A Brief Exposition of Matthew 6:9-15”
Adapted from a sermon by Sherman Malachi Tjiong
Perhaps you’ve heard the familiar saying: “It’s music to my ears”. This means, of course, something good that I like to hear. The question that I want to answer in this post is, “What does God like to hear?” I used to be a professional magician and I performed for VIPs – government officials, ambassadors, business leaders, rich people, ministers, etc. Part of my work was to remember who’s who. When I walked up to them, I should be able to remember a little of their profile: what they are like, what they do and what they have achieved.
If I’m talking to the ambassador of Taiwan, I should be able know a little of the current affairs of Taiwan in order to make a joke – an educated type of Joke. If I performed for Aung Sang Suu Kyi I should know about what she likes and maybe what her hopes are for Singapore and Myanmar.
But when it comes to God, we are not talking about a human VIP. We are talking about the most important person in the whole universe. God is king, and a king is not pleased when we say the wrong things or do the wrong things. If we belong to His kingdom, we should think and act rightly.
A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favour, but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully. (Prov. 14:35).
This proverb tells of a person who serves the kingdom. He should be a good and loyal worker. He should not be corrupt or have bad management. So when we come before God, we better know what to say and what to do. Every kingdom has the king’s agenda. Every king has his plans. And we, as servants of the king, are to know what He is doing and how to do His work.
When you pray, there are basically 2 kinds of things that you will say to God – things God likes to hear and things he doesn’t. We may think and say things that are aligned to His kingdom. Or we may pray for things that are not aligned to His kingdom. Let’s just put it this way – if we are not FOR God’s agenda, we are against God’s agenda.
“Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt. 6:9-10)
Prayer is a gift. No one is born as a Christian. We were all born as enemies of God.
We all once lived in the passions of our flesh…and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:3).
The wages of sin is death (Ro. 6:23).
The only way we escape God’s wrath is to be born again. That can only happen by grace alone. To be able to come to God in prayer is also by Grace alone. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. He regenerates us. He sanctifies us. The Holy Spirit works in us so that we can talk to God the Father correctly. Jesus died so that we can come to the Father.
PRAYER SEEKS FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD .
Jesus tells us to go into a room to pray. A room that you can lock with no one there. However, even though we pray IN private, our prayers themselves are not private. It involves community. As a community, our prayers are there to seek the Father’s glory. That is why we call God OUR Father, not MY Father or YOUR Father. He is OUR Father.
PRAYER SEEKS THE PROMISES OF GOD
This is what “Hallowed be Your Name” means. “Hallowed” means set-apart. “Name” means reputation. Together, it means “Make your reputation so special that there is none like it.”
There is something special about the grammar. When Jesus says “LOVE one another; FOLLOW me; PICK UP the cross,” He is imposing His will on us. And He expects a response. When a toddler lies down on the floor and throws tantrums, he is imposing his will on others and he expects you to give Him what He wants. In the same way, the Greek grammar in Mt. 6:9-13 shows that when we pray we should be making demands from God. What are these demands?
These are none other than the promises that God makes. Just like in the time of Israel’s captivity in Babylon: through the prophet Jeremiah, God promises 70 years of exile. In Daniel 9, the old man Daniel prayed for the prophecy to be fulfilled. Daniel is praying that God keeps His promises. He is holding God’s own words against Him. Because he knows that God is powerful and does not lie. In summary: right prayer comes from the heart that wants God to keep His promises. What does this mean?
PRAYER SEEKS THE POWER OF GOD
It means we ask God to bring His rule here to earth. In heaven, his rule is perfect. Everyone perfectly obeys and glorifies him. We are asking Him to make such a rule here on earth, starting with our own hearts. Governments rule from the outside with laws. God rules from inside our hearts with his laws written into our hearts. God’s laws are laws we love. So prayer seeks the power of God. When I say “power”, I am talking about his rule. When a person is in power, he is in government. When we say, “Your kingdom come”, we are saying “we want You to be the only power on earth.”
V.9-10 is the foundation. V.11-13 is built on it. Let’s talk about v.11. I will start with a question. Who do you think God will answer? On a plot of land lies a golf course and a rice field. The golfers pray, “NO rain” and the farmers pray, “Rain, please”. When it rained, who do you think God answered? When it did not, who do you think God answered?
This is just an illustration. I’m saying this because many Christians pray like superstitious people. They think God is a magical wish granter. Many Christians think that God is there to give them money, food, protection and good health. He may give you these things but that does not mean He must. There are people who are miraculously healed from cancer after praying. However, there are many Christians who die of cancer that God does not heal.
God answers the one who asks according to His reputation. Our prayers are all about our salvation. Health, daily needs and protections are all means to an end. And that end is God’s kingdom coming. God hears everyone’s prayer but He will only answer those which will bring Him glory. So sometimes when we pray and we think he answers our prayer, I think it may not be. There are many people who don’t pray to our Father; they pray to their statues and they get what they want. Does that mean it is answered prayer? Certainly not. Because God only answers prayer that wants his name to be hallowed.
