Luke11v1to4: THE LORD'S PRAYER

(A) Introduction. Read: Luke11v1to4

Jesus was much in prayer and in this respect he sets us a demanding example. Martyn Lloyd Jones says in his book on, 'The Sermon on the Mount,' that prayer is man's highest, most exalted activity. It is certainly one of the hardest things to do well!

The disciples made a very sensible request. It seems likely from Christ's response that they wanted to know what to pray for. The Lord's Prayer is petitionary in character. We ask for many things that are not included among the petitions in the Lord's Prayer. For instance we spend a lot of time asking God to heal our friends. So the Lord's Prayer is very helpful because it indicates what our priorities should be. It is a model prayer and that is how I often use it. The phrases provide the headings for my own intercessionss and ensure that my prayer is balanced.

(B) A good start. "Father."

For me this is the best of starts because the prayer:

(1) Is based on a relationship we all understand.

Jesus encourages us to approach God as a much-loved child might its dear father. The word Jesus uses for 'father' is 'abba'. It is the equivalent of addressing God as Dad.

Even those who have never had an earthly father can appreciate what it means to call God, 'Dad.'

In his book, 'A Temple of Topaz,' F.W. Boreham deals with Jo the crossing sweeper's text. Jo was a very sad youth in Charles Dicken's novel, 'Bleak House.' He swept pathways free from horse dung across the filthy London streets in the hope of tips. Poor Jo was always being 'moved on' by the authorities. When asked about his parents Jo replied, "I neber know's nothink about 'em!" Jo's short life ended in the back room of a shooting gallery where he was attended by the compassionate, Dr Allan Woodcourt. This is the conversation that ensued between them:

After watching him closely a little while, Allan puts his mouth very near his ear and says to him in a low distinct voice: "Jo! Did you ever know a prayer?"

"Never knowd nothink, sir."

"Not so much as one short prayer?"

"No, sir. Nothink at all. ...... It's turned wery dark, sir. Is there any light a-comin?"

"It is coming fast Jo."

Fast. The cart is shaken all to pieces, and the rugged road is very near its end.

"Jo, my poor fellow!"

"I hear you, sir, in the dark, but I'm a-gropin - a-gropin - let me catch hold of your hand."

"Jo, can you say what I say?"

"I'll say anythink you say, sir, for I know it's good."


"Our Father! - yes that's wery good, sir."


"Art in heaven - is the light a-comin, sir?"

"It is close at hand. HALLOWED BE THY NAME!"

"Hallowed be - thy - "

The light is come upon the dark benighted way. Dead.

Poor Jo could not understand much of the Lord's Prayer but he could say: "Our Father! - yes that's wery good, sir." And so it is.

(2) Raises great expectations.

I had a good father and there were five things he gave me that I am sure God will also supply:

    (a) The necessities. My father did two low paid jobs and worked all hours God sent in order to provide food, warmth and clothing for his four sons. At meal times he would often do without a second helping so 'the boys could have it.'

    Jesus said: "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Mt7v11.

    (b) Security. When I was a little boy my father spent two days a week working on my grandfather's nursery. I used to lay in bed in the evening waiting for him to come home. When I heard him rev the engine of his little Ford as he slipped into neutral I could go to sleep. My father was home and I felt safe.

    I love the words of Augustus Toplady's well-known hymn:

            A sovereign Protector I have,
            Unseen, yet for ever at hand,
            Unchangeably faithful to save,
            Almighty to rule and command.

    (c) Freedom. In 'The Road to Nab End,' William Woodruff describes his Lancashire childhood in the early years of the 20th century. This is what he writes at the conclusion of his memoir: Whatever else Lancashire had denied me, it had left me with a love of individual liberty and freedom. Lancashire had given me the liberty to run as wild as I wanted. I had always had the freedom to run from dark streets and alleyways into the open rolling countryside. Liberty and freedom were in the bones of my people.

    This, too, was my experience in rural Suffolk in the 1950's. My father did not set me lots of tasks to do. I was left free to play. He was not over protective. I was at liberty to go anywhere and do anything in the parish of Brockley. My father let me to fight my own battles. This was the greatest gift of my childhood and sadly it is something denied boys and girls today.

    God is not overprotective. We are left free to make mistakes - to succeed or fail - and to learn from experience. Our faith is tested to strengthen it. If God mollycoddled us we would never mature as Christians. This is something always to bear in my mind when we pray.

    (d) Comfort. During childhood I suffered from severe asthma. It was usually at its worst on warm summer nights during harvest time. As I sweated and struggled for breath how I longed to hear my father's footsteps on the stairs. He would come, sit on my bed, stroke my hair and gradually as I relaxed the asthma would ease.

    God will comfort us in times of acute distress. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2Cor1v3and4.

