Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "MATTHEW"
The So-called "Lord's Prayer" -- Its Use and Its Abuse


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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible


There are two major views on "The Lord's Prayer." The usual view is that our Lord taught His disciples this prayer and commanded them to use it constantly. The other view is that He taught proper principles of praying to these disciples in His earthly ministry who had professed to receive His kingly claims and that the primary application and ultimate fulfillment is associated with the setting up of His kingdom on earth (i.e., "thy kingdom come").

The College receives this latter view. Thus, in no sense is it a prayer primarily for believers in this Church age. Its basic principles can be applied secondarily to us but not primarily. But, quite apart from a dispensational question, the preliminary and more important question is whether Jesus intended anyone to pray it. Was He teaching a form prayer or principles of praying, while warning against form (rote or ritual) prayer (see Mt. 6:6-7)?!

    1. Not the "Lord's Prayer" Christ did not pray it. He never prayed to be forgiven of sin. He never prayed with sinners.
      He never said "Our Father, " but always "My Father, " as distinct from "Your Father" On. 20:17). His prayer, the true Lord's prayer, is John 17, where He prays for us (not with us) as our Great High Priest.
    2. At best, therefore, the prayer is not the "Lord's Prayer," but the "Disciples' Prayer " -- "After this manner pray ye "; even then
    3. The prayer was not for everybody, only for disciples, i.e., believers who could properly say "our Father" because they were born again.

  2. THE CONTEXTUAL ARGUMENT - not for repetition nor public use
    1. The context (vv.5-6) is warning against abuses of public prayer and instructing disciples in the use of private prayer ("in secret".. ."shut the door").
    2. The context (w.7-8) is warning against the "vain repetitions" of form prayer, the very thing that not only Roman Catholics, but hosts of Protestants persist in perpetuating, contrary to our Lord's express command, by constantly having this prayer repeated, not only in private but in general public gatherings. There is danger of pagan praying, as though people will be "heard for much speaking." Christ never intended it as a rote prayer and most certainly not as a ritual prayer.
    3. The prayer should not be used in public because, by so doing, we Christians encourage unregenerate sinners, who compose part of every audience, to call God "Father" and think they are being heard by Him, when He is not their Father, and He is not hearing them. We thus help lull them into spiritual lethargy instead of severely warning them that they have no approach to God until they accept the person and work of Christ (John 14:6).
    4. It was never intended for a form prayer, but as a model of proper principles of praying. Christ did not say "Pray these set words, " but "after this manner pray ye." He was teaching basic principles of praying, such as:
      1. Only the regenerate can pray "Father."
      2. We are not orphans but members of a family of faith; we say "Our Father."
      3. Our Father is holy; we should therefore reverence Him and hallow Him by holy living.
      4. We should long for the Millennial Day when He shall indeed reign supreme, and we should anticipate that Day by absolute submission now, so that today in us His will shall be done on earth as in heaven.
      5. We should recognize that every provision comes from Him, whether material (food) or spiritual (food).
      6. We need daily recognition of this fact and daily prayer for that provision. In faith we state our daily expectancy (in the light of James 1:17).
      7. We should confess our sins to the Father (1 Jn. 1:9) so that we may be morally eligible to receive His forgiveness, knowing God cannot forgive us if we hold unforgiveness against our brother. God cannot hear me favorably about anything if "I regard iniquity in my heart." (Ps. 66:18) Forgiveness here is not that of a sinner coming to God for the first time (judicial), but that of a child of God (Father) seeking restored fellowship, Mt. 18:21-35.
      8. We need and plead, and cannot do without, the mercy of His protection against the Evil One. God knows where we would crack under pressure, so we plead the thought of 1 Corinthians 10:13, namely, that He will not permit us "to be tempted above that we are able to bear."

    Part of prayer omitted from best texts, so "which prayer?" Even if Christ intended the prayer to be repeated as a form prayer, the Gloria (v. 13b, "For thine is the kingdom") has no place in the early and most authoritative texts and should be omitted. (Compare Luke 11:4.) It was an unwarranted addition following the custom of the Roman Church in earlier days of putting a gloria at the close of many prayers. (Strangely today Rome now omits it, but Protestants improperly include it.)

  4. THE TRANSITIONAL ARGUMENT - not in Christ's name!
    Another reason for feeling this prayer is not only questionable for use as a form prayer, but certainly and in any event not for use of believers now in this Church age, is the omission of that which makes our prayer-checks valid at the Bank of Heaven, i.e., our Saviour's Name. Christ said, "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask (in my name) and ye shall receive" (Jn. 16:23-24).

    How could such an omission be harmonized with our Lord's own instruction for praying in this Church age?