PRAYER SEEKS THE PROVISIONS OF GOD
So when we ask for our material needs we should be contented and satisfied with what God gives. That is what “give us our daily bread means.” In Jesus’ time, one loaf of bread is for the whole family.
Jesus is not teaching us to pray for bread. He is using this as an illustration to teach us that our material needs come from God. This prayer teaches our heart what to demand and what to expect. When it comes to things that we need, our heart should say to God, “Give us what we really need.” We need food and shelter to live. And we live to glorify God.
This teaches us that God wants us to approach him with a contented heart. He wants us to be satisfied with the basic necessities. That doesn’t mean we can’t be rich. The Bible teaches us that if we work hard and wisely he may make us rich. But God gives us money so that we can be generous. We use our money for God’s kingdom.
PRAYER SEEKS THE PARDON OF GOD
This is what “Forgive us of our debts” is talking about. Luke uses the word “sins” – forgive us our sins. This forgiveness is not talking about the forgiveness God gives so that you can have eternal life. This is the forgiveness that we show a brother when they do wrong to us.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mt. 6:14–15).
It is clear that in these 2 verses God forgives you when you forgive others. And this is not talking about legal forgiveness. It is not talking about God releasing you for the penalty of sin because of Christ. The words “Our Father” tells us it’s a family issue. Just as the issue of provision of daily bread is between my Father and I and my family, the issue of forgiveness is between not just my Father and I, but also my brothers and sisters.
What Jesus is teaching us is that if I am not ready to reconcile with my brother then God will not be ready to reconcile with me. If I don’t want to be friends with my brother than God will show me that he doesn’t like it. This is in context of the rest of the sermon on the mount.
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mt. 5:23–24).
If you have sinned against God, be sorry, repent and make changes in your life. If you have sinned against a brother, repent and seek forgiveness from him. If he sins against you and repents, forgive Him (Lk 17:4) If we are not ready to forgive then God also will not be ready to forgive us. But why?
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Pet. 3:7)
God wants us to deal with our sin. As wayward children, he wants to discipline us. 1 Pet 3:7 shows us that if one’s horizontal relationship is damaged, then our vertical relationship will also be damaged. A poor relationship with my wife affects my relationship with God. God wants us to have intimacy just as God the Father and God the Son have intimacy. Our relationship with each other and with God is a kingdom matter. Reconciliation is part of his plan. And He promises us power to love one another just as Jesus has loved us.
PRAYER SEEKS THE PROTECTION OF GOD
God is Sovereign and there is nothing that escapes his control and authority. He was the one who allowed Job to be tempted. He gave full permission to Satan to torture and tempt Him. He also told Satan what he was not allowed to do to Job. God is in control. Luke tells us that it was the Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. However, God does not directly tempt us to do evil.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Co. 10:13).
God does not tempt us to sin. However, he gives us a way out. God gives us the power to endure under temptation. And when we fall into temptation it is not God’s fault. It is our own fault because we are pulled away by our own sin.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (Jas. 1:13–14).
Part of God’s plan is for us to become more like his Son. When we fall into temptation we are not conforming to the image of His Son. God is faithful to give us power. That’s why we pray. This is part of God’s redemptive plan. Fighting temptations, killing sin is a necessary part of His Kingdom coming. This is doing his moral will.
However, when obedience is part of our life, Satan is near. The word “evil” is best translated “the evil one” in the Greek. Satan is still powerful. He is defeated, but still powerful. He still prowls around like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 1:8). So we ask God not to lead us to Satan’s temptation. The other side of it is to lead us OUT of Satan’s power.
Spiritual warfare is real. Satan is opposed to God’s rule coming to earth. So if you notice, all our prayers should be focused on these things. These things all have to do with God’s kingdom. Our daily needs and contentedness has to do with God’s kingdom because he wants us to trust Him and be generous. And generosity reflects the generosity of Christ in paying the ultimate price – the ransom through His blood.
Our relationships have to with the kingdom because we have been saved into a family to love one another. In the kingdom, that is what it will look like – perfect relationships. This reflects the perfect relationship that Christ has with God the Father.
Our protection recognizes that God is our defender. Also, asking God for protection from evil means we see how important killing sin is to us. The kingdom will be freed of Satan and all that is evil. Victory over our temptations show us what it will be like in the new heavens and new earth. Praying for our defence against the evil one shows the power and the authority that Christ has over the whole spiritual world. In the gospels, Jesus cast out demons to show His authority over all things. No force is more powerful than God.
So when we pray we don’t pray for our self-centred desires. We pray for God-centred and Christ centred desires. We pray for His rule to come. And we know that the things we pray for all connect to God’s rule over this world. “May Your Kingdom Come.”