Should we pray the Lord’s Prayer today? Some people say that because everything in the Lord’s Prayer is already complete in Jesus Christ it is wrong to pray the Lord’s Prayer. Is there a way to answer this question in a short, concise, biblically based format?
Very short answer:
Only those who are born again by the Spirit of God, through faith in the Son of God, can address God as ‘Our Father’ [John 1:12; Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:4; 1 John 3:1]. This prayer is obviously a prayer to be prayed by those who now know God as Father because they now know Jesus the Son [John 10:30; 14:7-9].
Not so short answer:
If the objection to praying the Lord’s Prayer today is grounded solely on the statement that everything in it is ‘already complete in Jesus Christ’, then the question can be answered by looking at each request in the Lord’s Prayer to see whether or not that statement is valid.
- Jesus himself honoured God’s name, but, is God’s name consistently hallowed by everyone on earth, including us, in the way we think, live and speak? No. It is not.
- Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God, but, has God’s kingdom, in every sense of the concept, come? No. It has not.
- Jesus Christ did God’s will perfectly, but, is God’s will done on earth, by us, our family, our government, the world? No. It is not.
- Jesus fed five thousand, but, is our daily bread automatically provided? No. It is not.
- While our forgiveness is certainly complete in Christ, are we always conscious of that forgiveness? No. We are not. And do we automatically forgive others? No. We do not.
- Does the fact that Jesus himself withstood temptation mean that we are never tempted? No. We are constantly tempted.
- While we are indeed delivered from the evil one’s authority and accusations by Christ, does that mean that Satan has stopped accusing us? Or never tries to deceive and destroy us? No. It does not.
On the other hand:
- Do we want God’s name to be hallowed? By ourselves, our families, our church? Yes. We do.
- Do we want God’s kingdom to come in people’s hearts and lives as the gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed all over the world? And do we want his final kingdom to come when all sin and suffering will be terminated for ever? Yes. We do.
- Do we want God’s will to be done on earth, by us, our families, our churches, our governments? Yes. We do.
- Do we want God to keep us and our families alive physically each day? Yes. We do.
- Do we want him to continue to forgive us, sinners though we are, and to help us to forgive others? Yes. We do.
- Do we want his aid and protection in times of temptation? Yes. We do.
- Do we want him do deliver us when the evil one tries to accuse us, deceive us and destroy us? Yes. We do.
Taking the very short answer deeper:
The Lord’s Prayer is meaningless apart from the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ, and can only be prayed with any reality by those who know him, and by knowing him know the one true God. Rather than Christ completing and thus putting aside this prayer, the knowledge of Christ and his death and resurrection is actually an essential for praying this prayer in a meaningful way, indeed, for praying any prayer. Again, taking each request in the prayer:
- We simply cannot honour God or his name, unless we honour Jesus. Only those who know Jesus actually know the one true God [John 5:23; 8:19].
- Only those who have acknowledged Christ have any real concept of his identity as King and of the reality and existence of the ‘kingdom of God’, or any real concern for his real kingdom.
- Only those who know Christ have any desire for his real will to be done, for it is only those who know him who also acknowledge him as the supreme authoritative Lord [Romans 10:9].
- Unless we know God by knowing Christ, the God to whom we pray for our food is a non-existent ‘god’ created by our own imaginations [John 14:6] with no power to do anything for us.
- Unless we know that he died for our sins, there is no legal basis on which to expect God to grant continuing forgiveness, and no example of or basis for the forgiveness he commands us to exercise towards others [Ephesians 1:7; 4:32].
- Unless we know the incarnate Christ, we have no assurance that anyone can survive temptation [Hebrews 4:14-16], and no freedom to admit our weakness in the face of temptation.
- Unless he rose from the dead we have no assurance that he is indeed the Victor who has demonstrated his supremacy over the evil one [1 Corinthians 15:12-57; Romans 1:4].
Thus, without the knowledge of Jesus Christ – who he is and what he did – each request in this prayer takes on the nature of the kind of praying that Jesus outlawed just before he gave his disciples this prayer: ‘when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him’ [Matthew 6:7,8].
The Lord’s Prayer is no meaningless babbling on of hopeless words to a god who is not there. Rather it is the extremely meaningful prayer to a God who has been identified as the Father in the incarnation of Christ, whose love and mercy have been affirmed in the incarnation and death of Christ, and whose Sovereign Power, Victory and Kingdom have been demonstrated in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ.
Those actions of Christ which the critics understand to invalidate this prayer are actually that which, to the contrary, give the Lord’s Prayer its continuing power and its continuing relevance.