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Matthew 6:9 by Robert Dean
"Our Father in Heaven, halloed be Your Name." How many times have we uttered those words in unison with others without really knowing what they mean? Listen to this lesson to learn what Jesus taught His disciples about prayer. Learn the many different titles that have been given to this prayer and about its three distinct sections. See the connection between trespasses and debts. Find out what application, if any, the prayer has for us today.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:47 mins 49 secs

Pattern for Prayer
Matthew 6:9
Matthew Lesson #036
June 1, 2014

We are going to look at the section skipped over last time, which has to do with this particular prayer that Jesus provides for His disciples. We have to remember the context, and that immediate context comes out of vv. 7, 8. Jesus is teaching by way of contrast. I want to bring that out a little bit because every now and then I get some sort of negative response from people that I am maybe a little too concerned with what the culture says or what people say that is wrong. Jesus was concerned about what people said that was wrong and if we look at the Sermon on the Mount it is an example of perfect pedagogue. He is saying, this is what the truth and this is how it is how it is being distorted. It was a study in contrast. When you look in isolation at something that is not the color of white. You say okay that's white, I'm going down to pick up a can of white paint. Then you get down there and find that there are twenty different shades of white. Unless you have the right objective standard of white that you want to contrast it to all these other shades you will probably get home with the wrong colored paint.

In the teaching of Divine truth, the teaching of the Scripture, there is a lot of off-truth out there. It is not pure white; it is off white. It is the purpose of Satan as well as the objective of the sin nature and of those who are suppressing truth in unrighteousness to distort truth. This is what the Pharisees were doing. Jesus is contrasting truth in terms of what God's Word says with how it is practiced, either by the religious group in Israel who claimed to be biblical, with the non-believers and what the non-believers do, what the pagans do, what the heathen do.

In verse 7 Jesus said: "Do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles [heathen] do". We looked at the word for meaningless repetition last time and it was a word that indicates not only saying something over and over again but it might even be something that is just gibberish. It is an onomatopoeic word, a word that sounds like what it is describing. It is a word that is based on the fact that to the Greek ear that was unfamiliar with a foreign language.

There are a couple of different ways in which we can apply it. One is to the tongues-speak in Charismatic churches. There was a comparable pattern in the ancient world in mystical religions where they would pray in ecstatic utterances. In pagan thought being able to pray in these sorts of prayer languages that were illegible and meaningless to the listener meant that you were really spiritual. The same idea has been picked up by the modern Pentecostal-Charismatic movement. They often say, well the patterns that we see today may not fit some of the patterns in 1 Corinthians 14 but it is a prayer language. My response to that is always, well how do you know what you are praying because you don't understand anything that is coming out of your mouth. It may not even be a prayer. You say that it is more effective for you, but how do you know if you don't know what you are praying for? How can you say it is more effective?

Another aspect of this vain repetition among the heathen—and "heathen" isn't an insulting word; either is "pagan". These are not words that are chosen because they are pejorative. They are technical terms to refer to anybody who has a belief system that is not influenced by a Judeo-Christian framework—is that if you just said it enough times, if you had really long prayers, God would answer your prayer. This is not talking about asking God for something over a long period of time. This is asking something a lot of times in a relatively short time, in the same prayer. That is different from a prayer importuning God, coming continuously before God's throne of grace, maybe for decades, asking that God would answer a particular prayer. God many times answers that prayer, but not in our timing.

So Jesus says in v. 7 don't do what the heathen do, they think they will be heard from their many words. That is the key sentence. He is saying that they think that if they just say it long enough, loud enough, God will answer their prayer. In contrast he says in v. 8, "So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." You don't need to ask Him 56 times for the same thing within that prayer. God is omniscient; He knows what you are going to pray for. He knew you would pray those requests many years before you actually did it. The reason we pray is not to inform God of something He doesn't know (A lot of people pray that way), it is to bring our requests before Him as an expression of trust. We believe that trust, our ongoing faith, our walk by faith, is one of the basic spiritual skills in the Christian life. One of the ways we express our faith, or what we sometimes refer to as the faith-rest drill, is through prayer. We articulate our requests before God and that helps to put us in a mindset where, as it were, we are psychologically conscious of the fact that we are applying 1 Peter 5:7, casting all our care upon Him because He cares for us.

