Dear Church Family,
In our summer sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer, this coming Sunday we come to the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer. As you may know, there are six petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. But, something that may not be as readily apparent is that these six petitions may be divided in half based upon their grammatical structure. Recognizing this grammatical structure helps us to better understand the Lord’s Prayer and what we are actually praying for.
The First Three Petitions
After the opening preface (“Our Father who art in heaven”) the first three petitions are:
(1) Hallowed by Thy name.
(2) Thy kingdom come.
(3) Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
The first three petitions are a bit unusual. Instead of praying that God would do something on our behalf, we are actually asking that God do something for Himself; and that He would enable us to do these things for Him, as well. David VanDrunen writes, “The very first thing we pray (in fact, the first three things we pray – half of the Lord’s Prayer) is not thanksgiving or petition regarding ourselves, but a request that God do something for himself” (God’s Glory Alone, 129).
So, as Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, He instructs us to begin by asking God to act on His own behalf: to make His name great, to advance His kingdom, and to sanctify His people. In these same petitions, Jesus also instructs to ask God to enable us: to honor and extol His name, to bring us and others into His kingdom, and to know, obey, and submit to His will.
The Last Three Petitions
The last three petitions are:
(4) Give us this day our daily bread.
(5) Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
(6) Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
The last three petitions are a bit more straightforward. These are more in keeping with what we usually think of as petitions or supplications. They are direct requests for God to act on our behalf: to give us a competent portion of the good things of life, to forgive our sins through Christ, and to guard us from succumbing to temptation. As in the first three petitions, in these last three petitions we are reminded that without God’s help, we are unable to accomplish any of these things.
We will look more closely at the specific meaning and application of each of these petitions in the coming weeks; however, I hope that this brief explanation of the difference between the first three and the last three petitions is of some help. We are often inclined to pray in a very man-centered or self-centered way. Certainly, the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer encourage and instruct us to pray to God to meet our needs. Yet, as we study this prayer, we also learn that God’s glory ought to be our chief priority – even as we make our requests known to Him.
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch