Luke’s Setting and Differences from Matthew (v. 1)
While He Was Praying – Teach Us to Pray
Luke’s recurring theme is that our Savior prayed (3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18; 9:28-29). We too, must learn to pray and live praying, else we shall live weak and frustrated. Jesus’ disciples were watching him pray. When he was finished, they asked him to teach them to pray. It was a wise request. The Lord must put into our mouths the words that are pleasing to him, for we do not know how to pray. Nothing in our mouth can rightly be called prayer unless our Savior teaches us. When we pray, we ask for the wrong things, or for the wrong reasons (James 4:3). We are a mess everywhere, and especially when it comes to seeking God’s face. It is one of the blessed fruits of his humiliation that in his weakness he taught us to pray. In every season of his life, each day of his life, alone or with his disciples, our Lord prayed. He drew down from heaven all the graces and strength he required to fulfill his Father’s will and redeem his people. We must learn to live as he did, seeking everything from our Father, looking for nothing but what we find in him, and turning away from the world’s self-reliance. It is Satanic and miserable. In the prayer closet – whether a wilderness or garden – this is where we shall find our God, our strength, and our life.
When You Pray, Say
In the prayer that follows, which our Lord delivered on more than one occasion, we have a Golden Rule for prayer. First, our Lord commanded it: Say! Pray like this; pray these words. You want me to teach you to pray as John taught his disciples? Here it is. I have told you before; it is so important I will tell you again. You have been watching me pray, and you are rightly drawn to my example, my communion with my Father, even what I am praying. We would appreciate our Lord’s SAY! if we thought of it in these terms – that in the “Lord’s Prayer,” as we call it, he brings us into his own inner life of prayer, what he prayed, the spirit of his praying. Second, it is a sufficient prayer. The Lord does not want us mouthing these words without thinking, then go our way thinking we have prayed. This prayer is not a formula, for real praying is not mindless. The prayer is so broad in its themes – God and man, this life and the next, spiritual and temporal needs, broad kingdom and personal battlefield – that it truly contains all we need. I do not believe that if you spent all your life applying the prayer and praying the applications that you would ever reach the end of your praying. It covers everything.
And there is, third, fervency in the prayer. The petition verbs are all imperative; the optative and subjunctive moods are more common for prayer. We should perhaps not press this too much, but these imperatives indicate something of the heart for which we should pray for God’s name to be honored and to be preserved from temptation, and everything in between. Prayer is not passive muttering or spiritual chanting. As all right prayer is prompted by an honest sense of our need, there is a certain aggressiveness that marks right praying. It is true that God hears his children’s sighing prayers, but the praying that takes him at his word, the praying that respect his majesty, the praying that expresses our sense of need of him, has an imperative urgency to it. “Lord, hallow your name – now! For your glory! Work, Lord, to cause your kingdom to come.” We should find ourselves praying more, and we would find the Lord more in prayer, if we came to him with this sense of need, a conviction that he alone can help us, and faith that this very prayer is a ladder he has dropped down from heaven that we may ascend by faith to find him and all that we need to serve him and endure to the end of our course.
Luke’s Omission of “Thy Will Be Done”
I hesitate to interrupt the flow of the narrative here, but one question may arise in our minds when we read Luke’s version of this prayer. In some modern English translations, the traditional third petition, “Thy will be done,” is omitted. In the so-called Textus Receptus, upon which the King James is based, the petition is included. Remember that our Lord gave the same teaching on more than one occasion. The authenticity and reliability of the Gospel records would be highly suspect if we found our Lord’s teaching preserved in the exact same order and wording on every occasion. Any teacher or preacher will tell you that he has often taught the same truths – for there is nothing new under God’s bright sun! – but he varies his wording and order. This is the likely explanation for the difference between Matthew and Luke. If the third petition was original to Luke’s text, it is difficult to understand why it came to be omitted. But, if some ancient texts included the third petition to harmonize Luke with Matthew, why did they not also import the doxology from Matthew? It is not found in any notable text. It is an interesting question. The so-called superior texts upon which much of modern textual criticism is based are very much at odds with themselves about the exact working of this prayer in Luke. Perhaps the third petition was original to Luke, but it fell out of those texts to which Westcott, Hort, and their successors tenaciously clung as superior. It is beyond our present concern to resolve this. For my part, I think it likely that our Lord gave the fuller version in Matthew, which was a public setting; here in Luke, which occurred the better part of two years later, he gave an abbreviated version of the same prayer.