So Jesus says, "Your Father knows the things that you have need of before you ask Him". He is talking to them in reference to "your Father". He is reminding them of a special relationship that they have with the God of heaven. This is a unique concept in the Gospels. We are still in the age of Israel, still under the Mosaic Law; but in the Old Testament the idea of addressing the Father from this much of a personal vantage point was not emphasized. We don't find that kind of expression in the Old Testament. God is viewed more as the Father of Israel; Israel is viewed as the firstborn of God. That is an important relationship to emphasize.

By way of introduction this prayer is given a number of different names. If you are a Protestant this may be news to you but if you were a Roman Catholic then the name of this prayer is "The Our Father". In history, even, for example, in the Old Testament the title for many of the books comes from the first two or three words in the book. The title of the book of Genesis in the Hebrew, for example, is Bereshith, "In the beginning". In the Middle Ages in the Roman Catholic church any kind of official document was always titled by the first two or three words in that document. In Roman Catholic medieval tradition this prayer was referred to, not as the Lord's prayer or some other title, but as "The Our Father".

Last week Pope Francis went to Israel and prayed at the western wall. Then in an impromptu fashion as he was being driven over into the Palestinian controlled territory he had them stop at the wall of separation between Israel and the Palestinian authority, and he got out and went to the wall and a news article said that he prayed "The Our Father" at the wall. He also put a Spanish translation of "The Our Father" in one of the cracks in the wall. The problem with this is that it hits that category of vain repletion that Jesus prohibited in verse 7—the thought that if you just repeat in liturgy that it is somehow communicating something to God. It is a complete loss of the fact that this is a pattern, a template for prayer. It is not something that was to be cited in rote, although the idea of churches just reciting this over and over again verbatim goes all the way back to probably the end of the first century or beginning of the second century.

Here's an example from one of the earliest writings in the early church in the period of what is referred to as the apostolic fathers. No one knows who the author of this book was. It is simply called the Didache, the Greek word meaning teaching, and it was called The Teaching of the Twelve. What this tells us is the way the early church operated in the generation after the apostles. In the Didache chapter eight verses two and three it states: "Nor should you pray like the hypocrites. Instead, pray like this just as the Lord commanded in His Gospel". Then it lists the prayer verbatim. In verse 3 it says: "Pray like this three times a day". So in the early church believers were exhorted to recite this prayer three times a day—just a rote liturgical prayer. But that is not what our Lord was talking about when He is giving this as a model or pattern for prayer.

Another problem that comes up is that people says, "Why do you call it the Lord's prayer? Jesus wouldn't have prayed this prayer because there is a confession in there, "Forgive us our debts'." You hear this from pastors who get a little bit self-righteous. "We are better than them because we can read the text; we know that Jesus wouldn't pray this." Do you know anything about the English language or grammar? The Lord's prayer—that little apostrophe, it's a genitive. Genitives can have 25 different nuances, one of which is relationship: The Father's son. So with the phrase "the Lord's prayer" we know automatically that it is not talking about the genitive of relationship. The way some people want to take this is that this is the Lord's prayer—the way He prayed it. That is one way to take it; another is a genitive of source: this is a prayer that we learned from the Lord. That makes perfect sense. We are not saying this is the prayer the Lord prayed but this is the prayer that came from the Lord; He is the one who taught this. That is what the Lord's prayer means.

Other terms that are used to describe this prayer are "the disciples' prayer, the model prayer, and the pattern prayer". These don't really have much purchase because if you talk to somebody who has not background in the Bible and you call it "the pattern prayer" they are not going to have a clue what you are talking about. But if you use a phrase like "the Lord's prayer" or even "the our Father" all of a sudden you communicate with them. And of course the issue in talking to unbelievers is communication. 

