Since Jesus clearly gave instructions to pray the Lord's Prayer, I thought it would be a helpful exercise to map each key term in the prayer to another passage of scripture. The goal of this exercise is to peer even deeper into the power behind the prayer.
The prayer in its entirety is here:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day [a]our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from [b]evil. [c][For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]
Let's take a look at each portion of the prayer.
"Our Father who is in heaven"
One of the most amazing concepts in all of scripture is that we're considered adopted children of God, and this verse captures this idea perfectly:
I love how God has given us the vivid analogy of adoption for understanding how God sees our relationship with Him. This is especially powerful for myself, because I adopted my daughter when she was 11 years old. I understand how I, even in my selfish sinful nature, love and care for my daughter like my own blood. And that's exactly how God sees us. He gave His son so that we could be his adopted children and call him "Abba! Father!" The closest cultural translation to this phrase is "Daddy! Daddy!"
With this childlike attitude we can have confidence that God will always take care of us and that He has our best interests in mind.
"Hallowed be Your name"
As humans, we're here on earth for a short period of time and our impact is limited by the bounds of time and space. With that in mind, it never ceases to amaze me that the creator of the universe allows us to speak with him constantly. And even though we can approach God's presence boldly (Ephesians 3:12), it's vital that our boldness is exceeded by our reverance and thankfulness (Philippians 4:6).
For this mapping, I think that 2 Samuel 7:22 states it perfectly:
As it was said in C.S. Lewis' Narnia when describing Aslan (the analogous to Jesus): "He's not a tame lion." In the same way, we can never lose sight of the majesty of our God and this is a critical component of the Lord's prayer.
"Your kingdom come"
Why does Jesus instruct us to pray that the Kindgom of God would come? Matthew 13:44-46 describes the value of the Kingdom:
Try to imagine something with so much potential value (buying Microsoft or Google at their IPO price, purchasing a home under cost in a great neighborhood, etc) that you would be willing to sell everything that you have because you know that the sacrifice would be worth the reward. That is why we should pray for the Kingdom of God to come. The Kingdom is beyond earthly measure and it's our honor to be able to pursue it daily.
"Your will be done"
The will of God is something that can scare many believes because they believe that God has a single plan for their lives (Jeremiah 29:11), and they feel that if they don't interpret His will properly they will have failed in their life's mission. However, when we analyze the lives of the heroes of the faith in scripture, we never hear about them striving to find God's will for their lives. Instead we discover that these men and women were focused on pleasing God and following His word. So what is the will of God? Micah 6:8 gives us some pretty clear instructions:
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love [a]kindness,
And to walk [b]humbly with your God?
God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that we don't do well with complex rules. So in passages like this He helps to simplify how we should live our lives. So should we be worried about knowing God's will for our lives? Going back to Jeremiah 29:11
Notice how God says that "I know the plans that I have for you". He doesn't say that He is going to tell us His plans. That's a very important distinction and it lies at the heart of faith. We are to believe that God will take care of us. If we knew his will (aka our future), we wouldn't have to rely on Him each day. The uncertainty of our future should bring us closer to God.
Think back to the life of Daniel. Daniel was one of the greatest prohets of all time, and there's no indication that he knew: that he'd be captured and sent to Babylon, or that he would become the top politician under two of the greatest rulers for two separate kingdoms. He simply lived His life with the goal of pleasing God daily, from praying constantly to following his convictions, and working with all diligence.
"On earth as it is in heaven"
Finding the balance between following God's will while still living on earth is a daily challenge. Thankfully God's Word provides advice on how to do this in Romans 12:2:
This has been a verse that I've meditated on for years. It's pretty dense, so let's unwrap it. First and foremost it says that we are not to be conformed to this world. Other translations say "not to be conformed to the pattern of this world". Essentially this means that even though we're walking through this world for a time, we're not to let its sinful ways influence how we live our lives. Instead we are to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
So how can we, practically, renew our minds? Phillipians 4:8 provides the answer:
Imagine a life where everytime you were presented the decision to think about or spend time doing active, you passed the thoughts through the Phillipians 4:8 filter. Would your thought life be different? I know mine would.
So this is how we can renew our minds, and as Romans 12:2 explains, as we renew our minds we will be proving what the will of God is.
"Give us this day our daily bread"
We finally come to everyone's favorite passage. Giving us our daily bread is typically translated to mean: give me cool things. Don't get me wrong, there are countless verses that promise that God will bless us. However, when it comes to the Lord's Prayer, it specifically says 'daily bread'. This means that Jesus was not instructing us to pray for financial blessing. On the contrary, it means Jesus was instructing us to live a life that required a daily reliance on God to provide.
