How should Jesus’ teaching regarding the Lord’s Prayer be understood, as a guide or a commandment?



After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Matthew 6:9-13

The subject of Jewish prayer, or tephillah as it is known in the Hebrew language (תְּפִלָּה, tephillah), more than a religious aspect of Hebrew spirituality is a subject that is part of the idiosyncrasy of being a Jew; the Jew prays and when he does so he establishes by his prayers the content of his entire history; So among the Jew, ‘teaching’ to pray is not only a matter of knowing what to say, but ‘teaching’ to understand the vision of a people who have their God so close to them, as quoted in the instruction of Moses in Deuteronomy:

For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?

Deuteronomy 4:7

It is somewhat complicated to understand for the Westerner who is used to seeing prayer as nothing more than a ‘resource’ for help in times of distress.

The case of the teaching about the Lord’s Prayer, as it is known to the prayer that Jesus recited before His disciples, is not a school on how to pray, as it has sometimes been claimed to see and project, it is rather the correction to popularized models of forms of prayer that predominated among the people, which instead of establishing the knowledge of the doctrine of a close God who answers the prayer of His people, evoked rather pagan idolatrous models that established confusion and idolatry; We must remember for this purpose the correction that the prophet Elijah introduced in his time where apostasy predominated because of the Jezebelic cult of Baal:

26 And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. 27 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. 28 And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.

1 Kings 18:26-29

In the account that Matthew presents, the Lord’s Prayer is included as an extension of the teaching proclaimed on the mountain of Capernahum.[1] However, the account presented by Luke clearly establishes that Jesus responded to a request from the disciple-apostles, and it is clearly specified that they took as a basis the instruction that John the Baptist had given to his own disciples about how to pray with Truth as well,

And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.

Luke 11:1

In any case, the Lord’s Prayer is not the school on how to pray, that is, understood as what to say, but in principle, the correction to models of forms of prayer that revolved around paganized conceptions.

The purpose in Jesus to introduce this model of prayer was to ‘undermine’ the popularized models of forms of prayer that were circulating in the environment, we notice in the context of the story; notice it:

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men… 

Vs. 5:

The first correction that Jesus presents to them in His model is in order to throw away the model introduced by the ‘hypocrites’[2]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men; prayer is not in order to present a public drama, prayer is the act of honesty of the person as a fruit of the integrity he has developed before God; Jesus stressed to them: ” thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are“. Prayer is the sign of the integral communion that a person has developed before his Lord.

The second correction that Jesus presents to you is aimed at disarticulating the model of prayer implanted by the Gentiles converted to Judaism:

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking..

Vs. 7:

Prayer is not effective because of the quantity of words, nor because of the loquacity of its wording; prayer is the result of the conviction that the person has developed of how close God is to him; Jesus emphasized: “Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” (vs. 8)

Effective prayer meets certain conditions, the first of which, highlighted by Jesus as the most important, must be done in private; Jesus emphasized: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (vs. 6)

 The second condition, in the same line of the previous one, the sentence must be short and precise: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” Luke presents in his narrative the case of a publican who only said in his prayer, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”[3]

The third condition, an extension of the previous one, prayer must RECOGNIZE that we are addressing the God Creator of all things, and as such, we must respect Him as a father is respected: Our Father which art in heaven.

Prayer must ADMIT that God is sovereign, and that He does as He wills: Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty is the recognition that God is not only a source of conflict resolution; in His sovereignty He acts as He chooses to do, this doctrinal vision is idiosyncratic of being a Jew according to the teaching presented in the Law of Moses, we find it in the writings of Job,

But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Job 2:10

This doctrinal vision is also presented within Paul’s apostolic proclamation:

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

Romans 9:20-22

In prayer we must BE RESPONSIBLE for our personal actions: “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

It is not just a matter of asking, since He already knows our needs, it is about presenting ourselves in an act of humiliation by removing the arrogance we have acquired as a result of our acts; in another section of his teaching, Jesus emphasized:

22 but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

Matthew 5:22-24

In conclusion, the model of prayer that Jesus introduced in His teachings to His disciples is not a guide, it is not a commandment, it is simply a correction to conceptions of pagan religiosity that the man and woman of faith accept as valid, mostly because of the results highlighted by some Gospel merchants. The man and woman of faith is not powerful because of the time spent on their knees in prayer, nor because of the loudness of their words; a prayerful activity without the proper attitude of submission to the Lordship of Christ is a falsehood to the Truth that man is justified by faith. The man and woman of faith must pray, of course, but not by emphasizing a ‘power’ in prayer over the power of integrity to do according to the instruction of the Word of God. Jesus prayed, and the biblical text points out that the more His fame grew, the more He went to desert places to pray,[4] but His power did not consist in the time of prayer that He spent not understanding that it was part of the communion that He was sent to do the Father’s Will.

And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

John 8:29

Finally, what is prayer? To answer properly, let us first think about the following: If God knows what you need before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8), and furthermore, if the same Spirit asks for us with unutterable groans, as the apostle Paul introduced in his teaching: (Romans 8:26), is there a need for prayer? Why then the teaching about prayer?

Prayer is not a resource for ‘asking’, only, it is the attitude of gratitude before the sovereign God for all the great things He has done with us, and among us; there are no rules for praying, only gratitude, and we prostrate ourselves with gratitude that He had made us His people, and the blessing we have of calling Him, Father.


The biblical quotations are taken from the Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)


Pastor Pedro Montoya

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[1] Matthew 6:9-13

[2] Hypocrites’ here is not a derogatory adjective, it is the name with which Jesus classifies the Hellenized group who act in the same way as a theatrical actor. “Hypocrite” was the term used to refer to one who makes a performance in an amphitheater.

[3] Lucas 18:13

[4] Luke 5:15-17: 15 But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. 16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed. 17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.