The 6 Most Famous Prayer Requests
The Lord’s Prayer
As you read through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), I think you will come across many familiar phrases such as “Eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” or “Ask, and it will be given to you…” and many more. The most famous prayer in Christian history “The Lord’s Prayer” also comes out in this sermon. It is probably the most memorized passage in the Bible. Every Christians and even a lot of Non-Christians knows this prayer and no matter where you come from or what language you speak, I’m sure that you pray this prayer at least once a week. But this prayer became so common that you can now pray it without thinking or even when you’re thinking about something else. And it is quite obvious that it shouldn’t be that way. Because if we pray like that, we will be doing exactly what Jesus taught us not to do in Matthew 6, “When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do… (6:7)”. So as Christians, we have to know what we are praying and what we are asking for with this prayer.
Getting the Big Picture
Before you go into the detailed study of the Lord’s Prayer, you first have to look at the Sermon on the Mount as the whole and get the big picture of what Jesus taught us through it. Because even when you are studying particular section from a book or a chapter, it is very important to understand and determine it within the context. When I say “within the context”, I’m not just talking about a chapter or a book that contains the section that you are studying. But also more subtilized sections within that section or even a broader sections within the whole Bible.
The easiest and simplest way to start this process is to find keywords and key phrases within a certain section. The list below is some examples from the Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are the…” (5:3-11)
reward (5:12, 46, 6:1, 2, 5, 16)
law (5:17, 18, 7:12)
prophets (5:12, 17, 7:12)
heard (5:21, 27, 33, 38, 43, 7:24, 26)
righteousness (5:6, 10, 20, 6:33)
father (5:16, 45, 48, 6:1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 14, 15, 18, 26, 32, 7:11, 7:21)
By finding these keywords, I think you will be able divide this sermon into 4 broad sections.
reward / “Blessed are the… for your reward is great in heaven.” (5:3-20)
law / How Jesus apply the law in the New Testament (5:21-48)
reward / from the Father who sees us in secret (6:1-34)
law / How we apply the law to ourselves (7:1-27)
Finding Keywords & Key Phrases within Chapter 6
Once you define these each sections, you can step further into more detailed sections within these sections by finding the keywords and phrases. In chapter 6 in particular, the words “reward, hypocrites and anxious” comes out repeatedly. So it is clear that these repeated words are the keys to understand chapter 6. What you should not do when you look at these words is to think of them as each and individual isolated keywords. But instead you need to find the connections between the keywords by comparing and contrasting them.
reward (6:1, 2, 5, 16)
Father who sees in secret (6:1, 4, 6, 18)
“When you give — as the hypocrites do…” (6:2)
“When you pray — like the hypocrites.” (6:5)
“When you pray — as the Gentiles do…” (6:7)
“When you fast — like the hypocrites…” (6:16)
anxious (6:25, 27, 28, 29, 31, 34)
The Structure of The Lord’s Prayer
By looking at these keywords and understanding the meaning of them within the context, I think you will notice that each four sections of the sermon is formed from another 4 parts. And one of them is “The Lord’s Prayer” from 6:9 to 15. The prayer itself is from 6:9 to 13 but the context continues until 6:16.
1. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
2. Your kingdom come…
3. … Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
4. Give us this day our daily bread,
5. and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
6. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
As you can tell from the list above, there are 6 “prayer requests” and it is clear that they can be divided into two parts. In the first half of the prayer, we are praying about God our Father. And the keyword here is “Your”. In the other half of the prayer, we are praying to God about “us”, asking for our daily bread, forgiveness of sins and the protection from the temptation.
“Our Father in Heaven”
The phrase in this prayer that we should not forget is “Our Father in heaven”. This phrase explains the orientation of this prayer in chapter 6 and in the whole sermon. Because the word “father” comes out more than 15 times (G3962: 15 times).
The reason why we start this prayer by calling our God “Father” is because we are His children. According to what Jesus said in the beginning of chapter 5, those who are “poor in spirit”, “who mourn”, “the meek”, “who hunger and thirst for righteousness”, “the merciful”, “the pure in heart”, “the peacemakers”, “who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” will be called “the Children of God (5:9, 45)” who will inherit the kingdom of heaven (5:3, 10) and the earth. We are the heirs to the kingdom of heaven which is the greatest reward that we are going to receive in heaven.
So when we pray this prayer as the children of God, what we are asking for is the rewards from the Father that he will give to His children. The answer to the prayer is the infallible proof that we are His children. When we talk about this “father / son” relationship, we should not forget that famous verse in the story of baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:17), where God declared “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”. In this particular verse, God was calling Jesus “the beloved Son”. But by the grace of God, the death and resurrection of His beloved son, we also entered this covenantal “father / son” relationship.
To understand this more, we can step back even further from the Lord’s Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount and look at the verse in the Old Testament. In 2 Samuel 7:14 (1 Chronicles 17:13) God said to David about his son Solomon that God Himself will become his father, and Solomon will become His son. It was part of the Davidic covenant. And this covenant and the promise was perfectly fulfilled by God and His Son Jesus. So now you can tell why we can call the “father / son” relationship, covenantal.
Even Satan knew about this promise and that’s why he tempted Jesus by saying “”If you are the Son of God… (Matthew 4:3)” and he offered to give “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory (Matthew 4:6)” if Jesus worships him. This is the complete contrary of what Jesus taught us to do. He taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and he also promised us that if we do so “all these things will be added…”. Satan is constantly trying to lead us astray from this commandment and that’s why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”.
“The Father Who Sees in Secret”
In chapter 6, the word “Father” comes out 8 times and Jesus taught us repeatedly to do everything (giving, praying and fasting) to the Father “who sees in secret”, so that He will reward us. Unlike the hypocrites and gentiles who already received rewards by doing good in front of others. What they are doing is the complete opposite of what we are praying in the first half of the prayer. They give, pray and fast in order to have their name be honored.
6:1-18 Giving, praying and fasting (5, 6)
6:19-34 Do not be anxious (4)
Above is the structure of chapter 6. There are two main parts in this chapter, the first half that talks about “Giving, praying and fasting” and the other half that talks about “anxiety”. Jesus taught us not to be anxious about our earthly lives, what we eat, drink and wear. Because as it is written in 6:32, our Father already knows what we need. These earthly things are what Gentiles seek and they already received them as rewards for doing good in front of other people. Unlike them what we should do is to pray the Lord’s Prayer and ask God for our daily bread and also give to those who need them. God will not give to those who don’t give.
The Rewards from God Our Father
Jesus said that if we give, pray and fast in front of God our Father, we will receive rewards from Him. Than what are the rewards? The answer to the Lord’s Prayer is. To be more specific, daily bread, forgiveness of sins and salvation from temptation and evilness. In other words “the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”. We are praying for His kingdom to come and His will to be done, so that His Name will be honored. One of the reasons why we can say that the Lord’s Prayer and 6:33 are connected is what’s written in the verses that comes out right before them.
6:8 “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
6:32 “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”
In the other sections of the Sermon (5:21-48, 7:1-27), Jesus taught us about the Mosaic Law and how we should apply it in the New Testament. He taught us how “to seek His righteousness” to do “the will of God (6:10)”. Jesus taught His commandments and also about the rewards that will receive by keeping them, as our Father to us His children. So we can say that this sermon is the ultimate expression of fatherly love.
What we are praying in the Lord’s Prayer and the other parts of the Sermon are deeply associated. By analyzing the Sermon by words, phrases and sections we can have a deeper understanding of the Lord’s Prayer.