Q & A 100-107 The Lord’s Prayer.
Q. 100 What does the preface of the Lord’s prayer teach us?
A. 100 The preface of the Lord’s prayer (which is, ‘Our Father in heaven’), teaches us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.
The catechism may call these words a ‘preface’, but the fact is that the Lord included this in his answer to the disciples, showing that there is more to prayer than just ‘petitions’ (Mt. 6:9a; Lk. 11:2a). In fact, what we have here is the immanence and transcendence of God, reflective of the first two commandments (Mt. 6:9). Our Father, places us in an exclusive covenant relationship with the biblical God alone. This is the very lead in and basis of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1), and thus we are praying, in effect, that we would keep the first commandment (Ex. 20:2-3; Dt. 5:6-7).
We then read ‘in heaven’, so that here we see our repudiation of idolatry, which is the making of elements of the created order a god (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10). Instead we pray to the God who is qualitatively, ontologically separate from that which he has created (Is. 40:18).
Prayer that the LORD receives is prayer from those who are in this personal covenant relationship with the Biblical God alone, through the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of sin, only those adopted by His grace are in such a position to refer to this God as ‘our Father’, through the work of the Spirit (Rom. 8:15; Eph. 6:18). Through the Spirit, and in Christ, we have this confidence, that as our Father he will hear us and grant unto us all good things (Ps. 145:19; Mt. 7:11; Eph. 3:12, 20).
Q. 101 What do we pray for in the first petition?
A. 101 In the first petition (which is ‘Hallowed be Your name’), we pray that God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he makes himself known; and that he would dispose all things to his own glory.
This clearly is a prayer that we do not take the name of the LORD our God in vain – the third commandment (Mt. 6:9b; Lk. 11:2b; Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). The very same passages referred to concerning this commandment, can certainly be referred to here. God’s name refers to his entire character, ad is reflective of it. All nations, indeed as God’s creatures, have this obligation to honour the Creator (Ps. 67:1-3; Rom. 11:36).
“In the Bible, then, a name is more than a mere label. It is a true description. It reveals something to us concerning the person to whom it is given. Thus the Catechism speaks of “that whereby [God] maketh himself known” as equivalent to His name! When the Psalmist says, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1), he means that these things that God has made are a true revelation of Him. God makes himself known to us through them. Of Him, says the Bible, “the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:15). This is the reason why God has many names in the Bible.” (Williamson 328)
It was Jesus’ prayer that the Father would glorify His name, to which the Father replied, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again” (Jn. 12:28). Clearly, “God cannot deny himself (II Tim. 2:13). How much more ought we to pray and seek the same? This was ultimately Moses’ concern (Ex. 32:11-13), and Abraham (Gen. 18:23-32). As it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord’” (I Cor. 1:31-31; Jer. 9:23-24).
Q. 102 What do we pray for in the second petition?
A. 102 In the second petition (which is ‘Your kingdom come’), we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed, and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it, and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.
First of all, it is again important to see this petition in relationship to the fourth commandment (Mt. 6:10a; Lk. 11:2c; Ex. 20:8-10; Dt. 5:12-14). When God created the heavens and the earth he was engaged in kingdom work, and when he created humanity, he created those who would bear the image of his reign. Likewise, when we rest on the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day, we rest from our kingdom work, which we do in his strength, and for his glory, in all of life. This kingdom work, which is now the kingdom given to the Messiah, we all shall ultimately rest from, when Jesus defeats the last enemy death, and transfers his kingdom back to the Father (I Cor. 15:20-28 Cf. Ps. 2).
Secondly, this kingdom was given to the Son when he ascended to sit on the heavenly throne, at the right hand of the Father, and he has ever since been bringing his enemies to subjection under his feet. Those that hate him will be forced to flee (Ps. 68:1). Instead kings and nations will be made to serve him (Ps. 72:11). As it states at Psalm 110, he reigns as the Priest-King, therefore this reign is extended through the Great Commission, the preaching of the gospel, and the doing of all he has commanded in all areas of life (Mt. 28:18-20).
