OUR PRAYERS SHOULD NOT TRY TO MANIPULATE GOD BUT SHOULD EXPRESS OUR COMPLETE DEPENDENCE IN WORSHIP AND PETITION FOR NEEDS AFTER THE PATTERN INSTRUCTED BY JESUS
R. T. France: The “digression” on prayer which breaks into the tripartite unit of teaching on religious secrecy begins with a similar contrast between the wrong and the right ways of praying, in which “the Gentiles” take the place of the “hypocrites” in v. 5. The focus this time is not on prayer performed with a view to human approbation but on an attitude and practice in prayer which betrays a misunderstanding of how God expects to be approached by his people.
J. Ligon Duncan: This prayer before us is designed to be a pattern for our prayer. It is not ultimately meant to be a prayer which we simply repeat by rote. That would actually violate one of the principles which the Lord Himself has set down in this passage. It is a perfectly appropriate, of course, to repeat it back to God, and to serve as a rubric for our prayer and for our worship.
But each petition that Christ gives us in this prayer is ultimately suggestive of a whole range of appropriate matters for prayer. Jesus’ prayer focuses on the worship of the Father, and the kingdom of the Father, and the provision of the Father, and the grace of the Father, and the protection of the Father. And all of those categories provide you hundreds of ideas for how you can pray to the living God. Have you put to work these principles, the principles of this passage in your life of secret prayer.
Bethany Bible Church (Portland OR): In the midst of these words of warning concerning prayer – that we find this digression from Jesus’ main topic of the dangers of hypocrisy. It seems that, for the moment, He sets aside the concern of hypocrisy before others in order to teach us some deeper truths about prayer. He shows us what our manner should be when we pray to His Father and, as it were, coaches us in the right way to approach Him and speak to Him. It’s as if He says, “I want you to learn to be real and sincere in your prayers. I don’t want you to pray before men in such a way as to deliberately be seen and thought well of by them. And by the way; while we’re on the subject of the right way to pray, let me pass on a few more words of instruction to you.” Perhaps He goes on to say more about the subject of prayer because prayer to the Father is such an important aspect of our lives as His followers.
I have found it helpful to divide what the Lord says into three principles that He wishes to pass on to us. The first of these three principles is that we are to pray with . . .
I. SINCERITY OF EXPRESSION (vv. 7-8).
II. REVERENCE OF CONTENT (vv. 9-13).
III. HOLINESS OF HEART (vv. 14-15).
William Hendriksen: In harmony with the fact that, according to both old and New Testament, the glory of God is important above everything else, the first three petitions have reference to the Father’s name, kingdom, and will. Human needs – bread, pardon for sin, and victory over the evil one – take the second place.
Van Parunak: Structure of the Body of the Prayer:
This structure reminds us of two practical lessons about prayer.
- Prayer is not just asking for things. In the outer frame, we acknowledge to God who he is. This exercise is the heart of worship. When we come to the Lord, we should focus our minds on who he is. The prayer gives a particularly good example of two focal points of such meditation. It starts with his mercy and accessibility, and ends with his power and majesty.
- Prayer is not random. While there is nothing wrong with spontaneous prayer, there is also a place for prayer that is planned and ordered. When we speak with an important person, we prepare our thoughts in advance. There’s nothing wrong with doing the same with God.
I. (:7-8) DON’T PRAY LIKE UNBELIEVERS
A. (:7a) Using Meaningless Repetition – Incantations vs Intelligent Speech
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do,”
No prayer has been abused more in terms of meaningless repetition than this Model Prayer
R. T. France: The term for “Gentiles” is the same as that used in 5:47 (on which see below on 18:17) to denote the world outside the disciple community. The emphasis here is not so much on their not being Jewish as on their being religious outsiders, people who do not understand what it means to know God as a heavenly Father. So instead of trusting a Father to fulfill their needs, they think they must badger a reluctant Deity into taking notice of them (cf. the expressive modern term “God-botherer”). Their approach to prayer is characterized by two colorful terms, first “babbling,” a noisy flow of sound without meaning, and polylogia, “much speaking,” “many words.” It is an approach to prayer which values quantity (and perhaps volume?) rather than quality. It is not necessarily purely mechanical, but rather obtrusive and unnecessary. It assumes that the purpose of prayer is first to demand God’s attention and then to inform him of needs he may have overlooked.
