The Lord's Prayer

Audio Player

This morning we are beginning a series in the Gospel of Luke, entitled ‘Jesus and Prayer’. In Luke’s description of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, he has much to say about prayer and so we are going to be looking at Luke chapter 11 verses 1-4 this morning.

By way of introduction, let’s think briefly together about the place of prayer in our lives. Look at verse 1 with me:

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Here, the practice of prayer is described to us. Jesus is described as talking and taking time to talk with his father. And one of his disciples recognises the place of prayer in the life of one devoted to God. It played a prominent role. Jewish teachers often used to teach about prayer. This disciple refers to the time when John the Baptist taught his disciples about prayer. And Jesus, the Son of God, fulfilled this life of devotion perfectly in every way. He was a man of prayer.

Recently, Sharon and I spent some holiday with friends of ours. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and engaged in lots of activities and discussions together. And, on the last night of our break, the four of us prayed together. It was lovely, spending time in the place of prayer. Of all that we did in that holiday that was my most treasured moment. And we did it once, on the last night. And I remember lying in bed that evening, overwhelmed with shame at our prayerlessness. And I vowed that I would never be so infrequent in the matter with friends again.

Corporately and individually, we need to recognise and practise the place of prayer in our lives. One person has written:

What a man is on his knees before God, that he is and no more.

Maybe for some of us that’s an encouragement this morning to keep going in prayer. Maybe for others this is a gentle rebuke to re-establish the place of prayer in our lives. And it’s an awareness of this that this one disciple shows. He recognises the place of prayer and he comes to Jesus with this request:

“Lord, teach us to pray…”

And Jesus responds to this request by replying with a pattern for prayer. Look at verse 2:

Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say…”

And before we take a look at what Jesus says, we just need to note that Jesus is laying down a pattern for prayer, a plan. When an architect draws up plans for a building, he’s laying down the basic structure of what that building will look like, of what will be built. Of course if we look at the plans, there would be much missing. Some of the finer details wouldn’t be there. The building is much more than those plans, but never anything less than. And it’s exactly the same with this pattern for prayer that Jesus is showing us now. It’s a pattern, a model.

Of course it’s not exhaustive, the prayer is only 37 words long. Said reasonably slowly, it just takes 20 seconds to say. Yes, our prayer lives often involve more than this but they should never involve anything less. And that is something that we need to remind ourselves of, because very often the Lord’s Prayer is treated a bit like a set piece, isn’t it? In our services, our small groups, our CUs. And the aim is to get it said and then move on to the real prayer. And that is, as we shall see, to entirely miss the point.

Jesus is responding here to a plea for teaching:

Lord, teach us to pray…”

And, as a result, we have a pattern of what prayer to Almighty God should look like, the themes that should be prominent, the principles that should dictate how we pray. We should be learning and practising what we see from this prayer in our daily lives.

So, with the place of prayer, its practice and pattern acknowledged, let’s now turn to the teaching that Jesus gives. And we are going to summarise it under two headings: Firstly, PRAY WITH GOD PRE-EMININENT (verse 2) and secondly, PRAY WITH THE RIGHT PRIORITIES (verse 3 & 4).


Look at verse 2 with me:

Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come…”

Jesus begins this pattern for prayer with God: his person, his perfection, his purpose. Let’s look at those in turn:

God’s person

In verse 2, we read, he said that when you pray, say ‘Father’. Now, to the disciples this way of addressing God would have been startling, because Jews tended to use the slightly more formal ‘My Father’ or ‘Our Father’. But here in this instance that Luke records, Jesus uses the ordinary, intimate title that Hebrew children would have used in their families: ‘Abba’, ‘Father’. And when Jesus is recorded as praying he uses that title, ‘Father’. And the intimacy of that name is remarkable, isn’t it? Jesus is teaching his disciples that they are to come before the living true God, the God who has created all things, who rules over this universe, and call him ‘Father’.

In a few days’ time, I’m heading home down to Wales and I’ll spend some time with my parents. Access to seeing them and spending time with them is easy, because I’m part of the family. It’s all so natural. On turning up there are hugs all around, accompanied with ‘Hi Mum’, ‘Hi Dad’. And this is the type of intimacy that the Lord Jesus is speaking about here. We have access to our heavenly Father because through trusting in his Son, Jesus, we are part of God’s family.

And that is something we can easily forget. We often can treat God as though he were unapproachable and really not that pleased to have us speak with him, as though we were sort of wasting his time, as though he is someone who can stand our presence only for a short while. If we are young believers we can easily catch ourselves thinking that God will find us a bit unrefined and immature. And older believers can be tempted to think that, well, God has heard us on these issues so many times before and we’re too inconsistent and tiresome to speak with. Sometimes we can distance ourselves from God, thinking that he’s too mighty and frankly pre-occupied with running the universe.

