“The Lord’s Prayer”

Matthew 6:9-15

We are returning to the Gospel according to Matthew. Today we are looking at one of the most important things Jesus had to say to His followers. It is here we read how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. I believe it was Jesus’ desire that His followers would take this prayer and adopt it as a daily habit. Somehow, thousands of years later, I fear it has become so familiar and so regulated to a prayer only said in a church service, that Christians today fail to utilize its example in their daily conversations with God. Today I hope our exploration of this prayer will offer you insight and guidance for your daily habit of prayer. 

Play, “Stop Children What’s That Sound?” by Buffalo Springfield. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjSpO2B6G4s

Oh, you wanted to continue to listen, right? What a great song! How many of you have ever heard that song before?

How many of you remember this playing on the radio when it came out? 

What year? 1967 

What band? “Buffalo Springfield”

Lead singer? Stephen Stills, wrote the song

He went on to be a part of what group? 

Crosby, Stills & Nash

Here is why I have played this song. Most of us, if not all of us, have heard this song, and upon hearing it, it conjures up images in your mind. Your mind remembers a time period, certain events, or certain movies, where you have heard pieces of it, such as in “Forrest Gump.”  

What moment in American history, themes or images come to mind when you hear this song?

[Vietnam; Penn State Protest; Martin Luther King assination; Woodstock]

What years are we talking here? 

This song played a role in the momentum of the upheaval of the American protests during the Vietnam War, in 1968. Here is what is so fascinating about this song: a cultural revolution was cultivated during the time of the Vietnam War, when human society created a turning point and a generation decided to take a different turn. During times like this poems and songs are adopted within the movement to express the intention, and transcend the purpose for which the song or poem may have been written. They begin to create new momentum to keep the movement going. Which is exactly the role this song played back in 1968. If you read interviews with Stephen Stills he explains that he did not write this song as an anti-war song. It wasn’t even on his mind at the time. 

He was reflecting on an experience his band, “Buffalo Springfield,” had in 1966-67 when they were playing at different clubs on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. A number of local businesses got together and passed an ordinance on Sunset Strip that created a curfew that said all businesses and people had to be off the strip by 11PM. The bands and music club owners organized a protest of about a 1000 people and there was a conflict with the police. Stephen Stills sat down and wrote a song reflecting on what had happened. The song was released in 1967 as a single. A year later, in 1968, it became a top 10 hit. The song had been out a year before it hit the billboard tops. When coupled with the movement that was happening at the time, the song became an icon on what is remembered by many, some of which are reflected in this room. Demonstrating the significant power of something that wasn’t even its intention when Stephen Stills wrote it.  

Contrast Jesus, who fully intended to start a movement. He gave something to His followers, that they could memorize and use to perpetuate the movement. He gave them a poem that they could use as a guide to keep the vitality and energy of the movement going. The sad irony is that unlike Buffalo Springfield’s adopted song, the fate of this prayer is that it has become a ritual, something we say, by rote, without meaning. We have lost the original intensity of this poem and what it is about. 

Look at verse 9, Jesus said, “Hey, when you pray, pray like this.” I think we should take this imperative literally. Jesus meant for us to pray like this. And for some of us, or perhaps most of us, prayer has become a reactive habit. Anne Lamott wrote an essay on prayer in her life, she wrote basically this is prayer in my life, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, help me, help me, help me, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” 

These are all reactions to something intense happening in our lives. Today’s Scripture is Jesus trying to give His disciples a proactive means of cultivating a regular habit of prayer. He gives a poem for us to remember. 

What could this prayer look like if we were to make this prayer, our daily prayer?

Jesus offers this prayer as an example of how He himself prayed. Remember Jesus retreated to pray at night, up in the hills of Galilee where He recharged and was able to come down and energize those around Him. There is no better summary of Jesus’ movement than these poetic words. They are meant to make us participants in the very movement Jesus began. 

Join me in saying this prayer together, you will find it in your bulletin under “Pastor’s Pondering.”

Did you notice this prayer is written like a poem? 

This made it easy to memorize. 

It has two major sections, the first one focusing on God and His domains and the second section focusing on us, and our domains. 

The prayer is actually structured according to what Jesus gave as the greatest commands. It focuses on the two sides of the ethics of the Kingdom. 

Love the Lord your God and 

love your neighbor as yourself. 

