The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. R. C. suggests this is because the disciples noted the link between Jesus’ extraordinary prayer life and His power. Before Jesus gave His followers a model prayer He told them how not to pray (Matt. 6:5-7). The first prohibition is hypocritical praying, especially in public. He also prohibited pagan practices in prayer such as meaningless repetitions.
As R. C. delves into an exposition of the model prayer we are reminded that we do not pray to change God’s mind. We are changed by prayer. R. C. suggests that The Lord’s Prayer should not be used in a rote manner but as a framework that defines our prayers.
Calling God “Father” reminds the Christian of adoption. Only those adopted may call God Father. The first petition is that God’s name would be regarded as holy and sacred by us and by our culture. (This must be the Christian’s attitude before subsequent petitions can be fulfilled.) We petition for Christ’s rule as king to be manifest by our living as citizens of His kingdom. With deep commitment to the sovereignty of God, R. C. explains that “your will be done on earth” is our desiring that God be glorified on earth as He is in heaven. (This section on God’s will is worth the price of the book.)
Recognizing God’s providence we ask Him to give us what we need (not forgetting our own labor and productivity). We understand we have an impossible debt to God and need His forgiveness. But there is a condition attached. R. C. calls this “one of the most frightening lines in the Lord’s Prayer.” He suggests we are to see this as an aspiration rather than a condition as no one can forgive as the Father does.
In the next petition we ask the Father to spare us from the temptation that can lead us into new sin, that the test of our faith should not be so severe but that we would be delivered from Satan (whom God often uses to bring the testing).
R. C. notes that the end of the prayer returns our focus to God. We end prayer by affirming that supreme power, ultimate glory, and the kingdom of heaven all belong to God alone.
Don’t skip the appendix. There R. C. speaks to the question of why we are to pray even though God is sovereign. He also reminds us to balance the promises of God with all of the qualifications God gives regarding prayer.
Sproul’s book is an important contribution to the study of prayer from a Calvinistic viewpoint. Sproul is a scholar yet his work is very readable. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to understand how to pray.