“The Sermon on the Mount is welcoming us into the presence of God and showing us what it truly means to be a part of His Kingdom.”
The Lord’s Prayer is a passage of Scripture that just about anyone who self-identifies as a Christian can quote. Go ahead and close your eyes and recite it to yourself. I would even wager that this prayer ranks in the top three of people’s recognition level of Bible passages--right after John 3:16 and Psalm 23. Yet, with the ability of so many people to quote this prayer, I’m not convinced that they understand how it fits in the greater context of the Sermon on the Mount.
The Sermon on the Mount is unlike any sermon or message you would have ever heard. Jesus is not trying to draw a crowd and entertain them with clever speech. His words are difficult and discouraging. The standards He draws from the Old Testament Law make it more difficult than even the Pharisees had done (5:20ff). Jesus scolds the people for storing up treasures in this life and looking to this world for comfort (6:19ff). He then warns them that not everyone who tries to get into the Kingdom will be welcomed (7:21ff).
Yet many of us still come to this sermon for comfort in time of need. We read, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (5:4) and we walk away relieved that our sadness is but momentary in the scope of God’s plan. We read, “Do not be anxious about your life...” (7:25ff) and we are reminded once again to rest and trust in the Master’s hand. But the sermon on the Mount was not designed to be picked over for our cares and concerns. Jesus is preaching the standards for the Kingdom of Heaven and anyone who reads it in it’s entirety will be overwhelmed by their inability to meet its requirements.
Understanding the Sermon on the Mount as a whole can be difficult. Every time I read it I walk away with a new, more profound understanding of the text. Yet, understanding the cohesion of this sermon is crucial to grasping the heart of God. I always like to pray before and after my sermon, asking God to assist me in my understanding of the text. Jesus decides to insert His prayer in the middle of His sermon and I think that it can assist us in understanding this text. The Lord’s Prayer serves as a very helpful structural outline for the reverberating truth in the surrounding sermon.
OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN
HEAVEN, HALLOWED BY THY NAME
This prayer begins, just like any prayer should begin, drawing our heart and affections to focus on our Heavenly Father. It is both reverent and intimate. He is our Father, but His name is holy. He presides above us in the heavens, and yet, this sermon is being delivered by the Son of God, who is also God Himself. He came from heaven and lived in our midst and meets us where we are. This is the beauty of the text. The Sermon on the Mount is welcoming us into the presence of God and showing us what it truly means to be a part of His Kingdom.
THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
Although this sermon begins with the Beatitudes laying out the economy of the Kingdom, asking for poverty of spirit (5:3) does not make for a very motivating prayer life. Yet, this is the contrast of what it means to pray for God’s Kingdom to come. The Sermon on the Mount gives us pause by asking us to really think about what it means to relinquish control to God to do whatever He deems best in our lives. When we truly start to live for God’s Kingdom, our desires change. We are no longer enamored by the temptations of this world, because we have stored up our treasures in heaven (6:20). It is only when we have become so heavenly minded that we then begin to be any earthly good.
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD
It seems to follow that if we are praying to the sovereign God of the universe to have His will accomplished here on earth that we could trust Him with our day to day needs. Yet this is the very test of our understanding of how God’s Kingdom works. We grow anxious, not solely because of our dependence on the things of this world, but because we don’t trust that God has control of our circumstances. When we worry, we doubt that God has our best intentions in mind. But when we pray, we ought to remind ourselves that as our heavenly Father we can trust that He will only give His children good things (7:11).
AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS, AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS
While the first half of this prayer is upwards and inwards, now we are drawn to think outwardly. We know that our sins have been forgiven because we have trusted in God, but it is truly understanding and accepting the spirit of forgiveness that should motivate us to be gracious to others. Removing the log from our own eye does not give us permission to do surgery on our neighbor’s eye (7:1ff), but it does give a keen understanding of how forgiveness works. When we have truly experienced His grace, we will love our neighbors differently.
AND LEAD US NOT INTO
TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Jesus changes the definition of ‘breaking the Law’ in the Sermon on the Mount (5:20ff). Perhaps our greatest temptation in life is to tell ourselves that we really aren’t all that bad. At least we’ve never murdered someone or had an affair. Yet, Jesus shows us that we will not escape the judgment so easily. We have all hated (5:22) or lusted (5:28), some of us on a daily basis. Many of us living in bitterness have committed mass murder in our hearts. This prayer is not to protect us from an outside evil that is trying to subvert us from the Kingdom of God. We need protection from our own hearts.
FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM, AND THE POWER, AND THE
GLORY, FOR EVER. AMEN.
Just as the prayer begins, it ends reminding us who is in control. The Sermon on the Mount reverberates with the unified message of trusting God and living for Him. Now we are reminded why. We live in God’s Kingdom, we are sustained by His power, and we labor for His glory, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (5:16). As we focus on God’s glory, we will not only find our own hearts drawn to worship Him, but as those around us observe us, they will see what matters to us most, and it will move them to worship our Father in heaven.
Rev. Adam Miller is the President and Host of Songtime and can be heard daily on the Songtime Radio Broadcast.