Van Parunak: An excellent illustration of the difference between the prayer of a believer and that of the heathen is in the encounter of Elijah with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18. The pagan prophets prayed repeatedly the same thing, “O Baal, hear us,” and when he didn’t hear, they prolonged their prayer and their urgency. . . By contrast, Elijah’s prayer was direct and to the point.
B. (:7b) Heaping Words Upon Words – Quantity vs Quality
“for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”
Grant Osborne: These are not prayers of worship or intercession but self-centered prayers that try to control the gods.
D. A. Carson: Nor is he forbidding all long prayers or all repetition. He himself prayed at length (Lk 6:12), repeated himself in prayer (Mt 26:44; unlike Sir 7:14!), and told a parable to show his disciples that “they should always pray and not give up” (Lk 18:1). His point is that his disciples should avoid meaningless, repetitive prayers offered under the misconception that mere length will make prayers efficacious. Such thoughtless babble can occur in liturgical and extemporaneous prayers alike. Essentially it is thoroughly pagan, for pagan gods allegedly thrive on incantation and repetition. But the personal Father God to whom believers pray does not require information about our needs (v.8). “As a father knows the needs of his family, yet teaches them to ask in confidence and trust, so does God treat his children” (Hill).
C. (:8) Ignoring Any Intimate Family Relationship – Where Father Knows Best
“Therefore do not be like them;
for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.”
R. T. France: The reason why “you” (plural, the disciple community united in prayer) are not to be like them lies in a theology which attributes to God both the benevolent concern of a Father and an omniscience which makes the prayer apparently unnecessary (cf. Isa 65:24: “Before they call, I will answer”). But if God does not need to be informed of our needs, why does he expect us to tell him about them? Christian spirituality has traditionally found the answer in a concept of prayer not as the communication of information, still less as a technique for getting things from God (the more words you put in the more results you get out), but as the expression of the relationship of trust which follows from knowing God as “Father.” The pattern prayer which follows illustrates how such a relationship works.
II. (:9-13) PRAY AS INSTRUCTED BY JESUS – ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF PRAYER = WORSHIP AND PETITION
“Pray, then, in this way:”
Grant Osborne: The Heart of Prayer is Worship
When we say, “Our Father who is in heaven,” we are not uttering a formal address but celebrating a relationship. We are reminding ourselves of the deep intimacy and incomprehensible love of the One to whom we pray. Moreover, by uttering “our,” we also celebrate the fact that we are “co-heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17) and share his relationship with the Father. It is Christ’s incredibly deep relationship with his Father that we share. We are part of the family of God and so corporately celebrate this new oneness with him and Christ in an “our” setting. That is the heart of worship—sharing this new intimacy first with Christ and then with “our” brothers and sisters.
R. T. France: Not all aspects of prayer are included in this pattern prayer. There is no explicit confession of sin, no direct thanksgiving for blessings already received, no intercession for the needs of the world or for those to whom disciples are sent (or for their persecutors, 5:44). All of these may be developed through meditation around the clauses of the prayer individually. But the fundamental starting point is worship and petition.
A. (:9a) Invocation (Opening Address) — Directed to God as Father
- Tone of Intimacy — Relationship of a Child to a Father
Sense of family and community – larger than just individual orientation – Not “My Father”
Not directed towards other men who may be listening it; not saying words to impress them or to put on a show or for their benefit.
Open and Transparent; nothing to hide;
Great expectations in coming before your heavenly Father.
Michael Wilkins: The term for “Father” is ʾabba, a term used by children for their earthly fathers to express the warmth and intimacy a child experiences when in the security of a loving father’s care.
