Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "MATTHEW"
The So-called "Lord's Prayer" -- Its Use and Its
BY THE AUTHOR
Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
THE SO-CALLED "LORD'S PRAYER"--ITS USE AND ITS ABUSE
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)?!
- THE CHRISTOLOGICAL OR RELATIONAL ARGUMENT - not for Christ's use
- 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.
- At best, therefore, the prayer is not the "Lord's Prayer," but the
"Disciples' Prayer " -- "After this manner pray ye …"; even then
- The prayer was not for everybody, only for disciples, i.e., believers
who could properly say "our Father" because they were born again.
- THE CONTEXTUAL ARGUMENT - not for repetition nor public use
- 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 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.
- 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).
- 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,
- Only the regenerate can pray "Father."
- We are not orphans but members of a family of faith; we say "Our
- Our Father is holy; we should therefore reverence Him and hallow Him
by holy living.
- 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.
- We should recognize that every provision comes from Him, whether
material (food) or spiritual (food).
- 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
- 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.
- 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."
- THE TEXTUAL ARGUMENT
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.)
- 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.
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 non-repentance, 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:
- THE DISPENSATIONAL ARGUMENT - not for this Church age See Argument IV
(above), then note these emphases:
- "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).
- "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)
- "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.
- 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).
- "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.)
- "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.)
- "… 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
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
200 Manor Avenue
Langhorne, PA 19047
United States of America
Notes" Study materials on this website are made available
here free, through the generosity of Cairn University,
and may be copied for use in Bible study groups, in limited numbers, providing
that no charge is made for them. No further distribution or use
of these materials is allowable under U.S. or International Copyright
Law without the express permission of Cairn University.