This beautiful, well-known prayer gives words to the sentiments of our hearts. Just before the prayer, in Matthew 6:7, 8 (NASB), Jesus says, "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetitions as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words." Thus we know that Jesus did not give this prayer as a set of words which should be repeated each time we pray. In verse 9 He says, "Pray, then, in this way," italics added. He was giving His followers a pattern on which to base their prayers.
Matthew 6:9-13 in the King James Version.
"Our Father which art in heaven" – In the Old Testament, God was rarely referred to as Father. But when Jesus came, He was opening up a new relationship with God. His death would pay for the sins of the world. Those who accepted Him as their Savior would be adopted as God's children. Speaking of Jesus, the Apostle John says, "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to them who believe in His name." (John 1:12, NASB)
"Hallowed be thy name" – To "hallow" is to "make holy" or "respect greatly." God's name, and all that it stands for, should be constantly reverenced in our lives. Unfortunately, nowadays it is the norm to speak God's name carelessly. But to the child of God, the very thought of our Father, who is characterized by His mighty power, wisdom, justice, and love, should cause us to bow down to Him in our hearts.
"Thy kingdom come" – God's kingdom on earth was promised in scripture for many, many years before Jesus came to earth. Here are a few prophecies from the KJV.
- "O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth…. Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us." Psalm 67:4-6
- "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth; for the LORD hath spoken it." Isaiah 25:8
- "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established… and all nations shall flow into it…. nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Isaiah 2:1-4
- "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." Isaiah 11:9
In His prayer our Lord showed that these, and all the many other prophecies about God's kingdom, were still valid and should be the believer's fervent hope.
"Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" – We should continue to pray for God's coming kingdom to accomplish His will throughout the earth, "for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." (Isa. 25:9, KJV)
"Give us this day our daily bread" – This verse helps us to remember that all things come from Him (James 1:17); and acknowledging our dependence on Him helps us to rely on our Father in every situation.
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" – Jesus wants us to admit our sins and ask forgiveness. I John 1:9, "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Then our Lord states our need to forgive others as well. Matt. 6:14, 15 teaches we will only be forgiven to the extent we learn to forgive others.
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." – We know from James 1:13 that God does not tempt man with evil. It is our own unrighteous desires that get us into trouble. However, verse 12 of that chapter (as well as I Peter 1:7 and 4:12,13) shows us that our faith will be tried, in order that we may grow and develop in Christian character. The key phrase is God never tempts "with evil." We read in I Corinthians 10:13 (NASB), "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." Remember that Satan had to get permission from God before bringing hardship on Job. (Job 1:9-12) This leads us to understand that we should pray, and trust, that our Father will not bring us into temptation that would be too hard for us, but help us to bear it. Again, putting this into words helps us to rely on God, not ourselves.
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." – These words are actually not our Lord's. They cannot be found in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament, and you will find them omitted or footnoted as such in the newer translations of the Bible, such as the NIV, RSV, NASB, and NWT.