THE LORD’S PRAYER
In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is speaking very seriously about the methods and purposes which His disciples should use in giving alms and in praying to God. Many religious people seem to think that as long as you are doing something good it does not matter how you do it. This results in using all kinds of hand signs and repeating pious phrases that God neither asks for nor recognizes. Offering our prayers in public places is very common, and yet that is specifically condemned by Jesus. He warns against making a show of your piety by giving and by praying in a way that men can see and credit you for being a good and pious individual. To keep this from happening, Jesus says we should always do our giving and our praying in private. When Jesus was with His disciples and wanted to pray to the Father, He always went apart to pray. The only time He prayed aloud in public was when it was an intercessory prayer for those He was praying FOR, never when it was a private prayer of His own.
What we are doing is acting as one who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and with our Father above. Jesus is saying we should realize that God sees what we are doing, and we should value His approval above all else. Let me emphasize that very important point! Jesus is trying to make us see that our total concern and effort should be for God’s approval. To do that, we must avoid anything that would get man’s attention and concentrate totally on God. In this ever-present world, that is very difficult, and we must make every effort to not let any other consideration impinge on and interfere with what we are doing to fulfill our role as a child of the King.
After warning His disciples against making a show of their prayers, Jesus tells them “how” to pray. This we call “The Lord’s Prayer”, and it is His example of what we should be praying about. I think it is a mistake for people to use this prayer for everyone to quote at the same time, as a massive ritual of worship. This prayer focuses on the thoughts and desires of the human heart and is directed to the Father above. Every person who repeats it should allow every word to come from a penitent and contrite heart and be offered in total faith that God hears me and these are my personal desires, given humbly and sincerely before His throne of grace. It is not a mass activity.
The very first word expresses our belief that God is the Creator and Father of us all. And then Jesus says, “who art in Heaven”. It is very important for us to realize that Jesus is not locating God in a place which is called Heaven. God cannot be in a “place”, for He is everywhere. He dwells in every human heart and knows the innermost thoughts of us all. He is here with us, but He holds the distant stars in His hand and controls the Universe. Heaven is a word Jesus uses to speak of a place we cannot imagine. It is outside of time and space and therefore does not fit into the logic of those of us who live in this restricted world of space and time. None of our logic is suited to that dimension, for it is a dimension of absolute perfection and has no beginning and no end. So Jesus sums up the perfection where God dwells with the word “Heaven”. To us it is a state of wonder, joy, peace, love, kindness, mercy and all the qualities of goodness we can imagine, and beyond. When the disciples asked Jesus to show them God, He told them if they had seen Him, they had seen God. That meant not only that He was the Son of God and therefore also God Himself, but that all the qualities of goodness they saw in Him were a reflection of what God is. It is these qualities of God that man was made in the image of, and they are the qualities we all should be developing to be fitted to dwell with Him in eternity.
(In our next essay we will talk of the Hallowed Name of God.)