It’s The Lord’s Prayer, not Yours

For those of you who have frequented Christian church services of almost any variety, you are familiar with the routine: “Let us pray the prayer the Lord taught us. Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name….” The tiny little inconvenient detail is that our Lord Jesus Christ never taught us any such thing. He did not teach us to pray this prayer. This practice is contrary to what he taught.

Let’s take a look at what he taught regarding this matter. The record is in Matthew 6 (and also in Luke 11).

Matthew 6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts [used metaphorically here for “sins” as in Luke 11], as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

So did Jesus teach us to pray this prayer over and over and over again for centuries or did he teach to not use vain repetition like the heathen and think we will be heard for our much speaking? Did he say to pray this prayer or did he say to pray “in this manner?” Here, do it like this, not say these words over and over. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The magnitude of the irony that so many churches use a portion of this passage to put in to practice the very thing Jesus was condemning in the passage is bewildering. Yes, I know, the record in Luke says, “When you pray, say…” But the sense of it cannot be contradictory to what he was obviously teaching in Matthew. He was giving an example, not prescribing the right wording for repetition.

There is another reason why repetitious “praying” of “the Lord’s prayer” is inappropriate today. He wasn’t teaching “us.” He was teaching “his disciples.”

Luke 11:1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.

2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

OK, this is a distinction a little more difficult, perhaps, for some. I am a follower of my Lord Jesus Christ. I am, therefore, by definition, a disciple of Jesus Christ. But I am not in the same circumstance as his disciples who were living at that time and whom he was teaching. Jesus was not addressing people in the condition of we who are living after his death and resurrection, benefiting from his sacrifice, having been already forgiven due to the payment that he made. He was addressing people who were living before he made that payment. His disciples did not yet have the benefits that would come later as a result of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. He was addressing his disciples living at that time who wanted to know how to pray that day, not how to pray some day in the future when the arrangement of things would be different.

This is apparent from the two verses following “the Lord’s prayer” in Matthew.

Matthew 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Compare this to Ephesians.

Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. [That’s past tense, not dependent on something you might or might not do in the future, like forgive others.]

Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray at that time (before he had made the sacrifice for our sins), not teaching believers in this grace administration (Ephesians 3:2) how to pray now. Compare also the following:

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Colossians 1:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

Colossians 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Romans 6:2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Romans 6:7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.

1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

We no longer need to pray for God’s forgiveness. We already have it because Jesus Christ has paid for it. Praying that God would forgive us to the extent that we forgive others lowers the bar considerably. For us today to pray, “Forgive us our debts (sins) as we forgive…,” is to deny the accomplishment of our Lord’s completed work in his sacrifice for us.

For a more complete discussion on our righteousness before God coming to us as a gift without our works (not even confessing sins) see our series of postings titled, “The Gift of Righteousness.”

Actually, in spite of the title I chose for this article, it isn’t really even “the Lord’s prayer” let alone ours. It is his prayer only in the sense that he originated it, not that he would have ever prayed this. Jesus would have had no reason to have asked for God’s forgiveness. This was a prayer he gave as an example to his disciples living at that time in the circumstance they were in as to how they should approach God in prayer. Unfortunately, this description is too long to be catchy. I’m sure the title, “the Lord’s prayer,” will endure, but this title is misleading.

Routinely reciting “the Lord’s prayer” is a centuries old church tradition, but it is a tradition that contradicts God’s Word.

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