The Lord’s Prayer is known by almost everyone, it’s the most famous prayer. But despite the commonality of this prayer we often miss the true beauty and depth found in the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer.
Perhaps we know it a little too well. Often what happens when something becomes familiar it gets glossed over. After all, we know it so we don’t need to think much about it.
But I think the Lord’s Prayer holds some incredible truth for us today. So, I want to spend a few minutes looking at this prayer that maybe you know a little too well. My hope is that a closer look will bring this powerful prayer back to life and encourage you in your faith.
The Context Of The Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-10 and is in the middle of Jesus’ longest recorded message, the Sermon On The Mount. To understand the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer we first need to understand the context.
Throughout this message Jesus reveals how his kingdom really works. What he establishes is revolutionary and different than anything the world has seen. He takes common practices and beliefs and flips them on their head. He reveals that his kingdom is upside down when compared to the world.
In short, Jesus is painting a picture of what a true disciple looks like.
When we read these words we often just read them as good ideas. But Jesus actually expects his followers to live and act like this.
When it comes to the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is taking a similar approach. He contrasts how most people in his day pray with how they should pray. And what he says next is revolutionary.
We are going to look at the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer verse by verse so that we can better understand this powerful truth.
The Meaning Of The Lord’s Prayer Verse By Verse
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon,
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation
but rescue us from the evil one.
You probably know these words. But the significance of the Lord’s Prayer isn’t found in the words, rather the themes.
What I mean is Jesus isn’t teaching us the exact words we should pray, He’s teaching us the themes we should incorporate into our prayers. Jesus is teaching His followers how to pray. Not the words to say, rather a structure to follow.
In John 17 we see Jesus’ longest recorded prayer. What’s interesting about this prayer is that Jesus prays about the same themes as He does the Lord’s Prayer, and even keeps to a similar pattern. In essence, He’s practicing what He’s preaching.
The Lord’s Prayer teaches what to pray about. The significance of these words are what they remind us of, the themes they point us to. That’s why so many churches say this every Sunday, because we need this reminder.
So, what does the Lord’s Prayer teach us? Let’s dive into the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer verse by verse.
Our Father In Heaven – We Are Family
Our Father in heaven…
The opening of Jesus’ prayer seems normal to us today. But 2,000 years ago those who heard this would have been floored. Father is a personal term and that reveals how accessible God is to us.
For the Jews in the audience this was a shocking revelation. God was not some distant being, but rather a father who has a vested interest in his children.
Today we often take God’s fatherhood for granted. God, the creator of the universe, is accessible to us. And not just accessible, but our Father.
The meaning of the Lord’s Prayer teaches us that God is present and cares about us. He is our heavenly father.
May You Name Be Kept Holy – We Come In Awe
may your name be kept holy…
God is our heavenly father and we can approach him anytime. However this second part shows us the manner in which we should do so.
God is holy, and we should approach him with a sense of reverence acknowledging that He is holy and we are in awe. God’s name isn’t something we should throw out without care. The name of God is holy and needs to be kept that way.
Now I’m not saying we need to use fancy words or make ourselves into something we are not. We can come as we are, but we should come into His presence in awe.
What does the Lord’s Prayer teach us? We can come as we are, but we shouldn’t forget the reverence of the moment.
May Your Kingdom Come Soon – We Don’t Belong Here
May your Kingdom come soon…
Often in life we are tempted to think about the kingdoms of this earth. The Lord’s Prayer reminds us that for followers of Jesus we belong to a different kingdom.
Our time here will end, this world will not last forever. And that’s okay. Our hope is not in the present world. Rather our hope is in what we cannot yet see. When Jesus prayed thy kingdom come he’s reminding us that our hope is in the kingdom of God.
Part of the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer is a reminder of the temporal place we know, live and the mission we are in while here. We should also take comfort in the knowledge that at the end of time, our struggles, trials, and difficulties will be no more. God’s Kingdom is coming and we should pray that it comes soon.
May Your Will Be Done On Earth – It’s Not About Us
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven…
We often like to think that life is about us. At least I do… but this is a reminder that I am charged with building God’s kingdom, not my kingdom. For all who follow Jesus, our lives should be about fulfilling God’s will and not our own.
Jesus talked at length about this throughout the gospels. We are to die to our own desires and submit to him. It’s not about accomplishing our own will, but God’s will.
The meaning of the Lord’s Prayer is a reminder that I continually need. It’s so easy to abandon the will of God and start doing what I want to do. But with God’s grace for my mistakes and with the help of the Holy Spirit I continually remind myself that it’s about God’s will and his kingdom.
Give Us Today The Food We Need – Our Present Needs Are Met
Give us today the food we need…
The middle of this prayer is filled with requests for our needs. Our daily bread represents our physical needs, what we need to live in this life.
In other words, God is a father who wants to provide for his children. We often have this picture that God just wants us to obey. But he also cares for us. We can and should present our needs to him.
What does the meaning of Lord’s Prayer teach us? Through God our needs are met.
And Forgive Us Our Sins – Our Eternal Needs Are Met
and forgive us our sins…
Just as God meets our physical needs he also meets our eternal needs. The forgiveness of our sins is what we need so that we can live eternally with God.
God cares about our here and now and our future.
As We Forgive Others – Forgiveness Leads To Forgiveness
as we have forgiven those who sin against us…
What’s interesting here is that Jesus seems to assume that when you’ve been forgiven you will forgive. He’s not saying we should forgive others, rather that we will forgive the sins of others. That’s the mark of true forgiveness.
It’s easy to throw rocks at other sinners, but when we do that they tend to ricochet back and hit us. When we recognize the magnitude of our own sin we will put down our rocks and forgive those that have wronged us. Why? Because God’s grace is enough.
The meaning of the Lord’s Prayer teaches us that those who recognize the amount they’ve been forgiven will forgive those around them.
Don’t Let Us Yield To Temptation – God Is Our Strength
And don’t let us yield to temptation but rescue us from the evil one…
This prayer ends with a nod to the magnitude of what’s happening behind the scenes. There’s a whole spiritual world out there that you and I aren’t privy too. And the reality is we need God’s strength to get by.
That means we should stay in tune with the Holy Spirit to help guide us and direct us. We cannot do this on our own strength.
How do we do this? Through prayer and actively leaning on God.
Want a little more information about this passage? Check out Dr. Constable’s Bible Notes: Matthew 6 Commentary
The Lord’s Prayer Meaning In Practice
The Lord’s Prayer is a pattern that Jesus taught his followers to pray in everyday life. The significance of this short prayer is in what the words point us to and remind us of. These themes are what should be incorporated into our own prayers.
I’m not saying that we have to pray each specific theme in order every time we pray. Nor am I saying it’s bad to recite this prayer. Rather that when we look at our prayer life we should see a balance of all these things.
If you are like me you probably notice a little bit of an imbalance in your prayer life. There are certain themes in the Lord’s Prayer that, if I’m honest, don’t make the cut very often. Maybe you find the same in your prayer life.
The Lord’s Prayer is a reminder of who God is and how we should engage with Him. So, the next time you pray start by reading the Lord’s Prayer and then pattern your prayer of the themes that Jesus used.
You might also like: The Beatitudes Explained Simply and What ‘Give To Caesars’ Really Means
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Don’t forget to leave a comment, what has the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer taught you?
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