The Prayer of the Lord
What is the Lord’s Prayer? Is it an actual prayer that Jesus dictated so that His disciples might recite it? Or is it a blueprint that He gave as a guide for His followers’ prayers?
In The Prayer of the Lord, Dr. R.C. Sproul writes, “Jesus’ intent was to give His disciples a model prayer, an example to follow, one that would teach them transferrable principles for conversation with God.” In short, Christ gave the Lord’s Prayer to teach His disciples about prayer, and Dr. Sproul, in his trademark fashion, brings out many of the truths Christ intended for His followers to learn. Readers will learn how not to pray, then will be led into a deeper understanding of such topics as the fatherhood of God, the kingdom of God, the will of God, the nature of sin and forgiveness, the dangers of temptation, and the cunning of Satan. The final chapter includes questions and answers on various aspects of prayer not covered elsewhere in the book, and the appendix addresses the difficult question of the relationship of God’s sovereignty and prayer.
The Prayer of the Lord is an eye-opening journey, one that reveals new vistas in familiar terrain.
R.C. Sproul has an amazing gift for explaining difficult truths in pithy, memorable, and easy-to-grasp ways. He is the ideal teacher for a study of the Lord’s Prayer, because the prayer itself is a profound lesson on a difficult subject, given by Jesus to His disciples in an amazing economy of words. You will be greatly blessed and edified by this book.
—Dr. John MacArthur
Grace Community Church
Sun Valley, California
Here is a very special book on prayer. It will not leave you overwhelmed with failure and crushed into “giving prayer yet another try”—as many books and sermons on prayer do. Instead, it will lead you gently by the hand—as Jesus did when He taught the disciples the prayer on which these pages are based. It will draw you into a sense of the privilege of prayer, stimulate new desires to pray, even leave you with a sense of the delights of prayer. These pages have an atmosphere of light and are permeated by a sense of freshness and joy. Happy indeed is the theologian who can stimulate prayer. And happy are we that R.C. Sproul has become such a theologian. The Prayer of the Lord is—quite simply— a spiritual treat.
—Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson
First Presbyterian Church
Columbia, South Carolina
I love listening to R.C. Sproul teach, and this book sounds just like him—penetrating truths strikingly illustrated. His good quotations and pastoral wisdom make him as easy to read as he is delightful to listen to (and the short chapters help!). Sproul clearly explains the Scriptures with sentences that are simple and accurate. He knows enough to say important things concisely and clearly—truths about the kingdom, the fatherhood of God, history, and, of course, prayer. There’s even a helpful question and-answer section at the end. This little book now takes its place with the classics on prayer.
—Dr. Mark Dever
Capitol Hill Baptist Church
Gospel-driven disciple-making in the church has historically made full use of the Apostles’ Creed, the Law of God, and the Lord’s Prayer. Now through this marvelous and insightful exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, R.C. has provided disciple-making Christians and churches an excellent and useful instrument to direct and fulfill the heart’s desire of every believer who would cry out, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
—Dr. Harry L. Reeder, III
Briarwood Presbyterian Church
Dr. R.C. Sproul was my first theology teacher. As a new Christian, I learned a ton of theology, philosophy, and church history while listening to the Renewing Your Mind radio broadcast. Now, in The Prayer of the Lord, Dr. Sproul brings his considerable theological, philosophical, and historical gifts and resources to bear on the vital subject of prayer. A subject of such great importance deserves a teacher of such great skill. In addition to all the other things Dr. Sproul has taught me, it is a privilege to have him guide me through our Savior’s priorities in prayer. Read this short book and have a pattern for a life of prayer unfolded before you.
—Rev. Thabiti Anyabwile
First Baptist Church
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Page 4 - We’re not all that adept at prayer; it is a practice very few of us have mastered. We find it difficult to articulate our deepest feelings and our deepest concerns to God. Yet God is pleased to give His Holy Spirit to assist us in expressing ourselves to the Father in prayer.
Page 6 - The disciples were looking for instructions on how to pray, but the first thing Jesus chose to tell them was how not to pray.
Page 10 - We must not regard prayer as some kind of magical incantation, for that is how pagans pray. They recite meaningless phrases over and over again, with no understanding of what the words mean. In these contexts, prayers are used as mantras, with the hope that they will change the environment or the circumstances in which a person lives. New Age thinking is filled with this type of thing.
