sermon: Teach Us To Pray! (Part Two)
The Disciples' Prayer
Martin G. Collins
Given 26-Nov-11; Sermon #1076; 66 minutes
Martin Collins, focusing on John the Baptist's proclivity to pray, as well as Jesus Christ's continuous practice of praying, cautions us that prayer should be a major practice in our life. Our petitions should center upon God's purpose for His creation and His purposes for us. Prayer should bring us into contact with God's creative purpose and indicate to Him that we are willing to yield to His purpose. Before we make contact with God, we should put our hands over our mouths, realizing that prayer does not center on us, but the focus is on our family relationship as a member of God's family. As His children, we have an obligation to hallow His name, asking for the reign of God as demonstrated through the literal presence of Christ, as manifested in the hearts of believers, and a literal spatial entity into which one can enter, a kingdom to be established on this earth which will be turned over to God the Father. We should petition that eventually all human beings will yield to the sovereign will of God. The last portion of Christ's pattern prayer teaches us to ask for our personal needs day-by-day, forgiveness of sin, and protection from evil. We are dependent upon God for everything; prayer keeps us on an intimate parent-child relationship with God. Our petition for forgiveness of sins is conditional upon our willingness to forgive. Our requests should always be coupled with thanksgiving.
We usually think of John the Baptist as a prophet and martyr. However, Jesus Christ’s disciples remembered him also as a man of prayer. John was a "miracle baby" filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born and nevertheless he still had to pray.
He was privileged to introduce the Messiah to Israel, but still he had to pray. Jesus said that John was the greatest of the prophets, yet John had to depend on prayer. If prayer was that vital to a man who had these many advantages, how much more important is it to us who sometimes are less advantaged.
John's disciples had to pray and Jesus' disciples wanted to learn better how to pray. They did not ask the Master to teach them how to preach or do great signs, at least that was not their primary concern. They asked Him to teach them to pray.
People today sometimes think that they would be better Christians if only they had been with Jesus when He was on earth, but this is not likely. The disciples were with Him, and yet they faded and failed many times. They could perform miracles, yet they wanted to learn to pray.
Jesus prayed at every major crisis point in His life and every available moment. He prayed at the time of His baptism and at the time of the choosing of His disciples.
He was often alone praying and also prayed with others around. He prayed for Simon [Peter], and He prayed in the garden before His betrayal. He prayed as He was dying, hanging there on the stake. Two great men, John the Baptizer and Jesus Christ, both felt that prayer was very important in their lives.
From what is usually called “The Lord’s Prayer,” we learn that it is proper for us to meditate beforehand what we are to ask of God and to arrange our thoughts, so that we do not come thoughtlessly into His presence.
In my last sermon on this subject of prayer, we looked at when and how Jesus prayed; we looked at the organization of the pattern prayer that Jesus gave the disciples. There are two groups of three petitions or requests Christ uses to show how to balance a prayer.
So, what is the difference between them? You have noticed, of course (from my last sermon), that the first three requests have to do wholly with the purpose and the plan of God, “Hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The second three requests have to do wholly with a person’s walk with God, “Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Without pausing any further, let me ask you to remember that, if we catch this structure and its significance, we have an idea that is essentially important of prayer. According to the revelation of Jesus’ prayer, it is not, primarily, a method by which we can obtain what we need for our own benefit, although that is an important part of it. That is the secondary purpose for prayer.
Prayer is, primarily, the method by which God brings us into cooperation with Himself for the accomplishment of His purpose in the world, so that the underlying principle of life is also the underlying principle of prayer. Seek first the kingdom of God!
Luke 11:1-4 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." [John the Baptist] So He said to them, "When you pray, say, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
In a sense, it would be better to understand this prayer as “The Disciples’ Prayer” rather than the “Lord’s Prayer,” as the prayer uniquely binds us together with God and unifies us as brethren. Notice the pronouns “us,” referring to believers, are all plural because this is a family prayer. We may pray in privacy, but we do not pray alone, since we are a part of the whole Family of God.
