The Lord’s Prayer
By Arthur W. Pink
"Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven…" (Matt. 6:9-10).
After all that has been spoken and written by godly men on prayer, we need something better than that which is of mere human origin to guide us if we are to perform aright this essential duty. How ignorant and sinful creatures are to endeavor to come before the Most High God, how they are to pray acceptably to Him and to obtain from Him what they need, can be discovered only as the great Hearer of prayer is pleased to reveal His will to us. This He has done: (1) by opening up a new and living way of access into His immediate presence for the very chief of sinners; (2) by appointing prayer as the chief means of intercourse and blessing between Himself and His people; and (3) by graciously supplying a perfect pattern after which the prayers of His people are to be modeled.
"Our Father Which Art in Heaven"
"Our Father which art in heaven." This introductory clause informs us in the simplest possible manner that the great God is most graciously ready to grant us an audience. By directing us to address Him as our Father, it definitely assures us of His love and power. This precious title is designed to raise our affections, to excite us to reverent attention, and to confirm our confidence in the efficacy of prayer. Three things are essential to acceptable and effectual prayer: fervency, reverence, and confidence. This opening clause is designed to stir up each of these essential elements within us. Fervency is the effect of our affections being called into exercise; reverence will be promoted by an apprehension of the fact that we are addressing the heavenly throne; confidence will be deepened by viewing the Object of prayer as our Father.
In coming to God in acts of worship, we must "believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). What is more calculated to deepen our confidence and to draw forth the strongest love and earnest hopes of our hearts toward God, than Christ’s presenting Him to us in His most tender aspect and endearing relation? How we are here encouraged to use holy boldness and to pour out our souls before Him! We could not suitably invoke an impersonal First Cause; still less could we adore or supplicate a great abstraction. No, it is to a person, a Divine Person, One who has our best interests at heart, that we are invited to draw near, even to our Father. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1).
God is the Father of all men naturally, being their Creator. But the depth and full import of this invocation can be entered into only by the believing Christian, for there is a higher relation between him and God than that which is merely of nature. First, God is his Father spiritually. Second, God is the Father of His elect because He is the Father of their Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3). Thus Christ expressly announced, "I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God" (John 20:17). Third, God is the Father of His elect by eternal decree: "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph. 1:5). Fourth, He is the Father of His elect by regeneration, wherein they are born again and become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). It is written, "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6).
These words "our Father" not only signify the office that God sustains to us by virtue of the everlasting covenant, but they also clearly imply our obligation. They teach us both how we ought to dispose ourselves toward God when we pray to Him, and the conduct that is becoming to us by virtue of this relationship. As His children we must honor Him, be in subjection to Him, delight in Him, and strive in all things to please Him. Again, the phrase "our Father" not only teaches us our personal interest in God Himself, who by grace is our Father, but it also instructs us of our interest in our fellow Christians, who in Christ are our brethren. It is not merely to "my Father" to whom I pray, but to "our Father." We must express our love to our brethren by praying for them; we are to be as much concerned about their needs as we are over our own. How much is included in these two words!
"Which art in heaven." What a blessed balance this gives to the previous phrase. If that tells us of God’s goodness and grace, this speaks of His greatness and majesty. If that teaches us of the nearness and dearness of His relationship to us, this announces His infinite elevation above us. If the words "our Father" inspire confidence and love, then the words "which art in heaven" should fill us with humility and awe. These are the two things that should ever occupy our minds and engage our hearts: the first without the second tends toward unholy familiarity; the second without the first produces coldness and dread. By combining them together, we are preserved from both evils; and a suitable balance is wrought and maintained in the soul as we duly contemplate both the mercy and might of God, His unfathomable love and His immeasurable loftiness.
The words "which art in heaven" are not used because He is confined there. We are reminded of the words of King Solomon: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have builded?" (1 Kgs. 8:27). God is infinite and omnipresent. There is a particular sense, though, in which the Father is "in heaven," for that is the place in which His majesty and glory are most eminently manifested. "Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool" (Isa. 66:1). The realization of this should fill us with the deepest reverence and awe. The words "which art in heaven" call attention to His providence, declaring the fact that He is directing all things from on high. These words proclaim His ability to undertake for us, for our Father is the Almighty. "But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased" (Psa. 115:3). Yet though the Almighty, He is "our Father." "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him" (Psa. 103:13). "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" (Luke 11:13). Finally, these blessed words remind us that we are journeying thither, for heaven is our home.