The corollary to the building and expansion of his kingdom, is that Satan’s is more and more being destroyed. Jesus said that he saw Satan fall from heaven, at the very time he gave authority to the seventy to carry forward the message of the gospel, accompanied by signs and wonders of the Spirit’s power (Lk. 10:18-20). Likewise Paul, hearkening back to the first gospel promise of Genesis 3:15, told the readers of the letter to the Romans that “the God of peace will crush Satan under Your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:19). Even so, we must continue to pray that the word of the Lord would continue to be glorified to this end (II Th. 3:1).
This kingdom will ultimately come (Cf. Dan. 4:35), and so we pray accordingly. This kingdom certainly starts within each of us (Lk. 17:20-21), but it does not remain a private matter. If it is truly within us, it will show in how we pray and work. It is a kingdom in opposition to that of the evil one (Jn. 18:36), and “the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). It has its beginning with the seed of the gospel message – “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1;16).
“This means, as the Catechism says, that people have to be brought out of Satan’s kingdom, and brought into Christ’s. They must also be kept in Christ’s kingdom. There must be more and more complete separation from everything that is Satanic. But the greater danger is that Satan seeks to deceive us. And this he does when we forget that Christ’s kingdom is radically opposed to his at every point. We have an example of this deception in the sphere of education. For many years Christian people have imagined that there could be a neutral system of education. But Satan is not neutral, and neither are his servants. Thus we have seen one restriction after another placed upon Christians in what was supposed to be a neutral system of education. Christians should have realized that this would not work. They should have been the ones who pressed the antithesis, by demanding an education for their children that is only and entirely Christian. This is what we mean when we pray this petition: we are praying for war – conflict – and victory, a world in which everything will be wholly on God’s side.” (Williamson 334)
Furthermore, Christ’s kingdom is further advanced, not with the physical weapons of warfare, but in the battle of ideas. “The kingdom of Christ is also antithetical in method. For, as Paul once wrote, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (II Cor. 10:4-5).
“Often it seems that this is not the case. Christ’s cause so often appears weak in the world. Yet how clearly the Bible speaks of the victory that Christ has already won (1 Jn. 5:4; 1 Cor. 15:54-55). God has promised Christ “the uttermost parts of the earth for [his] possession” (Ps. 2:8). “He shall not fail nor be discouraged,” says the prophet, “till he had set judgment in the earth” (Is. 42:4).” (Williamson 334-335) “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15)
Q. 103 What do we pray for in the third petition?
A. 103 In the third petition (which is ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven), we pray that God by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to his will in all things, as the angels do in heaven.
It is largely recognized that in the fifth commandment, to honour one’s parents, one is also honouring all those who occupy positions of leadership on the earth, whether civil or ecclesiastical (Mt. 6:10b; Lk. 11:2d; Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16). Keeping this commandment has attached to it a promise, that one will enjoy peace and prosperity in the earth. It is certainly important that we as individuals live according to God’s will on earth, but to do so as it is done in heaven, means that his will is done from top to bottom in every sphere of life, and this requires that leaders also do his will, and lead in this goal.
God’s will is done because those who he has regenerated he also continues to empower to do his will (Rom. 12:1-2; Phil. 2:13). He opens our eyes to see “wondrous things” out of his law (Ps. 119:18). Jesus set an example for us when he prayed to the Father “Your will be done” (Mt. 26:42). In this sense, it also means accepting the Lord’s acts of providence (Cf. Job 1:21; 2:9-10). However, in this regard we must be careful – we do not always understand providence, but we do know the clear commands of scripture (Acts 21:14). Joseph is a clear example of this (Gen. 39:10-12).
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children, that we may do all the words of this law” (Dt. 29:29 Cf. Is. 8:20). To do his will as it is done in heaven means that we, like the angels, ought to “do his word, heeding the voice of his word” (Ps. 103:20). This is what individuals and leaders of state and church will also be judged by. Doing the Father’s will is evidence that we are destined for heavenly rest (Mt. 7:21).