Daniel Doriani: The words “Our Father in heaven” reveal the first element of Christian prayer. It is family speech, for we address God as “our Father.” In Jesus’ day, this was radical. Jewish prayers stressed God’s sovereignty, lordship, glory, grace, and covenant. On rare occasions, the Old Testament refers to God as “Father” (Deut. 32:6; Ps. 103:13; Isa. 63:16; Mal. 2:10), but no prophet taught the people to pray to God as “our Father.”
When Jesus called God “his own Father,” some Jews were offended (John 5:18). Pious Jews held God in such awe that they used circumlocutions to avoid saying his name, for fear of misusing it. Therefore, we must pause to consider something remarkable—Jesus teaches us to address the holy, almighty Lord as “our Father.”
When we meet a great person or someone holding high office, we find it difficult to call him by his first name. Whether we like our president or not, we do not call him “Bill” or “George,” but “Mr. President.” But if titles are proper for such people, then the Creator and King of heaven certainly deserves titles of respect. But God is personal. Therefore, he requests a personal title: Father. Nothing shapes our prayers more than this word. It explains why prayer is simple and why sinners can approach God with confidence. . .
When God says, “You are the children of the LORD your God” (Deut. 14:1), he is saying two things: “I love you” and “However strong you are compared to others, you are weak enough to need my help. Like children, you should have enough sense to say, ‘Help me.’” Why deny our need of God’s strength? We are children, humble and weak enough to need God’s help. We are also believers, wise and confident enough to ask God, our Father, to help us.
- Tone of Majesty — Respect for the Transcendence of God
“who art in heaven,”
Not a distant father who has abandoned His family;
One in a position of power and knowledge and sovereignty
Jacob Gerber: Tension between 2 types of approach in prayer:
When we pray to our father, Jesus is teaching us to pray with all of the confidence of children. My children do not care in the least what I am busy with when they have a need. They barge directly into my presence to tell me their needs. Doesn’t matter if I’m sleeping. Even this morning, it’s one of them. One of my children, I love you, Caleb, every night he comes into my room to tell me, to wake me up, to get my attention, to tell me what he needs. It was a foot cramp this morning. We worked out the foot cramp and sent him back to bed. Children don’t care. They come into the presence of their father and Jesus says, pray like that. You are praying as children to your father. Come right into his presence.
Then Jesus says, this is our father who is in heaven. This is not just your dad. He is in heaven. He is transcended. He transcends above us. He is higher than us. Separated from us wholly. In fact, what the Bible says is that He is holy, holy, holy, unimaginably, indescribably, holy, so far distant from us, that there would be no way for us to climb up to him unless he came down and offered himself to us. Our Father in heaven. . .
Well to apply all of this. How then should we pray? In this text, what we see is that prayer is a paradox of two things that are both true. That we pray as unworthy servants, number one of Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Then number two that we pray, and the deepest sense of intimacy and the familiarity to our Father as his beloved children. Then we need to sit in this paradox. We need to not just say these things and move on, but we need to think about how these truths genuinely seem contradictory. It seems like either we are slaves or we are sons. Either we are debtors or we are free. We cannot be both. And yet Jesus teaches us to pray from both perspectives.
Daniel Doriani: We pray to the sovereign king, the Father who dwells on high. The address “our Father in heaven” means that God is both near to us, for he is our Father, and beyond us, for he is in heaven. So then, true prayer is private, confident, simple, familial, corporate, and transcendent; we pray to the Father, to our Father, and to our Father in heaven. Through it all, biblical prayer is God-centered.
B. (:9b-10) Three Expressions of Submission and Worship
- (:9b) Devoted to His Holy Character
“Hallowed be Thy name.”
Fundamental attribute that defines who God is = His Holiness.
Grant Osborne: The first God-oriented petition is that the sacredness of God’s name be magnified in every area of life. In the ancient world a person’s name bespoke the very essence of the person (see on 1:21), so God’s name tells who he is at the core of his being. Since holiness is at the heart of the divine character, that must be made evident in everything the disciple does.
