The Truth About the Lord’s Prayer
“And 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.”
The Lord’s Prayer is something to behold. It’s very interesting:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:9-15)
First of all, the words The Lord’s Prayer are not in the Bible. It is us who’s put a label on this particular passage, found in Matthew 6. Yes, Jesus is the one praying it, but other than that fact, this is a prayer of death if we are truly respecting it. When we aren’t holding this prayer to its true standard, we’re watering down God’s Word, cherry-picking here and there, or acting as if Jesus was not being serious. He was being serious. He came to fulfill the Law, not talk about it in hyperbole (see Matthew 5:17).
However, those who struggle with the tendency of legalism will fight tooth and nail to protect this prayer as they walk others through repeating it. But at the same time, they aren’t doing it in full themselves–which is what God requires if you want to live by this prayer. That was Jesus’ whole point.
If we back up into Matthew 5, Jesus says something that puts each person who “attempts” to live by this prayer on a flaming tightrope, high above a pool of starving crocodiles:
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
This statement by Christ caused the self-centered Jewish man or woman to think one of two things:
- “Be perfect like God is perfect? How in the world am I supposed to do that? *Gulp*”
- “This man needs to die. Who does he think he is?”
The first thought is what Jesus was wanting His listeners to have as He gave the Sermon on the Mount, as well as what we call the Lord’s Prayer. Here’s a rule of thumb when reading the gospels, which is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: If Jesus gives an impossible commandment or objective, that commandment or objective’s purpose is to lead the listener toward faith in Him alone apart from what they do or do not do. His M.O. is to get people to free-fall into grace by creating “I can’t do this” scenarios.
Let’s look back into Matthew 5, one chapter before the Lord’s Prayer, to see what the audience is supposed to be “doing perfectly,” as well as the punishments for when they don’t. Keep in mind, the Bible wasn’t written in chapters. Chapters and verses were added much later by the publishers for easy searching. Therefore, Matthew 5 and 6 run together. Jesus–with a group of people who’d been taught the Law of Moses their entire life–preaches the Law. But then increases its difficulty in order to add on top of its current impossible standard:
- You’ve been taught, do not murder. But I say don’t even get angry or call anyone names. If you do, you will be in danger of hell (see Matthew 5:21,22).
- Don’t offer your animal sacrifice on the altar if someone has an issue with you–not you, but them. If they don’t feel right about you, you can’t get forgiveness at the Day of Atonement (see Matthew 5:23,24).
- You’ve been taught, do not commit adultery. But I say don’t even think about it. If you do, you are commanded to pluck out your eye. If your hand sins, cut that off too. If you don’t, you’ll go to hell, but you’ll have your eyes and hands (see Matthew 5:27-30).
- If you divorce your wife except for sexual misconduct you brand her as the victim of adultery. Not just you, but her also, even though she did nothing wrong. Therefore, you’re responsible for more than just your sins, but hers too, and the new man in her life (see Matthew 5:31,32).
- Never swear by anything. If you do, Satan is speaking through you (see Matthew 5:33-37).
- If someone hits you in the face, turn and let them hit you on the other side too. Never defend yourself (see Matthew 5:38-39).
- If someone asks you for anything, give to them all they want and never ask them to pay you back (see Matthew 5:38-42).
After listing off all of these impossible-to-follow commandments, and increasing each’s futility, He wanted to be sure His listeners really get it. So He throws down the gauntlet with the final touch, “Be perfect like God is perfect” (see Matthew 5:48).
But why? Why not just let the religious people live their lives and then God can give them their grade at the pearly gates? I mean, they weren’t like those nasty Gentiles who had no hope with all that sinnin’. They were the original chosen people of our Creator to carry His oracles. So why, Jesus? Why buck-up against your own people?
…He was showing them a new way (see John 14:6). Those who were addicted to self-righteousness, distraught and shackled with behavior-focused theology? He was setting them free. He was showing them an easier way, and giving them a much lighter burden. He was offering green pastures of faith, rather than mountain-climbing of Law (see John 8:32, Psalm 23, Matthew 11:28-30).
In order to pull off this feat they had to die to the Law–that is, attempting to obey it–so that they could turn to faith in Him alone. Law and grace couldn’t be mixed, they had to be separate (see Matthew 9:17). The Law hadn’t died. It still hasn’t died to this very day (see Matthew 5:17). But these new believers in Jesus had died to the Law, just like you and me, Christian.