"Hallowed Be Thy Name"
"Hallowed be Thy name." Our primary duty in prayer is to disregard ourselves and to give God the preeminence in our thoughts, desires, and supplications. This petition necessarily comes first, for the glorifying of God’s great name is the ultimate end of all things. All other requests must be subordinate to this one and be in pursuance of it. We cannot pray aright unless the glory of God be dominant in our desires. We are to cherish a deep sense of the ineffable holiness of God and an ardent longing for the honoring of it. Therefore, we must not ask God to bestow anything that would contradict His holiness.
"Hallowed be Thy name." How easy it is to utter these words without any thought of their solemn import! In seeking to ponder them, four questions are naturally raised in our minds. First, what is meant by the word "hallowed"? Second, what is signified by God’s name? Third, what is the import of "Hallowed be Thy name"? Fourth, why does this petition come first?
First, the word "hallowed" is a term from Middle English, used here to translate a form of the Greek verb hagiazo. This term is frequently translated "sanctified." It means to "set apart for a sacred use." Thus, the words "Hallowed be Thy name" signify the pious desire that God’s matchless name might be reverenced, adored, and glorified, and that God might cause it to be held in the utmost respect and honor, that its fame might spread abroad and be magnified.
Second, the name of God stands for God Himself, calling to the mind of the believer all that He is. We see this in Psalm 5:11: "Let them also that love Thy name [that is, Thyself] be joyful in Thee." In Psalm 20:1 we read, "The name of the God of Jacob defend thee," that is, may the God of Jacob Himself defend thee. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower" (Prov. 18:10), that is to say, Jehovah Himself is a strong tower. The name of God stands for the Divine perfections. It is striking to observe that when He "proclaimed the name of the Lord" to Moses, God enumerated His own blessed attributes (see Ex. 34:5-7). This is the true significance of the assertion that "they that know Thy name [that is, Thy wondrous perfections] will put their trust in Thee" (Psa. 9:10). But more particularly, the Divine name sets before us all that God has revealed to us concerning Himself. It is in such appellations and titles as the Almighty, the Lord of hosts, Jehovah, the God of peace, and our Father that He has disclosed Himself to us.
Third, what thoughts did the Lord Jesus intend for us to entertain in our hearts when He taught us to pray, "Hallowed be Thy name"? First, in the widest sense, we are to plead thereby that God, "by His overruling providence, direct and dispose of all things to His own glory" (The Westminster Larger Catechism). Hereby we pray that God Himself sanctify His name – that He cause it, by His providence and grace, to be known and adored through the preaching of His Law and Gospel. Furthermore, we pray that His name might be sanctified and magnified in and by us. Not that we can add anything to God’s essential holiness, but we can and should promote the manifestative glory of His holiness. That is why we are exhorted thus: "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name" (Psa. 96:8). We do not have the power within ourselves to hallow the name of our God. Yet Christ instructs us, by putting an imperative, passive verb in our mouths, to pray, "Let Thy name be hallowed!" We are taught to call upon our Father to do what He must do.
Since our God has so clearly stated His mind, every true believer must desire the hallowing of God’s name among men and must be determined to advance the revealed glory of God on the earth. We are to do this especially by prayer, since the power to accomplish this great end resides only in God Himself. By prayer we receive the empowering of the Holy Spirit to hallow and glorify God in our own thoughts, words, and deeds.
By praying, "Hallowed be Thy name," we beg that God, who is most holy and glorious, might enable us to acknowledge and honor Him as such. As the Puritan Thomas Manton forcefully expressed it:
"In this petition the glory of God is both desired and promised on our part; for every prayer is both an expression of a desire and also an implicit vow or solemn obligation that we take upon ourselves to prosecute what we ask.... We but mock God if we present to Him pious words and have no intention of striving with our might to live in harmony with them."
For us to hallow or sanctify His name means that we give God the supreme place, that we set Him above all else in our thoughts, affections, and lives. The Apostle Peter commands us to "sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts" (1 Pet. 3:15). An awe of His majesty and holiness should so fill our hearts that our whole inner beings bow in entire and willing subjection to Him. For this we must pray, striving to obtain right views and a deeper knowledge of Him, that we may worship Him aright and serve Him acceptably.
This petition not only expresses the desire that God sanctify Himself in and through us, enabling us to glorify Him, but it also voices our longing that others may know, adore, and glorify Him. In the use of this petition we pray that the glory of God may be more and more displayed and advanced in the world in the course of His providence, that His Word may run and be glorified in the conversion and sanctification of sinners, that there may be an increase of holiness in all His people, and that all profanation of the name of God among men may be prevented and removed (John Gill).