R. T. France: God’s “name” is a recurrent OT term for God himself as he is perceived and honored by people. It is frequently described as “holy” (Ps 30:4; 97:12; 103:1; 111:9 etc.) since holiness is a prime characteristic of God himself. The present clause is not then a request that it be made holy, as the traditional translation “hallowed” properly means—it is holy already. Rather it is that people may recognize and acknowledge its holiness, by giving God the reverence which is his due; cf. Isa 29:23 where to “keep God’s name holy” is further explained by “stand in awe of the God of Israel.” Compare the concern of the prophets that God’s name should not be profaned as a result of his people’s sinful behavior and its punishment (Ezek 20:8–9; 36:20–23; cf. Isa 48:11; 52:5–6). This clause then is not merely a petition that people in general may come to acknowledge God, but is itself an expression of that reverence which his holiness requires.
E. Michael Green: Having brought us within the Father’s presence, the prayer makes three petitions about God and his glory, followed by three about ourselves and our needs. The order is significant. We are not to be so taken up with ourselves that we rush into God’s presence and give him a shopping list of our needs. His name is to be hallowed: that is to say, we long for his name, or character, to have top place in the world and in people’s hearts. ‘Lord, may we make you our Number One.’ What a marvellous note of adoration with which to begin a time of prayer!
William Barclay: Therefore, when we pray ‘Hallowed be your name,’ it means: ‘Enable us to give to you the unique place which your nature and character deserve and demand.’
- (:10a) Dedicated to the Father’s Agenda – Submissive and Obedient and Visionary
“Thy kingdom come.”
Daniel Doriani: This petition overlaps with the first, for God’s name is honored whenever his rule is more evident. “Your kingdom come” means that Christ is king and that we want his rule to become more evident every day.
“Your kingdom come” is also an evangelistic prayer. We pray that the blessings of salvation will flow, that the church will grow in size and influence, that Christians will grow in maturity, and that we would obey Jesus in every sphere of life.
We also pray that Christ will return. If we seek God in prayer, we long to see him face-to-face. To pray “Your kingdom come” is to pray for the restoration of all things, that his kingdom will come in its perfect form. Finally, to pray “Your kingdom come” is to ask the Lord to reign now, in our lives.
D. A. Carson: That kingdom is breaking in under Christ’s ministry, but it is not consummated until the end of the age (28:20). To pray “your kingdom come” is therefore simultaneously to ask that God’s saving, royal rule be extended now as people bow in submission to him and already taste the eschatological blessing of salvation and to cry for the consummation of the kingdom (cf. 1Co 16:22; Rev 11:17; 22:20). Godly Jews were waiting for the kingdom (Mk 15:43), “the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25). They recited “Kaddish” (“Sanctification”), an ancient Aramaic prayer, at the close of each synagogue service. In its oldest extant form, it runs, “Exalted and hallowed be his great name in the world which he created according to his will. May he let his kingdom rule in your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the whole house of Israel, speedily and soon. And to this, say, Amen” (Jeremias, Prayers of Jesus, 98, emphasis his). But the Jew looked forward to the kingdom, whereas the reader of Matthew’s gospel, while looking forward to its consummation, perceives that the kingdom has already broken in and prays for its extension as well as its unqualified manifestation.
John MacArthur: And then we discussed the priority of God, “Hallowed be thy name,” and we said that that means that God’s name is all that He is. And to hallow His name means to set it apart, to exalt it, to glorify it, to honor it, and we gave you four ways that we do that. We hallow His name when we believe that He is, when we believe that He is who He is, when we completely are committed to His presence, and when we obey His Word. And He is to be hallowed, not in general in the universe, but in general in the universe, and most importantly, through us.
Van Parunak: We must understand this petition, like the others, in the light of the OT. As we saw in our studies in Isaiah, the concept of the coming kingdom was revealed in a time when the kingdom of Israel was on the verge of being obliterated. God promised that he would raise up a righteous king to replace the apostate kings, and restore Zion, the place which he had long chosen to set his name (Deut 12:11; Psa 78:68).
