Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (February 16, 2020) The Prayer of Jesus / Kingdom Seeking Prayer Matthew 6:9-15

The Prayer of Jesus / Kingdom Seeking Prayer

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s lesson Jesus provides his disciples with a kingdom seeking prayer. We often call this prayer of Jesus the Lord’s Prayer.  In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is showing his disciples a more excellent way to pray. He is correcting them so they won’t pray like hypocrites.  He is correcting them so they won’t pray to be seen like others or to draw attention to themselves. When Jesus says “pray then in this way” He is teaching his disciples how to pray.  That is to say, this is a better way to pray. He has already told them don’t pray like the hypocrites in the synagogue and in the streets. He’s already told them don’t pray to bring attention to yourself.  And it’s not as if the disciples weren’t already praying or didn’t know how to pray. This prayer Jesus is teaching his disciples continues his instruction on the new rules and new commands that will govern the citizens of the new kingdom of heaven.  It is perhaps the most well known prayer of all time and many of us learned it at the feet of our mothers.  Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:  

Doxology

Kingdom of God

Background:  

This is the third lesson of three from the early chapters of the Gospel According to Matthew.  Over the last two weeks some of the major points I’ve discussed include:

  • How The Gospel According to Matthew and the other three Gospels are placed at the beginning of the New Testament to form a foundation and basis upon which we learn about the life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  
  • How this book is the writer’s recollection of words Jesus spoke decades earlier.
  • How the main subject of Matthew is “the kingdom of heaven” or the “kingdom of God.”
  • How this Gospel presents Jesus as a sort of Moses who delivers the nation of Israel like Moses delivered the nation from Pharaoh in Egypt.
  • How the NISB explains that “the Gospel was probably a rewriting of Mark’s Gospel, written around 70 CE.”
  • How the NISB explains “the antagonism toward the synagogue in Matthew suggests a date in the 80s.” 

In this week’s lesson Jesus gives the disciples a model prayer.  It is perhaps the most well known prayer of all time. Keep in mind that this prayer is a part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus outlined some of the rules and commands that the kingdom of God will be governed by. In this prayer Jesus is showing his disciples a more excellent way to pray.  

I want to highlight that this text is likely written after the Temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed.  That’s significant because the Temple was central, or one of the most important aspects of the Jewish religion.  As we have studied in previous lessons the Temple was the place where God would be present among them. Now that place was destroyed.  God’s house was destroyed. And the Jewish people are trying to figure out what that means for them as a people. They want to know if it means that God has abandoned them.  After suffering such a heavy defeat they are confused about their place in the world, what all this means for the Davidic covenant, and if God has truly forsaken them. One of the reasons The Gospel According to Matthew is written is to answer that question.  The writer wants them to know that Jesus is the answer. The sixth chapter of Matthew deals with almsgiving, prayer, fasting, treasures, serving two masters, and worry. In our text for this week Jesus provides an example of how to pray. This model prayer is perhaps the most well known prayer in all of history.  Some important terms to consider about this text include:

Doxology

Kingdom of God

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:

In last week’s lesson Jesus gave instructions on how to do good deeds, where to pray, how to pray, and how not to pray.  All of this was a part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist, he had endured forty days and forty nights of fasting in the desert, then  tempted by the satan. He had begun his ministry in Galilee, called his first disciples, and ministered to the crowds before his first major discourse – the Sermon on the Mount. The instructions in his Sermon on the Mount included how to do good deeds, how to give alms, and how to pray our prayers in ways that won’t draw attention to ourselves.  Because when it’s all about us, when it’s all about drawing attention to ourselves, it’s not about the will of God for our lives. And it’s not about the others that Jesus sacrificed his life for. In last week’s text we also began to see a bit of the antagonism The Gospel of Matthew has toward the synagogue. That antagonism was a result of the division between what I call the old school traditional Jews (who reject Jesus) and the new Jewish Christians who believe Jesus is the Messiah.  I also noted that Matthew does not offer a friendly glowing depiction of the synagogue. I noted how as the Mattheian writer writes to the Jewish-Christian community he recalled the words of Jesus from decades earlier yet his focus was still God honoring Piety. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson “The Prayer of Jesus.” Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson “Kingdom Seeking Prayer.” The scripture text comes from Matthew 6:9-15.  

Again, these are the words of Jesus.  This prayer is a part of his sermon on the mount and it should not be considered as a separate, isolated text.  It is in the context of all the words he just spoke in verses 1-8. This prayer is a part of his first major discourse – the Sermon on the Mount.  It is a part of the rules and commands that govern the citizens of this new kingdom of God Jesus is preaching.  

What Takes Place in This Passage:  

The lesson opens at chapter six verse nine with Jesus having already given instructions on piety or as the King James version puts it almsgiving.  He has given instructions on how to pray, where to pray, and how not to pray. Jesus has warned the disciples to beware of being pious in order to be seen by others and He has told the disciples “do not be like the hypocrites.”  Now he teaches his disciples a model prayer.  

This is the prayer that many of us learned from our mothers when we were but little children.  And because we have known this prayer for so long it can be easy to simply say the words without meaning what we say.  We know it by rote. And since we are so familiar with it and have known it for so long we can fall into the sin of verse 7 which says “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do.