Our Father in Heaven (v. 2)
God Our Father Loves Us, Invites Us to Pray
It is no good to pray to a “cosmic power” or “absolute mind.” If such existed, he/she/it would care nothing about us, could not relate to us, and would be unmoved by any of our petitions or tears. The Son of God came and revealed that God is our Father. We are to pray to “our Father:” “our” because he is not our Father alone but we are in fellowship with all who believe upon his name and come to him humbly. “Father” because he loves us, has adopted us as his children, and invites us to pray and cast all our cares upon him. “Our Father” is a distinctly Biblical and Christian conception of God – a reconciled God who provides atonement for our sins as a gift of his love, through his Beloved Son, so that we may be brought into his loving fellowship through grace. The Holy Spirit – not a force or impulse but God himself indwelling – thus bears witness that we are the children of God. He is called the Spirit of adoption. He applies Christ’s once-for-all shed blood to our consciences, thus setting us free from guilt because God is reconciled and has no charge against us. Writing God’s law upon our hearts and testifying to us that we are his sons and daughters – we call him “Father.” “Abba” is not an endearing synonym or deeper name but Aramaic for “my Father.” This is the legitimate and unassailable confidence for prayer and coming to the throne of grace – that God is our Father; that he is the reconciled Judge of those who believe in the Redeemer, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore our God and Father. He loves us, receives us graciously, is ready to hear, willing to forgive, and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.
Our Father Omnipotent; Depend upon his Goodness
And he is in heaven. Heaven calls our thoughts heavenward, above this world of trouble, to the seat of God’s majesty. This is not because God’s presence is limited to or even located in what we call heaven, for Solomon confessed, “The heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain him” (1 Kings 8:27). But heaven is above earth, and in prayer, when we approach it rightly, we look for help not here among other weak mortals but above the fray, where God dwells in unapproachable light, between the cherubim, in eternity. We come by prayer to a Father who is above all our troubles – not disinterested but higher, not limited by our sins and failings, self-sufficient, and omnipotent. Perhaps the latter is the main idea. “The Lord’s throne is in heaven” (Ps. 11:4). Absolute dominion and power are in the hands of our reconciled Father. Our lives with all their smaller troubles are in his hands. Thus, even by the way we address the Lord – not a bare “God” or “Great One” but our Father, we are taught to look to him alone for everything we need and to expect him to hear and help us, for he is the best of all fathers. He is full of goodness and power. There is nothing we lack, no enemy we or the whole church faces, and no change on this earth that are beyond his authority and power. Through them all, he is good and does good. He loves us. We must come to him with humbled and believing hearts, seeking nothing but him and what he is pleased to give us.
Lose Sight of Ourselves; Seek His Glory Alone
That he is in heaven teaches us that when we pray, we should try to lose sight of ourselves and seek his glory alone. Yes, we can bring our needs to him, but so much of the benefit of prayer does not lie in receiving answers to our specific requests but in finding and having God himself to be our God and Father, to know that He has heard us, for he has promised. We receive God and his many blessings in prayer by trusting him, worshipping him for his love and power, and depending upon his faithfulness as our Father. Words fail to express how necessary faith is when it comes to prayer – that we “believe that God is and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:5). But as this prayer unfolds, it becomes clear through the first three petitions that our first thoughts must be for God’s honor. Only the Spirit can teach us this, for left to ourselves, assuming we pray, we are completely consumed with our own concerns and needs. When we try to think of God at all, the thoughts become a jumble. But in these three petitions, our Lord focuses our thoughts upon his honor, his kingdom, and (in Matthew, at least), his will. These should consume us. If we “seek first his kingdom and righteousness,” he will give us all else we need for this life (Matt. 6:33-34).
