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9 “Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

10

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

11

Give us this day our daily bread.

12

And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.


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9. After this manner—more simply "Thus."

therefore pray ye—The "ye" is emphatic here, in contrast with the heathen prayers. That this matchless prayer was given not only as a model, but as a form, might be concluded from its very nature. Did it consist only of hints or directions for prayer, it could only be used as a directory; but seeing it is an actual prayer—designed, indeed, to show how much real prayer could be compressed into the fewest words, but still, as a prayer, only the more incomparable for that—it is strange that there should be a doubt whether we ought to pray that very prayer. Surely the words with which it is introduced, in the second utterance and varied form of it which we have in Lu 11:2, ought to set this at rest: "When ye pray, say, Our Father." Nevertheless, since the second form of it varies considerably from the first, and since no example of its actual use, or express quotation of its phraseology, occurs in the sequel of the New Testament, we are to guard against a superstitious use of it. How early this began to appear in the church services, and to what extent it was afterwards carried, is known to every one versed in Church History. Nor has the spirit which bred this abuse quite departed from some branches of the Protestant Church, though the opposite and equally condemnable extreme is to be found in other branches of it.

Model Prayer (Mt 6:9-13). According to the Latin fathers and the Lutheran Church, the petitions of the Lord's Prayer are seven in number; according to the Greek fathers, the Reformed Church and the Westminster divines, they are only six; the two last being regarded—we think, less correctly—as one. The first three petitions have to do exclusively with God: "Thy name be hallowed"—"Thy kingdom come"—"Thy will be done." And they occur in a descending scale—from Himself down to the manifestation of Himself in His kingdom; and from His kingdom to the entire subjection of its subjects, or the complete doing of His will. The remaining four petitions have to do with OURSELVES: "Give us our daily bread"—"Forgive us our debts"—"Lead us not into temptation"—"Deliver us from evil." But these latter petitions occur in an ascending scale—from the bodily wants of every day up to our final deliverance from all evil.

Invocation:

Our Father which art in heaven—In the former clause we express His nearness to us; in the latter, His distance from us. (See Ec 5:2; Isa 66:1). Holy, loving familiarity suggests the one; awful reverence the other. In calling Him "Father" we express a relationship we have all known and felt surrounding us even from our infancy; but in calling Him our Father "who art in heaven," we contrast Him with the fathers we all have here below, and so raise our souls to that "heaven" where He dwells, and that Majesty and Glory which are there as in their proper home. These first words of the Lord's Prayer—this invocation with which it opens—what a brightness and warmth does it throw over the whole prayer, and into what a serene region does it introduce the praying believer, the child of God, as he thus approaches Him! It is true that the paternal relationship of God to His people is by no means strange to the Old Testament. (See De 32:6; Ps 103:13; Isa 63:16; Jer 3:4, 19; Mal 1:6; 2:10). But these are only glimpses—the "back parts" (Ex 33:23), if we may so say, in comparison with the "open face" of our Father revealed in Jesus. (See on 2Co 3:18). Nor is it too much to say, that the view which our Lord gives, throughout this His very first lengthened discourse, of "our Father in heaven," beggars all that was ever taught, even in God's own Word, or conceived before by His saints, on this subject.

First Petition:

Hallowed be—that is, "Be held in reverence"; regarded and treated as holy.

thy name—God's name means "Himself as revealed and manifested." Everywhere in Scripture God defines and marks off the faith and love and reverence and obedience He will have from men by the disclosures which He makes to them of what He is; both to shut out false conceptions of Him, and to make all their devotion take the shape and hue of His own teaching. Too much attention cannot be paid to this.

Second Petition:

10. Thy kingdom come—The kingdom of God is that moral and spiritual kingdom which the God of grace is setting up in this fallen world, whose subjects consist of as many as have been brought into hearty subjection to His gracious scepter, and of which His Son Jesus is the glorious Head. In the inward reality of it, this kingdom existed ever since there were men who "walked with God" (Ge 5:24), and "waited for His salvation" (Ge 49:18); who were "continually with Him, holden by His right hand" (Ps 73:23), and who, even in the valley of the shadow of death, feared no evil when He was with them (Ps 23:4). When Messiah Himself appeared, it was, as a visible kingdom, "at hand." His death laid the deep foundations of it. His ascension on high, "leading captivity captive and receiving gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them," and the Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit, by which those gifts for men descended upon the rebellious, and the Lord God was beheld, in the persons of thousands upon thousands, "dwelling" among men—was a glorious "coming" of this kingdom. But it is still to come, and this petition, "Thy kingdom come," must not cease to ascend so long as one subject of it remains to be brought in. But does not this prayer stretch further forward—to "the glory to be revealed," or that stage of the kingdom called "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2Pe 1:11)? Not directly, perhaps, since the petition that follows this—"Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven"—would then bring us back to this present state of imperfection. Still, the mind refuses to be so bounded by stages and degrees, and in the act of praying, "Thy kingdom come," it irresistibly stretches the wings of its faith, and longing, and joyous expectation out to the final and glorious consummation of the kingdom of God.