Jesus Christ taught His “Pattern Prayer” not so His disciples would merely repeat it mechanically for the rest of their lives, but rather, so they would say to themselves, “There are certain things I must always remember when I pray. I must not rush into prayer; I must not start speaking immediately without considering what I am doing. I must not merely be led by some impulse or feeling. There are certain things I must bear in mind. Here are the headings for my prayer; here is the outline, this is how I should proceed.”
Christ is telling all His disciples, including us, how we should pray. These were the things He always had in mind. This is the pattern for how we should pray, not verbatim, but as a pattern for our own genuine, heartfelt praying.
Let us continue looking at this subject of how to pray and what to pray for. We must remind ourselves again of the vital importance of the right approach because this is the key to the understanding of successful prayer.
People so often say, “You know, I prayed and prayed but nothing happened. I didn't seem to find the peace I was looking for. I didn't seem to get any satisfaction out of it.” Most of their trouble is due to the fact that their approach to prayer is wrong. Somehow or other they did not realize what they were doing and did not take it seriously enough.
We tend to be so self-centered in our prayers that when we drop to our knees before God, we think only about ourselves and our troubles. We start talking about them immediately and of course nothing happens.
According to Christ’s teaching, we should not expect anything to happen. This is not the way to approach God. We must pause before we speak in prayer. There is a sense in which we should put our hand over our mouth. That was a major trouble with Job.
In his wretchedness, he had been talking a great deal. He felt that God had not been dealing kindly with him even though he, Job, had been expressing his feelings freely; but when, towards the end of the book, God began to deal with him at close quarters, when He began to reveal and manifest Himself to him, what did Job do? There was only one thing for him to do at that point.
Job 40:4 Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.
So He had to learn just as we all have to learn that sometimes we just have to be quiet and think about what we are going to say, rather than just blurting things out in a fit of desperation and, as strange as it may seem to you, you start praying. By saying nothing, you recollect what you are about to do.
This is actually quite difficult. We are merely human, and we are pressed by the urgency of our position, by the cares, by the anxieties, by the troubles, by the anguish, or whatever the distraction. And we are so full of all this that, like children, we start speaking immediately.
But if you want to make contact with God, put your hand over your mouth for a moment. Just stop for a moment and remind yourself of what you are about to do. We can put it in a phrase.
Did you know that the essence of true prayer is found in the two words in Matthew 6:9 and in Luke 11:2.
Luke 11:2 So He said to them, "When you pray, say, Our Father . . ."
That is the first thing that we should realize when we kneel down to pray, when we stop for a moment and think about who we are praying to.
If you say from your heart, whatever your condition, “My Father,” in a sense, your prayer is already answered. Sometimes it is just this realization of our relationship to God that we so sadly lack.
Prayer means forgetting ourselves, truly realizing God’s presence, being thankful and speaking to Him from the heart.
Every prayer recorded in the Bible starts with reverent acknowledgment and honor of the Great God who is being addressed. It does not matter how desperate the circumstance, it does not matter what the particular quandary might be in which those who pray find themselves. Invariably they start with this worship, this adoration.
We have a great and wonderful example of this in Daniel 9. There the prophet Daniel, in terrible perplexity, prays to God.
Daniel 9:3-7 Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, "O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You."
So Daniel puts God first, glorifies God, in the opening of his prayer and continues it throughout his prayer.
And so, this is what you find in all the recorded prayers. You even get it in the great High-Priestly prayer of Christ Himself recorded in John 17. Remember how Paul put it in writing to the Philippians?
Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
So, especially after having celebrated Thanksgiving Day in this nation, we realize even more, hopefully, that we are to be thankful in our prayers and in all aspects of our lives.
That is the order. We must always start by setting our face toward God before we even begin to think of our requests.
It is only those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and in whom God’s Spirit has been imparted who can say, “Our Father.” It is a very personal thing, and it is a very important thing to realize that everyone on earth does not have that right in the way we do as members of God's church. It is only to “as many as receive him” that He gives the right to become the sons of God. It is only the people of whom the Beatitudes are true who can say with confidence, “Our Father.”
It was Christ who said to certain religious Jews that they were “of their father the devil,” and not children of Abraham and, therefore, not children of God.