Isa 2:2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Isa 60:1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. 2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. 3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. 14 The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
This clause in the prayer teaches us that our Lord’s earthly ministry does not mark the full arrival of the kingdom. Both he and John proclaimed that “the kingdom of God is at hand,” but his people are still to pray for its full realization. Luke in particular records the disciples’ misunderstanding in this regard, and our Lord’s correction. As the group made their way to Jerusalem, we read,
Luk 19:11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. 12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. …
After the resurrection, our Lord continued to emphasize that the kingdom was not theirs to implement and execute, but awaited a future divine intervention:
Act 1:6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
John on Patmos longed for this day, and prayed, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). In doing so, he echoed this clause of the Lord’s Prayer, and when we pray it, we are continuing that request.
- (:10b) Dedicated to the Father’s Will – Submissive and Obedient and Visionary
“Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.”
R. T. France: To pray such a prayer is, of course, to be committed oneself to honor God’s name, accept his kingship and do his will.
William Barclay: Let us assume that the second petition explains and amplifies and defines the first. We then have the perfect definition of the kingdom of God – The kingdom of God is a society upon earth where God’s will is as perfectly done as it is in heaven. Here we have the explanation of how the kingdom can be past, present and future all at the one time. Anyone who at any time in history perfectly did God’s will was within the kingdom; anyone who perfectly does God’s will is within the kingdom; but since the world is very far from being a place where God’s will is perfectly and universally done, the consummation of the kingdom is still in the future and is still something for which we must pray.
S. Lewis Johnson: Now when we think about the will of God, we must distinguish two of his wills. There is, of course, his decretive will. That decretive will is the will of God that determines everything that is going to come to pass. Daniel speaks of this in the 4th chapter, in the 35th verse of his great prophecy when he says, “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing, and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand and say unto him, ‘What doest Thou?’” And so he does according to his determinate will. The Lord Jesus went to the cross at Calvary according to the decretive will of God. It was his determining will, established in the councils of eternity, that the Son of God should suffer for our sins at the cross at Calvary.
There is also the preceptive will of God. The preceptive will of God is what we see in holy Scripture as that which pleases him. Now his preceptive will does not always come to pass. His preceptive will is what pleases him, but we often do things that displease him. But we cannot do contrary to his decretive will. His decretive will determines all things that are going to come to pass.
Now what does the Lord mean when he says, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? This is, then, a petition that we are to pray, by which we are to pray that on earth, the things that are done upon earth shall be pleasing to the God who dwells in heaven and dwells in the midst of a sphere in which things are done with respect to his will. So this is a prayer, then, that the matters which concern his preceptive will will be pleasing to him. And we know from the teaching of holy Scripture that during the Millennial Age, when the Lord Jesus rules and reigns upon the earth, his will will be done in the earth as it is in heaven. So this, then, is a petition for willing submission to the preceptive will of God.
C. (:11-13a) Three Petitions for Dependence on God for Basic Needs
William Barclay: The second part of the prayer, the part which deals with our needs and our necessities, is a marvellously created unity. It deals with the three essential human needs and the three spheres of time within which we all move.
- First, it asks for bread, for that which is necessary for the maintenance of life, and thereby brings the needs of the present to the throne of God.
- Second, it asks for forgiveness and thereby brings the past into the presence of God.
- Third, it asks for help in temptation and thereby commits all the future into the hands of God.
In these three brief petitions, we are taught to lay the present, the past and the future before the footstool of the grace of God.
- (:11) Dependent on His Daily Provision of Basis Physical Needs — Food
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
Daniel Doriani: We miss the urgency of this prayer today. Americans live in a land of plenty. Indeed, we have so much food we worry more about obesity than hunger. We buy large quantities of food in well-stocked stores and stuff it into capacious refrigerators and freezers. We plan ahead, so that our food seems to come from our work and our kitchen. In Jesus’ day, it was more obvious to a laborer that he should pray daily for his daily bread. A common laborer lived on a payment for that day’s work. If he could find no work or if his employer withheld his wages, he might go hungry. Western culture has changed enough (monthly paychecks are an example) that we do not feel the urgency to pray for food daily. But our food still comes from God, and we honor him when we acknowledge it.