Hallowed Be Thy Name (v. 2)
God’s Name and Reverence
If we look around for a moment at the world in which we live, it will not take long to see why we must begin prayer here – with the honor of God. Every moment the children of this world receive his rain, bask under his sunshine, and eat his bread, but then rise up to blaspheme, forget the homage they owe to their Maker, and go about their lives with determination to live as laws unto themselves. But God’s name is over all, and we must reverence it. His name is who he is – who he has revealed himself to be to us in his word, and in his works of creation and providence. It is worthless to speculate what God is; what matters is what he is to us as his children and how he tells us to approach him. He is our Father in heaven; he is also the HOLY, HOLY, HOLY God. We must pray, therefore, that we and all men will reverence his name – fear his majesty, believe and obey his word, yield to his providences in our lives, even the hard ones. We ought, as Calvin said, “not to think or speak of him without the highest veneration and honor.” Men around us drag his name through the mud of their anger and vanity; we pray for a heart to reverence him. We pray that all that dishonors him – blasphemy, false religion, evolutionary views of man and of the world, idolatry and political polytheism – may be put down by his power, repented of by his grace, and in place of the dishonor, that men will fear and adore his matchless name, bring their gifts to him in the name of his beloved Son, love him with all their hearts, and devote themselves to his service.
Defend and Exalt Your Reverend Name
And since men are by nature blasphemers and haters of God’s name – have you heard people around you talking in the supermarket – we necessarily pray in this first petition for God to have mercy upon blasphemers and idolaters through the gospel of his Son. It is only by his grace that appears in Jesus Christ that men are taught to flee ungodly lusts and to live in sober reverence toward him (Tit. 2:11-12). A reverent life is opposed to life of jokes and off-color humor, constant distraction, getting high on drugs and alcohol – we should recover the old idea of “shamefacedness”—that we cover our faces before him, bow to the dust before his majesty, and plead for his mercy. And this even though he is also our Father – for his nearness in love and grace does not in the least alter that he is a consuming fire. This is what is lost upon modern preachers of cheap and easy grace. God’s character has not changed; he does not expect less holiness of us because he has exhibited abundant grace to us. He is near, and he is the consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). We need grace for this very reason, as the apostle said, that the holy God is so near, but we are so sleepy, worldly, and unmindful of the incredible grace he has shown to us. And also, let us not forget God will defend his own name by sending forth the light of his truth against false religion, political tyrants and demagogues, atheist secularism in every form. “Gird your sword upon your thigh, O most mighty, with your glory and majesty. And in your majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness” (Ps. 45:3-4). Lord, defend your name, your covenant with your Son, his church, and your truth. Let us make this our daily plea, and we shall soon see the enemies of the Lord tremble and fall back at his presence.
Thy Kingdom Come; Thy Will be Done (v. 2)
God’s Kingdom His Royal Power
Our Lord has told us to “seek first God’s kingdom,” and his kingdom must be the subject of our fervent prayers. By “kingdom” he means God’s royal power. God is the “governor of the nations,” and he rules over them (Ps. 22:28). He has now given all rule and authority into the hand of his Son, to be the mediatorial King who brings salvation to the nations, rules them with a rod of iron, subdues his enemies beneath his feet, and exalts the righteous (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). God’s kingdom in Christ is particularly his power to bring salvation to the nations, further the spread of the gospel, expose false religions, uphold the church in the world so that she may defend God’s truth (1 Tim. 3:15), quicken dead hearts by his Spirit, and turn back Satan’s kingdom more and more. The connection between reverencing God’s name and the coming of his kingdom is evident. Men cannot and will not reverence God’s name and devote themselves to his service until by his power he takes away their dead, rebellious hearts and establishes his reign of grace and truth in them. When the Spirit reveals the angelic celebration at the definitive victory of Jesus Christ over the devil at the cross, resurrection, and ascension, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ” (Rev. 12:10), he does not mean that then only God began to rule over all things. Even the heathen Nebuchadnezzar was forced to recognize God’s righteous rule (Dan. 4:34-35). He means that in Jesus Christ God’s saving, redemptive kingdom of grace began to function fully in the earth, as promised by the prophets, not a retributive rule to punish evildoers, as by David’s sword, but a redeeming rule that advances through the sword coming out of Messiah’s mouth, his blessed gospel.
