be tempted, we pray to be saved from the power of the evil one. Our Father is our great Deliverer. in view of darkest dangers we cry for his raving help. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.