Paul, a former devout Law-keeper, expresses this truth ad nauseam in his letters. Here are just two highlights:
“For through the Law I died to the Law so that I might live for God.” (Galatians 2:19)
“Therefore, my brothers, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:4)
The only use of the Law–just like today–was to point out the dirt on peoples’ faces. It never did anything to clean it off, especially by attempting to obey it (see Galatians 2:16, 3:11, Romans 3:20). Trying to become righteous by Mosaic Law observance–which included the Ten Commandments (see Deuteronomy 4:2, 2 Corinthians 3:7, Romans 7:8)–would be the same as me trying to become righteous by obeying the laws of my local city.
A cop will never pull me over and say, “You’re doing a great job obeying the speed limit.” No. The only time he’d pull me over is to correct me. Same with Moses’ Law, and now the same with Jesus’ addition to Moses’ Law in Matthew 5 and 6.
This is why He gave the Sermon on the Mount, and this is why He prayed the Lord’s Prayer! He was setting up the sanctimonious zealots for failure in order to herd them through the narrow gate of grace (see Matthew 7:13,14). But let’s take a step back into the laundry list of Law in which Christ just spouted out, then added to, in order to make it even more difficult. Each time He upped the ante in Matthew 5, He first said, “You have heard this” and “You have heard that.”
What was it they had heard?…The Mosaic Law! 613 commandments given to the Jews–who were also called Israel–the people group who followed Moses through the Red Sea out of slavery in Egypt. This is not written to us. WE ARE GENTILES. Non-Jewish people were never invited to hear the Sermon on the Mount or the Lord’s Prayer. So when we attempt to retrofit this stuff into our faith, we’ve veered way off course. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us, not Moses (see 2 Corinthians 3:8, John 14:26, Galatians 5:22,23).
This is for the Hebrew people. This is their mail, not ours. We are simply spectators to their ballgame–not invited to play.
We were never given the Law which came by Moses. We only came to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Just look at the New Testament letters which were written after the Cross:
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11)
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
So when we try to give the Sermon on the Mount our best shot, it’s laughable. We must be perfect. This is not for us as New Covenant believers, which is the only Covenant available for both the Jew and Gentile (see Hebrews 8:6,13). Further, just because a person is Jewish that doesn’t mean they will automatically get to go to heaven. They must repent of their unbelief in Christ as the Messiah in order to be saved (see Hebrews 10:26-29).
The Lord’s Prayer isn’t for us either. But for a moment, let’s digress and say that it is. How about we break down each part of this prayer in order to open up our supernatural eyes to the truth? Christ is not encouraging the listeners, but chastising them by way of this prayer. The devout, pious folk–who thought God approved of them greatly–Jesus blasted away at:
- This prayer is for hypocrites. He warms up this prayer, starting out in Matthew 6:5, by saying don’t be like the hypocrites who pray this way. Even in verses 1-4, He’s calling them out on their legalanity. I’m sure smoke was coming from the tops of their heads as Jesus declared that people who pray this way have already received their full reward. What reward was that? The admiration of those around them who thought they were holy–but really, they were not.
- This prayer is for show-offs. In verse 6, He tells the legalists to go pray in a private room because He knew this would ruffle the feathers of their squawking egos. This is obviously not for Christians because we can pray anywhere we want, at any time we want, out loud or to ourselves. There is no law in prayer; there is no legislative red tape we must break through in order to talk to Dad. Romans 8:15 says we have the right to call God, Abba, which means Daddy. That’s how close we are to Him. No need to go into a closet for a conversation, unless you want to.
- This prayer is for babblers. Right before the supposed Lord’s Prayer, in which everyone nowadays repeats, Jesus said don’t repeat a prayer like this. Just look: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:6). Pagans were non-Jews, us Gentiles, heathens. Just the same as people dancing around a campfire repeating the same prayer–thinking that babbling on and on will get God’s attention–Jesus scolded the Jews for this same action. Even today, the Jews who don’t believe in Jesus as the Christ, those in limbo, they’ll repeat the same prayers over and over at a giant wall in Jerusalem. There is no need for this. Say what you gotta say and be done.
