Our Hope: The Lord’s Prayer
Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer to help us see that God’s purpose for our lives is all about God being glorified, his kingdom coming, and his will being done on earth–through us. But most of us neglect or abuse the Lord’s Prayer. This is why Luther called it “the greatest martyr on earth.”
In this third lesson, learn how to find God’s kingdom purposes and lasting hope for your life by praying the Lord’s Prayer.
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Our Hope: The Lord’s Prayer
By Steve Childers and John Frame
Having seen how the essence of our faith is expressed in the Apostles’ Creed, we now look at how our hope is found in the Lord’s Prayer. In doing this, we continue following the example of Augustine’s succinct summary of biblical Christianity in his Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love.
In this handbook, Augustine gives an exposition of faith in the Apostles’ Creed, hope in the Lord’s Prayer, and love in the Ten Commandments based on the Apostle Paul’s list of virtues: “So now faith, hope, and love abide” (1 Cor 13:13a). He writes, “Thus, from our confession of faith, briefly summarized in the Creed … there is born the good hope of the faithful, accompanied by a holy love.”
What is this good hope that should be born from our confession of faith?
The Nature of Our Hope
It’s not only our personal hope of going to heaven when when die. Paul also refers to this hope as “the hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20), “the hope of the gospel” (Col 1:23), and “the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). He describes it as a glorious hope for all creation and humanity in which “creation itself will be set free” (Rom 8:20-21).
Therefore, this hope refers to the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem and restore all things lost in humanity and creation because of sin.
Paul also tells us that God promises that this hope will be ours by giving us the gift of his Holy Spirit, who is “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:13-14). Christ’s presence in us, by his Holy Spirit, is just a foretaste of the inheritance that will one day be fully ours when Jesus returns in glory to make all things new. This is what Paul means when he proclaims, “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” (Col 1: 27b).
Likewise the Apostle Peter calls it “the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15b) and a “living hope” that is our “inheritance” being kept and guarded by God for us, to be revealed in the last time:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guardedthrough faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Pet 1:3-5)
The Christian hope is the good news that when Jesus returns as King he will fill the earth with God’s glory, by bringing everything on earth in subjection to the Father’s will just as it is in heaven. Paul tells us that when Jesus brings all things into final subjection, including death and Satan, he will deliver up his conquered kingdom to God the Father. Then Jesus will place even himself in subjection to the Father.
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet … When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:24-25, 28)
Jesus’ final work, as the obedient incarnate Son, is to deliver up to the Father the kingdom he established, including himself as its King. Jesus’ ultimate purpose in delivering up his kingdom and himself as its King to God the Father is so “that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). In other words, so that God the Father would be honored and glorified in everything.
At the end of his life on earth, Jesus prays to the Father, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4) Jesus’ work, his mission, was to glorify the Father by causing his kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The Prayer of Our Hope
When Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray, he gave them a model for prayer designed to help them align their minds, hearts, and lives with him and his mission. He began by telling them to address God like he did, as their heavenly Father.
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9a)
Then he gave them six petitions to pray:
Praying our Godward hope
The first three petitions are Godward-focused, to ask God our Father to:
1) hallow (glorify) his name,
“hallowed be your name.” (Matt. 6:9b)
2) cause his kingdom to come,
“Your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10a)
3) and cause his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10b)
Praying our manward hope
The other petitions are manward, to ask our Father for:
1) our daily bread,
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11)
2) our forgiveness,
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12)
3) and our protection.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt. 6:13)
The Godward and manward petitions should be seen as a whole. In the Godward petitions Augustine teaches that we “ask for eternal goods,” and in the manward petitions we “ask for temporal goods, which are, however, necessary for obtaining the eternal goods.” The reason we ask God for daily bread, forgiveness, and protection is so that through our lives, his name would be honored, his kingdom would come, and his will would be done on earth.
The Comfort of Our Hope
Jesus taught his disciples to pray like this so they would see that God’s purpose for them and for the whole world is all about God being glorified, his kingdom coming, and his will being done on earth as it is in heaven. He wanted his disciples not only to believe these truths with their minds but also to embrace them in their hearts through prayer.
Only then could they know the hope of the gospel, the hope of glory, and the hope of their inheritance – especially as they followed Jesus in the suffering that always accompanies those who pray and then live like this.
But most people don’t use the Lord’s Prayer this way, if they use it at all. Seeing how people in his day abused the Lord’s Prayer, Luther called it “the greatest martyr on earth.”
What a great pity that the prayer of such a master is prattled and chattered so irreverently all over the world! How many pray the Lord’s Prayer several thousand times in the course of a year, and if they were to keep on doing so for a thousand years they would not have tasted nor prayed one iota, one dot, of it! In a word, the Lord’s Prayer is the greatest martyr on earth (as are the name and word of God). Everybody tortures and abuses it; few take comfort and joy in its proper use.
Luther’s harsh words against the abuses of the Lord’s Prayer are rooted in his heartfelt longing for God’s people to know and taste the riches God brings to all who pray it. He writes:
To this day I suckle at the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and as an old man eat and drink from it and never get my fill. It is the very best prayer, even better than the psalter, which is so very dear to me. It is surely evident that a real master composed and taught it.
Our faith, rooted in the biblical truths of the Apostles’ Creed, and our hope, stirred up by the Lord’s Prayer, are great and godly virtues. But the Apostle Paul tells us that love is greater than both. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). In the next chapter we’ll explore the relationship of our faith and our hope to our love.
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