And that is all simply untrue. God is our loving heavenly Father. He doesn’t need to be cajoled into listening to us. You know he loves it when you speak with him. And that’s the point. Prayer begins, this prayer begins, with a relationship, a relationship with the living God. He is the focus, the reason, the means of our prayers. Prayer is not an end in itself, like a duty or a formula, (‘I should pray more’), something to be done either before or after we have read the Bible. It’s much more than that, because it’s the activity of a relationship between God the Father and his children. What a spur to prayer that is!

Yes, our Father, God, loves to hear us pray and we need to come to him as his children, but also mindful as we do of his perfection. Look at verse 2 again:
Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say “Father, hallowed be your name…”
Here our attention is drawn to a chief aspect of God’s character - his holiness. That’s what that word ‘hallowed’ means, regarded as holy, set apart. You see God’s character is utterly perfect and devoted to seeking his own honour and glory, which means his name is to be hallowed, revered.

And of this approach to God there is a shadow of a parallel with our earthly fathers. Of course earthly dads are not perfect, although they like to think they are sometimes. But when I will spend time with my Dad over the next few days, it will always be with the respect of a son to his father. I revere Dad for who he is and that shows in my treatment of him in what I say and do.

And this prayer teaches us that our coming to God as father should always carry with it this knowledge of who it is we are speaking with, the holy God; and a desire that God should be honoured and respected and treated as he ought to be treated, that this hallowing of his name be seen in all the world. And often when we pray it is easy to forget that. Sometimes, God forgive us, it means that we come flippantly, half-heartedly, so we pray, say, with our minds on the things that need to be done that day or the letter that has just come through the post.

The prayer ‘hallowed by your name’ causes us to weigh what we say and how we say it, to ponder what is appropriate, what is reverent and honouring to God, so that we come to God recognising his person and his perfection and also his purposes.

Look at verse 2 once more:

Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come…”

So Jesus turns to the purposes of God – ‘your kingdom come’. Now, of course God rules over all the kingdoms of the earth, but the phrase ‘kingdom of God’ describes God’s reign over a people who willingly submit to him in love and obedience. So all followers of Jesus are part of God’s kingdom, though their love and obedience is imperfect. And that’s why God’s kingdom is ultimately a future thing, where God will reign unopposed over a new heaven and earth, because everything and everyone that opposes him will have been removed.

So the prayer ‘your kingdom come’ is an all-encompassing God purpose-driven prayer. It centres on the work of God in establishing a kingdom now, as people turn to Jesus, and the completion of his kingdom when Jesus shall return again. Which begs the question - how centred on God’s purposes are our prayers? Do they reveal in their requests, in their petitions, in their intercessions and thanksgivings this desire for the establishing of God’s kingdom? With what purposes in mind do we pray? How often do we pray for the purposes of health, wealth and happiness so that our backaches, bank accounts and babies govern the purposes of which we pray, rather than the establishing of God’s kingdom?

This then is how Jesus teaches us to pray. Pray with God’s pre-eminence, with his person and perfection and purposes in view. That’s what our prayer should be founded on.

And I don’t know about you, but there is often delicious irony in the way that I pray. In theory, I come before God with his character and his purposes in view, but in no time the situation has changed and I am the one who my prayers are revolving around. I become absorbed with the person and character and purposes of Simon Price.

In my conversation with God I become completely shaped by my situation, needs and wants, so that God becomes some type of periphery genie - which is why we need, which is why I need, to learn from the teaching of Jesus, to hold it before us when we pray. We might pray with a Bible open before us, say this prayer and pray it carefully through. We might think and write down prayer points before we pray, so that we will pray more in line with God’s will. We may encourage one another as we pray to keep God and his glory at the centre of all that we say. When we do come before God with our genuine requests about jobs and college applications and grandchildren, future anxieties for example, our requests are shaped by God’s character and purposes and not our own, so that our prayers display the teaching of Jesus:

When you pray say ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come …’

However, as we can see from this passage, we are only half-way through now the teaching of Jesus, this pattern prayer. Yes, he begins with the pre-eminence of God, but he continues by focussing attention on 3 specific requests that we should pray for ourselves. So let’s look at those secondly, under the title:


As we’ve seen, it is easy to skew priorities in prayer and here Jesus’ teaching focuses on 3 prayer requests, that deal with our provision, our problems and our perseverance.

So let’s look at those. Look how Jesus speaks about our provision in verse 3:

… give us each day our daily bread…

Of course, it’s easy for 21st century western listeners to miss the point of this prayer, isn’t it? When we bustle home in a bit we’ll encounter a roast dinner, a pudding complete with a cheese board. But the first hearers of Jesus were 1st century Jews, living in an agrarian culture. To them, bread was their staple diet, it was what was needed to live. When Jesus patterns for us the request:… give us each day our daily bread…

he is speaking about the provision that is needed to go on living in God’s world, not the luxuries that we pamper ourselves with and make out that we can’t do without. So often we get caught up in that, don’t we, in the world around us, in seeking luxury and possessions? So, for example, the type of house that we buy or rent can so quickly move away from a desire for shelter and safety to notions of palatial splendour and spare bedrooms. And the request for basic provision is lost.