Fourth, it is now obvious why this is the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer, for it provides the only legitimate basis for all our other requests. The glory of God is to be our chief and great concern. When we offer this petition to our heavenly Father, we are saying, "Whatever comes to me, however low I may sink, no matter how deep the waters be through which I may be called to pass, Lord, magnify Thyself in and through me." Mark how blessedly this spirit was exemplified by our perfect Savior: "Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father glorify Thy name" (John 12:27-28). Though it was necessary for Him to be baptized with the baptism of suffering, yet the Father’s glory was Christ’s great concern.
The following words beautifully summarize the meaning of this petition:
O Lord, open our eyes that we may know Thee aright and may discern Thy power, wisdom, justice, and mercy; and enlarge our hearts that we may sanctify Thee in our affections, by making Thee our fear, love, joy, and confidence; and open our lips that we may bless Thee for Thine infinite goodness; yea, open our eyes that we may see Thee in all Thy works, and incline our wills with reverence for Thy name appearing in Thy works, and grant that when we use any one of them, that we may honour Thee in our sober and sanctified use thereof (W. Perkins).
Let us point out very briefly the uses to be made of this petition. (1) Our past failures are to be bewailed and confessed. We are to humble ourselves for those sins whereby we have hindered God’s manifestative glory and profaned His name, such as pride of heart, coldness of zeal, stubbornness of will, and impiety of life. (2) We are to earnestly seek those graces whereby we may hallow His name: a fuller knowledge of Himself, an increase of holy fear in our hearts; increased faith, hope, love, and worship; and the right use of His gifts. (3) Our duties are to be faithfully practiced, that there may be nothing in our conduct that would cause His name to be blasphemed by unbelievers (Rom. 2:24). "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31).
"Thy Kingdom Come"
The second petition is the most brief and yet the most comprehensive one contained in our Lord’s Prayer. The first petition, "Hallowed be Thy name," concerns God’s glory itself, whereas the second and third have respect to the means whereby His glory is to be manifested and promoted on earth. Among the means for promoting God’s glory, none is so influential as the coming of His kingdom. Hence we are exhorted, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matt. 6:33).
"Thy kingdom come." Whose kingdom is being referred to here? Obviously, it is that of God the Father, yet it is not to be thought of as something separate from the kingdom of the Son. But Christ does mean, by the words "Thy kingdom," to distinguish sharply the kingdom of God from the kingdom of Satan (Matt. 12:25-28), which is a kingdom of darkness and disorder. Satan’s kingdom is not only opposite in character, but it also stands in belligerent opposition to the kingdom of God.
The Father’s kingdom is, first and more generally, His universal rule, His absolute dominion over all creatures and things. "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as Head above all" (1 Chr. 29:11). Second, and more specifically, it is the external sphere of His grace on earth, where He is ostensibly acknowledged (see Matthew 13:11 in its context). Third, and more definitely still, it is God’s spiritual and internal kingdom, which is entered by regeneration. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).
There is a threefold application when we pray, "Thy kingdom come." First, it applies to the external sphere of God’s grace here on earth: "Let Thy Gospel be preached and the power of Thy Spirit attend it; let Thy church be strengthened; let Thy cause on earth be advanced and the works of Satan be destroyed!" Second, it applies to God’s internal kingdom, that is, His spiritual reign of grace within the hearts of men: "Let Thy throne be established in our hearts; let Thy laws be administered in our lives and Thy name be magnified by our walk." Third, it applies to God’s kingdom in its future glory: "Let the Day be hastened when Satan and his hosts shall be completely vanquished, when Thy people shall be done with sinning forever, and when Christ ‘shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied’" (Isa. 53:11).
We say again that, though this is the most brief of the petitions, it is also the most comprehensive. In praying, "Thy kingdom come," we plead for the power and blessing of the Holy Spirit to attend the preaching of the Word, for the church to be furnished with God-given and God-equipped officers, for the ordinances to be purely administered, for an increase of spiritual gifts and graces in Christ’s members, and for the overthrow of Christ’s enemies. Thus we pray that the kingdom of grace may be further extended till the whole of God’s elect are brought into it. Also, by necessary implication, we pray that God will wean us more and more from the perishing things of this world.
