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Matthew 6:9-15

How to pray: The Lord’s Prayer shows the way.

Tom Faletti

May 18, 2024

Matthew 6:9-15 The Lord’s Prayer: How to pray


This prayer has two parts: 3 petitions focused on God and 3 petitions focused on our needs.


How does the prayer known today as “the Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father” begin?


What does this first part – "Our Father who art in heaven" – say about the nature and character of God?

“Heaven” tell us God is not human, or like a human.  “Father” tells us what God is like – what God’s character is, relative to us.


Note: Matthew is writing in Greek and here uses the Greek word for “father.”  However, if Jesus taught the prayer in Aramaic, he might have used the more intimate Aramaic word “Abba,” which means “Daddy.”  “Abba” only appears 3 times in the New Testament – in Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; and Galatians 4:6  but it casts a new light on our relationship with God that is not taught prior to Jesus.


What does this beginning of the prayer say about our relationship to God?  . . . and our relationship with each other?

This part of the prayer establishes that we are children of God – and therefore that we are brothers and sisters of each other.


What does “hallowed be thy name” mean?

“Hallowed” establishes that God, by his very nature, is holy.  In combination with “heaven” it establishes that God has a supreme degree of holiness, and this indicates a distinction between God and us.


Is this just about treating God’s name with respect, or is there more to it?


What are some ways we can “hallow” God’s name in our everyday living?


Verse 10 has the form of a typical Jewish couplet: two statements that say the same thing in different ways, so that the second amplifies the first (Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, p. 211-212).


How do “thy kingdom come” and “thy will be done on earth as in heaven” make the same point?


How does the second petition in verse 10 – “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – go further than or further explain the first of these petitions?


The petitions in verse 10 suggest that wherever God’s will is done, there the kingdom of God is.  Anywhere on Earth where the will of God is being done is part of the kingdom.  What does this say to you about how you live your life?



Barclay suggests that the last 3 petitions in this prayer focus our attention on 3 great human needs that are related to the present, past, and future: bread now, forgiveness for what we have done in the past, and help in future temptation.  He also suggests that these petitions point us to God the Father as Creator (bread), God the Son as savior/redeemer (forgiveness), and God the Holy Spirit as source of strength and guidance (in temptation) (Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, p. 199).


What do you think Jesus meant by “bread”?


Is it just about meeting our physical need for food?  Is it about all of our material needs?  Is it expressing a desire for spiritual food?  Is it about the Eucharist?  Is it about desire to participate in the heavenly banquet to come?  Throughout the ages, people have found benefit in all of these interpretations.


What might be the significance in praying for “our” daily bread, not “my” daily bread?


The word usually translated “daily” is uncertain.  It is used in the New Testament only here and in Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:3), and it only appears once in other Greek literature outside the New Testament.  Scholars suggest that it could mean “daily” or “tomorrow’s” or “needful” or “future” (Benedict T. Viviano, “The Gospel According to Matthew,” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, para. 39, p. 645).


Although in the Lord’s Prayer today many people pray, “Forgive us our trespasses,” the word is better translated as “debts,” which is what we find in both the NRSV, the NABRE, and most other modern translations.  The word “debts” is a metaphor for our sins.


If we are talking about sin, what does “Forgive us our debts” mean?  What does the word “debt” suggest about our sins?


What does “as we forgive those . . .” mean?

“as” means in the same proportion or to the same degree – with the same measure.  So we are asking God to forgive us to the same degree that we forgive others, or using the same measure we use to measure out forgiveness to others.


How do verses 14-15 amplify the message of the importance of forgiveness?


Why is forgiveness so important?


Forgiveness isn’t always easy.  How can we move to a place of forgiveness when we have been deeply hurt?

It is important to acknowledge the hurt, and sometimes we need time to process the hurt.  But ultimately, when forgiveness is hard, it comes down to a decision.  We can decide to hold on to the hurt or to give it to God and decide as an act of the will to stop holding it against the other person.  This does not necessarily mean “forgetting” the offense; for self-preservation we sometimes need to remember what has been done to us.  But we can still decide to stop holding it against the other person.  Sometimes, when we do this, we find that letting go of it provides a release for ourselves as well, allowing us to put the matter in the past and move forward.


In the Lord’s Prayer as we pray it today, we say, “Lead us not into temptation” (verse 13a).  There is a lot going on behind the scenes in this verse. 


First, although we pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” the word “temptation” is not the best translation of the word.  Modern translations often say “test” or “trial” in verse 13.  The Jews of Jesus’s time expected that there would be a time of severe testing before the coming of the Messiah.  A common understanding of the petition is that it is asking God to spare us that trial.


Second, although the first part literally means “Lead us not,” we know that God does not lead people into temptation – see James 1:13-14.  Therefore, it is better to interpret this metaphorically.  The Catholic bishops in a couple of countries in Europe have sought and received approval from the Vatican to rephrase this part of the prayer in their liturgies to remove the implication that God might lead us into temptation.  They are adopting other wordings that might be translated into English as: “Do not let us fall into temptation” or “Do not abandon us to temptation.”  The point is that, while God allows people to be put to the test, we want to ask him to spare us from that trial.


Where is God when you are tempted – leading you into the temptation or trying to lead you out of it?  Explain.


What is the test or trial you need to ask God to keep you from?


In the Lord’s Prayer, we usually pray, “Deliver us from evil.”   This acknowledges that evil is real, along with temptation.  What is the response to evil that Jesus is calling us to take?


In modern translations, the "deliver us" line in verse 6:13 is translated: “rescue us from the evil one” (NRSV) or “deliver us from the evil one” (NABRE), because the Greek word is sometimes used for the devil (for example, Matthew 13:38) – i.e., evil personified, not some abstract notion of evil.  What does this add to your understanding of what we are praying here?



Compare this prayer to your picture of the heaped-up, empty phrases Jesus rejects in Matthew 6:7.  How is this prayer different?


How can you capture some of the Lord’s Prayer’s simplicity and directness in your personal prayers to God?


For some people, this prayer has become so rote that it has lost some of its power.  If we could reclaim this prayer – every petition of it – so that it was a conscious expression of our intimate reliance on God as we face life in the real world, how might that affect our lives?


Which of these petitions is speaking must directly to your heart today, and why?


What might you consider doing differently because of today’s study?



Take a step back and consider this:


Barclay writes: “In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to bring the whole of life to the whole of God, and to bring the whole of God to the whole of life” (Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, p. 199).


How does this prayer invite us to make God the center of all that we face in life?


How can you use the Lord’s Prayer to help you invite God into “the whole” of your life?


What are the short, simple, direct things you need to say to God right now?



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Copyright © 2024, Tom Faletti (Faith Explored, This material may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration, for nonprofit use, provided such reproductions are not sold and include this copyright notice or a similar acknowledgement that includes a reference to Faith Explored and See for more materials like this.

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