So Jesus’ teaching re-orientates our thinking about what we need. This prayer for provision reminds us that God is the provider of good things. He will take care of you. He has committed himself to that, but not to giving us what we think we need or what we want. So let’s pray to that end, because it is all too easy to shift away from God’s will. And Jesus draws attention to that next when he looks at our problems. Read with me verse 4. Jesus says:

…forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us…

Now sin is wilful rebellion against God. Everyone who has ever lived is a rebel. It’s only through pleading forgiveness and trusting in the death of Jesus on the cross and following him that we find peace with God and enter into God’s family. But the fact is that every follower of Jesus fails to hallow God’s name in their daily lives. We fail to live as children in God’s kingdom. The Christian life is one which aims constantly to please God and yet which constantly fails to do so, which means that forgiveness, secured by the death of Jesus on the cross, is an ongoing need. We need to constantly confess our sins, asking forgiveness, trusting in what Jesus has done for us. And Jesus ties that very closely with our forgiveness of others. Did you see that in verse 4?

…forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us…

You see, if we are unforgiving towards others, it means we have no real sympathy with them for their need of God, in their need before God. And that lack of sympathy shows that we haven’t actually understood our own need for forgiveness. It shows that our saying sorry has been empty and insincere. For if we were genuinely convicted of our problem, our sin before God, then the plea for forgiveness naturally contains in it the willingness to forgive others, who are in the same boat as us. So Jesus is teaching us to prioritise being mindful of our problem, our wilful sin, and to seek God’s forgiveness. And that means that we should surely keep short accounts with God. So examination and confession should mark our prayer lives, where we spend time searching ourselves, naming and acknowledging our wrongs before God and pleading forgiveness - all the time harbouring no unforgiveness of others, but rather forgiving them as the Lord has forgiven us.

So Jesus teaches us to pray by recognising the priorities of our provision from God and our problem before him and, finally, our need for perseverance, the second part of verse 4, where Jesus said:

…and lead us not into temptation…

And we must be careful to understand that correctly, mustn’t we? A natural question would be – is this saying that God leads us into temptation? Well no, it can’t. The Bible doesn’t teach that. For example in James chapter 1, we read that God does not tempt anyone. Rather, here is the recognition that God has the sovereign power to keep us from yielding to temptation. Because by nature we don’t have the power to hallow God’s name, to seek his purposes in our lives, we need the daily strength to do that. So this is a request for spiritual protection. And I wonder how often we pray that. I wonder how often we bring before God particular temptations that we face. Perhaps a situation or meeting with certain people that lies ahead, where we know we are prone to go our own way, to do that which will upset God. Some personality types are prone to particular temptations: perhaps a tendency to gossip, or to be lustful or to speak the untruth. Jesus teaches us to pray about these situations beforehand, to ask God to protect us, to strengthen us, to

…lead us not into temptation…

that we might persevere in the purposes of God and live rightly as children in his kingdom.

Here then are the priorities that Jesus patterns to us. We need to mark them, to be watchful of them falling from our lips, disappearing from our prayer lives.

And, brothers and sisters, we need to rejoice in them. Here is a God who provides for us, a father who cares for us. Here is a God who wholly has met us in our deepest needs through his Son and who will keep us, in his kingdom, till we see him face to face. And, you see, that is the illuminating point in these studies of priorities and prayer. Each of these requests is God-centred. Their aim is to his praise and glory. Jesus teaches us to pray to our loving father, recognising that we live in this world, depending on him, so that our priorities in prayer are intertwined with the pre-eminence of God, the God to whom we pray.

This teaching of the Lord Jesus serves as a critical foundation to our prayers then, doesn’t it? It patterns and helps us to establish how and what to pray for. Of course there are times in the day when there will be that one or two sentence prayers when we speak to God with a thanksgiving, a request, a need. But the point of the passage that we have just looked at is that our prayer lives as a whole should display these God-centred themes that we have spent time studying here. So that when we say the Lord’s Prayer together, on our own or corporately:

Father, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, give us each day our daily bread, forgive us our sins for we also forgive those who sin against us and lead us not into temptation

we are summarising how we pray. Friends, in our day and age is there not the greatest need for prayer? As people talk about it, as churches talk about it, it seems to be the thing that we do least. That reading from 2 Chronicles chapter 7 was sobering, wasn’t it?

If my people, who bear my name, will humble themselves and pray …
Back to top