Most people (myself being the chief culprit), have it in our mind that if we could have millions in the bank or in our retirement portfolios, that we would be happy. We wouldn't have to worry about losing our job or paying next month's bills. However, if all of our financial worries were taken away, how would be honestly be able to pray and trust in God to provide 'our daily bread'?
God provided the perfect illutration of what it means to live a life of daily reliance on him in the Old Testament in Exodus 16:4:
After the Children of Israel broke free from Egypt, they wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. They had no natural source of sustainable food. No farm land, limited cattle, and they would have perished without God's provision. And God did provide. Each day he provided a day's portion worth of food for every person in the camp. If someone attempted to hoard the food they would discover it spoiled. God wanted to illustrate that they needed to be completely reliant on Him each day.
This is an extreme test of our faith to pray for this. Because this essentially means that we're giving up our human comfort and security, and we're trading it in for an unwavering trust for God to provide for us each day.
Other verses that support the concept for God's provision are:
So does this mean that God doesn't want us to perform tasks such as saving for retirement? I would say: it depends. Don't trust anything I say, simply listen to Jesus.
This parable illustrates the opposite of relying on God for our daily bread. The individual with overflowing wealth who does not have to rely on God for anything and does not give back to God, is doomed for destruction.
"And forgive us our debts"
Without forgiveness everyone born on this earth would be headed towards eternal damnation. Praying for the forgiveness of our sins is critical. But simply apologizing for our sins is not enough, we need to truly repent and turn away from our sins, as Acts 3:19 says:
I love this verse and it's why I selected it for mapping to this passage of the prayer. This verse encapsulates the importance of both word and deed (repent AND return), and if having our sins forgiven were not enough, this verse comes with a promise: "in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;"
Many times when we feel depression and anxiety, it can be directly linked with sin in our lives. And this verse instructs that after we have returned to God, He is able to bring us to times of refreshing. This reminds me of what the Old Testament prophet Joel said in Joel 2:25-26:
The trials that Israel was facing was due to their own disobedience. However, even though it was their own poor choices and rebellion that lead to punishment, God said that He would make it up to them. And God does the same thing for us. He not only chooses to forgive us, he also brings us back into His fullness of joy and supplies times of refreshing.
"as we also have forgiven our debtors"
The idea of forgiving others is absolutely vital for the Christian walk. God has forgiven us all of so much, the idea of not forgiving other is absolutely ridiculous. One of my favorite verses to discuss this concept can be found in Leviticus 19:18:
I love this verse because it gives the instructions to not take vengeance or bear a grudge. This means that that God is addressing the outside actions along with the internal heart attitude. There are so many times we can take the correct outward action while still harboring the wrong attitude. In order to please God, our internal attitude needs to match our actions. I think that this concept is most clearly illustrated in the parable of the two debtors in Matthew 18:21-35:
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven![b]
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.[c] 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.[d] He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters[e] from your heart.”
Lastly, Jesus gave a clear warning on the reprecussions we would face if we do not forgive others in Mark 11:26:
Eternal damnation is definintely a good motivator. However, there is another rationale for choosing to forgive that needs to be considered. When we harbor a grudge against someone, we are truly only harming ourselves. Bitterness and unforgiveness leads to increased stress and can harm your physically. Research from John Hopkins says, 'Conflict doesn’t just weigh down the spirit; it can lead to physical health issues.'
"And do not lead us into temptation"
Temptation does not come from God, it comes straight from our adversary. With that in mind, the first passage that comes to mind is the Psalmist's prayer:
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
Satan tries to lead us into temptation, but God, the restorer of our soul, wants to lead us beside quiet waters and the paths of righteousness.
We'll all face temptation in this fallen world, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13:
I believe this is exactly why Jesus added 'and do not lead us into temptation' in the prayer. He experienced the same temptations that we face and He overcame them. And because we have the indwelling Spirit of Christ we can live in that same victory over sin and temptation.
"but deliver us from evil"
Each day we are faced with evil in some form or another. Sometimes it can come in the form of temptation, at other times it can be disease and persecution. Because of this, 2 Thessalonians 3:3 is a constant encouragement:
Praying daily for the Lord to deliver us from evil (or the evil one), helps to reinforce the fact that we are in a battle. As Ephesians 6:12 says:
The thought of this ongoing battle would be terrifying, to say the least. Except that we do not fight alone. We have a faithful Father (our Abba) who fights on our behalf when we call on Him.