Many Christians have been taught what has been called the “Lord’s Prayer.” Some people call it the “Our Father” prayer. References cited include Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4, although these verses are seldom part of the lesson . Unfortunately, as beautiful as these scripture verses are, they are not at all the Lord’s Prayer. Somewhere along the line, some uninspired teacher or theologian may have called these passages the Lord’s Prayer, but actually these verses are a lesson in how to pray—a model prayer. According to Luke’s gospel, Jesus spoke these words in response to a question from one of His disciples: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So Jesus said, “When you pray, say” these words. In Matthew’s gospel account, Jesus is teaching his disciples the importance of a right heart as opposed to being hypocritical in such things as doing good deeds and praying. He told them to not be like the hypocrites who pray in public places to be praised for their pretentious piety. He said don’t pray using vain repetitions, like the mantras of the heathen. Then he gives them a lesson in how to pray. We all have much to learn as we study Jesus’s instruction. This model prayer teaches us some very important principles on prayer. But it’s still not the Lord’s Prayer.
The real Lord’s Prayer is actually found in the Gospel of John, chapter seventeen. The setting is important, as Jesus is praying to his Father shortly before He is betrayed by Judas and then crucified on our behalf. Jesus first prays for Himself to be glorified once again with His Father. He then prays for his disciples, that they might be sanctified by God’s truth that is revealed in His words. And finally, Jesus prays for the unity of all who believe in Him through the words that will be spread by His disciples. He prayed “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). This is the real prayer from Jesus’s heart.
Of all the things Jesus might have prayed for, He asked the Father that we might be unified together, bonded in perfect love and in truth through His precious words. Notice what’s at stake in this unity prayer, “that the world may believe.” This reveals to us the importance of the body of Christ—the church—being unified in mind and in action, based on the words of Scripture that were protected by the Holy Spirits work of inspiration.
This prayer of Jesus before he went to the cross was the inspiration for my book, Unity Without Compromise: a Biblical Basis for Christian Union. As Christians, we have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Spirit, one body, one bread, one God and Father of us all. To the extent that we divide, Satan wins. As ambassadors for Christ, sound Bible interpretation is critical. Unity derives from making the Bible say exactly what God intended it to say. Nothing more, nothing less. This creates unity without compromise. This was the Lord’s Prayer.