Matthew 6:9a

Setting and Overview
Matthew 6:9 begins what is commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. That title isn’t entirely inaccurate as the prayer is given to us by Jesus, but it can be misleading. This was not us getting an example of how Jesus prayed. We have other examples of His prayers in the Gospels, and while we can see how those prayers also match up with themes addressed here, there are also elements that Jesus had no need to pray. Instead, this is a prayer given as instruction for His disciples, which is why it is also, and more appropriately, often called the Disciples’ Prayer. As we look for guidance on how and what we should pray, these verses hold immeasurable value for us.
In verses 5-8 of Matthew 6, as part of a longer section addressing the danger of self-righteousness, Jesus specifically warned against insincere prayer. So, when we see Him command at the beginning of verse to
“pray this way,” we understand that He is giving this model prayer at least partly to prevent us from falling into those errors. When we see in Luke 11 that He gives almost the exact same model prayer, but with some changes in wording and in answer to a question about how to pray, we can see that the focus should be on the themes and manner of the prayer as indicated, rather than on the specific words themselves.
Before the first invocation, Jesus provides the address of “Our Father in heaven.” In the Old Testament, God is referred to as a father to emphasize that He is Creator (Deuteronomy 32:6, Malachi 2:10) and as an analogy to demonstrate His compassion (Psalm 103:13.) He is addressed as father in a relational sense, but only corporately (“our Father”) and not individually (Isaiah 63:16, Jeremiah 31:9, 20.) The father and son relationship is also used to describe how God relates to the kings in David’s line (II Samuel 7:14, Psalm 2:7, Psalm 89:26-27), but it is notable that nowhere in the Old Testament is there a record of anyone referring to God as “my Father.” With that background, the Jewish people would typically use long and elaborate titles to address God in prayer, and although there are a couple of Jewish prayers preserved from the first couple centuries that address God as “our Father,” those are rare, and none use “my Father.” In contrast Jesus constantly addressed God the Father as “Father” (Matthew 11:25-26, 12:50) and set a pattern for us to follow. Even more remarkably, Scripture makes clear that Jesus addressed the Father using the Aramaic word Abba (Mark 14:36.) This word was derived from the speech of little children, and while it was also used in Jesus’ time by adults as well, it was nonetheless a very intimate and informal word. Every single time that Jesus speaks to the Father in the Gospels He addresses Him that way, with the exception of when He quotes Psalm 22:1 from the cross.
While Jesus’ sonship is unique (Matthew 11:27), we are also called sons and daughters of God (II Corinthians 6:16-18, Galatians 4:4-7.) In fact, Paul even says that we are able to address God directly as Abba (Romans 8:15), which is something that the Jewish people would not have done, and so when Jesus says that we should address God as “our Father,” we can that it means something very different from even the rare times that was used in Jewish prayers. Because that relationship with and access to God is only possible through Jesus, addressing God as Father reflects prayer in Jesus’ name. We are approaching Him not based on our own merit but based on the authority of the Son. We are also reminded by the following words “in heaven,” that the relationship with and access to God should be appreciated with a full awareness of His holiness, glory, and power.
Examination and Application
Ironically, the Lord’s Prayer is often used in a way that directly violates the very reason that it was given here in Matthew. While it is good to memorize it, and there is value in reciting it together, it should never be done thoughtlessly, insincerely, or to show off. Rather, we should reflect on its themes and use it as a structure to guide all of our prayer. In addition, we should remember as we address God as “our Father” that we are part of the Church, and so whether we are praying alone or with others, the needs of others are at least as important as our own (Philippians 2:2-4.) Finally, each time that we pray we need to do so with a full appreciation of what it means for us to be able to address God, who created and rules over all things, as “Father.” Through the Son, we are able to approach Him with confidence and the knowledge that He loves us.
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