            Though troubles assail and dangers affright,
            Though friends should all fail and foes all unite,
            Yet one thing secures us, whatever betide,
            The scripture assures us the Lord will provide.

    (See my story: The Poppies.)

    (e) Encouragement. Any good father will encourage his son or daughter from time to time. When I began preaching my father told me I was better than he was - an opinion not shared by all!

    God encouraged Jesus at his baptism, at the transfiguration and on the cross. The conversion of the dying thief must have been a wonderful shaft of light piercing the gloom of Calvary. He was one of those God prepared and gave to his Son.

    I am sure that our Father encourages us whenever we do something hard but worthwhile for Jesus even if only by giving us a profound sense of well-being.

(3) Is addressed to one on whom we can depend.

My friend Phyllis often talks to me about her family. Her son-in-law Gary has three sons. Phyllis often tells me that Gary is kept very busy by his married sons. He is on call! If anything needs doing in the DIY line Gary is asked if he can help - and of course he invariably does. A loving father will always help his sons and daughters if he possibly can. He is the one on whom they can depend.

God is no less willing, reliable and dependable than a good earthly father! Unlike our natural parents his resources are unlimited.

In the words of the old Sankey hymn:

          If earthly parents hear
          Their children when they cry;
          If they, with love sincere,
          Their children's wants supply:
          Much more wilt Thou Thy love display,
          And answer when Thy children pray.

(C) The importance of a name. "Hallowed be your name."

One does not have to watch the many TV programs on antiques for long to realise how important a name is. The experts will pick up a piece of porcelain, turn it over and look for the name of the manufacturer or designer. A good name stands for something. It guarantees quality and a high price.

A retail company like Marks and Spencer are very keen to protect their name. Suppliers, managers and shop floor workers have to ensure that the products and service is of the standard expected of the M&S brand.

Even a famous football club like Manchester United have a name that stands for something. Everyone at the club is conscious of it. Players, staff and even supporters try to live up to the name and every thing it represents.

So when we pray: "Hallowed be your name," we are praying that God's name - and all it stands for - will be honoured and respected. We are making a statement of intent, namely, to do nothing that will bring God's name into disrepute.

I wonder how concerned we are for God's reputation. The children of Israel in the wilderness did not have a high opinion of God. When faced with fighting to occupy the land of Canaan the Israelites complained: "Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?" Nu14v3. Although Caleb and Joshua tried to persuade the people to change their mind the whole assembly talked about stoning them. God was so angry that he threatened to destroy the Israelites and make a great nation out of Moses' descendents. But Moses, unlike the vast majority of his compatriots, was concerned for God's reputation. He said: "If you put these people to death all at one time the nations who have this report about you will say, 'The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert.'" Nu14v15and16.

Christians can bring God's name into disrepute by being:

(1) Cowardly. If we are ashamed of belonging to God we can hardly expect unbelievers to either respect us or God. Nebuchadnezzar could scarcely fail to respect the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. When told that they would be thrown into the blazing furnace if they did not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar's image of gold the three replied: "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Dan3v17and18.

(2) Grossly immoral. David, albeit he was a man after God's own heart, did not enhance God's reputation when he seduced Bathsheba - Uriah the Hittite's wife. Christians guilty of adultery and other forms of dishonesty let God down. (See my exposition on the immoral brother.)

(3) Loveless. God's name suffers whenever believers fail to love one another. Wherever there is disunity, division, factions and strife God's name is dragged through the mud. And there is so much hatred amongst Christians! See my expositions on 1Cor1v10to17 and 1Cor11v17to34

(4) Hypocritical. The Pharisees were a poor advertisement for God because although they gave the impression of piety they neglected what really mattered - justice, mercy and faithfulness. There are still Christians who care more about their own standing and status than they do about the well being of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

(5) Greedy. Nothing makes the world curl its collective lip than some Christian's obsession with money. A Christian employer shouldn't be a poor payer. A Christian customer shouldn't be a slow payer. A Christian should never be a non-payer to charitable causes.

(6) Legalistic, unforgiving, rude, bad tempered and so much more. I think that if I had been more concerned for God's reputation I would have prayed for help with my fiery temper that much more earnestly.

I suppose of all the petitions in the Lord's Prayer, the one I give least attention to is this first one. It is probably the most demanding of the petitions. We are praying that our conduct will help men and women respect God for his many attributes - his faithfulness, grace, purity, compassion, unchangeableness, longsuffering, goodness, justice, power, integrity, greatness and so on. It is a tall order - but at least we can assure God that we do not want to bring shame to his blessed name. Surely we do not want to let him down!

(D) Implementing the divine manifesto. "Your kingdom come."

