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The Lord’s Prayer 7. The greatness of God

November 2001 | by John Keddie

A conclusion, or doxology, to the Lord’s prayer is found in the account of the prayer in Matthew 6. In verse 13 we read: ‘For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen’.

This is disputed by modern textual critics, and most modern translations reduce that part of the verse to footnotes. It is argued that what are considered to be the most significant and important texts omit it.

However, the vast majority of Greek manuscripts do contain these words, which are also found in many ancient versions. Besides this, in the providence of God the words have been part of the Bible and used in the Christian Church for most of its history.

It would seem strange for a passage which has become so prominent in the Christian vocabulary of prayer to be suddenly reduced to a ‘footnote’ after nearly two millennia of such use.

Fitting

In addition, it is part of the Reformed Catechisms, such as the Westminster Larger Catechism (196) and Shorter Catechism (107), and the Heidelberg Catechism (128, 129). The disputed passage, therefore, should not be written off so easily.

At any rate, its truth is surely undisputed (see for example 1 Chronicles 29:11) and can be perfectly well accepted as genuine, and an entirely fitting conclusion to the prayer.

The prayer begins with an expression of deep reverence for God, and ends with a glorious affirmation of his greatness. We are reminded that prayer is always bound up with the reality of God’s greatness.

Prayer reflects our regard for God. We are brought low in prayer, but we are greatly comforted in the knowledge of his excellency by which we can be confident of answers to prayer!

The supremacy of God

This is the fundamental truth in the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer, as it is in all Scripture: the God who is spoken of here is supreme. He is sovereign.

He is almighty, first of all in relation to this world. He is its creator and upholder: ‘All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?’ (Daniel 4:35).

He controls the affairs of this universe. Nothing finally can frustrate his purposes; not man, not demons, not sin. He is not bound by his creation.

He is almighty, specifically, in relation to salvation. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ planned salvation from eternity. He sent his Son to accomplish his purpose.

With the Son he sent the Spirit to apply that salvation to men’s souls. God is sovereign in salvation from beginning to end. Salvation is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). We can be thankful for his supremacy in salvation because man is totally unable to save himself.

His church

He is almighty, furthermore, in relation to his Church. The Church has aspects of human organisation, but above all it must recognise the supremacy of God in its life and worship.

He determines what should be believed and practised, and how he is to be worshipped. It is not by the will or whim of man, but by the will of God (see, for example, Deuteronomy 12:32).

In every respect, the supremacy, power and glory of God are to be fully recognised by the people of God. Indeed, this should be recognised by all men. The gospel primarily calls all men everywhere to submit to the sovereignty of God, and yield obedience to the exalted Saviour (Philippians 2:10-11).

Certainly, the Church bows before his majesty: ‘Yours is the kingdom and power and glory. We submit to your reign from heaven. May your supremacy be known by all!’

Comfort and encouragement

It is sometimes said that the doctrines of grace, commonly called Calvinism, are cold and harsh. In reality they are a glorious comfort and strength to the people of God. They are also a source of confidence in prayer.

For we know he is able to accomplish anything (according to his will) because he is supreme. He is able ‘to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end’ (Ephesians 3:20-21).

In relation to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), the church can have confidence in evangelism because God is supreme. Responsibility for mission rests upon the people of God. Success in mission rests with the Lord!

There is therefore great encouragement in these concluding words of the prayer. Take heart, any who may lack assurance. Our God reigns!

You fear the future? He rules in heaven and on earth! His is the kingdom, the power and the glory. This doctrine gives iron to the soul. It is the making of ‘overcomers’. King Jesus reigns in his kingdom. He has all authority in heaven and in earth.

So, we can take our prayers and petitions to the Lord and know that he who ‘works all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Ephesians 1:11) is able to answer all our prayers abundantly.

Final lessons

The Lord’s prayer teaches the people of God how to pray. It is a God-centred and expansive prayer. The one to whom we take our concerns is supreme. He will answer the prayer of faith.

There must, of course, be humility. We are to bring ourselves low before him. There is a tendency these days for informal and even casual approach to God the Father. This prayer teaches us reverence. We bring ourselves low before God (Psalm 34:18; 51:17; Isaiah 66:1-2).

It also goes without saying that, in true prayer, there will be a real dependence upon the Lord. Whether we are praying for our health or our daily bread, or the coming of his kingdom, we will recognise that without him we are nothing (John 15:5; James 5:13-16).

There must also be a spirit of praise. In our praying we praise our Maker and Redeemer. We magnify his name, who has accomplished so much for our salvation.

We have a need for forgiveness, and our praying will always seek forgiveness of our sins, and grace to demonstrate a spirit of forgiveness towards others.

Amen

Prayer reminds us that we are in a spiritual warfare. In this warfare the people of God need constant communication with heaven. They need constantly to seek grace to stand in the evil day.

Prayer is a key weapon in the Christian’s armoury (Ephesians 6:18). Here is the source of freedom from crippling anxieties (Philippians 4:6-7). James says that the ‘effective, fervent prayer of the righteous man avails much’ (5:16).

The eighteenth-century American divine, Jonathan Edwards, wrote that ‘when God has something very great to accomplish for his church it is his will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of his people … And it is revealed that when God is about to accomplish great things for his church, he will begin by a remarkable pouring out of the spirit of grace and supplication’.

Amen! The Heidelberg Catechism comments: ‘”Amen” signifies, it shall truly and certainly be: for my prayer is more assuredly heard of God than I feel in my heart that I desire these things of him’.