May We and All Men Bow to Your Authority
Thus, when we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we are praying for the spread of the gospel by the power of our reigning Savior – that he would strike the earth with his gospel sword and quicken dead hearts by his Spirit. We are praying that God would exert his power through his Son to subdue the nations to faith and obedience, so that they would confess Jesus Christ and seek his righteous rule over their affairs. Praying in this way, we recognize that men have no desire to be saved from their sins and ruled so benevolently by our Lord Jesus until God exerts his quickening power in their lives. We also recognize that the world cannot know peace and justice until it bows the knee to Jesus Christ. The reason there is so much injustice in the world is that men are unjust and love injustice, hate the truth, and flee from the light, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19-20).
The hope of the world, the hope of this present age, is that our Father’s merciful kingdom will come in greater fullness so that Satan’s dark kingdom of lies, strife, endless wars, murders and intrigue, will be rejected by men. It seems impossible for our Savior’s kingdom to come in this age and with righteousness and judgment as the prophets promised, unless we so hyper-spiritualize it, as so many do, that it is really nothing more than his rule over believers or his rule in heaven. But no, we remember our Father’s great promise to his Son in Isaiah 9:6-7, that of the “increase of his government [rule] and peace there would be no end.” And since the dead will never want this and cannot seek it, and God’s people are a minority and have little strength or influence over the world’s great ones, God adds: “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (v. 7). I will do it. I have regard for my Son. He will be exalted. The mountain of his church and kingdom will be the highest (Dan. 2:44-45). He will rule over the nations (Rev. 12:5). Pray for our Savior’s kingdom to come, child of God. Pray for our Father to have mercy upon us and all men, so that their dead hearts are made new and live by the power of the gospel, and by faith they willingly yield to our Savior’s power and kingdom (Ps. 18:44). This is impossible by any strength or wisdom we have, but nothing is too hard for the Lord. He directs us to pray for this with great fervency and without ceasing.
May We and All Men Do Your Will – as in Heaven, So on Earth
And how does God’s kingdom in his Son come concretely? Some have wanted to say it is when the church has parallel institutions to those of unbelieving man, or when the church or Christians take control of the institutions of the city of man. Our Lord shows us the true way God’s kingdom comes – when men devote themselves to doing his will. Let this occur progressively, and men will devote their educational and political institutions to our Savior’s service. It has happened before, albeit imperfectly, but we do not judge a man’s or a people’s profession of faith to be valid because it is perfect, but because it is according to his truth. This was the way our Savior brought the kingdom of God to bear upon earth. “I have come to do thy will, O my God, and thy law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8; Heb. 10:7,9). “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34). “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:28). God’s kingdom is not guns and tanks and marble palaces; it is obedience to his revealed will. His kingdom comes in us when like our Savior we hunger for God’s word and delight to obey it. This is what we lost in the Garden of Eden by our rebellion; it was what our Savior regained for us in the Garden of Gethsemane by his submission. “Not my will, but thine be done.”
Let us learn to pray this, for ourselves and all men, that our Lord Jesus will so work by the power of his Spirit that God’s word will be held in the highest esteem among us, that preachers of cheap grace who downplay the important of obedience will be silenced, lose their audiences, and shamed into silence. By this petition, we learn again how highly God values his word, that what he restores us to in Jesus Christ is a life of good works, denying ungodly lusts, and living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Tit. 2:11-12). We are saved by God’s grace so that with our Savior we may “learn obedience” (Heb. 5:8), delight to do our Father’s will, and consider obeying him our greatest privilege and truest expression of love (1 John 5:3). Pray for this in your own life – God brings his kingdom of grace and power to bear in your life as you always hunger like a newborn babe for his word (1 Pet. 2:2) and willingly yield yourself to be a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:18-21). This is the way heaven joyfully serves God – the angels and “spirits made perfect” cannot move quickly or joyfully enough to fulfill God’s every command. When we do not see men on earth doing God’s will, we must look up to heaven. There is the model for blessedness on earth. No political leader can bring true blessedness. God must give it to us from heaven, when he forms us for our life there by subduing our hearts to obedience while on earth. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, you and your kingdom, your sanctifying power by the Spirit, by which you are able to subdue all things to yourself (Phil. 3:21).