In Matthew's gospel this request is linked with the phrase: "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Mt6v10. This helps us to understand that God's kingdom is established and extended as men and women do God's will. God declared his will at the transfiguration of Jesus: "This is my Son, whom I have chosen, listen to him. Lk9v35.

Jesus declared his will in:

(1) The Great Commission of Mt28v19and20:

Jesus wants men and women to:

    (a) Believe. "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations." So we should pray for individual conversions, missionary endeavour and all who preach the gospel.

    (b) Be baptised. "Baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." So we should pray for church attendees to make open confession of Jesus and join his church.

    (c) Obey. "And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded." I often pray that I might be in the will of Christ. His will is revealed in the gospels. I need help to implement his teaching in the varied circumstances of life.

(2) His prayer for his disciples.

Jesus prayed that God would give his followers:

    (a) Protection. "Protect them by the power of your name." Jn17v11.

    (b) Joy. "So that they may have the full measure of my joy within them." Jn17v13.

    (c) Sanctification. "Sanctify them by the truth - your word is truth." Jn17v17.

    (d) Unity. "May they be brought to complete unity." Jn17v23.

    (e) Glory. "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory." Jn17v24.

If Jesus prays for our protection, joy, sanctification, unity and glory I can certainly ask God for these things for my fellow Christians and myself. Years ago before taking my sixth-formers on fieldtrips to the mountains of England and Wales I always asked for God's protection. During the years I attended Pioneer Camp the heartfelt prayer of all the workers was that God would keep the children in our care safe. I have to say that I am thankful to God for answering these prayers. Before entertaining the visiting speaker and his wife to Sunday lunch I ask God to help me prepare a nice meal and for a happy time together. I pray, along with my fellow Christians who attend the Brockley prayer meeting, to live in such a way as to be a good witness to my non-Christian friends. I often pray for unity within our fellowship - that we may be one even as Jesus and his Father are one. It always does me good to remember what is laid up for me in heaven and to ask God for sustaining Grace so that, like Paul, I might finish the race set before me and receive the crown of righteousness. (See my exposition on Jesus' prayer for his disciples.)

(E) Each day's necessities. "Give us this day our daily bread." v5.

This petition:

(1) Acknowledges that food is in the gift of God.

Christians in the rich West can take the food they eat for granted. The supermarket shelves are well stocked with a never-ending supply of lovely goods from all over the world. In Britain vast quantities of food are wasted - one third of all we buy ends up in the bin. We have so much food that obesity rather than starvation is a rising problem.

Yet everything could change almost overnight. A giant meteor strike or a series of violent volcanic eruptions could fill the upper atmosphere with dust. This would result in abnormally cold weather and the failure of harvests round the world. In such circumstances food shortages would affect even the most affluent countries. Bearing this in mind we should still pray for our daily bread.

(2) Encourages us to live a day at a time.

This is literally how many had to live in the Jesus' day. The Law stipulated that a labouring man should be paid after each day's work. The silver penny he received bought food for him and his dependents. The families of farm labourers were one day's work away from hunger.

It never pays to anticipate future needs. Jesus teaches us to pray for present needs. I love the passage in 'The Hiding Place' by Corrie ten Boom about her first encounter with death as a little girl. She was so upset that when her dear father came upstairs to tuck her into bed she burst out, "I need you! You can't die! You can't!"

Corrie's father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed and said, "Corrie, when you go to Amsterdam - when do I give you your ticket?"

Corrie after a little thought replied, "Why just before we get on the train."

Mr ten Boom continued, "Exactly. And your loving Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need - just in time."

(3) Affirms our confidence in God's provision.

I suppose most of us are confident about receiving our daily bread because so far we have never been without it - although this is still not true for many people in the Third World. But there are some things we are, perhaps, less confident of receiving when we need them like: support in old age, compassion when we are sick and help when we can no longer help ourselves. In times of helplessness I think God expects us to pray for our daily help. Thank God there are still nurses, carers, neighbours, sons and daughters who provide loving care.

(F) Keeping near the cross. "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us."

This intercession is:

(1) Inevitable.

We shall never be without sin. Not a day passes when I do not sin in one way or another. I find it extraordinarily difficult to reconcile my experience with the words of John: No-one who is born of God will continue to sin. 1John3v9. I realise John wrote this to combat the pernicious belief that because the body was of no importance compared to the spirit bodily sins were of little consequence. However, I wish he had expressed himself more carefully.

I am at the moment reading, 'Parson Woodforde - The Life and Times of a Country Diarist' by Roy Winstanley. The author considers that Parson Woodforde would probably describe himself as 'good natured'. In some respects this was true because he was never quarrelsome, noisy or violent. But his biographer has to point out that Woodforde had a peculiarly unforgiving streak that shows up plainly in many passages in the diary. If he really felt himself offended, he would walk away rather than make a row about it; but he would remember the slight, resent it and, if he found the opportunity, pay it back. Every Christian is like Parson Woodforde because notwithstanding the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit the believer remains flawed.