The poem begins with first pledging our allegiance to the Father, then to our neighbor. Also notice the pronoun, “our.” This isn’t a prayer just about just “Me,” Jesus gave it a communal sense. 

Remember, Jesus wants to keep the momentum of the kingdom of God going. 

Each thing He addresses in this poem are things He wants His followers to remember, daily. 

Naturally He begins with remembering to whom we are praying, “Our Father.” This is significant, because up until now addressing God as “Father,” was not a regular practice of Rabbi’s and teachers. But for Jesus, it was a demonstration of the relationship we should not only recognize but relish in. Jesus referred to Himself as the Son, and those who follow Him as co-heirs and children of God. Jesus knew that we would have difficulty remembering the God we are praying to. He knew that there would be cultural forces at work that cause us to get caught up in the world and reimage God to be like a disgruntled landlord who we owe something, instead of who Jesus depicted, as someone who loves us no matter what. So Jesus tells us to begin each time in prayer to, “Our Father,” the one who loves us unconditionally. 

When we wrap our minds around the two most important commandments Jesus gave, we read the first stanza of this poem, reflecting on “Love the Lord, your God,” by focusing on: 

His Name

His Kingdom, and 

His Will. 

“Hallowed, be thy Name,” Hallowed is an antiquated word which means, Holy, unique, set apart from all else. May Your name be Holy. We need to remind ourselves of His authority. Have you noticed as you get and go through your day, God’s authority is not recognized. The world could care less about God. Jesus wants us to remember who God is when we begin our prayers. 

Jesus also reminds us that this Kingdom movement He is promoting is a reestablishment of the world. “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.”  Remember, Jesus claimed the Kingdom is here, in Him. It’s not up there, in the sky somewhere, it has come down, in fact, it was living among them. 

That was the center of the movement.


For the followers of Jesus to recognize, God’s Kingdom was at hand, and Jesus was there to demonstrate how to live it out in the midst of a messed up world. 

“Here, just as it is Heaven.” 

So what we are praying for is more and more of God’s heaven to take over more and more of God’s earth. We seek more and more of God’s Kingdom to take over more and more of our life. 

Jesus has condensed the very center of God’s plan, to restore His world and His people down into five small stanzas, that we can remember and we can pray for every day. This becomes the ground of our existence of being a disciple of Jesus. 

That’s the first half of this poem, to bring ourselves into loving allegiance unto the Father, through Jesus into the movement of the Kingdom. Upon grounding ourselves in this story, then we turn attention to loving our neighbor as ourselves. 

There are three things Jesus thinks we need to bring to the Father, every single day:


Forgiveness and 


First, “Give us today our daily bread.” Jesus uses a type of teaching that connects a previous story in the Hebrew Scriptures to a new teaching He has for us today. Do you recall a story in the Hebrew Scriptures where the Hebrews had to rely on daily bread? Yes, manna. That is the story where the Israelites had been delivered from slavery and were on their way to the Promise Land, but found themselves in an in-between space, known as the wilderness. It is in that space where they needed to rely on the Father for their basic necessities, and more importantly they needed to see His provisions as a gift. These words were intentional. If we take on the first part of this prayer, where we have a foot in both the world and heaven, and we are on a journey to eternal life with God, we too are somewhere in the wilderness. An in-between time, where there are plenty of other stories out there, like, “Hey, you’re the captain of your own ship.” 

Or like the Puritans, with hard work you can make it in this world. Which is a story that is very deceiving because it tells us that we would have nothing if we didn’t work for it. However, the mindset of disciples of Jesus should be, “Give us our daily bread.” Now for some of us, that may be an honest to goodness prayer. For many who were listening to this for the first time, who were poor and may not have known where they would get food for the next day, this may have been true. Jesus knows that, but He wants all of His disciples to cultivate the mindset of a day laborer or a beggar. When we view the basic things we need and receive on a daily basis as gifts that I have not earned, but as gifts from the Father of life, it does something to you. It changes your focus from yourself, to God. It changes your view on your stuff. This kind of prayer inspires generosity. All that I have is a gift so when I have more than I need, I want to share with those who don’t.

Secondly, forgiveness, “ forgive us our debts, as we forgive others.” 

