IS THE LORD'S PRAYER FOR THE CHURCH?
"After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."
There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the Lord's Prayer, or as it is less commonly known, the Disciples' Prayer is a favourite for millions of people all over the world. Whether it's a funeral or a wedding, a service of thanksgiving or just a lone sinner in a moment of crisis, the Lord's Prayer is always prayed for by those seeking help from the Lord.
But my question remains: is the Lord's Prayer for the Church?
During my recent verse-by-verse Bible study on Matthew's Gospel, we received an e-mail from a friend of our ministry, requesting I offer a more detailed explanation as to why I approach the Lord's Prayer in a semi-dispensational way.
As this article unfolds, I hope my stance on not only being a semi-dispensationalist becomes a little more clearer, but that I do justice to examining the Lord's Prayer faithfully, respectfully, and above all, correctly.
So, before I scrub up and attempt to do a methodical and delicate examination on the Lord's Prayer, I must take a moment or two to give a brief background to Matthew 6:9-13, where we find the Lord Jesus halfway through His Sermon on the Mount speech.
During this section of Holy Writ, we discover the Jewish Messiah speaking to the Jewish people, while still living under the Jewish law, concerning the Kingdom of Heaven and what God expected from His chosen race.
May I say that I believe the Kingdom of Heaven is the same as the Kingdom of God, but that the Kingdom has two parts to it, i.e., a physical realm (when Jesus returns to set up His Davidic Kingdom at the end of the Great Tribulation) and a spiritual realm (the here and now for those of us saved in the Church age).
Please allow me to add an important footnote, without duplicating my audio commentary from chapters 5-8, and make the following point: Jesus came to sharpen the law by personally demonstrating to His initial audience, and vicariously all of us, just how holy and righteous God is, while at the same time using the law to show us how sinful and lost man is.
With there being no middle ground, when it comes to reconciling these twin-accounts, man is left with one of two options: either he rejects the fact that the law has judged him and found him guilty, and therefore ends up before Jesus at the Great White Throne Judgment, before being cast alive into the lake of fire, or he allows the law to crush and convict him, and as such lead Him to Jesus to be fully saved and subsequently reconciled to God through his faith in the finished work of Christ (1 Tim. 2:5).
Jesus, as the Author of the Old Testament and its law, is also the Mediator and Saviour of the New Testament, and therefore by His death on the cross, He has abolished the Old Covenant and initiated the New Covenant, thereby fulfilling the law for us (2 Cor. 5:21).
With that now being said, please may I invite you to follow along with me, as I examine Matthew 6:9-13, in verse section.
"After this manner therefore pray ye." The last part of this verse has the words 'ye.' Ye is old English for all of you. Its plural use suggests that the Lord wanted His Jewish disciples to pray this prayer together. However this doesn't negate one praying it on their own, for I have done so myself, but I remain of the mindset that this was actually going to be a Jewish corporate prayer for His Jewish disciples to pray together.
If one looks at the verses prior to this, to find out what prompted the disciples to ask Jesus about prayer, they will see how John's disciples prayed and therefore they too wanted their Rabbi to show them how they should pray. So one cannot help but see how this transpired into a group prayer.
"Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name." The term 'our Father' is totally Jewish and was only relevant and applicable to the chosen race from the time of Moses to the end of the Lord's ministry. Paul would later tell us how God knocked down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, and now only has one people, the Church. But historically it would have been totally foreign for any unsaved Gentile to call Jehovah one's Father.
"....which art in heaven...." The Triune God, pre the Incarnation was in Heaven, with only a few exceptions of God the Son appearing in the Old Testament to commune with Abraham, Moses, Jacob, and certain others, but by and large, the Godhead has always geographically been in Heaven.
(While the godly kings of Israel enjoyed the presence of the Holy Spirit, He was only given to them for their special anointing, not to live and reside in them).
Now today, and excluding the fact that the Son of God lived and died among His people for 3.5 years, the moment a sinner calls on the Lord to be saved, he/she not only is saved from all past, present, and future sins, but they also get to enjoy the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost residing in them, here and now, and forever more!
The Trinity comes and makes their abode inside the child of God.
So the thought of a saved man or woman looking up at the sky and praying to God isn't really necessary. He is spiritually in you, while physically in Heaven too.
"....Hallowed be thy name." No faithful, God-fearing Jew would even utter the sacred name Jehovah in public, let alone in secret, but would call Him the Almighty, Adonai, or the Blessed One. In fact even the word God was considered holy and certainly never to be uttered loosely in Biblical times. (Some Jews today are still very sensitive about this).
