Thomas Manton on the Lord’s Prayer

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Thomas Manton (1620-1677) emphasized the necessity of private prayer.[1] Manton said, “God requires secret and closet-prayer; for God’s command to pray, first fall upon single persons before it falls upon families and churches, which are made up of single persons (Complete Works of Thomas Manton, 1:10).” This is of course grounded in the word and work of Christ. “As Christ’s word is our rule, so his practice is our copy. This is the true religion, to imitate him whom we worship,” Manton noted (10-1). Christ prayed alone (Mark 1:35; Matt 14:23; Luke 6:12) so as Christians, we ought to conform.

Manton’s Practical Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer has 254 pages in the recent printing of The Banner of Truth Trust. He had divided the Lord’s Prayer into three sections. First, the preface; second, the six petitions; and the last one, the closing.

The Preface

Declaring God as “Our Father” reflects our spiritual adoption as His children. Manton said, “God had a Son of his own, yet He would adopt and take us wretched creatures, He would invest us with the title of son,” which gives us “free access to God.” Indeed, “Christ became our brother.” This declaration means assurance because “a Father will always be a father, and a child a child,” Manton said (44-6). This adoption has the Spirit’s seal and testimony, thus those who received this are wholly dependent on God, resigning themselves to God since they are “God’s by election (55).”

This claim that God as “our” Father is not the same as exclusively claiming God as “my” Father alone. It is indeed personal but not solely individual. Thus, we ought not to pray for ourselves only, but to pray for our fellow-believers. They are our brothers and sisters. “The weak should not despise nor disdain the strong, nor the rich be ashamed to own the poor as brethren. We should never be ashamed to own him as a brother whom God will own as a son (56-7).”

“Which art in Heaven.” Heaven is where God is; it is His more glorious throne— “a more universal and unlimited empire” than of earthly kings. This idea makes Christians realize and humble themselves in reverence to whom they are petitioning. Praying to the Father who is in heaven shapes the heart of the one who prays, falling their knees in awe, and looking forward to His presence. Manton maintained to view the Father through the mediator, Christ, who also sits on the right hand of God in heaven. “In heaven, we have a Savior, Jesus Christ, representing our person and presenting our prayers to God (62).”

The Six Petitions

First petition, “Hallowed be thy Name.” This petition is placing God first in all things. “We should rather forget ourselves than forget God. There is nothing more precious than God himself, therefore nothing should be more dear to us than his glory (67).” Since we are God’s children, “The great duty of children is to honor their parents,” Manton noted (69). Furthermore, Manton connects this petition to obedience to the third commandment which is sanctifying His precious Name.

The second petition is “Thy kingdom come.” The kingdom spoken here is the “special kingdom, which is administered by Christ…. This is that kingdom we beg that it may flourish and get ground more and more (91).” This kingdom was inaugurated in Christ’s work—life, death, and resurrection—and is to be completed in His return (93).

This kingdom is manifested through the presence of the church—the body of Christ, by the Spirit, making the children of God walk worthy of the gospel while despising things that displease God. At the same time, we ought to be eager in the consummation of all things and longing for the completion of this kingdom (110-1).

The third petition, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Likewise, this is connected to the former petition. Manton explained that the “will” that is presented here is the revealed “will” of God which is in His Word and His Works. Christians pray for His will because “God speaks more wisely to us than we can to him (128-9).” Hence, submitting and doing His will is yielding to His kingship like how Christ yielded to the Father’s will, so should we.

This hope is what we long for our world, the earth—fallen, corrupted, shackled in the will of Satan; we long for His kingdom to overcome this marred paradise where we live. And to be a Christian is to be part of the kingdom of God, and to be part of it is to manifest in our life what a kingdom citizen ought to do, the duty to submit to His will.

The fourth petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” God is interested in providing and sustaining His children. This is in fact an assurance and comfort for us. But God is not just interested in supplying our daily needs, with contentment, but also providing the strength or means to partake in these gifts (150-4). Besides, God provides even to those who are outside the elect.

These things that we receive from God are all activities of his grace, mercy, and love. The proper response is recognizing that He is the fount of all good and giving thanks to His glorious generosity. Furthermore, this is but a glimpse or a taste of an eternal state of the Christian hope.

The fifth petition, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Unless a sinner receives pardon from God, one “cannot have that comfort in outward things.” Thus, this petition reflects the unworthiness of the one who prays. Our debts are the duty to worship, serve, and obey God’s will; and punishment, deserving to receive the wrath of God. But because of God’s grace through Christ’s work and the Spirit’s application, Christians are forgiven. Manton said that Christ is our surety, fully satisfying, and favorable for us (168, 172-3).

The second part then is a manifestation that one has been pardoned by God. “It is an evidence, a sign or note of a pardoned sinner,” Manton said (189). A transformation in the life of those who were pardoned can be seen and can now enjoy the benefits of being a child of God.

Finally, the sixth petition, “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” This is expressed both negatively and affirmatively. For brevity, Manton said, “Here we pray: (1) that we may not be tempted; or, (2) if the Lord sees it fit we should be tempted, that we may not yield; or, (3) if we yield, that we may not totally be overcome (199).”

God is aware of man’s vulnerability and weakness. These temptations are “coming” from God—more of a test of faith, Satan, and man’s own heart. Be reminded that, “God’s tempting is always good, and for good; his tempting is either in mercy or in judgment (202-3).” God permits these for his own glory as He is pleased, and for Christian formation towards conforming to Christ. Hence, the need to pray to God for wisdom, His grace, protection, and for a victorious battle (229, 240-2).

Closing

This prayer concludes in the doxology of God’s authority (kingdom), sufficiency (power), and honor (glory). All of these are sealed up with the words, “Forever, Amen.” Which signifies the perpetuity of His grace and showing praises to Him humbly and gratefully.

Indeed, Manton was consistent with God being worthy of all praises, man’s incapacity to do their duty, and God’s grace—personified in Christ—and the Spirit’s empowering to sustain His children to petition to God. Everything is grounded in God’s character and nature, while humanity depends solely on His promises, wherein through communion with Christ, man is enabled to pray this prayer.


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[1] Thomas Manton, “A Practical Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, D.D. (1870; repr, Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2020), 1:1-254.

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Recommended Reading

Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, “Thomas Manton,” in Meet the Puritans: with a Guide to Modern Reprints (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 404-413.

Derek Cooper, Thomas Manton: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Pastor, Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2011).

Published by JP Arceno

A Mere Christian, no other religion, but Christian church, call me a Catholic Christian ~ Richard Baxter

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