“Thus we have seen that the second petition is a means to the fulfillment of the first. Here we further note that (the most important part of God’s kingdom lies in His will being done” (Calvin). So the third petition is a means to the fulfillment of the second.” (Williamson 338).
Q. 104 What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
A. 104 In the fourth petition (which is ‘Give us this day our daily bread’), we pray that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.
Bread is regarded as the staple of life, often used, as here in this command, to signify life itself. Therefore, when we pray this, we are praying that the Lord would continue to sustain our lives that we might do his will and thus glorify him as his image bearers in the earth (Cf. Ps. 90:17). This is the positive side of the sixth commandment, that we not only refrain from murder, but that we do everything in our power to preserve our lives, and that of our neighbours (Mt. 6:11; Lk. 11:3; Ex. 20:13; Dt. 5:17). We are to pray that we suffer neither from poverty nor riches, for it is a daily petition (Pr. 30:8). All people are directly dependent on God for the necessities of life, and all else besides.
“The idea that some departments of life are important to God, and directly related to God (and so, spiritual), while other departments are unimportant to God, and not directly related to Him (and so, unspiritual) is contrary to the Bible. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,” says Paul, “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). We are to live the whole of life as unto the Lord. And we are to understand that our daily bread (that is, even the food we eat each day) is a matter of deep religious importance.” (Williamson 345)
If we seek first the kingdom of God/heaven, as we are to pray in this model or pattern of prayer, we are promised the necessities of life (Mt. 6:33). In this petition, being a daily request, is highlighted how we ought to be content with our daily provisions (I Tim. 6:8). “When we learn to humble ourselves as we ought, and to ask God for even the lowliest and most common things that we need as undeserved gifts, we will begin to learn how to be thankful and content.” (Williamson 347)
“Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor – this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.” (Eccl. 5:18-20)
Q. 105 What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A. 105 In the fifth petition (which is ‘And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’), we pray that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.
The words translated as ‘debts’ and ‘debtors’ here, is not a common one employed in scripture. Some translations use the word ‘sins’ and ‘sinned’, but there is something unique about these words. ‘Ophellema’ ‘debts’ refers explicitly to “something owed” (Strong’s). ‘Debtors’ ‘ophelleo’ are those who are under obligation for that which is owed. Paul stated that we are not debtors to the flesh (Rom. 8:12), but he did owe a debt to both Jews and Greeks, to preach the gospel, even as the Gentiles were debtors, in material things, to the Jewish saints in Jerusalem, since they had received so many spiritual benefits from them (Rom. 15:27). Matthew also reinforces this understanding of a debt owed at 18:30-32. This is more than sin or sins in general. These are debts owed.
Is this related to the seventh commandment (Mt. 6:12; Lk. 11:4; Ex. 20:14; Dt. 5:18)? Paul made the point that sexual sin is unique in that it is a sin against one’s own body. All other sins are external to the body. “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (I Cor. 6:18). The prohibition against adultery is unique among the commandments for this reason. All who commit sexual sins, represented here by adultery, sin in being debtors to these particular sins of the flesh. For this reason, we are to petition the Lord that we be forgiven this debt we have committed, and also forgive those who fail to honour this debt to us.
Matthew 6:14-15, on the other hand, uses the word which the NKJV and KJV translate as ‘trespasses’. ‘Paraptoma’ can refer to an unintentional side-slip or error, but can also mean a willful transgression or offence. The petition of Matthew 6:12 is a deliberate act in thought and deed. We all have a debt to protect that which we owe to ourselves and our own, and also that of our neighbours. To this end we also have an obligation to seek forgiveness for a failure in this regard, and to be ready also to forgive others of this failure.
