ISSUE: 2007, Volume 4, Issue 4
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The Lord's Prayer
Dependence upon His grace
If the first three requests of the Lord’s Prayer show us that we should be concerned, first and foremost, for God’s glory, the second three show us our dependence upon His grace. They speak, in turn, of our need for provision, pardon and protection. This reflects, once again, the trusting relationship of a child with his father.
Give us this day our daily bread
One of the great ways in which an aspect of the love of God for the whole of mankind is shown is in His benevolence. God is good to all. We are, therefore, encouraged on the basis of His benevolence to all, to be sure of God’s care. ‘He waters the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth’, Ps. 104. 13-14; ‘These [animals and mankind] wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good’, Ps. 104. 27-28. Yet God has a particular interest in His own people, too. Our Lord says, ’Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? . . . for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things’, Matt. 6. 31-32; Cast ‘all your care upon him; for he careth for you’, 1 Pet. 5. 7. God does care for mankind even to the extent of providing our everyday needs. We are also to depend upon His grace. Though many of us who live in the West look to the supermarkets to provide our food, rather than depend upon our own production as large parts of the world still do, we must not lose sight of the fact that it is God who guarantees the seasons for sowing and reaping and who is so good that He sends rain upon the just and upon the unjust. ‘He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things’, Acts 17. 25; ‘While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease’, Gen. 8. 22. ‘It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness’, Lam. 3. 22-23. This simple request for bread reminds us, too, that we are to ask only for our needs. Our Lord Himself said, speaking of food and clothing, ’your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things’, Matt. 6. 32. It is good to be able to pray, ‘Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain’, Prov. 30. 7-9. It is for our needs that we are to seek Him, not our greeds. We should not forget that, in asking for daily bread to sustain the body, there is daily spiritual food that our souls need. After all, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’, Matt. 4. 4. A daily reading of the Bible is every bit as essential to the believer as a daily meal.
‘And forgive us our trespasses’
That little word ‘and’ here gives us the important link between daily food for the body and daily pardon for the soul. The need for pardon is laid down very plainly in the Bible. Sin separates us from God, (‘your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear’, Isa. 59. 2; Gen. 3. 8-10); and sin soils us before God, (’blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin’, Psa. 51.1-2; ‘Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow’, Ps. 51. 7). This regular prayer for forgiveness is not that first prayer for forgiveness that we plead when we come to Him in faith to be saved; it is, instead, that regular prayer that a believer, a child of God, should daily pray knowing that un-confessed sin always breaks our communion with God and leaves us with a sense of dirtiness. The basis for pardon clearly laid down in the Bible is the shedding of the blood of a sacrifice. ‘Almost all things . . . are purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission’, Heb. 9. 22. In the Old Testament time this was always the blood of bulls, goats, sheep etc. Yet, ‘it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins’, Heb. 10. 4. It was essential, therefore, that God provide a sufficient sacrifice for sins. So God sent His Son into the world, who ‘was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all’, Isa. 53. 5-6. ‘And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God’, Heb. 10. 11-12. So God can, and will, forgive us our trespasses because ‘the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s son, cleanseth us from all sin’, 1 John 1. 7. But, you may say, doesn’t the Lord’s Prayer teach us that God will forgive our trespasses if we forgive those who trespass against us? Isn’t forgiveness of sin, therefore, conditional? Not at all. God’s forgiveness of our sin is entirely of grace and not of merit and it never comes as a result of anything we do. We are reminded in this Prayer that our forgiveness of others is proof of pardon. The proof that we have and know this pardon, this forgiveness, and our enjoyment and appreciation of it, is shown in our attitude to others. ‘Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you’, Eph. 4. 32. If we refuse to forgive someone else’s relatively minor sin against us, it shows we have not even begun to appreciate God’s great forgiveness shown to us, Matt. 18. 23-35.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
The last of the three requests for God’s provision is for His protection. Does this passage teach us that God can lead us into a situation where we are tempted to sin? There are at least three ways in which we need to define the word, ‘temptation’. There is such a thing as temptation to sin. Now God, who is holy, cannot and will not tempt us to sin. ‘Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man’, Jas 1. 13-14. On the other hand, the word ‘temptation’ can sometimes be translated ‘testing’. God can, and sometimes does, lead us into testing times and experiences. ‘Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you’, 1 Pet. 4.12. These testing times come for a variety of reasons. It may be that God is testing us to prove our faith. This was certainly the case with Job. It may be, on the other hand, that God is testing us to purify our faith. These times of testing not only prove to others, and to us, that we are genuine in our faith, but they also bring glory to God. We are sometimes tested so that ‘the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ’, 1 Pet. 1. 6-7. Sometimes, however, we may be tempted to sin and doubt God when we are in these times of testing and they then can become times of temptation. We can pray that God will both keep us from them and keep us in them, for ‘God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it’, 1 Cor. 10. 13.
Deliver us from evil
So we can look to God for protection from and in times of testing and also from evil. The phrase ‘deliver us from evil’ can be understood to refer to evil itself or to ‘the evil one.’ That evil is real cannot be doubted. There are evil men, evil times and evil things in this world. ‘The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work’, 2 Tim. 4. 18; ’Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived’, 2 Tim. 3.13; ‘Pray for us . . . that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith’, 2 Thess. 3.1-2. Yet Satan himself, sometimes known as the evil one, is also a very real threat. ‘The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one’, 2 Thess. 3. 3; ‘I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one’, 1 John 2. 13. ‘When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catches away that which was sown in his heart’, Matt. 13. 19. Yet we can be delivered from him and his power, for despite his desire to sift the disciples as wheat, the Lord said, ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not’, Luke 22. 31- 32, and we know that His prayer prevailed. The simple teaching of this part of the Lord’s Prayer, then, is that God is able to give His children provision, pardon and protection. However we phrase our requests, most of what we need is covered by these three things. Do not be afraid to ask God for the ordinary, hum-drum things of life. After all, He knows what we are like and what we need. And though He is interested in preserving His own glory, the first three requests of this pattern prayer, He is also interested in showing us His grace. Indeed, He gets great glory when He shows us great grace.