The Lord's prayer is the most familiar prayer in the Christian tradition. It has been memorized from years of repetition to the point of becoming a public recital. Yet, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, their concern was not about learning a new recital or prayer formula per se.
They came from a long tradition of Jewish devoted prayer lifestyle. They knew how to pray from their religious perspective. However, their walk with Jesus made them to understand the fundamental gap between the way Jesus prayed and their own daily devotional routine. What was new about the Lord's prayer?
Jesus prayed from heaven's priorities down to earth, contrary to religious traditions that petition from earthly perspective while asking for heavenly assistance. The order of request works in a reverse mode in the Lord's prayer. Indeed, heaven's priorities seem at odds with the preoccupations of a fallen man. Thus, to pray as we ought, we must download heaven's policy planning to become functional on earth. Put another way, prayer is a "co-operation" with God to build a heaven on earth, starting with our own action.
Rightly so, to prevent from asking amiss, Jesus taught his disciples his own prayer protocol by way of building codes, regulations, and patterns of heaven's government blueprint. The Lord's prayer takes its parameters and borrows its purpose from heaven, and then makes inroads into earth. As a matter of fact, Jesus was teaching heaven's mission priorities to his disciples in the form of a policy statement so that believers will work out those priorities into reality on earth.
The radical change in the Lord's prayer in comparison with religious prayers is that we pray to successfully advance God's government policies on earth rather than petition God for redress of earthly grievances. As we thoughtfully analyze the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6: 9-13, we notice that there are 7 Government's Policy Statements that form the protocol of prayer. Obviously, the Lord's prayer is not about submitting to some formal recital procedures, but rather teaching the protocol or pattern of praying from a heavenly mission statement perspective.
I. Hallowed Be Your Name
The Lord's prayer sets out the believer to achieve a government's mission with intended and tangible results. It is not an exercise in persuasive rhetoric. The Lord's prayer is a "performative utterance". To claim the utterance is to embark on a journey of performing the missionary action or duty. When a city Mayor declares: "I hereby declare the bridge open!" Immediately, this new city facility becomes open to the public. In the same protocol, when we make the utterance: "Hallow be thy Name!", we submit our actions to take an immediate effect on the environment. We hallow the Lord's name by our life, not by our lips service.
Our daily actions create the hallow or defile God's name. The actions and the conduct of our character are the proof or the token of the honor we show to God. We hallow the Lord's name when we revere Him, believe Him, give Him glory, obey, and trust Him.Threefold component of the meaning of "hallowed be thy name". First, 'Hallowed be thy name' means, cause your commandments to be obeyed. Second, cause your Word to be believed. Third, cause your words to be trusted and glorified.
Taking upon us the mandate to hallow God's name is to obey and keep his commandments. We defile God's name and honor when we break or transgress his commandments. Like in a father and son relationship, we prove our sonship by honoring and respecting the words given by a father. Likewise, in a state, the token of our loyalty to the state is demonstrated through the way we abide to the laws regulating public life. Hallowed be your name actually implies the very act of causing God's commandments to be obeyed on earth. As Psalm 67: 2 says, "May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere".
The second level implies trusting God when we hallow his name. The better we know a person, the more we trust that person. And the more we trust that person, we become bold to take risks and sacrifice for that person. "Those who know thy name put their trust in thee" Psalm 9:10. The third dimension of God's name being hallowed refers to the necessity to cause people to believe in Him, and trust his word. In the wilderness, the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and demonstrated a lack of faith and belief in God because of a shortage of water. Moses became so impulsive to the point of not obeying God's words.
So, God took this careless behavior as a way of failing to hallow his name and trust Him. A lack of trust in God's words is a sign of distrust, misjudgment, disloyalty, and suspicion. God is not hallowed when our heart is still restless, seeking for other alternative ways for self-security, and lacking peace despite his words. "Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me (hallow me) in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land I have given you." Numbers 20:12
II. Your Kingdom or Government Come
God's kingdom (basilea) refers to his reign, his lordship, his sovereign governance. The coming of God's kingdom is God's reign through his people by the Holy Spirit. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, there is no kingdom manifestation on earth. When we pray, "Your kingdom come", we enter into motion to work for a government of justice, peace, joy, and righteousness on earth. Indeed, the essential characteristics of God's government are manifested through righteousness, justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, "Let your Kingdom come" strongly suggests the action of causing us to govern the earth in Righteousness. It also implies that we are to govern the earth in a peaceful rule and not through violence and wickedness. Micah 4: 1-3 foretells us that in God's coming government, nations "will hammer their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks".