- This prayer is for those who are not a part of the kingdom of God. For verse 10, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” the truth is God’s kingdom has come and His will has been done just as it is in heaven. Jesus is speaking about Himself. His presence. The Jews who wanted God’s kingdom to come were blind to the fact that their king was in front of them! They thought the Messiah would be a great warrior who would put the Jews back on top of the pecking order–not this kind carpenter from Nazareth. Jesus as the Messiah is God’s will. Heaven was in the flesh, now on earth, walking and talking! The Jews needed to repent of their unbelief in this truth. They had no need to repent of poor behavior, as they were the most well-behaved people on the planet. They needed to turn away from Moses and toward Jesus! (See John 1:1-4,17, 6:40, Mark 1:15, Ephesians 2:6).
- This prayer is for those who don’t have Christ living in them. “Give us today our daily bread”–our daily bread is Jesus, so verse 11 has been fulfilled as well. We don’t need God to keep giving us spiritual daily bread. Yes, our minds are being renewed day by day, but with Jesus in our spirit, we are no longer supernaturally hungry. By faith, our spirit has consumed the entirety of Christ’s Spirit, once and for all time. We are stuffed (see John 6:35, Matthew 26:26, 1 Corinthians 6:17,19, Hebrews 10:10, Ephesians 1:6, 2:8,9, Romans 12:2, Revelation 7:6).
- This prayer is for those who are not forgiven. “Forgive us our debts as WE forgive our debtors?” (See verse 12). This doesn’t sound like good news to me, which is what “the gospel” means. What if I have a hint of unforgiveness in my mind? What if I’ve been hurt so badly I don’t feel like I’ve forgiven–even though I’ve chosen to? Friend, this is not New Covenant forgiveness, but forgiveness according to the Law. On this side of Calvary we forgive others as Christ has forgiven us, not to get forgiveness. If that were the truth, we’d all be doomed because Jesus said we must be perfect like God is perfect, and only He can forgive perfectly (see Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32, Hebrews 1:3).
- This prayer is for those who are tempted to be legalistic. “Lead us not into temptation?” (See verse 13). Temptation of what? Breaking the Law of Moses. Why would I say that? Because Jesus was teaching the Law of Moses in this passage, Matthew 5 and 6. What else could it possibly be? Random temptations? No. Temptations lead to sin. Sin was defined by Moses’ Rolodex of 613 Thou Shalts.
- This prayer is for those who could have demons in them. “Deliver us from the evil one?” (See verse 13) JESUS DID THIS IN FULL, AT THE CROSS! “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (see 1 John 3:8). Christians cannot have a demon possess them. We are literally possessed by Christ’s Spirit and He won’t share us! (See 1 John 5:18, 1 Corinthians 6:19).
- This prayer is for those who don’t understand New Covenant forgiveness. God does not forgive us because we forgive others (see verses 14 and 15). He forgave us because we’ve believed Jesus has forgiven us (see John 3:16, 1 John 1:9, Romans 8:1, Hebrews 10:10). Most people who recite the Lord’s Prayer won’t finish this last part because it would clearly make them huge hypocrites: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). God doesn’t forgive us because we forgive. That would negate everything Jesus accomplished with His blood. Should we forgive? Absolutely, but not to be forgiven.
So today, my friends, know this: If you believe the Lord’s Prayer is for you–and you respect it in its entirety without watering it down–it will throw you in a coffin, nail the lid on tight, throw dirt on top of you, then place a headstone which reads: Here lies a Law-abiding hypocrite. But, if you want to throw this prayer of death aside and jump off the cliff into the ocean of God’s grace, Jesus will be in the water swimming with you. His grace is not just the most refreshing aspect of life on earth, it is life on earth–and life in heaven!
A prayer for you: Dad, when I think back on the times I’ve recited the Lord’s Prayer in locker rooms and church, I remember feeling like a robot. I now know that’s not how you want to interact with us. Thank you so much for exposing the truth of the New and Old Covenants! Thank you for showing me the difference! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For some, what they’ve just read might come as a shock, as it did for me when I first came to understand this truth. But if they, like me, want to continue to “attempt” to live by the Lord’s Prayer–or any part of the Law–they must do it perfectly. Jesus said this in Matthew 5:48, James said this in James 2:10, as did Paul, in Galatians 3:10. Set them free today, in their minds. Let them know the Law is still in full force, but only for unbelievers, not us. Your Word says in 1 Timothy 1:1-14 its only use is to funnel non-Christians away from Mosaic Law-breaking and toward grace and faith in Jesus! Take us deeper into the knowledge of what He has done! Amen.
This devotional is from The Christian Identity, Volume 1. Get your copy here!