Michael Wilkins: the wording seems to recall Israel’s daily reliance on God for manna in the desert (Ex. 16). In the same way as manna was only given one day at a time, disciples are to rely on daily provision for life from God, helping them to develop a continuing, conscious dependence on him (cf. Matt. 6:34; Phil. 4:6).
John MacArthur: But bread is all of that physical area. Martin Luther had it right when he said: “Everything necessary for the preservation of this life is bread, including food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, wife, children, good government, peace.” End quote. He saw all of the physical elements of life, the necessities, but not the luxuries of life. I don’t think that we can ask God for the luxuries of life based on this verse, but for the necessities. What He chooses to give us by way of luxury is at His gracious hand. But He promises to give us the necessities. You remember back in Proverbs chapter 30? Psalm, Proverbs 30 written by Agur? And, in verses 8 and 9 he says, “Lord, don’t give me so much that I forget You, and don’t give me so little that I steal and dishonor Your name. Just give me food that is convenient for me.” I think that’s the heart of this. It isn’t self-seeking, give me more and more and more and more. It’s just saying, Lord give me what I need.
- (:12) Dependent on His Daily Provision of Basic Spiritual Needs — Forgiveness
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Daniel Doriani: Jesus’ point is that God forgives the penitent. That is, if we understand how precious it is to be forgiven, if we know how much it cost God to forgive, then we will forgive others. The forgiven have motives to forgive. We thank God for his gift, we admire the beauty of his way, and we hope to do the same for others.
R. T. France: The petition for forgiveness is the only clause of the prayer which is singled out for comment at the end (vv. 14–15). The point of that comment, as indeed of the balancing structure of the clause itself, is that forgiveness is a reciprocal principle, a point which will be more fully underlined in the parable of 18:23–35. That parable, like the present petition, will be about debt, though the introductory question and answer in 18:21–22 makes it clear that debt is a metaphor for offenses which need to be forgiven. Here too any purely monetary understanding of debt is ruled out by the fact that it is debts to God for which forgiveness is asked. The substitution in vv. 14–15 of “offenses” (and cf. the “sins” of Luke 11:4a), gives a more prosaic but undoubtedly correct interpretation of the graphic metaphor of debt. Matthew’s version, unlike Luke’s, by keeping the same metaphor in both halves of the clause ensures that a close parallel is maintained between God’s forgiveness and ours. We should note that it is the debtors rather than the debts which we have forgiven; our concern, like God’s, is to be with personal relationships. . .
To ask to be forgiven while oneself refusing to forgive is hypocritical.
John MacArthur: Surely, if you’ll think about it, you will agree with me that the most essential and the most blessed and the most difficult thing that God ever did was provide man with the forgiveness of sin. It is most essential because it keeps us from eternal hell, and gives us joy even in this life. It is most blessed because it introduces us into a fellowship with God that goes on forever and it is most difficult because it cost the Son of God His life, on a cross. But the most essential, the most blessed, and the most difficult thing is the forgiveness of sin. It is the greatest need of the human heart. Sin has a two-fold effect, generally, and that is that it damns men forever. That’s its future effect. Its present effect is that it robs men of the fullness of life by bringing to bear upon his conscience an unrelieved and unrelenting guilt. And so as we face the problem of sin we face the fact that sin brings immediate consequences, guilt and the loss of meaningfulness, peace and joy and life and the future consequence that sin brings eternal damnation.
S. Lewis Johnson: What he means is simply this: that those who have been truly forgiven by God necessarily manifest a forgiving spirit. And that forgiving spirit is the evidence that we have truly been born again. So when we read, in verse 14, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; and if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses,” that is the manifestation of the evidence of the new birth.