Along with peace, God's government is concerned about the restoration of joy on earth. We are to work to bring joy in the earth. The visible evidence of the arrival of divine government is when disease, sickness, and death have loss their power over humankind. If ever mankind has to be restored to divine government on earth, joy must return to man's heart. That's why the miracles are an essential component of the Kingdom. In a joint session of preaching and demonstration about God's government, Jesus sent out the disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. God's government is not about organized rallies and religious symposium. It is a demonstration of a new world order with power over the status quo of evil rule, sickness and disease.
III. Your Will be Done on Earth
For God's government to be manifested on earth, submission to God's sovereign will is required. It is a pledge of obedience to God's will. Without God's will, the kingdom cannot be manifested. To implement God's will on earth, we have to know the government's portfolio.The Lord's prayer is teaching us that God's kingdom is the manifestation of his sovereign rule in heaven that must be replicated on earth. Thus, the prime objective of an effective prayer is to line up our will with God's will.
IV. Give Us Our Daily Bread
Praying for bread is intimately correlated with God's kingdom goals. God's plan of salvation is that no one should be lost or perish. The bread provision for a spiritually dying world answers and fits into the divine rescue mandate for all. It becomes imperative for people to partake to a life-giving bread, lest they will surely perish. "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
In a welfare state, citizens are looking to government rather than God for bread. Here, perishable bread is not the issue at all. Bread in the Lord's prayer refers to something much more than the eating commodities on our table. A genuine life requires for man not to bank on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God. Life does not run on a full belly insurance alone. Eternal life strictly depends on salvation. Unsaved lives are destined to perish no matter how much well fed they have been all along the way. Without salvation, eternal life is lost.
There are 3 aspects of bread we need to depend on to sustain our daily life. Hebrews 9: 4 speaks about three items placed within the Ark of the Covenant: Manna, Aaron's rod, and the 10 commandments. These three items point to the same reality. First, Manna as heavenly bread represents the living Word of God. The bread we are praying for in the Lord's prayer refers to the bread of salvation found only in Jesus. "Truly, truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but its my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." John 6: 27-36. God's Word is the living bread for man to live by and with. Second, Aaron's rod that budded represents a resurrected life through Christ. Third, the 10 commandments speak about God's Word or divine standards of righteousness through his spoken Word. Receiving God's Word is eating the living bread. The bread from heaven is life-giving. As the Word of God made flesh, Jesus is the bread of life from heaven. He is the resurrection and life. He is our righteousness.
Consequently, salvation is man's daily bread. In Matthew 5:6, we read: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." Without righteousness, peace, and justice, life on earth will be a nightmare in individuals as well as in nations. God's reign of salvation on earth is the very bread we need to run divine government on earth. Salvation refers to prosperity, safety, welfare, deliverance, liberty, being protected from harm, and freedom from sin and evil. Salvation is causing one to be rescued from : illness, poverty, enemies or opposition bringing trouble and violence, domination, slavery, insecurity, and iniquity. The Hebrew root word for savior is ישועה - Yeshua. Joshua or Yeshua means, God saves.
Convincingly, God's ultimate goal in feeding mankind with Living bread answers to his divine redemptive plan to have back his lost family. Through bread provision, his lost children are brought back home at his table through relationship with Jesus. The bread of salvation is the means for bringing back God's lost children home. The banquet table is an intimate family reunion. It is a way of adoption into God's royal family. God's purpose in giving us the Living bread from heaven was both to adopt and redeem. For it was not enough to simply rescue us from slavery to sin, but most importantly, to turn slaves into sons. As God has given us the bread of salvation, so we have the mandate to feed those who are lost to sin and evil so that they must come to saving knowledge of God's Word. As we receive bread, so we must share it to all.
V. Forgive Us Our Debts
Because of our sins and iniquity, we committed a treasonous trespass. We owe to God the debt of treason, that is eternal death. Jesus paid that debt of treason by taking upon himself our own death sentence. Through Christ's death and the spilling of His blood for our sins, we obtained forgiveness. Now, where is the relationship between debts forgiveness and God's government on earth?
