“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ And he said to them, ‘When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
I’m sure you have gone back to this prayer again and again. I certainly do when I am losing focus or not getting a broader perspective. It’s a pattern or a template for all our praying. “Pray in this manner,” or “pray in this way.” This doesn’t mean we need to pray word-for-word, but we can certainly get a hold of the principles that our Lord articulates in this prayer. If you were learning to play baseball, or football, or a musical instrument, you would go to the best. The best of the best! That’s what the disciples do here in a sense. They run to Jesus to learn how to pray. No one is better than Jesus.
Some have argued that this prayer often called the Lord’s prayer is so called not because He prayed the prayer but because He taught the prayer. Why do we make that distinction? I think one reason is because of v. 4, “and forgive us our sins.” Jesus was sinless. Could Jesus have ever asked for forgiveness? No. He was the blameless, perfect Lamb of God.
However, I heard an argument not so long ago that Jesus could have made this prayer request. Listen to Dr. Mark Jones, “We don’t want to forget that Jesus came into this world as a representative person.” Remember there were two Adams and Jesus is the last Adam. Remember when Jesus steps out into public, the very first time he steps out in public, He is baptized by John in a baptism of repentance.
Jesus was identifying Himself with sinners, wasn’t He, by that baptism? And here is the question—I’m not going to dogmatize—could Jesus have identified with sinners by praying this prayer?
In Daniel 9, we find Daniel praying and seeking forgiveness, not for his own sins but for the sins of the nation. He says “we have been wicked”—using the plural pronoun. (v. 5) Not that he had been wicked, but the nation as a whole had been wicked and had rebelled. So, in the prayer we find in Luke, the corporate nature of this prayer is evident in the address, “Our Father.” As Mark Jones says, “the corporate nature of this prayer is crucial in understanding why Jesus could have”—we are not going to dogmatize, but he could have—“prayed these very words as the Intercessor on behalf of His people.” Jesus did not have to confess sin individually, but He could have done so corporately.
When you come to the last petition of the prayer, look what it is, “Lead us not into temptation.” No question that Jesus would have prayed that prayer. No one was more tempted than Jesus. We are told He endured temptation (Hebrews 12:2). Hebrews 4 says, “He was tempted in every way.” (v. 15) This is a different way from how we typically talk.
Dr. John Owen has a huge volume on temptation and sin. Listen to what John Owen says about this particular prayer. He makes an interesting point as to what temptation is in view here. He says, “God never promises a freedom from temptation.” What he believes is that this reference is to a more aggravated or intense kind of temptation. He describes it as, “A powerful, frightening allurement.” Entering into temptation, how Owen understands it, is entering into a hurricane storm, a great danger of being swept away.
Think of David on the rooftop. David, you could argue, entered into temptation. He was suddenly confronted with a powerful and frightening enticement. He became ensnared and he fell. Think of Joseph in Genesis 39. He entered into temptation as well. Like a hot fire, the flames were linking at his feet. But he remained faithful.
Think of our Lord Jesus. Did He ever enter temptation in a very intense, aggravated form? Yes! In the wilderness after that forty day fast, that is when the devil came after Him. The devil promised Him immediate success so that He would avoid the cross if He would just bow down and worship Him.
Jesus also entered into a temptation, you could call it in the sense that Owen believes it to be understood, in the Garden of Gethsemane. He entered into temptation, He is sweating drops of blood. Remember what Jesus says to His disciples in the Garden. He uses the exact language we find in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. He says, “Watch and pray that you do not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). You see? Jesus knows that they are about to face a long, intense hurricane storm of temptation. He is warning them, “watch and pray that you do not enter into that temptation.” They entered into temptation, and they lost the battle, didn’t they? They are on the run!
Here are two petitions we need to pray for ourselves, and even for God’s people. It is a corporate prayer. That God would forgive our sins and that God would “forgive us our sins,” and “lead us not into temptation.” Every day we will be tempted and every day we need forgiveness. At times, an argument could be made, we will face seasons of temptations that are unusually intense and aggravated and even frightening. The devil can come along like a lion on the prowl. He can roar, and bite, and he can claw. He wants to devour us. We need to pray for protection, and also for pardon.