There are three sections to this prayer. There is the opening address, verse 9b, "Our Father in heaven". Then there are three clauses, beginning in v. 9c that express the desire of the one praying to see the implementation of the of the worship of God in place and the value of His kingdom. These are all expressed in Greek grammar in third person imperatives. In English we just have a second person: you do this. The third person is "let this happen". It expresses a wish or desire. He is saying, "may your name be hallowed/sanctified", "May your kingdom come" or "May your will be done". All of those are focused upon God, His character, and His will. It is a theocentric prayer. This is not a prayer where the person is coming to God with a lot of personal needs. It is not a self-absorbed prayer; it is a God-absorbed prayer. 

It is followed by three petitions related to personal needs. The first one: "Give us today our daily bread". Second, "Forgive us our debts". That is interesting because the parallel in Luke is, "Forgive us our trespasses". There is something really interesting in that terminology because in Jewish thought debt could be financial, but debt could be an incurred obligation because you have offended or sinned against somebody. We have sinned against God and so we are indebted to God. That sin is a debt, so Paul in Colossians 2:9, 10 say that Christ cancelled our debt. The debt of our son was nailed to the cross. In Jewish thought a debt had to do with a penalty.

The last part: "Give us today our daily bread, Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors". Then last: "Do not bring us into testing but deliver us from the evil one" as opposed to "deliver us from evil". This is very similar to a Jewish prayer that was used at the time. This is from the Aramaic Qaddish. The etymology of that wordcomes from the Hebrew word qadosh, which means holy or to be set apart. In rabbinical of Jewish language a qaddish is a prayer, and there are various prayers for different purposes. It is a term that is used in Jewish liturgy that goes back to the second temple period.

Notice the similar themes here. The Aramaic qaddish reads:

"Exalted and hallowed be His great name. In the world which He created according to His will, may He let His kingdom rule in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of the whole house of Israel speedily and soon. Praise be His great name from eternity to eternity, and to this say, Amen."      

Notice how it emphasizes "Hallowed be His name", His kingdom, and praise for His great name. All of this is similar but there are some important distinctions there as well. One is that God is addressed now as "Our Father". Second, it is clear what the kingdom is. In v. 10 it is stated slightly different. It is a prayer for the kingdom to come as related to the message that Jesus is proclaiming at this time. It is clear that in Judaism at the time they still understood the kingdom to be physical in relation to the house of Israel. Then it closes with no mention of sin or issues related to evil. Those are important distinctions that Jesus is bringing out in His prayer because His disciples would have been familiar with this prayer. What they are hearing is something that sounds similar but there is correction going on. If you don't understand the background of rabbinic thought you miss the nuances coming across in the text. In other words, you don't read it or hear it the same way the disciples would have. So now we can see that Jesus is not giving them something totally new but He is straightening out again, just like He has been doing since the middle of chapter five, giving a corrective to the distortions and the misrepresentations of the Pharisaical theology.

Then there is an explanation of forgiveness. The forgiveness both within the body of the prayer and afterward is forgiveness related to other people. It is not talking about positional forgiveness at the cross, it is not talking necessarily about forgiveness in terms of confession of sin at the beginning. There is the prayer request to forgive us our debts/trespasses, but don't stop there—"as we forgive those who trespass against us. The emphasis there is on that horizontal element of forgiveness of one another, not primarily on the experiential forgiveness from God.   

Matthew 6:9 NASB "Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name."

This praying to God as their personal Father in heaven is unique. We don't find this in the Old Testament. Only fifteen times in the Old Testament is God referred to as Father. Where this does occur the emphasis is on His relationship to the nation Israel; they are His firstborn son. He is never referred to in the Old Testament as the Father of an individual or human beings in general. So you don't have this perverse doctrine that came out of Protestant liberalism called the universal Fatherhood of God.

