Matthew 6:7–15: The Lord’s Prayer
In Matthew 6:1–18, Jesus confronts three forms of the hypocrisy of “practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (Matt. 6:1): in giving to the poor (Matt. 6:2–4), in prayer (Matt. 6:5–6), and in fasting (Matt. 6:16–18). After Jesus deals with hypocritical prayer that seeks to be seen by other people, he offers one of the most important side comments ever to have been uttered in Matt. 6:7–15. Here, Jesus teaches us how to pray when we are in secret, instructions that even include our Lord’s Prayer. In the prayer that he teaches, Jesus captures a striking paradox within prayer: we pray to Almighty God as children speaking with our Father.
1. How do the “Gentiles” pray (v. 7)? Why do the Gentiles pray in that way? What do they hope to gain by such prayers? Why does Jesus tell us not to pray as the Gentiles pray? What hope does God’s Fatherly care for us hold out for us? What is paradoxical about addressing God as “Our Father in heaven” (v. 9b)? In what ways should this prayer lead us into fear? In what ways should this prayer give us confident boldness?
2. What do we ask for in the first petition, “Hallowed by your name” (v. 9c)? What do we ask for in the second petition, “Your kingdom come” (v. 10a)? What do we ask for in the third petition, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (v. 10b)? What do these petitions teach us about God? What do these petitions teach us about prayer? How do each of these first three petitions reorient us as we come into God’s presence?
3. What do we ask for in the fourth petition, “Give us this day our daily bread” (v. 11)? What do we ask for in the fifth petition, “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (v. 12)? What do we ask for in the sixth petition, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (v. 13)? What do these petitions teach us about God? What do these petitions teach us about prayer? How do these prayers change our posture toward God?
4. Why does Jesus warn us that those who do not forgive others will not be forgiven by our heavenly Father (vv. 14–15)? Does this mean that only those who immediately forgive their deepest wounds will be forgiven? Does this mean that we must earn our forgiveness from God? Why or why not? If not, what does Jesus mean by this warning? What do we learn about God? What do we learn about ourselves? How does this warning reorient our prayers?