And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done…
We have here a ground-plan to fill in, and on whose lines we may build the structure of our petitions every time we pray.
I. Observe, IT IS NOT ONE OF OUR LORD'S OWN PRAYERS THAT IS GIVEN FOR A PATTERN. It is out of the question that we should offer for our daily prayer the very words once used to express the prayers of Christ for Himself. When, therefore, the disciples asked for a pattern of prayer that they might pray just like Christ, the spirit of this the opening sentence in His reply was — "No, your prayers are not to be just like Mine. I pray after that manner. After this manner, pray ye. I pray as the Lord; but when ye pray, say" — and then He gave them these words.
II. You will take notice that this pattern was granted after the petition — Teach us to pray AS JOHN ALSO TAUGHT HIS DISCIPLES. The speaker, and those for whom he was the spokesman, had no doubt, been in the school of John before they had come into that of Jesus. Yet you are ready to wonder how they could have thought of Him just then. They had just overheard that sacred secret, a secret prayer of Jesus. You say each one ought to have felt his whole being tenfold alive and awake in that moment of glory and exaltation, and you think there ought then to have been no room for the memory of anything mortal. Yet that prayer at once reminded them of their old Master, and their first wish was that Jesus would use John's method of teaching them to pray. He must have been a tremendous man to leave an impression on the minds of his scholars that was keen even in the sharpness of such an excitement. There was much imperfection in this petition. The disciples had no right to speak to their Lord in anything like the tone of dictation. While they asked Him to teach them, they told Him how to do it, and indicated the kind of teaching they preferred. But Jesus passed by the fault, recognized the necessity, and was pleased to formulate a prayer for the help of their weakness, and also of our own; for on us also His eye rested as He gave it, and all who are trying after closer fellowship with God, may now feel their way, think their way, and pray their way, through these great words.
III. Take note of the fact that THIS PATTERN WAS GIVEN TWICE. Christ had already given it in the Sermon on the Mount. These suppliants, as if they had never heard of it, asked Him to give what He had already given. How was this? We suppose that besides the disciples who came from John to Jesus at the commencement of his ministry, and the story of whose call is told in the opening of the Fourth Gospel, there were others whose enrolment came later, and that some of these having been with John during the first delivery of the Lord's prayer, made the appeal which led to this, the second delivery. Strange that they should have been content to miss so much! Why did they stay with John after he had pointed out Jesus to be the Saviour? and how could they stop looking at the finger-posts instead of travelling in the road? Perhaps they con. sidereal themselves, so to speak, to be all the time, scholars in Christ's school, though in John's class, and as spiritual infants still needing his elementary lessons. They had come late to school. They had more to learn than their classmates. They had missed the Sermon on the Mount. Their new companions, spiritually dull and slow, had not told them that the Lord had already given a pattern of prayer; they therefore asked for one, and the compassionate Saviour gave them the substance of His former words. This was only like Himself, the Teacher who has infinite patience with our dulness, stoops to us, repeats His lesson, and is for ever saying, "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart."
IV. THIS PATTERN OF PRAYER MUST ALWAYS BE TAKEN IN CONNECTION WITH, AND BE EXPLAINED BY, THE WHOLE OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION. It is a mistake to take this, or any other sectional part of revelation, as if it were the whole — a mistake to treat this as Christ's final disclosure of grace.
V. THE PATTERN IS MEANT FOR THE USE OF ALL THE CHILDREN OF GOD, WHATEVER THEIR DIFFERENCES IN AGE, CAPACITY, OR ATTAINMENT. It fits the child, it fits the man, it fits the father and mother, it fits the youngest saint, and the saint with reverend head.
VI. THIS PATTERN IS INTENDED TO FURNISH CERTAIN RULES AND METHODS OF PRAYER.
1. Petitioners are here taught brevity.
2. They are taught to shun vain repetition. (See Matthew 6:7.)
3. They are taught to pray using these very words. The second announcement of the pattern was prefaced by the phrase, "When ye pray, say," etc. But mark the proviso. The point is that we may only say it when we do pray. Prayer is a distinct thing from the vehicle of prayer. Beautiful as this frame is, it is only a vehicle of praying life, not a substitute for it.
4. It is a social prayer.
5. They are taught to pray after this manner.
VII. IT IS RIGHT TO CALL THIS PATTERN PRAYER THE LORD'S PRAYER. Some would prefer to call it the Rabbi's prayer. Others the Disciples' prayer. We might as well say of the Remembrance Feast, that it is not the Lord's Supper but the Disciples' Supper, for only the disciples are to keep it. As the Lord's Supper is a remembrance feast, this is a remembrance prayer, always to be in our ears, always before our eyes, to show what we should pray for, and how we should pray; until, "at our Father's loved abode our souls arrive in peace."
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.