And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. ~ Matthew 6:7-8
If God already knows what we need before we ask Him, then what’s the point of praying? And if the heathen believed that they would be heard by repeating the same prayerful chants over and over, why would God want us to keep our prayers simple? Jesus said that God would not respond to vain repetitions, so how and why do we pray?
What makes it more confusing is that our Lord follows this with a suggested form of prayer commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer—the greatest prayer:
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done.
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and
the power and the glory forever. Amen. ~ Matthew 6:9-13
For centuries, Christian churches have recited the Lord’s Prayer, but did they fully understand why? If God knows what we have need of before we ask, then why should we pray, and why give us a formula? A clue to God’s possible intent follows the Lord’s Prayer:
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses. ~ Matthew 6:15
Of all the items mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus focuses on our forgiveness of others, but He does so in a meaningful way. He’s not simply saying, “Forgive others.” He’s saying, “Here’s the way the Kingdom works: God will not act on your behalf until you fulfill His will on behalf of others.”
In other words, the Lord’s Prayer is not really a prayer in the way we think of praying. Saying the Lord’s Prayer is for our benefit, because God already knows what our needs are—He doesn’t need our repetitions. What He wants is for us to act as He would act on behalf of others. In other words, it’s not enough to pray, “Forgive us our debts,” if we do not “forgive those who trespass against us.”
And it’s not enough to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” if we do not PROVIDE bread for others. We also cannot pray that God’s name is hallowed, if we do not demonstrate good works that cause men to “glorify—or hallow—your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). And what good is it to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one,” if we do not work to remove evil from power in society?
The Lord’s Prayer is more than a prayer—it’s a strategy for how the Kingdom of God is manifested in history. We show good works that cause men to hallow God’s name. We fulfill His will on earth as it is in heaven. We work to provide bread for others. We forgive others who trespass against us. We war against the rule of wickedness and injustice is society (deliver from evil), and we live in the constant awareness that despite the fact that WE’RE doing the work, “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.”
The more pray and live the Lord’s Prayer, the more the Kingdom of God is manifested on earth as it is in heaven. The power of God’s Word is in the doing!