Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I referred to the Lord’s Prayer in Part 1—this popular prayer known by many millions of people, recited probably all the time and certainly well-known by lots of people. And we’re taking a look at some of the aspects of this prayer, and part of what Jesus said—and it’s important because these are his words when he was trying to teach his disciples what prayer was all about.
He said words like “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name”.
And then Jesus said (in the Lord’s Prayer):
Your kingdom come. We acknowledge his coming kingdom. We pray that Christ will soon return and establish his earthly kingdom where we will reign with him for eternity. Next comes the first request of the prayer, but it’s not a personal request. Jesus says, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is not some pie-in-the-sky request. First and foremost, before we ask anything for ourselves, we must acknowledge that it is God’s will that must be done. In Jesus’ days it was believed that God’s kingdom was indeed coming soon, that God would come to earth and restore peace and harmony. People wanted that to happen more than they wanted anything else: “Your kingdom come.”
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We need to be praying for his will to be done in our lives, so that we might bring glory to him here on earth as he is also glorified in heaven. We need to do things his way, instead of selfishly doing our own things to satisfy our own desires.
Give us today our daily bread. This line about bread alludes to the Israelites’ time wandering in the wilderness, when God provided manna for them each day. Each morning, when they woke up and came out of their tents, there was bread on the ground. They were only to gather enough for that day; if they took more, it would go bad. That’s almost a foreign concept to us today, isn’t it? Taking only what we need to survive each day—a bit different today to the size of meals sometimes served up and people don’t eat it, and it’s thrown out.
It’s almost obscene how much food we have at our disposal, and how much of it gets disposed of. There’s an imbalance in this world. There are those who have way too much to eat, and those who don’t have nearly enough. This line in the prayer promises that we will take each day only what we need to sustain us, allowing others the chance to do the same.
But this line is about more than just nutritional sustenance. When Jesus is being tempted by Satan in the desert, Jesus tells him, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 – NIV). This line acknowledges that, just like we need to eat every day, we need contact with God every day. That relationship is as essential as the food we eat. We can’t store it all up on Sunday and then not talk to God for six days. We need daily feeding and contact as a way of recognising our dependence on God’s abiding presence in our lives. Our daily bread, our daily sustenance, is our relationship and connection with God. If we are not nurturing that, we are starving ourselves.
So what does this phrase mean? We should ask our Father each day to provide for our needs, just as he promised in his Holy Word. His Word says that we don’t have, because we don’t ask. Of course, we must first know God through his Son, our personal Lord and Saviour. If we don’t know Christ, God won’t acknowledge this request for daily provision.
Forgive us our debts (or transgressions) as we also have forgiven our debtors (transgressors). This speaks about forgiveness among our associates, neighbours, friends, family and loved ones. Any and all persons in our lives that we come in contact with in social or business situations are included as well. If we can’t forgive others, how can we expect our heavenly Father to forgive us. This line worries some people, “Forgive us our debts”—that part is OK—“as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Oh dear—that part doesn’t go down so smoothly. Some churches use ‘debts’; other churches use ‘sins’ and the Catholic church uses ‘trespasses’.
It’s like the little boy who was reciting the Lord ’s Prayer and said, And forgive us our trash baskets, as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets. That’s actually a pretty good way to describe it. People do put trash in our baskets, don’t they? And we’re often tempted to put trash right back into their baskets! Imagine if each time we said something against someone else, we were putting trash in their baskets. That might make me think twice about what I say and do. But to extend the metaphor well beyond its usefulness: God has emptied the trash we’ve put in God’s basket. God has forgiven us of our debts, our sins, our trespasses. And because of that gift of grace, we are compelled to extend the same to others.
This isn’t a causal relationship here. We don’t forgive others in order to be forgiven. We forgive others as proof that we have received forgiveness. We can’t open our hands to receive God’s pardon if our fists are still closed against others. Forgiveness begets forgiveness, including the forgiving of ourselves.
Lead us not into temptation. This has always puzzled some folks. Is such a prayer necessary? Would God ever lead us into temptation? James 1:13 says, “When people are tempted they should not say, God is tempting me. Evil cannot tempt God, and God himself does not tempt anyone.” If God does not tempt us, then why pray, “Lead us not into temptation”? These words trouble the most sophisticated theologian.
But they don’t trouble a child. And this is a prayer for the child-like heart. This is a prayer for those who look upon God as their Abba. This is a prayer for those who have already talked to their Father about provision for today (“Give us our daily bread”) and pardon for yesterday (“Forgive us our debts”). Now the child needs assurance about protection for tomorrow.
The phrase is best understood with a simple illustration. Imagine a father and son walking down an icy street. The father cautions the boy to be careful, but the boy is too excited to slow down. He hits the first patch of ice. Up go the feet and down plops the bottom. Dad comes along and helps him to his feet. The boy apologises for disregarding the warning and then, tightly holding his father’s big hand, he asks, Keep me from the slippery spots. Don’t let me fall again.
The Father is so willing to comply. “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand” (Psalms 37:23–24 – TLB). Such is the heart of this petition. It’s a tender request of a child to a father. The last few slips have taught us—the walk is too treacherous to make alone. So we place our small hand in his large one and say, Please, Abba, keep me from evil.
But deliver us from the evil one. Help us, dear Father, to steer clear of that liar and deceiver. Let us see clearly the path that you want each of us to walk. By the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us, may we never stray from your will and way.
Source: Max Lucado