We have begun a series of studies on the Disciples’ Prayer in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 6. We call it the Disciples’ Prayer for the following reasons –
1. It is a pattern Prayer, given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ to aid us in the very difficult task of prayer. To call it the Lord’s Prayer misses the point of ownership.
2. It cannot be a prayer that the Lord could pray in it’s entirety. As the Son of God, without sin, He could not have joined in with the petition, “Forgive us our debts.” He had none – He was sinless – He had nothing to be forgiven for – He made no mistakes – He broke no laws and He fulfilled every possible duty to His Father according to the law.
However all the other parts of the prayer are those that Jesus, as the Son of God, COULD legitimately pray.
3. It is a Prayer from an expert in Prayer and gifted to His disciples for their use. The Lord Jesus Christ has every right to teach us how to pray because He knew how to pray. He prayed in a different way to the religious leaders of His day – they had got it wrong. There had been a downgrade into man-centred legalism and proud self-projection in the prayers of the religionists, who taught THEIR disciples to pray in their ways.
“Oh God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” (Luke 18 v 11 – 12.)
So said the Pharisee in that passage.
The Disciples’ Prayer is a contrasting prayer to Jewish religionist’s and any other religionist’s prayers for that matter. It is unique in the world – there is nothing else like it – and it has been given to us, Christ’s disciples – it is our Prayer from the Lord.
4. It is the Disciple’s Prayer because naturally we do not know how to pray – we need to be taught. We referred last week to Romans 8 v 26
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
We have to face the fact that we do not always know how to pray, or for what to pray – we are in need of help – and judging by the conversations that I have had in this past week with members, this is confirmed. We want to pray but we do not know how. We know we should pray, but we are at a loss to pray effectively or even regularly. We feel guilty about our prayerlessness and we feel chastened by our failure to pray. The Lord Jesus Christ graciously supplies us with a pattern and a plan – to get us all praying.
John MacArthur remarks that
“there are 2 ultimate tests of true spirituality – Prayer is one and Study of the Word of God is the other. These two are the avenues for true communion between the believer and his Lord.”
How true this is.
The Word of God comes first. We will never know how to pray unless we know about God in all His vastness, about His will in all its sovereign purposes, and about what He says about our lives with all of our problems. The Study of the Bible, God’s word, gives birth to a meaningful prayer life. It is not one or the other, PRAYER OR Bible Study, but BOTH / AND.
You may think that this is obvious. Well let us test ourselves for a moment
We come to prayer and we pray this – “Lord, come and be with us, reveal Thy presence.”
Should we pray this? Has the Lord in His word not said,
“Where two or three are gathered in my name – there am I in the midst of them?
Has the Lord not said to us
“Lo I am with you always?”
Or we come to prayer and plead with God to give us His Holy Spirit - when the Bible says that we already have the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8 v 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
1 Corinthians 12 v 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
Or do we come to God asking that we might have love for others – when His word clearly says in Romans 5 v 5
the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
These are 3 examples of the way that people pray sometimes that reflects their lack of Bible Study and grasping of the truth of scripture.
When we get down to the study of God’s word and His truth floods our minds and souls, then we discover the real state of our own hearts, the truth about our spiritual lives. And such discoveries DRIVE us into opening those hearts to God.
So with these reasons we find that the Lord Jesus has given us the means and the stimulation to pray.
But one more thing before we proceed to the first phrase of the Disciple’s Prayer.
Should we recite the Disciple’s Prayer?
To answer this I want to suggest a small yes and a big No as answers to that question.
1. Beginning with the small YES.
Yes it is right to recite the Disciple’s Prayer - if you are learning it by heart. It is such a good thing to commit to memory any portion of the word of God.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee. (Psalm 119 v 11)
I learned this prayer through recitation at school because it was deemed a good passage to commit to memory and I have never forgotten it. It is programmed into my memory cells and I can recall it at any time. But I also was taught to recite other passages of scripture at school as well – 1 Corinthians 13, Job 28 v 12ff, Psalm 100 – all with the intention of their commitment to memory. Indeed being brought up in Wales I had to recite this prayer in Welsh – Ein Tad, yr hwn wyt yn y nefoedd….
Yes, then – we should recite the Prayer in order to learn it – and to learn how to use it.