Jesus explored the idea of forgiveness back in chapter five and by placing it here He demonstrates the importance it plays in the lives of followers of Jesus.  The power of forgiveness is so important to the kingdom movement. Jesus came to tell us that we are forgiven, and we are in turn, called to forgive. God is quite aware of human nature and how we keep asserting our rights to get even. One wrong is countered with getting even, and generates another wrong all in the guise of being “fair.”  Jesus declares the act of getting even as stopped, as He was hanging on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them.” Jesus intends us to give forgiveness into the world. We forgive because we have been forgiven. 

Christian forgiveness is complex and difficult and has often been misunderstood. Here is what it does NOT mean:

  • Brushing wrong doing under the rug
  • Ignoring it
  • Condoning it and saying it wasn’t that bad, I forgive you

That is not Christian forgiveness. Looking back at what Jesus said in chapter 5 and what He will say later on in Matthew, we read that His view of forgiveness was looking straight on to the wrong that was done. Name it for what it is, that it was wrong, stupid, that it was lame. The distinction Jesus makes, is once it has been claimed, at that point you remove your right for full recompense or getting even. It doesn’t mean there are no consequences for their actions, or that you need to become best friends with them. 

When we get to the Matthew 18 principle, we will see that first Jesus recommends you seek to work things out, if you can’t, you take someone with you, if that doesn’t work out you take even more people.  You are never alone with the person again; you are called to work it out with a community. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation with Christ. In order to have reconciliation it requires two people. But not forgiveness, it only takes one, to give up the right to retaliate. Why do we forgive? Because Jesus did that for us. We are called to look upon the person with the idea that they too were created by God, and in God’s eyes a person of worth. They may be all screwed up and the crumb of the earth in my eyes but that’s not the point. We need to begin the journey to come to the point where we can wish that person well. Jesus is fully aware this is gnarly, because He follows this up with the next two verses. 

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Well that’s convenient. Clearly this was a significant part of the Kingdom movement. Notice Jesus doesn’t say, 

“If you struggle to forgive.” or

“If it takes time for you to forgive.” 

He says, “If you refuse to forgive.”

By not forgiving, you are showing that you have not internalized the forgiveness Jesus has shown to you in the first place. Apparently the litmus test for God to see that His grace has really sunk into our heart and mind is that not only have you received God’s forgiveness, but you have sent it right back out into the world where it is needed most. 

It is not the same as reconciliation, but it is the very heart of the gospel. Jesus knows this is difficult. I think that is why He calls us to pray for this daily. 

In essence, the Lord’s prayer is a condensed version of everything Jesus was about. He called His disciples to pray like this in order to remind them of what the Kingdom movement should look like. What if we were to take that call personally, every day? 

Not just at church.  

Jesus provides a warning should we choose to do this. Look at the last lines, 

lead us not into temptation,

Is God in the habit of leading me into temptation? If so, what does that mean? Does it mean God plants things in my life to see if I pass the test? 

No, absolutely not, get that story out of your head. 

Let’s look at the tests that Jesus experienced of temptation. There was one in the desert, at the beginning of this Kingdom movement and one at the end of His ministry in the Garden. In both of these, Jesus was led into a test. What was being tested? In the desert it was Jesus’ loyalty and allegiance to the Father. 

Was He going to bring in God’s Kingdom of humble self giving, service, forgiveness and love, or 

take the offer for power over all the nations? 

What a horrible experience. 

Yet, Jesus remained faithful. 

He gets it! 

It’s not fun! 

Life stinks sometimes. 

But we see through His example that we have the ability to talk with God and let Him know we’d rather not have to deal with it all. Look at what Jesus said in the garden. 

“I don’t really want to go through with this Father, if at all possible, please take this cup from me. But ultimately, not my will but Your will be done.” 

As the last part of the Lord’s Prayer attests, Jesus says, “deliver us from the evil one.” By your presence and power, help me to resist and be faithful to You. 

Jesus is fully aware that following Him is difficult. He knew we needed something to remind ourselves, everyday, that difficult trials will come our way. However, these trials are not signs that the Father has abandoned us, but that are actually paradoxically signs that the Father is with us. He will deliver us through, in some way. Although for many, that has meant giving up their lives, which is such the case for even Jesus. 

What an amazing gift this prayer is! Jesus reflected the essence of this prayer in His life and calls us to use this reflection in our daily life as we attempt to live within the Kingdom of God, on earth today. 

Let’s pray.