- (:13a) Desirous of Favorable Outcomes
a. With respect to Trials which Lead to Temptations
“And do not lead us into temptation,”
E. Michael Green: The third of the ‘we’ petitions is for God’s guidance and strength against the enemy.
Craig Blomberg: “Lead us not into temptation” does not imply “don’t bring us to the place of temptation” or “don’t allow us to be tempted.” God’s Spirit has already done both of these with Jesus (4:1). Nor does the clause imply “don’t tempt us” because God has promised never to do that anyway (Jas 1:13). Rather, in light of the probable Aramaic underlying Jesus’ prayer, these words seem best taken as “don’t let us succumb to temptation” (cf. Mark 14:38) or “don’t abandon us to temptation.”
[Ed: Or if that explanation requires too much linguistic gymnastics, maybe simply an expression of desire not to be led into places of severe testing where temptation by the evil one could present significant difficulty.]
D. A. Carson: The NT tells us that this age will be characterized by wars and rumors of wars but does not find it incongruous to urge us to pray for those in authority so “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives” (1Ti 2:2). While Jesus told his disciples to rejoice when persecuted (Mt 5:10–12), he nevertheless exhorted them to flee from it (10:23) and even to pray that their flight should not be too severe (24:20). Similarly, a prayer requesting to be spared testings may not be incongruous when placed beside exhortations to consider such testings, when they come, as pure joy.
John MacArthur: When the prayer says, “Lead us not into trial,” I believe the implication of the prayer is, “Lord, don’t ever lead us into a trial which will present to us such a temptation that we will not be able to resist it.” Did you get that? “Don’t ever lead us into something we can’t handle. Don’t give us a trial that is going to become an irresistible temptation, but rather deliver us from any trial that would bring evil on us as a natural consequence. Don’t put us into something we can’t handle.” And, you know, that’s just a claim of a promise, as we shall see in a little while. The term implies testing. It implies a process. And by the way, any time you see a word like peirasmos, with an asmós ending on it, that is a Greek noun, that the asmos ending implies a process. Don’t put us into any process, any procedure, any series of circumstances, any situation that is going to draw us into irresistible sin.
b. With respect to Domination by the Tempter
“but deliver us from evil [or the evil one].”
Grant Osborne: The personalized form is better than the traditional “from evil” because the articular “the evil one” (τοῦ πονηροῦ) favors the more personal concept, though of course “evil” and “the evil one” are virtually synonymous. In Matthew the “evil one” causes us to twist our words into lies (5:37), takes kingdom truths out of our heart (13:19), and sows evil in our lives (13:19). “Deliver” means “save us from” and connotes the idea of both protection and removal from his power. So the final petition asks God for strength and deliverance from the temptations wrought by Satan.
D. (:13b) Doxology
“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”
Grant Osborne: The traditional doxology (“for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”) appears in only a few late manuscripts (L W Θ 0233 et al.), and several of the best manuscripts end here ( B D Z et al.), with a variety of endings in others. This makes it almost certain that it is not original. It is possible that churches added their own doxology when praying this prayer, and this one emerged as the best summary of the contents of the prayer. However, it (and the other endings) is based on 1 Chr 29:11–13 and is meaningful, so it is not wrong to utter the ending as a personal prayer.
(:14-15) APPLICATION – IMPORTANCE OF FORGIVENESS
A. (:14) What Happens When You Forgive Others?
“For if you forgive men for their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
John MacArthur: Talking here about Parental Forgiveness, not Judicial Forgiveness … I used the illustration of my family. If a child of my family sins against me and against the standards that I establish, they’re not thrown out of the family. They don’t have to do something to get back in the family, but they need to come and make some things right so the intimacy of a family fellowship can be maintained and restored, you see. That’s what we’re talking about. . .
Another illustration that’s very clear. Jesus said this: give and it, what? Shall be given to you. In whatever measure you mete it out that’s exactly how God will mete it out to you. Hmmm. Luke 6, how about this one? Sow sparingly, reap what? Sparingly. Sow bountifully, what? Reap bountifully. God deals with us the way we deal with Him. Whatever we invest in His kingdom, we receive a return on. If we harbor sins and grudges and so forth, we cut ourselves off from the blessedness that can accrue to us because of those things. We have taught you so many times that as you give, you invest with God, you receive a return on it. The same thing is true on your confession of sin and seeking forgiveness. God deals with you the way you deal with others, and maybe the short circuit in your spiritual life is just that you have some people that you’re holding bitter resentment or a grudge against, and it’s constant.