Third Petition:

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven—or, as the same words are rendered in Luke, "as in heaven, so upon earth" (Lu 11:2)—as cheerfully, as constantly, as perfectly. But some will ask, Will this ever be? We answer, If the "new heavens and new earth" are to be just our present material system purified by fire and transfigured, of course it will. But we incline to think that the aspiration which we are taught in this beautiful petition to breathe forth has no direct reference to any such organic fulfilment, and is only the spontaneous and resistless longing of the renewed soul—put into words—to see the whole inhabited earth in entire conformity to the will of God. It asks not if ever it shall be—or if ever it can be—in order to pray this prayer. It must have its holy yearnings breathed forth, and this is just the bold yet simple expression of them. Nor is the Old Testament without prayers which come very near to this (Ps 7:9; 67:1-7; 72:19, &c.).

Fourth Petition:

11. Give us this day our daily bread—The compound word here rendered "daily" occurs nowhere else, either in classical or sacred Greek, and so must be interpreted by the analogy of its component parts. But on this critics are divided. To those who would understand it to mean, "Give us this day the bread of to-morrow"—as if the sense thus slid into that of Luke "Give us day by day" (Lu 11:2, (as Bengel, Meyer, &c.) it may be answered that the sense thus brought out is scarcely intelligible, if not something less; that the expression "bread of to-morrow" is not at all the same as bread "from day to day," and that, so understood, it would seem to contradict Mt 6:34. The great majority of the best critics (taking the word to be compounded of ousia, "substance," or "being") understand by it the "staff of life," the bread of subsistence, and so the sense will be, "Give us this day the bread which this day's necessities require." In this case, the rendering of our authorized version (after the Vulgate, Luther and some of the best modern critics)—"our daily bread"—is, in sense, accurate enough. (See Pr 30:8). Among commentators, there was early shown an inclination to understand this as a prayer for the heavenly bread, or spiritual nourishment; and in this they have been followed by many superior expositors, even down to our own times. But as this is quite unnatural, so it deprives the Christian of one of the sweetest of his privileges—to cast his bodily wants in this short prayer, by one simple petition, upon his heavenly Father. No doubt the spiritual mind will, from "the meat that perisheth," naturally rise in thought to "that meat which endureth to everlasting life." But let it be enough that the petition about bodily wants irresistibly suggests a higher petition; and let us not rob ourselves—out of a morbid spirituality—of our one petition in this prayer for that bodily provision which the immediate sequel of this discourse shows that our heavenly Father has so much at heart. In limiting our petitions, however, to provision for the day, what a spirit of childlike dependence does the Lord both demand and beget!

Fifth Petition:

12. And forgive us our debts—A vitally important view of sin, this—as an offense against God demanding reparation to His dishonored claims upon our absolute subjection. As the debtor in the creditor's hand, so is the sinner in the hands of God. This idea of sin had indeed come up before in this discourse—in the warning to agree with our adversary quickly, in case of sentence being passed upon us, adjudging us to payment of the last farthing, and to imprisonment till then (Mt 5:25, 26). And it comes up once and again in our Lord's subsequent teaching—as in the parable of the creditor and his two debtors (Lu 7:41, 42, &c.), and in the parable of the unmerciful debtor (Mt 18:23, &c.). But by embodying it in this brief model of acceptable prayer, and as the first of three petitions more or less bearing upon sin, our Lord teaches us, in the most emphatic manner conceivable, to regard this view of sin as the primary and fundamental one. Answering to this is the "forgiveness" which it directs us to seek—not the removal from our own hearts of the stain of sin, nor yet the removal of our just dread of God's anger, or of unworthy suspicions of His love, which is all that some tell us we have to care about—but the removal from God's own mind of His displeasure against us on account of sin, or, to retain the figure, the wiping or crossing out from His "book of remembrance" of all entries against us on this account.

as we forgive our debtors—the same view of sin as before; only now transferred to the region of offenses given and received between man and man. After what has been said on Mt 5:7, it will not be thought that our Lord here teaches that our exercise of forgiveness towards our offending fellow men absolutely precedes and is the proper ground of God's forgiveness of us. His whole teaching, indeed—as of all Scripture—is the reverse of this. But as no one can reasonably imagine himself to be the object of divine forgiveness who is deliberately and habitually unforgiving towards his fellow men, so it is a beautiful provision to make our right to ask and expect daily forgiveness of our daily shortcomings and our final absolution and acquittal at the great day of admission into the kingdom, dependent upon our consciousness of a forgiving disposition towards our fellows, and our preparedness to protest before the Searcher of hearts that we do actually forgive them. (See Mr 11:25, 26). God sees His own image reflected in His forgiving children; but to ask God for what we ourselves refuse to men, is to insult Him. So much stress does our Lord put upon this, that immediately after the close of this prayer, it is the one point in it which He comes back upon (Mt 6:14, 15), for the purpose of solemnly assuring us that the divine procedure in this matter of forgiveness will be exactly what our own is.




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