2. Now the big NO.
Despite the fact that we read earlier from Luke’s account of the Prayer given by the Lord, that the disciples wanted the Lord Jesus to teach them to pray in the same way that John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray, it is not as John Bunyan calls it a “stinted form of prayer.”
1 – A Textual Reason.
A close examination of the wording of Matthew 6 and Luke 11 bears little difference in the substance of the instruction.
In Matthew 6 as we saw last week, Jesus said, “Pray in this manner”. In Luke 11 He says “when you are praying” (same Greek word, PROSEUCHOMAI) “speak like this”. But neither construction can be claimed to be “Use these exact words every time.”
2 – A Precedent Reason – or rather the absence of precedent.
There is not one occasion in the New Testament that we find the disciples or Apostles observing the Lord’s Prayer as a recitation. None of the epistles command it. And yet the pattern and model for many prayers in the New Testament seem to reflect Christ’s pattern – God’s glory then man’s need. For instance Acts 4 v 24 – 30.
24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: 25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. 29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, 30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
The reciting therefore of the Lord’s Prayer / Disciple’s Prayer is not commanded anywhere and we do not have to do it.
3 – A Practical Reason.
The Disciple’s Prayer is just that – the disciple’s prayer. When the public recitation of this prayer is prompted by the minister, as a feature or item of worship, when the church gathers together, then there could be others present who are not believers, who will feel obliged to say the words; but these friends may not be able to mean them. This was the reason that we, at another church that we attended some years ago, decided to discontinue the recitation of the prayer at the beginning of every Lord’s Day morning service. There were many unbelievers present. So we were asking them to say “Thy will be done” when in their hearts they had no Holy Spirit and no desire for God’s will to be done – otherwise they would have obeyed God’s will and repented of their sins and trusted His son. Can you see the dilemma that faces tender consciences of those who lead worship? This also has a direct bearing on what is called Liturgical worship in which certain prayers are read and recited corporately by a mixed company of people – believers and unbelievers.
We do not say that unbelievers cannot pray, for every unbeliever who would be saved by God’s grace can and will pray when under conviction of sin, is ready to repent and prepared to call on God for mercy – which he will hear if genuine.
The important thing here is that there are many who will recite the Disciple’s Prayer in a superstitious way – and they should not do that!
Let us now come to the first phrase in the Prayer –
Who is this One whom we address as OUR FATHER?
1. HE IS THE father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There are over 70 texts in the NT where the phrase MY FATHER is used – 59 of them are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
15 times in Matthew’s gospel; 4 in Luke; 35 in John’s gospel and 5 in Revelation.
Let us read one passage where the Lord Jesus refers to God as My father several times – John 10 v 17 – 32.
There are several prayers of the Saviour in which He addresses God as His Father – indeed EVERY prayer of His contains the address My father – except one – and it is a crucial one. Matthew 27 v 46.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
It was only in the bearing away of the sins of His people that the Lord Jesus was separated for a time from His Father – as He bore the curse of sin and the wrath of God upon Himself for sin – our sins!
The Lord Jesus is the only begotten Son of God the Father.
John 1 v 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
John 1 v 18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
John 3 v 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
1 John 4 v 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. God the Father is a real Person.
He is not an impersonal force as some like to believe amongst the cults.
God the Father exists –
Isaiah 9 v 6 and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Hebrews 11 v 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
God the Father loves –
1 John 3 v 1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
God the Father creates –
Malachi 2 v 10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?
Isaiah 64 v 8 But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.
And at this point we need to sound a warning about a common perverted doctrine that is rife today in the world. It is the doctrine of the universal Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of men. The teaching that everyone is God’s child is taken for granted today and preached from every liberal pulpit and is often heard from Radio 4’s Thought for the Day speakers. It is one of the reasons that God is blasphemed so often, when He is blamed by many for all the terrible things that happen – when it suits them. People like to acknowledge God as the universal Father of all men, so that they can shift blame onto Him when things go wrong with His world.
What is the truth of the doctrine?
1. God is the Father of all men in that He created all men generally. All men will answer to Him. He looks upon all men, but the result of His watching will be, for many, a look of judgment!
2. However he is the Father particularly of His elect and precious children who have been begotten in Christ – He is the Family head – the Father of the Family of believers. Ephesians 1 v 3 says –
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
All who have been born again by the spirit of God and have had their sins forgiven have been adopted into God’s family and are entitled to call Him FATHER.
