Matthew 6:9-15 Part 1

Don’t be like the Pharisees who act pious – for the purpose of showing other people they’re pious; and who love to pray in public places so that others can see them.  Beware that self-esteem, Jesus says.  When you do works of compassion, and when you pray, keep self out of it and have God and His glory as the center of your motivation! 

            And don’t be like the pagan Gentiles who, when praying to their gods, babble on forever with pious tones and sounds.  Beware trying to impress men, and beware trying to impress God!  A man with poverty of spirit need not impress anybody.  And a man with a knowledge of the sovereignty of Almighty God understands that God knows what his needs are.  And that this interminable chanting and babbling and pious-sounding repetition presupposes that there are gods out there whose attention needs to be won!  That’s pagan mysticism!  And beware combining even the methods or practices of the pagans into your worship of the One True God!

Therefore, you are to pray like this....”  In other words, even in this highest privilege and duty of man – speaking to His Creator – we corrupt it in every way.  Here is man at his finest hour – in communion with his Creator – and the corruptions are endless!

And because that’s the case, He says, you are to pray like this...!  Because this is your highest duty; and because speaking to the Father is your highest privilege; and because of the human condition the tendency is toward the greatest corruption, you should pray like this...!  Here is the pattern!  Here is the example!  Here is the form – here are the principles – here are the words; pray in this manner – pray like this!

Now.  Even before we get to the first word in the Greek text, which is “Father,” we have to spend some time just pondering this thing called “the Lord’s Prayer.”  Because, in dissecting something, you stand a chance of seeing all the little parts without viewing the whole in all its beauty!  And this prayer is majestic, beautiful.

It has been put to music countless times.  And I wouldn’t even venture a guess as to the number of times it’s been recited as a congregational prayer in Sunday worship.  It’s been memorized by children and adults alike all over the world and in every age.  It has caught the imagination of writers of countless books through the centuries.  It is loved and revered by Christians. 

And, because they don’t understand it, unbelievers seem to love it too!  The King James rendition is gorgeous.  Even if nobody knows what hal-lo-wed be Thy Name means!  It still has this quality of greatness about it!  When I come to it in the text – whether I’m just reading, or doing some study – I notice that I have this hesitation about treating it too lightly.  Now, certainly we should all feel that way about all of Scripture.  No question!  But I’m talking about this particular passage and its special nature.  It is special!  I think Jesus meant for it to be.  And the Church has recognized that it is – down through the centuries.

And what makes it so great, other than the fact that its language is so majestic, is that it is the pattern!  It’s the pattern for man’s highest duty and privilege!  Although it’s been used as the prayer itself, and even added to so that it sounds better in public prayer, its infinitely greater use is that of “pattern.”

I’m not saying, and would never say, that the prayer shouldn’t be used in worship.  But I think it’s been repeated in an empty way more often than not; but that’s not the prayer’s fault!  Mindless anything in worship ought to be avoided at all costs – but that’s man’s deviation from Godly piety, not the fault of any part of God’s Word!  The Lord’s Prayer has been, and can be, and will be, of great use and value in public worship!

But the point here is that this is the pattern.  And the pattern has the proper form, and the proper content and the proper characteristics!  We’re going to be looking at great length at the content starting in a few minutes.  But first I want to continue to look at the form and characteristics.

And one of the first things that I notice is that this is speech to God, and that it centers its attention on God.  Now, you may say that that has more to do with content than anything else – but I don’t think so.  The fact that the pattern for all our prayer turns its attention to God, and isn’t self-centered, is a characteristic of our prayer pattern which is most critical.  I’m not speaking of content especially, here, but the character of the prayer!  It seems to leave self behind, and separate into the very heavenlies to address the very God of heaven and earth!

It just drops the concentration of self – this “I” centered nature of humanity – and turns full attention to the imminent and transcendent God – “Our Father in the heavens, hollowed be Your Name.”

That’s one thing I see that I think is so important.

One of the next things that come across my mind is the fact that it is so short.  It’s even been lengthened, as we mentioned before, in order to make it longer and more appropriate for public worship.  But it is short!  And I think that we ought to understand that there is meaning in its shortness!  In other words, since this is the pattern for prayer, and the pattern defines form and character and content, then superfluous speech ought to be defined right out of our prayer – not that length is bad – but unnecessary, superfluous speech!

There surely are no extra words here to get God’s attention.  And there are no super-pious “I” things here to make us feel better about our prayer!  Neither is there anything here which might call the attention of others to ourselves while we’re praying.  But it is short.  And that shortness ought to have something to do with the form and character of our own prayers.

Another thing that just captures my attention about this prayer is the fact that it is both fervent and cognitive.  It is passionate and reasoning.  It is ardent – and intelligent!  In other words, along with great feeling, there is also a high degree of reasoning here!  And the character of this prayer pattern here dispenses with neither emotion nor the mind!

And I think that answers many of the questions that come up concerning prayer – and we’ve dealt with them on Wednesday evenings – questions having to do with spontaneity versus pattern/freedom versus form/feeling versus rightness!

But our Lord presents us, because of our weaknesses and infirmities and sin, a perfect pattern for prayer!  And that pattern indicates both emotion and reason!

            Feeling and spontaneity quickly degenerate into excess!  Mysticism, and spiritualism, and pagan tongues, and animism, and transcendentalism – and, most of all, self-centered self-deism!

And reason, on the other hand, that doesn’t engage the emotions is mechanistic.  And that tends to the deification of the human mind – self worship!  But, again, the Lord Jesus gives us a pattern for all our prayer which is both fervent and perfectly intelligent!

