Please provide your opinion on whether the Lord’s Prayer in its biblical form can be used by unbelievers. I have heard from some that the term “Our Father” can only be used in prayer by true believers. They say if an unbeliever wishes to use this prayer they must alter the beginning of the prayer i.e. “Dear Lord”. I have never heard this before and was hoping you could express your opinion. Thanks.
When we examine the context of both occurrences of the Lord’s prayer, then you notice that they were spoken to His disciples. However, the Sermon on the Mount was heard by many more than His disciples. From that I conclude that the Lord Jesus has given this prayer as a guide or model of what and how we ideally should pray. He has in a very brief and simple form set out the priorities in our prayer life, the most necessary matters and that the opening and closing of our prayers should always include some form of doxology. There are many other useful observations to be made on the Lord’s prayer which fall outside the scope of this question.
To restrict the use of this prayer to those who are assured of their salvation in Christ seems too restrictive. If we hold to that view, then you must also exhort people not to sing all the Psalters we sing for most of them are expressions of faith about God and His salvation.
The suggestion to adjust the address of the prayer so it reflects the relationship the petition has to the Lord is acceptable for that at least prevents the presumption of claiming God to be ‘our Father’ if He is not.
But the same is true for every other petition of this prayer. Do we really desire God’s Name to be hallowed and have our life conformed to His image in everything we say or do? Are we really submissive to His will and desire that His will be honored as the angels do in heaven? Have I truly forgiven all the people who have offended or hurt me by their sinful actions? I plead therefore that each petition of the Lord’s prayer must reflect what I really believe or wish for otherwise the whole prayer is but an outward show without substance. Such prayers are an abomination to the Lord no matter how beautiful and sound the words are.