If the Lord’s prayer was given by Christ Himself, why don’t all Christians pray it?
Sadly with many who pray this prayer it is little more than “vain repetitions” (Matt. 6: 7)––the very thing that the Lord prohibited. No doubt there are some who are sincere––but they are sincerely mistaken. Yes, the prayer was given for disciples, but Christians are not the only disciples of the Lord! The mistake arises, like many another, because of the theologically arrogant assumption that all that Christ ministered had the Church in mind.
Christians are told that everything, “whatever ye may do in word or in deed, [do] all things in [the] name of [the] Lord Jesus” (Col. 3: 17) and thus Christian prayer is to be “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5: 20). Yet in neither record of the prayer (Matt. 6: 9–13 and Luke 11: 2–4) did the Lord give instructions to pray in His name as He was not then rejected and the setting up of the Kingdom was still possible. Only when His rejection as Israel’s King is certain, His absence imminent and the Holy Spirit about to be sent, does He then say “Hitherto”––note that word––“ye have asked nothing in my name: ask” (John 16: 24). This is in John where the Lord is viewed as rejected from the start (John 1: 11) and consequently the Kingdom is hardly mentioned (four times in contrast to 52 times in Matthew) and then only in its spiritual aspect––never in regard to its establishment in power on earth. This change in regard to prayer is further highlighted by Luke’s record where the Lord completes the teaching by stating that “the Father who is of heaven” would “give [the] Holy Spirit to them that ask him” (Luke 11: 13). After the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, we never read of any who had not received the Holy Spirit (e.g. those in Acts 19: 1–7) praying for the gift or being told by apostles to do so. Prayer for the Holy Spirit, and the Lord’s prayer with which it is linked, do not belong to Christianity.
Both accounts of the Lord’s prayer have in mind disciples whose hopes are focused on earth, not heaven. Luke, written to a Gentile (see Luke 1: 4), is wide in scope, both in the prayer and in the Gospel generally, embracing the nations as well as Israel in its outlook. Matthew directs his Gospel to the Jew and this is reflected in the extra features in his record of the prayer. Studying the details confirms this.
First, we have “Our Father”. Now while the OT had allusions to it (Ps. 89: 26, Is. 63: 16, 64: 8), the revelation of God as Father really began with the Son’s ministry on earth, not with Christianity. The fact that the prayer is addressed to the Father is no grounds for asserting that it must be a Christian prayer. Matthew further adds the words “who art in the heavens”. This is not Christian, but earthly phraseology. “In the heavens” suggests distance––a distance which reconciliation has removed for the Christian. Thus, while similar terms such as “heavenly Father” are common in the synoptic Gospels, they are absent from John, the Acts and the Epistles. To correct the narrow vision of the Jew, particularly of the Kingdom, Matthew uses “heaven” more than all the other Gospel writers put together and even uses a term for the Kingdom peculiar to him–– “the kingdom of the heavens”.
I believe that during the Great Tribulation, when the Church has gone and the Kingdom is again imminent, there will be a godly remnant on earth (see Rev. 7: 4, 9) who will pray this prayer. They will fulfil Is. 29: 23 with the words “Let thy name be sanctified” in contrast to apostate Israel who will profane it (see Ez. 36: 20, 22). The intense suffering of that remnant will also generate the second plea “Let thy kingdom come”. The third plea “let thy will be done as in heaven so upon the earth” really assumes the time after the expulsion of the devil from heaven (Rev. 12: 7–9) for only then will God’s will be fully done in heaven and the words “as in heaven so upon the earth” take on their full force. Then, when none can buy or sell but those that have the mark of the Beast, the words “give us to–day our needed bread” will be answered miraculously and bread will be given like the manna in the wilderness in a past day (compare Rev. 12: 6). The words “and forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors” (enlarged on in v14 of Matthew’s account) clearly savour of law and not grace. To pray for forgiveness in the measure in which one forgives contrasts sharply with the grace of Christianity: “forgiving one another, so as God also in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph. 4: 32). Finally, with an echo of the prayer of Jabez (1 Chron. 4: 10), we have “and lead us not into temptation, but save us from evil”––or “the evil one”––words so full of meaning when the Beast is in power and the Devil is cast down to earth!
From all this I conclude that the Lord’s prayer really belongs to earthly disciples. That Christians use it, is more a reflection of the Judaistic nature of Christendom than the nature of the prayer.