Romans 8 v 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
3. Other human beings are brothers and sisters of all in the sense that the Bible says that they are all human beings.
Acts 17 v 26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
4. But we are brothers and sisters particularly to other elect and precious children who have been begotten in Christ.
Ephesians 6 v 23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the first phrase of the Disciple’s Prayer Jesus says “OUR father” – not “Thou who art everyone’s Father.” It is believers who call God Father. So
3. God the Father is the Special Father to Christians.
Scripture teaches that there are two families, and only two families on earth. Each family has a head and we read of these two families in 1 John 3 v 8 – 10.
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
The Lord God Almighty is the father of His children who are distinguished by the Apostle Paul as the children of light as distinct from the children of darkness.
Peter in 2 Peter 1 v 4 describes true believers as
Partakers of the Divine nature,
another way of saying that Christians are children of God – they partake of His nature as any child partakes of his father’s nature.
And the Apostle John says that those who believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive Him as their saviour through repentance, have the right to be called the sons and daughters of God.
The words of the Lord Jesus Christ in His teaching on prayer – OUR FATHER, - eliminate a world of unbelieving people.
Let us therefore draw some lessons from this teaching on the phrase OUR FATHER.
1. OUR FATHER should be the most common term that we use in prayer when we address God. The Lord Jesus has laid it down as a pattern. In doing so we are recognising God as our Father. It helps us to draw near to God with that depth and desire for warmth of heart that we long for.
2. OUR FATHER is a term of INTIMACY. The Lord Jesus Christ made intimacy with God a possibility. God the Father has revealed His amazing fatherliness and care for all of His blood bought people. And we are allowed to call Him Father – in the Greek – PATER – in the Aramaic – Abba – Daddy.
When we address a father in this way we are saying that we do not fear Him in a cringing and cowering way, but we call out Our father – the one who is our father through the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. OUR FATHER reminds us that we are made in God’s image and therefore can grasp that He is a listening God with a father’s heart. We should receive great assurance from this phrase, Our Father. “You may call me Father,” says the Lord God, “ you are not slaves or servants but you are children – my children – and I will receive you when you come to me.”
4. OUR FATHER reminds us that we can approach Him at any time. Our feet are under the table as family members – we can go to Him and ask for what we need and he will provide it.
5. OUR FATHER makes a demand of us – that we conform to his rules and standards. Children can show their respect for their father by keeping his rules, honouring his name and never doing anything that would displease him. Today the family is under attack. Many children do not know who their fathers are and are unsure of this principle of obedience and honour. But for the Christian, who DOES know who the Father is, then we admit that there are standards required of us. My friends, if we have no serious desire to control and subdue sin in our lives, and to promote holiness, we should not expect our prayers to be answered by the Father. We must know what He requires of us, and be doing it before we can expect His fatherly provisions for us.
6. OUR FATHER also enables us to expect a father’s care and kindness towards us. Are we amazed sometimes when our father supplies our needs? Drawing a parallel with our own fathers – are we amazed that he brings home the means to feed us? No – we expect it of him. Are we amazed and taken aback because he provides our clothes to warm us? No – we expect it – because that is what fathers do.
So with our heavenly father, without taking him for granted, nor behaving ungratefully, we can expect our needs to be supplied by our Heavenly father! If only we trusted Him more! Let us suppose that we are children - how would it be if we arrived home after school and our father completely ignored us and treated us as if we were not there? We would be disappointed. Kind and loving fathers never do that – and neither does our heavenly Father. He is always there – he loves to speak to us and listen to us in prayer. He has pledged Himself to do so –
Philippians 4 v 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
We need to remember all that this term OUR FATHER means to us. What a father He is. He is far greater than any earthly father could be. We can approach Him with respectful faith. We can approach Him with the twin attitudes – intimacy and awe! Our Father is also the sovereign majesty of the universe, the God of all power and the God of all authority. We Christians are all like princes and princesses. Our Father is the King. No one else but the children of King may come and call Him Daddy. But his children acknowledge Him as their king and ruler and the supreme power in the Kingdom. Awe and Intimacy – Respect and Familiarity – Reverence and Closeness.
Oh may all know the blessing of this term, OUR FATHER, in our praying because the sovereign, Almighty God of the universe has allowed us, because of the Lord Jesus Christ, to approach Him in prayer and address Him as FATHER.