Page 11 - Jesus did not give the Lord’s Prayer with the intention that it would be repeated mindlessly. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we need to pray it thoughtfully, giving attention in our minds to its content. It is not a mantra to be repeated without the engagement of the mind or heart. It is an example of godly prayer.
Page 13 - One of the most frequently asked questions in the theology of prayer is, “Does prayer change things?” The answer is evident. The New Testament makes it clear that prayer changes all kinds of things… . But the most important thing it changes is us. As we engage in this communion with God more deeply and come to know the One with whom we are speaking more intimately, that growing knowledge of God reveals to us all the more brilliantly who we are and our need to change in conformity to Him. So prayer changes us profoundly.
Page 15 - There are really only two rules that you have to keep in mind when you’re in prayer, two things that should drive and govern and control your prayer life with the Almighty. You should remember who is being addressed and who is doing the speaking. That is, the first thing you are to remember in prayer is who it is you’re talking to, because nothing will condition your prayer life more deeply than remembering that you’re in conversation with God, the sovereign Creator and ruler of the universe. Second, you are to remember who you are. You are not God. You are a creature. So prayer is not a conversation between peers; it is not a fireside chat among equals. This is the creature speaking to his sovereign Creator.
Page 16 - Jesus’ intent was to give His disciples a model prayer, an example to follow, one that would teach them transferrable principles for conversation with God.
Page 19 - Christ is the monogenes, the only-begotten Son of the Father. He is the only One who has the inherent right to address God as “Abba, Father” (Mark 14:36). But when He gave His disciples this model prayer, He invited them to use that personal form of address that indicates an intensely familiar filial relationship. And, of course, not only does the Son give us the right to address God as Father, but the Holy Spirit, as He assists us in our prayer lives, prompts us to cry, “Abba, Father!” (Gal. 4:6).
Page 20 - Jesus was saying here that not only was He allowed to address God as Father by virtue of His unique status as the Son of God, but even His followers had that privilege by virtue of their adoption.
Page 26 - When Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer, with its use of “Our Father” as the form of address, He gave us the unspeakable privilege of addressing God in the same terms of filial familiarity that Jesus Himself used. But we must always remember that God is Our Father. He is the Patriarch of the brotherhood. He is the One who adopts the brothers and the sisters. As the brothers and the sisters are born of God and they are reborn by the Spirit of God, they become the adopted children of God, which is a status and a privilege that is paramount to the New Testament concept of redemption. This status should be brought to the front of our minds every time we say the Lord’s Prayer.
Page 31-32 - Jesus is not saying, “Father, Your name is holy,” but “Father, may Your name be hallowed.” That is, He is teaching us to ask that God’s name would be regarded as sacred, that it would be treated with reverence, and that it would be seen as holy. We must see this if we are to pray according to the pattern Jesus set for us.
I find it striking that when Jesus taught the church how to pray, the first thing He chose to tell us to pray about is that the name of God may be regarded as sacred. Very few people today would list the hallowing of the name of God as a top priority for the supplications of the people of God.
Page 36 - If Jesus saw the need to call on His disciples to pray that God’s name would be regarded as holy in the Jewish culture of two thousand years ago, how much more crucial is it that we be praying that the name of God would be hallowed in our own time? This petition, “Hallowed be Your name,” should be on our lips every day, indeed every time we hear the name of God or Jesus casually blasphemed.
Page 46 - When Jesus told His followers to pray, “Your kingdom come,” He was making them participants in His own mission to spread the reign of God on this planet so that it might reflect the way God’s reign is established in heaven to this day.
Page 51 - John Calvin said it is the task of the church to make the invisible kingdom visible. We do that by living in such a way that we bear witness to the reality of the kingship of Christ in our jobs, our families, our schools, and even our checkbooks, because God in Christ is King over every one of these spheres of life. The only way the kingdom of God is going to be manifest in this world before Christ comes is if we manifest it by the way we live as citizens of heaven and subjects of the King.
Page 54 - At first glance, it seems incredible that Jesus would tell His followers to pray that the will of God would be done on earth as it is in heaven. In fact, it seems almost heretical that Jesus would give His church such a mandate. Didn’t He know that the will of God is always accomplished? Didn’t He understand the biblical teaching on divine sovereignty, the truth that all things come to pass because God has decreed that they should?
Page 57 - We know that the sovereign will of God is always accomplished, not just in heaven but also on earth. That’s why I do not think Jesus is referring here to the sovereign will of God. I think He must have the preceptive will of God in view, because the preceptive will of God is always obeyed by angels and by glorified believers in heaven. There is no sin in heaven. There is no conflict between the will of the creatures who are gathered around the presence of God and His holy will. This is because all who are in heaven have been brought into full conformity to the law of God. Rather than chafing against God’s law, they glory in it.
Page 58 - In this petition, then, Jesus is affirming that the will of God is done in heaven. However, He is also affirming that it is not done here. People here on earth do not strive to glorify God. They do not seek the kingdom of God. They do not hallow the name of God. So Jesus says we ought to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Page 60 - It is the highest expression of faith to submit to the sovereignty of God. The real prayer of faith is the prayer that trusts God no matter whether the answer is yes or no. It takes no faith to “claim,” like a robber, something that is not ours to claim. We are to come to God and tell Him what we want, but we must trust Him to give the answer that is best for us. That is what Jesus did.
Page 69 - Why does Jesus place such emphasis on daily bread? … I think He did so primarily to teach us that we need to acknowledge our dependence on the providence of God to sustain us day to day. He was saying that we should live in a daily dependence on the provision that God gives.
Page 72 - This petition of the Lord’s Prayer … teaches us to come to God in a spirit of humble dependence, asking Him to provide what we need and to sustain us from day to day. We are not given license to ask for great riches, but we are encouraged to make our needs known to Him, trusting that He will provide.
Page 75 - When we sin, we put ourselves into debt to God; we incur an obligation; we come to owe Him something. Thus, when we ask for His forgiveness, we are asking that He forgive our debt.
Page 77 - Jesus loved people enough to warn them and to teach them to beg God for forgiveness. That’s why Jesus said, “In this manner, therefore, pray: … Forgive us our debts.”
Page 82 - Jesus attaches a condition to this petition. He doesn’t simply tell us to pray, “Forgive us our debts.” Rather, we are to ask God to forgive us “as we forgive our debtors. In my opinion, that’s one of the most frightening lines in the Lord’s Prayer. If this condition is to be taken literally, we are finished. Manifestly, if God forgave me in exact proportion to the manner in which I distribute forgiveness to other people, I would perish. I just cannot be as forgiving as God; none of us can.
Page 93 - When Jesus instructed His disciples to pray, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” He was speaking from experience. He had passed through a time of testing at the hands of Satan, so He instructed His disciples to ask the Father to spare them from the Devil’s attacks.
Page 99 - We are to acknowledge that “the kingdom” is His. Manifestly, the kingdom of God is not my kingdom or your kingdom. It’s His kingdom, His sovereign rule. He reigns supreme over all things and His kingdom shall have no end.
Page 100 - We should acknowledge in prayer that “the power” is God’s… . This line of the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that God possess all power in heaven and on earth—power to create, power to save, and power to enable believers to live the Christian life.
Page 109 - It’s vital that we understand prayer in terms of the qualifications that are found throughout the Bible. By considering the scope of the Bible’s teaching on this subject, we may conclude that it is acceptable to bring all our cares to God, including matters that may move us to frustration or anger. However, we must not come to God in a spirit of complaint or anger against Him, for it is never proper to accuse God of wrongdoing.
God is revealed to us in Scripture as our heavenly Father, and we have been granted the privilege to address Him as such. We may come to God and speak to Him in these terms of personal intimacy, in a familial way, for we are part of His family. However, we must keep the rest of the character of God in mind. We must always remember that this One whom we address as Father is holy.
Page 115 - We have to guard against taking a fatalistic view of this matter of prayer. We cannot allow ourselves to dismiss prayer from our lives simply because it might not seem to have pragmatic value. Whether or not prayer works, we must engage in it, simply because God Himself commands us to do it.
Page 121 - God brings to pass His sovereign ends by virtue of earthy and human means. This is the theological concept of concurrence, and it works as much in the arena of prayer as it does in the other areas that we have considered.
Page 122 - There’s a sense in which intercessory prayer, prayer of supplication, is a work. It’s certainly a pleasure, but it requires energy and time. God knows what we need before we ask Him, but He requires the work.
About the Author
Dr. R.C. Sproul is the founder and president of Ligonier Ministries, and the minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, Fla. He is the author of more than seventy books and served as the general editor of The Reformation Study Bible. Dr. Sproul is renowned for his ability to communicate deep, practical truths from God’s Word.