The Lord's Prayer is a great comfort because it implies we need forgiving whenever we pray. Jesus is surely teaching that as we ask each day for our daily bread we should ask each day for daily forgiveness. We wouldn't have to ask for forgiveness if we didn't sin! John also wrote: If we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1John1v9.

(2) Essential.

We definitely need to be forgiven! There are many matters I am uncertain about but I am sure of my need of forgiveness. Some of the sweetest words in all Scripture are those spoken by the angel to Joseph in a dream: "She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sin." Mt1v21 Likewise John's affirmation: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Jn3v17.

I often thank God in my prayers that at the centre of the Christian Faith there is a Saviour, a sacrifice and a God of grace.

          I am so glad that our Father in heaven
          Tells of His love in the Book he has given;
          Wonderful things in the Bible I see,
          This is the dearest that Jesus loves me.

(3) A comfort.

What a comfort to have a Saviour - to know that Christ's sacrifice is sufficient for the forgiveness of our sin. The writer to the Hebrews is absolutely convinced of the efficacy of the saving work of Jesus: How much more, then will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God. Heb9v14.(See my exposition on the New Covenant.)

My friend Peter Chaffey was upset on Sunday because the visiting speaker omitted his favourite verse from Horatio Spafford's fine hymn, 'When peace, like a river, attendeth my way.' It is a verse he frequently uses in prayer - especially at our Communion service. The matchless words sum up the believer's assurance:

          My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought!
          My sin, not in part but the whole,
          Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more;
          Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

(4) A Promise

We do not try and strike a bargain with God when we pray: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us." We are not asking God to forgive us our sins in the same way as we forgive others. This would be a risky contract to say the least! Our forgiveness would be slow, reluctant, partial, and owe more to forgetfulness than goodwill. Rather, we are making a statement of intent: "For we also forgive everyone ..... ." We are expressing a commitment to forgive as we have been forgiven. Christians who rely so much on God's free grace acknowledge in the Lord's Prayer their obligation to be gracious to others. It is perilous for sinners saved by grace to be unforgiving. See, 'The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant': Mt18v21to35.

Whenever we use the Lord's Prayer we make a promise to forgive those who wrong us. This is a promise that God will from time to time call in! On such occasions we must pray specifically for grace to forgive.

(G) Keeping out of trouble. "And lead us not into temptation." v4. "But deliver us from the evil one." Mt6v13.

When we pray, "Lead us not into temptation," we are not suggesting God will lead us into sin. God will never do this. Rather we are asking God to lead us away from evil - to keep us out of trouble.

God can answer our prayer:

(1) By sparing us certain situations.

Many of us are kept from sinning because we do not have either the inclination or the opportunity. I have been saved from: arrogance because I have had little success, promiscuity because I am fairly ugly and without much sex appeal and denying Christ because I have never been under pressure to do so. I used to pray frequently to be kept from temptation as a schoolteacher. It was a heartfelt prayer! God answered it because none of my female pupils had anything but affection for me.

(2) By restraining Satan.

Satan can stir up our worst passions. He has the power to exacerbate and impart demonic strength to anger, jealousy, envy, pride, greed, self-pity and bitterness. It is as well for us that God often spares us the worst that Satan could do. The book of Job teaches that Satan acts under restraint.

(3) Through the intervention of other Christians.

When we are tempted to do wrong a brother or sister in Christ can advise, counsel, pray and plead with us. There are several instances of this in the Bible. Abigail saved David from exacting cruel revenge on Nabal her foolish husband. Mordecai counselled Esther on taking the easy way out. Paul spoke sharply to Barnabas and Peter about giving into the legalists who were causing divisions in the church at Antioch.

I can remember getting exceptionally angry with a Christian who acted foolishly and undermined my authority as an elder. I phoned up my fellow elder and told him I felt like resigning. He and his wife were at my house within 15 minutes of my putting down the phone to pour oil on troubled waters.

(4) Through the prompting of the Spirit.

The Spirit will often use Scripture to keep us from falling and from making bad decisions.

Some time before the last Olympic games I read an article about one of Britain's brightest hopes for a medal who got pregnant. She was greatly tempted to have an abortion so that she could continue her training and participate in the games. Dropping out and having a baby had serious financial implications for her and her husband. The athlete was given a verse of Scripture by the Spirit to help her make the right decision: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? What can a man give in exchange for his soul?"

So God has many, powerful means of answering our prayers for guidance and protection. In the words of the sweet psalmist of Israel: He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me. ..... Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Ps23.