IT HAS been called the most widely repeated of all Christian prayers. Whether that is true or not, Jesus’ model prayer—sometimes called the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father—is certainly among the most misunderstood. Millions of people utter its words by rote every day, perhaps often during the day. But Jesus never intended for the prayer to be used in that way. How do we know?
Just before relating that prayer, Jesus said: “When praying, do not say the same things over and over again.” (Matthew 6:7) Did Jesus proceed to contradict himself by laying down a set of words to be memorized and repeated? Surely not! Rather, Jesus was teaching us what to pray about, and he was giving us a clear set of priorities to keep in mind when praying. Let us take a closer look at what he said. The prayer is recorded at Matthew 6:9-13.
“Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.”
Jesus thus reminded his followers that all prayers should be directed to his Father, Jehovah. But do you know why God’s name is so important and why it needs to be sanctified, or made holy?
From the beginning of human history, God’s sacred name has been smeared with lies. God’s adversary, Satan, has called Jehovah a lying, selfish Ruler who has no real right to govern His creations. (Genesis 3:1-6) Many have sided with Satan, teaching that God is cold, cruel, and vindictive or denying that He is the Creator at all. Others have even attacked his name itself, removing the name Jehovah from Bible translations and forbidding the use of it.
The Bible shows that God will rectify all these injustices. (Ezekiel 39:7) By doing so, he will address your every need and problem as well. How so? The next words in Jesus’ prayer provide the answer.
“Let your kingdom come.”
Today, there is much confusion among religious teachers about God’s Kingdom. But as Jesus’ listeners knew, God’s prophets had long foretold that the Messiah, a Savior chosen by God, would rule a Kingdom that would change the world. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; Daniel 2:44) It will sanctify God’s name by exposing Satan’s lies and then overthrowing Satan and all his works. God’s Kingdom will put an end to war, sickness, famine—even death itself. (Psalm 46:9; 72:12-16; Isaiah 25:8; 33:24) When you pray for God’s Kingdom to come, you are praying for all those promises to come true.
“Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”
Jesus’ words suggest that God’s will is just as certain to take place on earth as it is in heaven, where God dwells. God’s will has proved unstoppable in heaven; there, God’s Son waged war against Satan and his cohorts, casting them down to the earth. (Revelation 12:9-12) This third petition of the model prayer, like the first two, helps us to keep our focus on what matters most—not our own will, but God’s. It is his will that always brings about the greatest good for all creation. Thus, even the perfect man Jesus said to his Father: “Let, not my will, but yours take place.”—Luke 22:42.
“Give us today our bread.”
Jesus next showed that our prayers do not have to be entirely selfless. There is nothing wrong with praying to God about our daily, practical needs. In fact, doing so reminds us that Jehovah is the one who “gives to all persons life and breath and all things.” (Acts 17:25) The Bible reveals that he is a loving parent who delights in giving his children what they need. Like a good parent, though, he will not grant requests that violate their best interests.
“Forgive us our debts.”
Do you really owe a debt to God? Do you need his forgiveness? Many today have lost sight of the reality and seriousness of sin. But the Bible teaches that sin is at the root of our worst troubles, for it is the basic cause of death in humans. Born in sin, we all sin frequently, and our only hope for a lasting future lies in God’s forgiveness. (Romans 3:23; 5:12; 6:23) It is a relief to learn that the Bible says: “You, O Jehovah, are good and ready to forgive.”—Psalm 86:5.
“Deliver us from the wicked one.”
Do you realize how urgently, how desperately, you need God’s protection? Many refuse to believe that “the wicked one,” Satan, exists at all. But Jesus taught that Satan is real, even calling him “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 16:11) Satan has corrupted this world over which he holds sway, and he is just as eager to corrupt you, to keep you from developing a close relationship with your Father, Jehovah. (1 Peter 5:8) However, Jehovah is far stronger than Satan and is delighted to protect those who love Him.
That quick summary of the main points of Jesus’ model prayer does not cover every subject that is fit for prayer. Remember, 1 John 5:14 tells us about God: “No matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.” So do not worry that your troubles are too trivial to bring before God.—1 Peter 5:7.
What, though, about time and place? Does it matter when and where we pray?