And so – approaching our Heavenly Father with a critical evaluation of our motives, and with a studied pursuit of His Person, and placing real values on words and phrases and sequence, does not militate against fervency!  An intelligent and orderly approach to speaking with God in no way interferes with emotional release before God’s mercy seat – in fact, in giving form and substance to the expression of emotion, as we pour out our hearts to God, the forum is actually provided for us so that our condition can be truly and properly expressed!  In other words, Jesus here is actually providing the true forum (form) for expressing ourselves before God!  True forum for emotion and poverty of spirit.  Our hearts’ desires can truly be poured out in front of Him by using this pattern; where any other methodology tends to excess and self-worship!

So, when Jesus says, “beware – do not be like these people.”  Do not use their methodology, do not incorporate their worship practices, and do not participate in false worship!  When He says that, He’s actually condemning any perversions from this form!

From the babbling mysticism of the pagan worshipper to the self-worship of the Pharisee – and all the various versions of these two deviations, we are not to be like them, we are not to worship that way.  “When you pray, you are to pray like this....”

And then He gives us the pattern – pattern which involves the whole man in speaking to God, speech which is intelligent, thought through, and full of the emotions one would expect from a person speaking to Almighty God.

Now, there are a number of other things that are apparent to me, and probably to you, as we read over and study this prayer pattern.  But I’m only going to mention this one more – and then we have to move on to the content.

And this last apparent thing is the prayer’s characteristic similarity to other things in Scripture!  From the very first verse in the Bible there is a primacy of God.  “In the beginning – God....”  And throughout Scripture there is, first, the requirement of the acknowledging of God and His Sovereignty in all of His creation.  In times of worship, it is, in the place of primacy, the worship and adoration of God.  Our own bulletins reflect an order of worship which takes into account the praise and adoration of God and submitting to His Word – then man’s response.

The Ten Commandments have two main sections: the first four having to do with the primacy of God and the purity of worship.  The last six deal with man’s duty, and love for fellow man.  As Jesus said when asked about the greatest of the Commandments:  “Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.”  That was a summary of the ten.

And, as we read the Lord’s Prayer again, listen for that same characteristic in it: 


“Our Father in the heavens, hollowed be Your Name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, as in heaven, also on earth.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our offenses as we pardon our offenders; and enter us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”


As the primary place is given to God in all other parts of Scripture, so it is in the Lord’s Prayer.  As the primary place is God’s in all of creation, so it is in the Lord’s Prayer.  And so it is the pattern for all of life!  Do you see that?  The Lord’s Prayer is the pattern – not only for prayer – but for all of life!  That is its greatness!

To worship God is our chief end, recognizing that He is the Giver of sufficient material things for our lives.  And then to live in society with charity!  Loving our neighbors as ourselves!  And that’s what this prayer says!

The Lord’s Prayer is an overall goal of life.  It reflects the plan of God for His creatures.  It describes the order in which God planned the universe and brought it into existence.  And the order of the pious life is clearly seen in it!

And that brings me to the act of prayer itself.  I’ve heard it so many times, and I’m sure you have too; “I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, and I never get an answer, and I never get any satisfaction, and I never get any peace....”

And the reason people react in this way is because of self-centered prayer!  Again, they’ve got everything upside down!  Life isn’t for the glorification of men!  All is for the glory of God!

And Man is to see the pattern of prayer – recognize it as life itself – and fit into the goal of life which the pattern signifies!  As the prayer itself suggests – live for the glory and enjoyment of God, live in submission to His daily gifts, and live in lawful relationship to your neighbors!

And when men pray this – and when men live their prayer – God gives bountifully from His treasures of grace and mercy.

But the world’s selfishness is the result of not knowing Who He is, and what He is, and from whom we come, and for whom we are created!  It is not knowing the One to Whom the glory belongs!  Our Lord Jesus Christ here calls Him “Father.”  “Our Father” He says for us to pray.

Now, before I address any comments to this term “Father,” let me just say, as a warning, that our God is One God!  Not three gods – as in father, son, and spirit.  He is One God!  And the One true God has a Name called Father, Son and Holy Spirit!  These three persons are One.

But the Name “Father” declares much about God.  And Jesus said for us to pray “Our Father.”  That implies an exclusivity which most people hate; because God is not the Father of all people – except in the creative sense.  But God is exclusively the Father of His own children.

But the Father eternally begets the Son.  And the Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son.  And this One God works to bring His elect to the status of adopted children and joint heirs with the Only-begotten Son.

And our God then declares that there is a relationship – a relationship of nature.  Some have the nature of their father the devil.  But God’s adopted sons have a new nature – one which resembles the nature of His Only-begotten Son!  It is a relationship of nature!

And it is a relationship of love.  Not hatred and enmity – but love.  And that is unchanging and unchanged – because we are offspring!  “Father” speaks of One Who guides and bears with the children – one who educates them and rules over them.  And who must charge and correct them – “for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”

And a father is much more.  A father pities his children.  “If a son ask bread of any that is a father, will the father give him a stone; or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?”  Even if a child dies in a crime or some sin, must not a father cry out, as David did, “would God I had died for you, my son”?

And if mere men are this way toward their own sons, what must God’s love be for His Own Son.  And if God the Father would send His Own Only-begotten Son to die in the place of His adopted sons, then what must God’s love for us adopted sons be like?

Not many of us fathers would sacrifice an only-begotten son to save the lives of some sons we would adopt.  But God did that.  In fact, He turned His face away from His Only begotten Son in order that His adopted sons could stand face to face with Him and say, “Father.”  “Our Father.”

And all of this presumes an exclusive relationship – a relationship of nature.  A relationship of love.  Only believers can say it.  Only believers can pray it.  God receives glory from His adopted children.  We call Him Abba – Daddy, Father.

     We’ll have much more to say about that relationship next Lord’s Day as the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to worship and give glory to God when we pray.