Then we come to the first book of the New Testament, the first discourse of the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount, and He uses the term "Heavenly Father" thirteen times in the Sermon—5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 4, 6, 8, 14, 15, 18, 26, 32; 7:11. What does that tell us? That He is talking to these disciples as those who have a personal relationship with God. I keep laboring that point because there are too many who as saying Jesus is talking to a mixed multitude. He is especially making allusions to unbelievers in the crowd that they just don't have the right kind of righteousness to get into heaven. Jesus isn't talking about imputed righteousness in this section; He is talking to disciples who are already believers. He is telling them the kind of experiential righteousness that is needed for the kingdom to come, just like Moses told the conquest generation about the kind of righteousness Israel had to have if they were going to stay in the land and experience the full blessing of God. This is all about phase two Christian living. It is not about how to become a believer. And, of course, He is not talking to church age believers; He is talking to Jews under the Mosaic covenant. It has application to us because we are both waiting for the kingdom.

He starts off with "in this way", the Greek word HOUTOS, which usually at the beginning of a sentence is, "In this manner that I am about to tell you about". It is looking forward to something in the sentence, not to something He has already said. The word there for pray is a present imperative, PROSEUCHOMAI—the OMAI at the end indicates a deponent verb, which means it has a middle form but an active meaning. I point that out because there are always novices who are trying to learn some Greek, and they look at the conjugation and say it is a middle voice. They try to figure out how to translate it as a middle or a passive voice. You can't do it. It has an active meaning. It is a present imperative, which means that this is something that should continuously characterize your life.     

The Father is identified as the Father "in the heavenlies". It is a plural noun in the Greek. This would refer to the third heaven. "Hallowed be Your name" is an aorist passive imperative again; it is a command. Wait a minute. You're commanding God in a prayer? People come along and say, "How can you command God?" See, this is the name-it-and-claim-it crowd that comes along and says, "We have to tell God what to do". These are all imperatives but they misunderstand the imperative. There is an imperative of command, which is what a drill sergeant gives his troops. Then there is an imperative of request, which is how Daniel used imperatives to Nebuchadnezzar. An imperative of request means, "Please," or "If it is your will would you do this?" It is the same form but you have to understand that you don't give a command to the person in authority over you; it is a request. This is a third person, which means it is not you do this but we wish or we desire to do this. It is our desire that your name would be sanctified [set apart], revered or honored.

This idea that God's name is holy is found throughout the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms.

Psalm 30:4 NASB "Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones, And give thanks to His holy name."  His name is holy, so when we come along and say, "May your name be hallowed" we are not saying, "May some new holiness be added to you". God is absolute and cannot get any more holiness. What we are saying is, "May the holiness of your name be realized in the lives of people and in the world." It is a request that God's name be reverenced or honored as it should be.

Psalm 97:12 NASB "Be glad in the LORD, you righteous ones, And give thanks to His holy name." It is already holy; we don't make it holy.

Psalm 103:1 NASB "Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, {bless} His holy name." Same thing.

Then we get into the whole idea of the name of God. Name also indicates His character or His essence. It is that who He is should be honored and revered.

We also see in the Old Testament that there is a prayer to also sanctify and make His name holy, or hallowed.

Isaiah 19:23 NASB "But when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst, They will sanctify My name; Indeed, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob And will stand in awe of the God of Israel."

This is a call to the Jews to turn back to Him and to recognize and honor God's name in their experience.

Ezekiel 36:23 NASB "I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD," declares the Lord GOD, "when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight."

When Israel went into idolatry it caused God's name to be disrespected among the nations.

That has a direct application to the opening of this prayer: "Hallowed be thy name". The hallowing of God's name, based on Ezekiel 36:23 comes when the kingdom is established. This is a future time when Israel has been restored to the land and is walking with the Lord in obedience. The opening part of this prayer is oriented to the kingdom message that Jesus is giving at this time in His ministry. This prayer really has no application beyond that time period because there is no message now, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". But that is what the mission was there. Jesus had that message. The apostles are about to be sent out top declare that message, and they are to pray consistent with that message that God be revered and respected among His people and that this would be a part of the bringing in of the kingdom.