B. (:15) What Happens When You Don’t Forgive Others?
“But if you do not forgive men,
then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
Warren Wiersbe: In this “appendix” to the prayer, Jesus expanded the last phrase of Matthew 6:12, “as we forgive our debtors.” He later repeated this lesson to His disciples (Mark 11:19–26). He was not teaching that believers earned God’s forgiveness by forgiving others, for this would be contrary to God’s free grace and mercy. However, if we have truly experienced God’s forgiveness, then we will have a readiness to forgive others (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Our Lord illustrated this principle in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21–35).
R. T. France: The stark simplicity of this pronouncement raises uncomfortable questions. First, how does this conditional forgiveness relate to the gospel of free and unmerited grace which Paul proclaims? Does our act of forgiving earn our forgiveness from God? . . .
A second problem relates to the breadth of the forgiveness required. Its object is literally “people” without any further specification. So is there no limit to what and whom we must forgive? Should disciples forgive war criminals, serial murderers and abusers of children? What does “forgive” mean in such circumstances? . . . The phrase “against me” in that passage perhaps gives us a guide to the intention of this passage as well. While the reference to the offenses of “people” could hardly be more general, the clause of the prayer which these verses are explaining uses the metaphor of debt specifically of those who are indebted to us (v. 12). It is where there is personal offense that the concept of “forgiveness” properly applies. Those who commit evil by which we ourselves are not affected should be the object of our prayerful concern and (as far as possible) sympathetic understanding, but it is properly speaking not for us to “forgive” them: that is God’s prerogative. The concern of these verses, as of 18:21–35, is with the disciples’ response to those whose offense is against them. It is our own enemies whom we are to love (5:44).
William Hendriksen: Though in the teaching not only of Paul (Rom. 3:24; Eph. 2:8; Titus 3:5) but certainly also of Christ (Matt. 5:1-6; 18:27; Luke 18:13) salvation rests not on human accomplishments but solely on the grace and mercy of God, this does not mean that there is nothing to do for those who receive it. They must believe. Included in this faith is the eagerness to forgive. Unless the listeners forgive men their trespasses, they themselves will remain unpardoned.
Van Parunak: Before returning to the background theme of the privacy of our duties to God, the Lord returns to one of the themes raised in the prayer, that our requests for forgiveness must be accompanied with forgiveness on our part toward others.
He changes the term for sin, from “debts” (emphasizing sins of omission) to “trespasses” (emphasizing sins of commission, presumably easier to avoid). This would be strange if he were simply amplifying the fifth petition. The caution here has a broader application. In chapter 18, the Lord instructs his disciples on the need for forgiveness. This instruction begins with a detailed protocol for dealing with offenses between believers. Note the use of the word “trespass.”
Mat 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
As a result of this instruction, Peter asks him,
Mat 18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
The Lord responds by telling a parable about a great lord who forgives his servants their debts, only to have one of those servants enforce a much lesser debt on one of his debtors. When he hears of the servant’s ingratitude, he condemns him to a worse punishment than the one to which he was originally liable. He concludes, again using the word “trespass,”
Mat 18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
So far, we can see a clear link between the amplification in ch. 6 and the lessons about forgiveness in ch. 18. But there is one more detail. In Ch. 18, between the Lord’s protocol for reconciliation and Peter’s question, he promises the disciples the power of corporate prayer:
Mat 18:18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
We need to forgive one another, not just because the Lord tells us to, but because it is a critical condition for gathering together in prayer. We cannot “agree on earth” about our petitions to heaven if we are not agreed on earth about other things, specifically our relation with one another. The exhortation to forgiveness is not just about obtaining forgiveness from God. It is about ensuring our access to him in corporate prayer, ensuring that we as a church remain in close communication with our heavenly Father. Bitterness among believers blocks our communion with God.