    Plainly, in Matthew 6, He was instructing anticipators of His Kingdom, envisioned in the prayer as the next thing in God's program as respecting the earth--"Thy Kingdom come!"

    Church-age believers are not looking for the King, but the Bridegroom; they are not praying for the Kingdom to come, but for the Church to be completed so their Lord may come to rapture them to heaven. Only after that and after many intervening events will our Lord then return to earth as King and set up His Kingdom, not coming to us, but bringing us back with Him to reign (Rev. 20:6; 3:21; 2:26-28; 1 Cor. 6:2a);~

    Hence, the prayer is proper instruction for the disciples of Jesus' earthly ministry who were anticipating the Kingdom then offered but which, because of Israel's nonrepentance, was postponed (Mt. 21:21b-46); and thus after the Rapture of the Church, the prayer will be taken up again by those believers (Jews and Gentiles) who shall be anticipating the return to earth of the King to set up His Kingdom (Mt. 23:37-39; 25:31-33; Rev. 7). ~

    Inevitably, therefore, the teaching of the prayer, if put against the backdrop of the Great Tribulation (cp. Mt. 24), has a strong dispensational flavor and instructional value, to wit:

  5. THE DISPENSATIONAL ARGUMENT - not for this Church age See Argument IV (above), then note these emphases:
    1. "Our Father in heaven" will be quite significant when all hell breaks loose on earth (Mt. 24:21-22); their only hope in that awful period will be from their Father in heaven! It will be HIS move (Acts 1:7).
    2. "Thy Name hallowed," they will say and might well add: "Hallowed.. .even if need be by our martyrdom, rather than receive the Mark of the Beast and blaspheme Thy Holy Name!" (2 Thes. 2:4; Rev. 13:4-5,15)
    3. "Thy Kingdom come .. thy will be done ON EARTH" - Oh, how they will long for this while under the cruel reign of Satan's Monster, the Man of Sin! The Kingdom cannot come, except the King come back again.
    4. Note the tense of the phrase: "Thy Kingdom come." It is not "Thy Kingdom be coming" (gradually) but "come! " (that is, come suddenly, catastrophically, and have it done with, 2 Thes.-1:6-10; 2:8).
    5. "Give us this day our daily bread" - How earnestly the believers of that period of awful suffering will pray for their daily bread. See Revelation 13:16-17, where only those who have "the mark of the beast" will be allowed to buy or sell. (Having seen the absolute authority over life which rationing and the food card held over tens of millions in World War II, we can sense the terrific situation in which those who refuse "the mark of the beast" will find themselves.) Unless God miraculously provides their food, or those who believe their message risk their lives to provide it, they will starve. (Mt. 25:35,43, etc.)
    6. "And forgive us as we forgive" (v.l2) - This petition envisions how difficult it will be for tribulation saints not to hold bitterness and hate against those who are seeking their very lives (Rev. 13:7,15), but rather forgive them. (As per Mt. 5:43-44; cp. Rom. 12:19-21.)
    7. " Deliver us from THE EVIL ONE" (v. 13) - How subtle Satan will be in that day and how the tribulation saints will need protection both from the Evil One's subtlety and his ferocious hate. (Mt. 24:23-24; Rev. 12:9, 11-12; 13:7-10, 13-14,18)

      In the light of these five reasons cited above, I do not believe it best to use the prayer, where I have the choice in the matter, lest I help perpetuate prevalent errors which need to be corrected. Where I have no opportunity to explain my preference and position to those in charge of a church at which I am asked to preach, I quote it as I would any Scripture, knowing that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is holy and profitable." Where I am not presiding, but simply part of the group, I remain reverently silent. I never say, "As Jesus taught us to pray."

      Many people, hearing this teaching for the first time, are astounded and feel we must be wrong here at PCB, or at least in this class. Very often this teacher is misquoted. Even if you do not understand it this way, please take this material under prayerful advisement, and reach an unhurried conclusion.

      Certainly it is not wrong to quote the prayer, but we believe it is better not to quote it, where you have a choice in the matter. It is more profitable if we make a practical distinction between the interpretation of a passage and its application. (There is only one interpretation and we believe it is primarily to anticipators of the Kingdom then. There may be many spiritual applications to us of this age, but they are applications of a secondary nature, such as we made under II, 4.)

      Whenever there is time and opportunity to do so, we should inform people of the misuse of this portion of Scripture. However, we should do this graciously, courteously, patiently, and plainly, because most people (even among pre-millennialists) have never heard the material given in these notes, or have heard such distorted reports of it that most of them conscientiously use the prayer with the mistaken notion that, in doing so, they are doing what the Lord told them to do. Many churches use it as a regular part of their services. Indeed, it is in the formal ritual of many denominations.


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