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The Lord’s Prayer: An explication

By Francis Onaiyekan
14 August 2016   |   3:30 am
The Lord’s Prayer is called the ‘Prayer of prayers’ by Thomas Watson. ( And for good reasons, it is a perfect model, a paradigm, of Christian prayer by our Master and Teacher, Jesus Christ.


The Lord’s Prayer is called the ‘Prayer of prayers’ by Thomas Watson. ( And for good reasons, it is a perfect model, a paradigm, of Christian prayer by our Master and Teacher, Jesus Christ. It is notable for the selfless, outward (as opposed to inward) concern for all people, brevity, logicality, and clarity, and forthrightness that are characteristic of Jesus style of teaching. (Note that all of Christ’s teaching recorded in the New Testament will only form a small-sized pamphlet. But the message is loaded beyond belief).

It is only 66 words, (KJV, NKJV) – or 53 words in some versions of the Bible. These are far less than say, the 1863 post -Civil War Gettysburg Address in honor of fallen soldiers (286), and the Declaration of American Independence (1300).

‘The Lord’s Prayer’, said Thomas Aquinas ‘is the most perfect of prayers…In it we ask, not only for the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them’ (

The Lord’s Prayer is confident, comprehensive, complete, direct, plain, intelligible, and brief. It is not an ‘arbitrary stringing together of words [of a long list of needs, wants, and desires (Mat. 6:7)] (Rudolf Steiner, 1907).

It addresses real and everyday spiritual and material needs of Man such as three square meals, interpersonal relationship (forgiveness), struggle with temptation and sin and protection from forces- principalities and powers – (Eph 6:12) too strong for Man to contend with.

The Lord’s Prayer is a) a prayer of confident claim to the universal connection and sons ship of God b) a prayer of praise and declaratory acknowledgement of the power and authority of God in heaven and on earth c) a prayer of submission to the will of God d) a prayer conditional request for mercy and forgiveness e) a prayer of protection f) a prayer of strength against, and protection from, powers stronger than we can humanly wrestle with.

There are six steps of prayer in The Lord’s Prayer: (
• Address [acknowledgement] of God’s rightful place as our Father
• Worship and praise of God for who He is and all that He has done
• Acknowledge that God’s will and plans are in control, not our own
• Ask God for the things that we need
• Confess our sins and repent
• Request help to overcome sin and protection from Satan’s attacks (

The prayer begins with a doxology in acknowledgement and praise of the holiness of God (‘hallowed…). After all, it is only wise to acknowledge the capacity of higher authority before you seek his favor. It closes with a doxology that appreciates and exalts His limitless and eternal dominion (‘for Thine is … forever’). For countless reasons, including thankfulness, His strength, His deeds among men, His great wonderful works, God, our Lord and Father is worthy of all praise and is so honored unreservedly. David appointed certain people for this purpose (1Chr.16:4); and he himself did so lavishly (Ps. 104; 145-150). The Lord’s Prayer may be divided into four sections: a) the claim to the Fatherhood of God b) an opening doxology c) the petitions for material and spiritual provisions d) a closing doxology.

‘Our Father’ universalizes Christianity by implying that Jews and non-Jews, all colors and cultures have equal claim to the fatherhood of God. It is Christ’s affirmation of one race, our common humanity, similar needs, and common destiny. (Mat. 5:16; 6:8) This sets the tone for the Peter – Cornelius encounter in Acts 10; and the former’s new understanding of the way of God (Acts 10: 28, 34-35). This prayer model that Christ gave mankind to say and to live by demonstrates His focus: not self centered but concerned with condition and the fate of the entire humanity.

It is ‘not the gratification of … personal wishes by prayer or entreaty, to the entire disregard of all embracing effect that the granting of the prayer may bring [upon other children of God]. (Rudolf Steiner, 1907)
Our Father ‘which art in heaven’ is king who reigns in heaven (Is. 66:1; Ps. 115:3) and He rules over the affairs of men. (Jer. 23:23-24).
Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven affirms in a declarative, not-contestable language, the holiness and sacredness of God’s name, and ipso facto, Himself (Is. 6:3; 1Peter 1:5; 1Sam. 2:2); a ‘great King’ (Mal. 1:14) with sovereign power and authority to exercise His will over all of creation. These acknowledge by faith too, the future recovery of the earth from Satanic hold, and the establishment of the kingdom of God (Rev. 20-22).
Give us our daily bread. All things come from God; we have because He gives.

Bread is earthly nourishment for physical sustenance to carry out and on, our daily chores in the Lord’s vineyard. As Bertolt Brecht would say, “Food is the first thing; morals follow” In Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, food is first before every other need.

Forgive us our debts, (sins/trespasses) as we forgive our debtors. On the one hand, Forgiveness by God is a key condition to reconciling ourselves with Him. It goes with Mercy although I am not sure which one precedes the other.

Forgiveness is emphasized because of the fundamental positive purpose it serves in the community of man, as well as the multiplier benefits. It gives a personal healing value to both the offended and the offender because it releases the later from his/her debt of offence. Forgiveness heals relationship and offers release from emotional hostage to a bitter past. And it offers restoration that enables starting over again. However, Forgiveness requires that the offender repents (act of genuine, heartfelt contrition and restitution), and conversion (a change in behavior).

The upside, the consolation in all these is that because God is good all the time, He does not allow temptation beyond our capacity (1 Cor. 10:12-14). After all, in this flesh and blood, we remain human, with its attendant flaws. For this God grants a latitude of Grace, of mercy that endures forever. This prayer may be understood then as a supplicatory reminder (if at all God needs reminding) that He continually keeps us from temptation beyond our capacity and which, if we succumb, leads to sin (lawlessness) and death. I believe that God will always be faithful and do His part for man; but we must do our duty to resist temptation and sin. There is a saying: ‘Blessed is the man who endures and defeats temptation’.

Deliver us from evil (the Evil One). ‘In this final petition the Church brings befor the Father, all the distress of the world’ ( It acknowledges the existence of evil as an entity, and also as a product of our action. Evil is opposed to God, and evil is all that is contrary to godliness, that is abomination in the sight of God.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever, Amen. This closing doxology acknowledges and for effect, the sovereignty of God and the immensity of His Being from eternity to eternity.

The Lord’s Prayer is evidentially, the prayer of prayers as only the Master Himself could teach.