The reaction from the Pharisees to Jesus calling Himself the Son of God caused them to attempt to stone Him to death, for the sin of blasphemy. So sensitive were they to the person and nature of God that they were actually prepared and willing to put a fellow Jew to death, just for saying He was God's Son.
Following the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, all those that love Him and have been born again have permanent access to the Godhead, and therefore can boldly approach the throne of grace whenever they want to, something which was totally unheard of for the Gentiles in times past, and call the Lord of the universe, Abba, Father.
In fact, even the Jews were heavily restricted from any personal contact with God, for they were expected to approach Him through the priestly sacrificial temple system (much like catholics have to through their worthless mass).
Today for the Bible believer, Jesus is our Mediator and High Priest, and is always ready and available to intercede for us.
"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." The kingdom spoken of here is a literal Jewish kingdom, with a literal Jewish King, ruling from a literal Jewish location, Jerusalem, the eternal city. Subsequent to say, Jesus hasn't yet initiated this literal kingdom.
The Jewish disciples prayed for it to come. The Church today can pray for it to come, much like we pray for the Lord's imminent return; and for those living after the rapture, during the Great Tribulation, they too will pray for it to come. But the fact remains that its prophetical language demands we interpret and approach this in a futuristic and dispensational way.
"Give us this day our daily bread." Also during the Lord's Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke about the love and provision that God has for the saved and unsaved. He has always made it possible for every man, woman, and child to survive by preparing food and water for His creation. He does the same for the birds of the air too. But man has to work for this in order to benefit from His universal provision.
One further footnote: with millions of people starving around the world everyday and many even dying, the ignorant critic likes to attack God for allowing this to occur. But what such a party fails to understand is that man has a free will and therefore God cannot and will not be held responsible for corrupt and depraved governments, which in many cases would rather let their people starve and die, while enjoying their lavish lifestyles by living in mansions and palaces.
So one today can most assuredly pray to God to provide one's food, but chances are, He already has, you just have to get up and work for it.
This bread also spoken of here has a spiritual application to it when we discover from John 6, how one must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood in order to be saved. Such hyperbole language is given to state the enormity of His soon bloody death and how one must totally eat (receive) the true bread from Heaven, if they are going to be saved of their sins and forgiven by an all holy God.
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." This next part is very interesting, and please permit me the opportunity to also cite the cross-reference to this found in Luke 11:2-4: "And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us." Here one's salvation (pre-the cross) and fellowship with God was partially conditional on first forgiving a wronged third party. But post-the cross, one is unconditionally forgiven and reconciled to God, without needing to forgive a third party, when the sinner simply believed on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Forgiveness is one of the main themes in Scripture. God has already forgiven mankind of all their wicked and vile sins against Him. He did this by entering the human race, being born of the Virgin Mary, and then living and dying for our sins. He lived the life that we could never, and He fulfilled the law to perfection in ways that we simply could never do.
Therefore we have already been reconciled to Him, but one needs to believe on Jesus and trust in Him totally in order to be saved. So if a person calls on the Lord and yet fails to forgive a third party, they are still saved but may lose their fellowship with God, especially if that third party is a fellow Bible-believer.
So for a saved party living today to recite this part of Matthew 6, which was very much applicable to those living under the law, pre the death of Christ and the commencement of the New Covenant, is not only problematic, to say the least, but is equivalent to a saved party today keeping the Jewish Sabbath, given to the Jews under the Old Covenant.
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:" Ultimately Jesus has already delivered us from evil, that being salvation for our sins and not entering eternal Hell when we die. But of course the primarily meaning of this is obviously daily sin, temptation, subsequent ruin, and even death.
While the Lord Jesus Christ has already atoned for our lasting salvation, we still need to put on each day the full armour of God, walk in the Spirit, and seek His protection from evil entities. Therefore this part of the Lord's Prayer is very much applicable to those of us living today, just as it had been during the disciples' day, and even more so in the coming Tribulation.
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." This final verse of the Lord's Prayer was only published in Protestant Bibles, but since the second Vatican council, catholics now recite it too. Although the tenses are in the present, the fact remains that the child of God is still anticipating this literal Davidic Kingdom to come, much as we joyfully await at any moment the rapture of the Church.
While it is regrettable that the ecumenical and inter-faith movement, along with the masons and all one-world new age religions, have hijacked the Lord's Prayer, the fact remains that only the born again child of God has the full attention of the Lord, and in His time these prayers and supplications are considered by Him and answered, if and when they meet His will for our lives.
In conclusion therefore as to whether or not the Lord's Prayer or the Disciples' Prayer is for the Church, may I say that any saved person living today can most certainly pray this prayer, but one would be wise to know which parts are applicable for this dispensation and which ones are not.