“So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, 10 may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Note: any Bible reference containing only a chapter number and verse number is understood to be in the Gospel of Matthew.
What concerns should occupy the disciples’ prayers?
Prayer is one of the least understood corners of Christian theology. You may hear a score of alleged rules for prayer, only to find that many biblical prayers do not match them. Are our prayers based on a relationship to God, or do we behave like sorcerers uttering set formulas to get what we want?
Jesus has just stated that the Father knows what the disciples need before they ask (6:8). That sets up his conclusion: So, you should pray in this manner (my translation of 6:9a). Though we call what follows “The Lord’s Prayer,” it is clear that he is telling the disciples to pray the following prayer or one that contains its themes.
In the clause So, you should pray in this manner (my translation of 6:9a), the pronoun you is emphatic. Jesus is contrasting the prayer of his disciples with the powerless prayers of the hypocrites (6:5) and the Gentiles (6:7). By praying as Jesus instructs, the prayers of his disciples will be effective with their heavenly Father.
By beginning the model prayer with our Father in heaven (6:9a), Jesus bases our prayer on an intimate relationship with God. Craig Keener accurately says, “Effective prayer is not a complex ritual but a simply cry of faith predicated on an assured relationship.” Think about it! God listens to your prayers not because you say the words perfectly but because he loves you! While we revel in God’s closeness (our Father), we also stand in awe of him (in heaven).
The power of Jesus’ words may be seen in the fact that the phrase our Father in heaven later became part of synagogue Judaism, probably to blunt the allure of faith in Jesus the Messiah. Further, this opening phrase accounts for the theological idea that prayer should be addressed to the Father in keeping with the model Jesus gave us.
The first three appeals to the Father deal with your name (6:9), your kingdom (6:10), and your will (6:10). We might say this means God’s reputation, the scope of his rule, and what he wants to be done by his children. These ideas are tightly interrelated: they are the context in which a disciple of Jesus lives. We live to uphold God’s honor, to serve as we wait for the fullness of his kingdom, and to do as God directs in our daily lives.
The clause may your name be honored (6:9) — or hallowed be your name (6:9, ESV) — is the expression of a desire “that people recognize and acknowledge its holiness by giving God the reverence which is his due.” When the disciples pursue God faithfully, his name is honored.
The clause may your kingdom come (6:10) may be a request for the onset of the fullest expression of God’s kingdom, the earthly kingdom ruled by the Messiah as promised by the prophets. Or this request may be an appeal for a wider recognition and acknowledgement of the presence of God’s kingdom. That might take the form of more people responding to Jesus’ message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (4:17). The result would be an increase in disciples.
Finally, we have the two clauses: may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (6:10). R.T. France explains, “’Doing the will of God’ is for Matthew a potent summary of disciples’ lives (7:21; 12:50; and parabolically in 21:31).” God’s will is known — not unknown — which is why Jesus directed his disciples to teach new disciples “to obey everything I have commanded you” (28:20).
Who is hearing our prayers?
When people face great danger or trauma, they spontaneously cry out to God. If this happens as part of an ongoing relationship, it makes sense. Otherwise . . . ?
The one to whom you pray knows what is in your heart. Do you have concern for what is in his heart? A disciple of Jesus Christ can meet that test.
Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.
 Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1999) 216.
 Keener, Matthew, 217.
 R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007) 246.
 This position is taken by Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold the King (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1980) 110.
 This view is held by France, Matthew, 246.
 France, Matthew, 247.