Of all the prayers prayed throughout the world, few are repeated as often as the Lord’s Prayer. We find it tucked within Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, where he taught at length about living a life that brings glory to God. Yet despite the prayer’s popularity, it is often misunderstood and undervalued. Let's look at the Bible text and meaning of the Lord's Prayer:
What Is the Lord’s Prayer?
Some believers have turned the Lord’s Prayer into something mystical as if the words themselves hold special sway with God. For others, its statements are spoken out of habit or obligation, making it easy to daydream right through without attaching any meaning. This, of course, is the exact opposite of his intention for Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7).
Could it be that our sovereign God, whose “divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3), has gone so far as to provide the discussion points for our conversations with him? On our own, we’re incapable of knowing how to pray or even wanting to pray. We are not the source of our gumption, creativity, and initiative for “we are not sufficient of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
"The Lord's Prayer" from Scripture
Before we further consider what the Lord’s Prayer teaches us about God, let’s take time to read the words of Jesus:
“Pray then like this, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’” (Matthew 6:9-13, ESV)
Difference of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew and Luke
If you've read the Gospels, you may have noticed that two of these books contain the Lord's prayer. We have the Matthew version above. Let's include the ESV version from Luke to see if we can spot any differences.
"Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:2-4, NASB)
We noticed some of the wording has some slight differences. But really, they contain the same basic idea. They both have a greeting in which they praise the name of the Lord and ask for His kingdom to come. They ask for their daily needs to be met. And they remind themselves to forgive others as Christ has forgiven them. Finally, both conclude with the supplication that God delivers us from evil and temptation. The second version doesn't have the wording of evil, but we can use the contextual clues of Matthew to understand it's probably implied.
Here is how the L.D. Bevan sums up the two versions of the Lord's Prayer and its impact:
"The differences of form show that exactness of similarity in words is not essential. The prayer includes adoration, supplication for the Kingdom, for personal needs, for forgiveness, for deliverance from temptation, and the ascription of glory. It is at once individual and universal; it sets the recognition of divine things first, and yet clearly asserts the ethical and social relations of life."
(Excerpted from "Prayers of Christ" in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
What Does the Lord’s Prayer Teach Us about God?
1. God wants us to call him Father. Right after Jesus said, “Pray then like this,” he spoke two words—“Our Father”—that point to God’s warm, personal, and authoritative position in the disciples’ lives — and in our lives.
He is our Father and we are his children, for we “have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15). And just so there’s no confusion—or better yet, no comparison between God and earthly fathers—he makes an important distinction: “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9 ESV, emphasis added).
2. God’s name is deserving of the highest honor. Not only is our Father holy — unique, set apart, superior — we must proclaim, “hallowed be your name,” for he is worthy “to receive glory and honor and power” (Revelation 4:11).
We want the world to know how refreshingly different he is, how nothing on earth satisfies like him, understands like him, forgives like him, and frees like him.
“There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).
3. God wants to reign in our hearts and lives. Jesus reminds us to seek God’s plan, not ours, and to do his will, not ours. He wants us to pray:
“Lord, your plans, your way, your everything is best for me,” not “This is what I want you to do, God; this is how I see it.”
Think of the harmful relationships that were avoided, dead-end jobs that were bypassed, and damaging words that were held back because of the grace given to us to say, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”
4. God wants us to depend on Him for everything. For every infant crying to be held, 5-year-old needing new shoes, and teenagers looking for encouragement, more often than not, a parent is there to meet the need.
Matthew 7:11 says, “If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask?” But beyond asking for earthly provision, he ultimately wants us to find nourishment and fulfillment in him alone.
5. God alone can forgive sin and remove guilt. C.S. Lewis was once asked this question at a seminar: “What is found in Christianity which is not found in any other religion?” He replied, “That’s simple: the forgiveness of sin.” We may find temporary comfort in positive thinking, but nothing wipes a slate clean like a God who has the power to remove sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).
6. God alone protects us from temptation and the enemy. Of all the places Jesus leads us—“beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23:2), “on a level path” (Psalm 27:11), “the way [we] should go” (Isaiah 48:17)—leading us “into temptation” is not one of them. He does the opposite; he helps us achieve victory over sin and the evil one, for he “disarmed the powers and authorities” and “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15).
The Lord's prayer, given to us by the Lord himself, gives us a great framework for when we talk with God but don't know the right words to say. We can learn a lot about God alone from this prayer we find in two of the Gospels.
Molly Parker is a freelance copywriter and content editor whose passion is helping clients craft engaging personality-packed content. In addition to finding beauty in the way God’s redemptive plan is woven throughout Scripture, she adores imaginative storylines, catchy phrasing, and sentence structure (just watch how her eyes twinkle when she mulls over comma placements). Molly calls California home with her grown-up kids, hunky husband, and a sassy cat. Visit her at www.mollyjeanparker.com.
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This article is part of Christianity.com's prayer answers including famous, topical prayers and information about the power of prayer. Find more related articles in the collection of prayers below:
The Serenity Prayer, The Lord's Prayer, Morning Prayers, Prayers for Healing, Thanksgiving Prayers, Advent Prayers, Christmas Prayers, Prayers for Peace, Prayers for Protection, Prayers for Strength, Praying in the Spirit