Forgiveness is not about lips service utterance. In God's economy, forgiveness of sins goes hand and hand with restoration. It's not enough to forgive without restoring the person who committed an offense. The mission of Jesus in bringing us salvation fits into a restoration plan for a fallen man. Salvation is all about restoration to the prime position of man.Through salvation, man is restored back into his position of sonship and fellowship with God. The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15: 11-32 gives us the clue of how a lost and indebted son is restored back to his full position of authority and kingship with his Father when he received forgiveness from his transgressions and iniquity. Indeed, not only was the prodigal son forgiven. He was restored back to his original position of sonship through a royal robe, a ring of authority on his fingers, and royal sandals, on top of a fat cow to seal the deal. The salvation mandate would have been incomplete without the restoration plan. Joseph was sold for 20 pieces of silver by his own brothers into slavery in Egypt. When he rose to position of authority and power in a foreign land, Joseph forgave them and restored the entire family to fellowship with him a the royal palace.
Thus, forgiveness of sins and trespasses necessarily take into account restoration. Forgiveness without restoration will be a shallow and unfinished business. It's not enough to forgive people who did us wrong without restoring them. I forgive you your wrong, means, I restore you back to your original position. As we go about forgiving others, we restore them. Because God has restored us, we have the mission to restore others. The purpose of salvation and forgiveness is the restoration of a fallen mankind. The forgiveness mandate on earth is simply a replica of what Jesus purchased for us through salvation: our long awaited restoration to God. King David so well understood the intrinsic link between forgiveness and restoration when he pleaded in Psalm 51:12: "Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you." God is in the restoration mission, that's why He sent his Son to bring us salvation. God longs to do more for us than stop at the doorsteps of simple forgiveness. God wants to restore us. And then, He expect those who have been restored to help restore others.
VI. Lead Us Not Into Temptation
In Genesis 22, Abraham was proven by test trials so that he could demonstrate his loyalty to God. Immediately after Jesus' baptism, satan came to tempt him. Satan's goal was to get Jesus to misuse his authority and privileges to oppose God's Word and will and fall out of fellowship with the Father. Jesus overcame temptations by using God's words as a weapon. Satan tempted Job through misfortune to get him curse God and die. Job remained faithful to God despite his trials. Joseph was tempted in Potiphar's house to commit evil and gamble with the glorious destiny awaits him. He overcame the trial to become victorious.
And here is the crux to avoid from misguided debates ! Sins, temptations, and trespasses are the main stumbling blocks that hinder and prevent the coming of God's kingdom on earth in a double sense. First, when sin and temptations are not overcome, man cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Adam lost his fellowship with God at Eden because he failed to overcome the temptation of disobedience to God's Word. As long as sins prevail and have the upper hand, God's kingdom cannot be manifested. That' s why Jesus come for us to overcome sins. Second, wherever temptations and sins are not overcome, God's will cannot be manifested. Temptations and sins run counter to God's will and character.
7. Rescue Us From The Evil One.
In Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve fell in disgrace in Eden, they run into hiding from God's presence. God came looking for them. Since then, God has not stopped pursuing mankind in a rescue mission bearing in mind that evil is real and brings havoc in the world. Praying to be rescued from evil is working with God to achieve a divine mandate. Man betrayed God and was under control by the evil one. Yet, God never stop looking for mankind. The rescue mission is God's plan, not man's plan. From Genesis to Revelation, God has never stepped back from rescuing his children. God rescued Noah from being eradicated by the flood caused by wickedness prevailing in the world. God rescued Abraham. God rescued Israel from slavery and restored the nation back to freedom. The Messiah comes to rescue and restore the lost and perishing people. When evil and wickedness run the world, God has to intervene to rescue mankind from the peril of darkness. That's why it is so relevant to pray daily for divine intervention against evil.
Matthew 8:28 gives us a clear picture of the mission of the Son of God in this world. Jesus came to rescue us from the prince of darkness. During Jesus' public ministry, he encountered a man who had been controlled by evil spirits. The violent demon-possessed man from the region of the Gadarenes was completely out of control, living among the tombs. The evil one took control of all his faculties and tormented him day and night. When Jesus visited the area, the demonic kingdom was in total panic. Jesus delivered the man from the powers of darkness and restored him to God.
Narcisse Jean Alcide Nana is the author of, Virus Militarisés. To read a more expanded version of this article visit www.feetonthemountains.com