When Jesus says “pray then in this way”  He is teaching his disciples how to pray.  That is to say, this is a better way to pray than the way you have been praying.  He has already told them don’t pray like the hypocrites in the synagogue and in the streets.  He’s already told them don’t pray to bring attention to yourself. It’s not as if the disciples weren’t already praying or didn’t know how to pray.  Jesus is correcting the way they pray.  Remember the verses before this one talked about not being a hypocrite and not praying to be seen by others.  

The prayer begins by addressing God in heaven.  Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines heaven as “The place beyond earth that is the abode of God.  In Christian theology, it is the future eternal abode of those who receive salvation in Jesus Christ. It is portrayed as a place of blessedness, without pain or evil, distinguished by the presence of God”.  This place where the abode of God is, is also referred to as the third heaven. The first heaven is the atmosphere where we breath, the birds fly, and the clouds exist. The second heaven would be outer space where the sun, the moon, and the stars exist.  And the third heaven would be God’s throne; that place where God most manifests God’s self. Check Genesis 1:1, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, and Deuteronomy 26:15. Westminster’s defines “hallow” as “To consecrate, set apart, or regard as holy”. So Jesus is telling his disciples to address God in heaven knowing that God is – set apart, and holy.  

In verse ten Jesus says “your kingdom come, your will be done.”  That’s the WHOLE point. God’s kingdom on earth. This is the central reason behind The Gospel According to Matthew.  God’s kingdom on earth, ruled by Jesus Christ. God’s kingdom on earth won’t be like the Roman kingdom that has oppressed the Jewish people and destroyed the Temple.  It won’t even be like the old Jewish kingdoms of David and Solomon. This will be a new way of living, a new kingdom with new rules that govern the citizens of the new kingdom.  This kingdom ruled by Jesus Christ will establish the perfect kingdom of God on earth and in the universe.  

In verse eleven Jesus reminds his disciples to pray for daily provisions also.  Jesus is not so heavenly minded that he is of no earthly good. He knows his disciples and followers often struggle for daily provision.  And he wants us to bring those needs to God in prayer. 1 Peter 5:6, 7 reminds us Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you”.

In verse twelve Jesus instructs the disciples “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  I think this verse should be interpreted to mean exactly what it says. We ask God to forgive our debts, just as or in the same way, we forgive our debtors.  However, Marvin R. Vincent in Word Studies in the New Testament  notes that “sin is pictured as a debt and the sinner is the debtor (compare Matt. 18:28, 30).”  That a fine picture and it works for this verse but again, I don’t think this verse needs further interpretation.  Forgiveness is an important theme in both the Old and New Testaments and we bear the duty and responsibility of forgiving when forgiveness is warranted.  

In verse thirteen the New Revised Standard Version says “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.”  The KJV says “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. And The New International Version says “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”  The difference between the three translations is “time of trial instead of temptation” and deliver us from evil versus deliver us from the evil one. The Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew by Barclay M. Newman notes that “This final petition is especially difficult to interpret.  The Greek word translated temptation may also mean “trail or persecution.”  As I have noted in previous lessons, God does not tempt.  James 1:13 reminds us. “No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.”  Note also that the KJV includes the doxology – “for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.  Amen.” These words are not included in the NRSV or the NIV. The Pulpit Commentary explains 

“indeed it was so usual for doxologies of one kind or another to be added by the jews to prayers, that, though we cannot for one moment accept the words here as genuine, we must consider it very doubtful if the Lord’s Prayer was ever used in Jewish circles without a doxology, or that our Lord, as Man, ever intended it to be so used.”  

So, the doxology we quote in this verse was not a part of the original text of the Matthian writer nor is it in Luke’s account of this prayer.  

Verses fourteen and fifteen close the lesson on a note about forgiveness.  Just as God forgives us, we should forgive others. It’s important to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We ought always to treat people right. Jesus is teaching a new way of living. No longer are the Jews to practice “an eye for an eye” now they are to forgive so that God in heaven will forgive them.  These are new rules and a new way of living for the citizens of this new kingdom of Heaven.  

Context

Why do we pray?  I pray because I believe God can do something about my situation or circumstances.  I pray to have a conversation with God, to praise, or thank God. I pray to process my thoughts and to hear God’s direction.  There are a number of ways and reasons we can and should pray. But in our praying we should know and remember that God is more concerned with the pray-er, than God is with the prayer.  Let’s strive to do as Jesus taught his disciples to pray.

Key Words:  

Doxology – a form of praise to God, such as “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost (Spirit).    

Kingdom of God – God’s Sovereign reign and God’s rule was the major focus of Jesus’ teaching (Matt. 6:23; Mark 1:15; Luke 6:20).  Its fullness is in the future (Luke 13:29; 22:18) and yet it has also come in Jesus himself (Luke 10:9; 17:21).

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:  

1.  Praying for our daily bread.  (In the same way Jesus taught his disciples about spiritual and heavenly things he also taught them to pray for their daily provisions)

2.  Why do we pray?  (as in all things, our motivations matter.  We ought to pray from a genuine heart)

Question:  

Jesus took the time to instruct his disciple on prayer.  Why is this an important part of the Christians’ life?  

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week, we move to the Gospel According to Luke but we cover the same subject content of this week.  Next week we again study the Lord’s prayer but this time from Luke’s perspective. The lesson for February 23, 2020 comes from Luke 11:5-13 and is titled “Perseverance in Prayer” and “Ever-Persevering Petitions.”  Again, Jesus teaches us about true worship through prayer.

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