The Lord’s Prayer is probably one of the best known teachings in the Bible. Believers read it, they pray it and they even sing it. Some have even committed to praying it every day. That all sounds great except that the Lord’s Prayer is NOT a new covenant prayer so it has absolutely NOTHING to do with us as new testament believers.
The prayer as prayed by Jesus is found in Matthew 6:9-13 and I’m going to use the New King James Version to discuss some of its various points. The book of Matthew is one of four books that detail aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus while he was on the earth and these four books are found in the section of the Bible that we call the new testament. However, the new testament era did not actually begin until after Jesus’ death and resurrection so the events described in Matthew actually occurred during a transition period that should not be included in the new testament.
Since the events described in this book took place during the culmination of old testament times, Jesus was actually speaking to believers who lived under the old covenant. His listeners were not new covenant believers as we are so not everything that he said and taught applies to us today and the Lord’s Prayer is a perfect example of an old testament teaching that does not apply to us. I believe there’s great danger in Christians praying the Lord’s Prayer because it can hinder them from believing and accepting what God has already provided for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
I’d like us to examine this prayer together in the hopes that by doing so, we’ll all experience a greater depth of understanding of what has been freely given to us today as new covenant believers. The prayer starts out with Jesus praying to “Our Father in Heaven.” The idea of praying to a God who is in heaven encourages a picture of a distant god who is separate from his people. Yet, in the new covenant, we know that God lives in us and he’s promised to never leave us so why pray to him as though he’s somewhere out there in the wild blue yonder. Instead, he lives in us, in our very being, as one with us as is our DNA.
Next, the prayer continues, “Your kingdom come.” When Jesus prayed that, he was looking forward to the day when God’s kingdom would come to Earth. Well, that day has already come and is NOW. We don’t have to pray “your kingdom come” any longer. His kingdom is already here and it lives within us. (Luke 17:21) We have the kingdom of God and all that it entails in our hearts so we don’t have to pray asking God to bring it to the earth.
Jesus then continues to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Later, in verses 14-15, he tells his listeners that their forgiveness is dependent on how they forgive others. If they forgive others, they’ll be forgiven. If they don’t, too bad. Forgiveness is only available for those who follow the rules.
Jesus was setting the standard so high that his listeners would realize that it’s impossible for them to keep the rules. Their behavior would never be good enough to earn forgiveness so, in the new covenant, God provides it freely with no strings attached. We’re forgiven. There’s nothing we can do to earn his forgiveness and the good news is that there’s nothing we can do to lose it. It’s a free gift based solely on Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The Lord’s Prayer was meant to encourage Jewish believers to look forward to the forgiveness and freedom that would be given in the new covenant. That day is here so we no longer have to beg God to give us what he’s already freely given. All we have to do is believe it, accept it and then begin to live as though it’s true.
For additional study of the new covenant and what it means to us today as believers, I would recommend “Heaven is Now” by Andrew Farley.
by Aida Calder