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April 29, 2024

The Meaning of the Lord’s Prayer Line-by-Line

10 Reasons Why You Should Open Your Bible

This article is based on teaching by Pastor Colin Smith, Senior Pastor of The Orchard from his series Six Things to Ask of God. Follow his teaching on YouTube, the Open the Bible app or by searching “Open the Bible” in your favorite podcast app.


When Jesus’ disciples asked Him how to pray, Jesus responded with the words of the Lord’s Prayer (as found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4). In the Lord’s Prayer, we have the Son of God Himself teaching us to pray, and who would not want to pull up a chair, sit down, and hang on to His every word?

What follows is a petition-by-petition breakdown of the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer. May God increase your faith in Him and ability to pray as you meditate on the life-giving words of Jesus.

The Meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, Line by Line

Full Text of the Lord’s Prayer

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:9–13 ESV

Overview Sermon by Pastor Colin Smith: Let the Lord’s Prayer Change You

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Our Father in Heaven

All six petitions in the Lord’s Prayer are addressed to “our Father in heaven.” This is a prayer for God’s children. These are the prayers of those who’ve been reconciled to God. We cannot naturally pray this way. By nature, we are alienated from God. We are more concerned about our names than God’s name. And so, left to ourselves, if we prayed at all, we would start with ourselves and our own needs.

But Jesus came to bring us into an entirely new and different relationship with God the Father. God is His Father, and through faith in Him, we come to know God as our Father too. Jesus brings you into a new relationship with God in which you love Him, trust Him, worship Him, serve Him, and obey Him. And in the love of this perfect Father, you will find new peace, new strength, new hope, and new joy.

Here is the promise: “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). If you want to know God as your Father, if you want to pray as Jesus taught us to pray, here is where you begin: You must receive Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life, and you do this by believing in His name. Everything in the Lord’s Prayer flows from that relationship.

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Hallowed be your name

Notice that “heaven” frames the first three petitions: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). In other words: Hallowed be your name (on earth as in heaven). Your kingdom come (on earth as in heaven). Your will be done (on earth as in heaven).

Think about the scene in heaven as angels worship, and God’s name is honored: “Day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Revelation 4:8). That’s the scene in heaven, but what about the scene on earth? “Continually all the day my name is despised” (Isaiah 52:5). 

The scene on earth could not be more different than the scene in heaven. In heaven, God’s name is honored as the angels worship without ceasing. On earth, God’s name is despised, and blasphemed all day long. And it is into this chasm that we pray the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Hallowed be your name!” Let your name be worshiped, exalted, honored, and adored as it is in heaven.

In praying this prayer, we are asking God to move and act in the world in such a way that people will worship and treasure Him above all else. “Father, please bring people to love, trust, worship, and adore You. Make that true of us. Cause this to be true for me.” God’s answer to a world that despises His name is a people who know and love His name.

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Your kingdom come

God is a great and glorious king. There are other powers, other authorities, other kings, and other gods who do not recognize His rule, but God is sovereign over them: “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalm 95:3). When we pray, “Your kingdom come” the first thing we are asking of God is that our lives will be more fully submitted to His reign and His rule.

Jesus says that His kingdom is like “the smallest of all seeds” (Mark 4:31). It may be small, but because it is living, it will grow. What God is doing in you will spread through you into the lives of others. The second thing we pray for when we pray, “Your kingdom come” is for loved ones who do not yet know Jesus. This is also where we pray for the advance of the gospel in the world.

When Jesus teaches us to pray, “Your kingdom come,” not only is He telling us to pray that the kingdom will begin in us, and that it will grow in the world, but that God’s kingdom in all its fullness will come. The coming of the kingdom requires the coming of the King. When the King comes, He will defeat death, He will judge the world, and He will bring His people safely into His presence to live under the blessing of His rule forever.

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Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

God has a will that is secret, a will that can be discerned, and a will that has been revealed to us in the Bible. So, when we pray, “Your will be done,” we are asking for faith in what God has kept secret, wisdom in what God has called us to discern, and obedience in what He has revealed. 

Our Lord gives us a model of how His will is to be done: “as it is in heaven.” Who does God’s will in heaven? The angels, and if they are the model of doing God’s will in heaven, what does their obedience look like? Angels do God’s will fully, gladly, and immediately.

So, when we pray this prayer, we are asking God: “Lord, help me to embrace the commands that You have called me to obey. Help me to submit to the burden You have called me to carry.” When you pray, “Your will be done,” you rule out what God forbids, and you rule in what God commands.

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Give us this day our daily bread

When we ask God to give us our “daily bread,” we are, first of all, confessing our dependence on Him. We are also recognizing that God does not owe us, and that all we have is freely given from His hand.

Notice, secondly, that we are asking God for bread, not filet mignon. “Bread” is used in the Bible as a general term for the basic necessities of life, so “bread” would include our food, health, shelter, and clothing. It also includes our work, our safety, and the stability of our country. All of these are good gifts from the hand of our Father in heaven. So, in this prayer, we are asking God to give us all that we need to sustain a life that is committed to honoring His name, advancing His kingdom, and doing His will. And when we ask for and receive these things, we will naturally grow in gratitude to God.

Thirdly, notice the plural. It’s not, “Give me my daily bread,” it’s, “Give us our daily bread.” This prayer not only helps us to acknowledge our dependence on God and helps us to grow in gratitude, but it will deepen our compassion for others whose needs are greater than our own. This is where we pray for the needs of a hungry world, and where we ask God to bring to our minds the needs of others that we can help.

Finally, the word “daily” reminds us that God has a track record of faithfulness. He has been providing for billions of people across every continent in the world, and He has been doing this on a daily basis for thousands of years. When you ask God to provide for your needs, you are not asking for something strange or unusual. This is what God does for His people. He does it daily and you can trust Him to do it for you.

Go deeper:

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our debts.” Now, that is a really big ask. Imagine going to someone and asking them to “forgive” your million dollar debt. But Jesus invites us to come and make an even bigger ask of God.

When we ask God to forgive our debts, we are confessing not only that we have failed to pay, but that we cannot pay. We don’t say, “Father, I will make it up to You by being a good father, a good student, or a good Christian.” 

Why would a Christian need to pray this prayer? When we come to Jesus in faith and repentance, we are justified fully, completely, and forever. God drops all charges against us. If God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west, why would we need to pray, “Forgive us our debts” this week? The point of this prayer is not that condemnation should be removed, but that fellowship with God should be restored. 

Notice, it is not, “Forgive me my debts,” it is, “Forgive us our debts.” Praying this prayer means that you want God to forgive not only the debts you owe, but also the debts others owe, and this includes the debts that others owe to you. How can I ask God to forgive me for my sins if I am not ready to forgive others for their sins?

Go deeper:

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

Jesus used similar words in the garden of Gethsemane when He said to the disciples: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

Everyone is tempted. Notice, Jesus is not saying, “Watch and pray so that you will not be tempted.” He is saying, “Watch and pray so that you may not enter into temptation.” In other words, He is saying, “Father, do not let me get to the place where temptation overwhelms me. Guard me from that by helping me to watch and to pray.” 

When we pray, “Deliver us from evil,” we are not saying, “We can do it.” We are not even saying, “We can do it, we just need a little help.” When we pray, “Deliver us from evil,” we are saying, “This power of evil is too great for us, but it is not too great for You.” When we see war, injustice, famine, and disease, Jesus tells us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” Father, come and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

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