Let us point out some of the uses to which this petition should be put. First, we ought to bewail and confess our failures to promote the kingdom of God, and those of others. It is our duty to confess before God our wretched, natural depravity and the awful proclivity of our flesh to serve sin and the interests of Satan (Rom. 7:14-24). We ought to mourn the sad state of the world and its woeful transgressions of God’s Law, by which God is dishonored and the kingdom of Satan furthered (Psa. 119:136; Mark 3:5). Second, we are to earnestly seek those graces that will make our lives a sanctifying influence in the world, in order that God’s kingdom might be both built and maintained. We are to endeavor to so subject ourselves to the commandments of Christ that we are wholly ruled by Him, always ready to do His bidding (Rom. 6:13). Third, having prayed for God’s enabling, we are to perform all the duties appointed to us by God, bringing forth the fruits that pertain to God’s kingdom (Matt. 21:43; Rom. 14:17). This we are to do with all diligence (Eccl. 9:10; Col. 3:17), using all the Divinely appointed means for the furthering of God’s kingdom.
"Thy Will Be Done in Earth, As It Is in Heaven"
"Thy will be done." The will of God is a phrase that, taken by itself, may express either what God has purposed to do or what He has commanded to be done by us. With regard to the will of God in the first sense, it always is, always has been, and ever shall be done upon earth as it is in heaven, for neither human policy nor infernal power can prevent it. The text now before us contains a prayer that we might be brought into complete accord with God’s revealed will. We do the will of God when, out of a due regard for His authority, we regulate our own thoughts and conduct by His commandments. Such is our bounden duty, and it should ever be our fervent desire and diligent endeavor so to do. We mock God if we present this request and then fail to make the conforming of ourselves to His revealed will our main business.
"Thy will be done." The one who sincerely prays this necessarily intimates his unreserved surrender to God; he implies his renunciation of the will of Satan (2 Tim. 2:26) and of his own corrupt inclinations (1 Pet. 4:2), and his rejection of all things opposed to God. Nevertheless, such a soul is painfully conscious that there is still much in him that is in conflict with God. He therefore humbly and contritely acknowledges that he cannot do His Father’s will without Divine assistance, and that he earnestly desires and seeks enabling grace.
From a positive perspective, when we pray, "Thy will be done," we beg God for spiritual wisdom to learn His will: "Make me to understand the way of Thy precepts…Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes" (Psa. 119:27, 33). Also, we beg God for spiritual inclination toward His will: "I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart…Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies" (Psa. 119:32, 36). Furthermore, we beg God for spiritual strength to perform His bidding: "Quicken Thou me according to Thy Word…strengthen Thou me according unto Thy Word" (Psa. 119:25, 28; cf. Phil. 2:12-13; Heb. 13:20-21). Our Lord teaches us to pray, "Thy will be done in earth," because this is the place of our discipleship. This is the realm in which we are to practice self-denial. If we do not do His will here, we never shall in heaven.
"As it is in heaven." The standard by which we are to measure our attempts at doing God’s will on earth is nothing less than the conduct of the saints and angels in heaven. How is God’s will done in heaven? Certainly it is not done reluctantly or sullenly, nor is it done hypocritically or pharisaically. We may be sure that it is executed neither tardily nor fitfully, neither partially nor fragmentarily. In the heavenly courts, God’s will is performed gladly and joyfully. Both the four living creatures (not beasts) and the twenty-four elders in Revelation 5:8-14 are depicted as rendering worship and service together. Yet heavenly adoration and obedience are rendered humbly and reverently, for the seraphim veil their faces before the Lord (Isa. 6:2). There God’s commands are executed with eager readiness, for Isaiah says that one of the seraphim flew to him from the Divine presence (Isa. 6:6). There God is lauded constantly and untiringly. "Therefore are [the saints] before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple" (Rev. 7:15). The angels obey God promptly, wholly, perfectly, and with ineffable delight. Heaven is what it is because the will of God is done by all who dwell there.
"Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Weigh this attentively in the light of what precedes. First, we are taught to pray, "Our Father which art in heaven"; then should we not do His will? We must, if we are His children, for disobedience is that which characterizes His enemies. Did not His own dear Son render Him perfect obedience? And it should delight us to strive to render Him the quality of devotion to which He is accustomed in the place of His peculiar abode, the seat of our future bliss. Second, since we are taught to pray, "Hallowed be Thy name," does not a real concern for God’s glory oblige us to make a conformity to His will our supreme quest? We certainly must if we desire to honor God, for nothing dishonors Him more than self-will and defiance. Third, since we are instructed to pray, "Thy kingdom come," should we not seek to be in full subjection to its laws and ordinances? We must, if we are subjects thereof, for it is only alienated rebels who despise His scepter.
– Condensed from the first five parts of a ten-part series by Arthur Pink on The Lord’s Prayer.