Paul also made the argument in Galatians that, “to every man who becomes circumcised that he is debtor to keep the whole law” (5:3). He stated the same principle at Romans 4:4. A point which James also made (2:10). Therefore, this petition also speaks to our need to be forgiven of the failure to keep our debt to the whole of the law, and to extend this to others who fail to fulfill the whole of the law toward us. Luke reinforces this idea with his use of the more common word for sin, hamartia (11:4) as offences (Strong’s). “For we know only too well that we can only learn to forgive because we ourselves are forgiven (1 John 4:19; Luke 7:47). And we know that nothing that we ever do is perfect enough to be an adequate standard for what God does (1 John 1:8). In our Lord’s parable of the unforgiving servant we learn the correct interpretation of this second part of this petition (Matt. 18:23-35).” (Williamson 353-354)
Q. 106 What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
A. 106 In the sixth petition (which is ‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil), we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.
In this sixth petition (Mt. 6:13a; Lk. 11:4b), we see a desire to fulfill the eighth commandment – “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15; Dt. 5:19). This petition is for contentment. We find an expansion of this petition in the prayer we find in Proverbs. “Two things I request of You (deprive me not before I die): Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches – feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (30:7-9).
It is also important to understand that God cannot be tempted, nor does he tempt anyone to sin (Js. 1:13). Rather, “every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed (v. 14). Therefore, we must continuously watch and pray that we not enter into temptation (Mt. 26:41), that we also be kept from presumptuous sins (Ps. 19:3). Also, when we do fall, we need to pray afresh for our hearts to be cleansed and renewed (Ps. 51:10), and that the joy of his salvation might be restored to us (Ps. 51:12).
However, there are also temptations that are in fact testings, which do not necessarily denote sin on our part, depending on how we respond to the them. So there is a sense in which what we pray for here is that when we are tested, we would have the discipline to do what is right (Mt. 26:41; Mk. 14:38; Lk. 8:13). This was the experience of the generation of wilderness wanderers – they sinned in their response to the testings or trials which they had experienced (Dt. 4:34; 7:19; 29:3; Ps. 95:8 Cf. vv. 7c-11; Heb. 3:7-11). In their trials, which were part and parcel of their deliverance, they tried God.
There may also be a sense in which we pray that we would not enter into trials which we are not able to bear, such as being delivered from the evil one. We should not think that we can take him on in the same fashion that Jesus did (Lk. 4:13). We can pray this prayer because we know that he will not try us beyond we are able to bear, but will in every circumstance provide us with a way of escape. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (I Cor. 10:12-13)
Q. 107 What does the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer teach us?
A. 107 The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer (which is ‘For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”), teaches us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to him; and in testimony of our desire and assurance to be heard, we say, ‘Amen’.
In what the catechism calls the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, we find, as part of prayer, this testimony or confession, that we first of all, pray that we would bear true witness concerning the worthiness of the Lord, and the worthiness of serving him. Unlike the petition (Your kingdom come), we have here a testimony, a bearing witness to the worthiness of the Lord for his worship, in both his person and his power or rule. This expression also is the foundation for bearing true witness concerning our neighbour, for where there was two or three witnesses to a capital crime God’s law, there the punishment is death (Dt. 17:6; 19:15-20). God bears witness when people bear witness – true or false, and his kingdom is ruled accordingly (Mt. 6:13b; Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20).
‘Amen’ speaks to the contentment we ought to have with God and his kingdom rule, here expressed as a model prayer. This is the sum of the tenth commandment also – not coveting that which the Lord has given unto our neighbour, and what he rightfully owns under God (Mt. 6:13c; Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). Paul pointed out the pivotal nature of the tenth commandment, referring to that internal discontent that all are guilty of (Rom. 7:7-12). The guard against covetousness is persistence in prayer (Cf. Js. 4:2). This is why Luke places particular emphasis on this point following upon his record of this model prayer (11:5-13), and also that this kingdom cannot be divided, but all his children must pray ‘Amen’ to his kingdom (vv. 14-23). The other kingdom is that of the evil one (Mt. 6:13a; Lk. 11:4d; 24-26).