The Bible draws a very sharp distinction between those who belong to God and those who do not. You will notice it in Christ’s prayer in John 17.
John 17:9 "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.”
It is very important to understand the privilege that we have, the personal relationship we have with our Father. It is an absolute distinction; it is only those who are in Jesus Christ who are truly the children of God. We become the children of God only by adoption into God’s Family and we receive the spirit of adoption.
Romans 8:15-17 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified with Him.
We must be able to say with confidence and with assurance, “My Father, My God.” That is the way to start—to realize that you have become a child of God because of what He has done for you through Jesus Christ.
In my last sermon, we analyzed the first request (“Hallowed is Your Name”) of the first three requests in what is called “The Lord’s Prayer,” His Pattern Prayer. We can also call it the “disciple’s prayer.”
The second request or petition is, “Your kingdom come.”
Luke 11:2 So He said to them, "When you pray, say, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
You notice that there is a logical order in these requests. They follow one another by a kind of inevitable, divine necessity. We begin by asking that the name of God may be hallowed among human beings. But the moment we pray that prayer, we are reminded of the fact that His name is not hallowed by the whole of mankind.
Immediately, the question arises, “Why does everyone not bow before the sacred name? Why is every person on earth not concerned about humbling himself now in the presence of God and worshipping Him and using every moment in adoring Him and spreading forth His name? Why not?”
The answer is, of course, because of sin, because there is another kingdom, the kingdom of Satan, the kingdom of darkness. And there we are reminded of the very essence of human problems and predicaments that are faced in the world.
Our desire as Christians is that God’s name is glorified. But the moment we start with that, we realize that there is this opposition, and we are reminded of the whole biblical teaching about evil. There is another who is the god of this world. There is a kingdom of evil and it is opposed to God and His glory and honor.
But God has been graciously pleased to reveal from the dawn of history that He is still going to establish His Kingdom in this world of time. Though Satan has entered in and conquered the world for the time being, and the whole of mankind is under his dominion, He is again going to assert Himself and change this world and all its kingdoms into His own glorious Kingdom.
In other words, running right through the Old Testament, there are the promises and prophecies concerning the coming of the Kingdom of God or of the Kingdom of Heaven. And, of course, at this particular, crucial point of world history, when Jesus Christ Himself was here on earth, this matter was very much in the front of people’s minds.
John the Baptizer had been preaching his message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He called the people to be ready for it. And when Christ began preaching, He said exactly the same thing, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In this request, in His pattern prayer, He obviously has that whole idea in mind as He teaches His disciples to offer this particular prayer.
At that immediate historical point, He was teaching His disciples to pray that this Kingdom of God would come increasingly and come quickly, and the pattern prayer is equally true and equally right for us as Christians in all ages, until the end comes.
We can summarize the teaching concerning the Kingdom this way. The Kingdom of God essentially means the reign of God, it means the law and rule of God. When we look at it like that, we can see that in its simplest terms in Scripture, the Kingdom can be thought of in three main ways.
The first way is that the kingdom has already come. It came when Jesus Christ was here in the world as God’s representative of His Kingdom.
Luke 17:20-21 Now when He [Christ] was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation, nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within [or more correctly ‘among’] you."
Jesus’ own testimony strongly implies that the Kingdom of God was in their presence, in His Person and ministry. Therefore, the last phrase should be translated, “The Kingdom of God is among you.”
Christ told the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was among them, in their midst, referring to Himself as the representative of God’s Kingdom. He was in their midst, and He was in the Kingdom already. They were not!
Luke 11:20 But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.
So, the Kingdom of God, in this sense, had come then. The Pharisees’ conception of the Kingdom of God was different from what Jesus had come to reveal. They believed that the Messiah would come and establish the Kingdom on earth in a very obvious and visibly glorious way during their lifetime.
But Jesus states that it was already present, it was present in the persons of the apostles and Himself through the Spirit, and by their living God’s way of life. The Kingdom was manifested in many things including miracles, spiritual gifts, witnessing, and the good works they produced.
Along the same line of thinking, the second way that the Kingdom of God can be known is that it is also here, at this moment, in the hearts and lives of all who submit to Him, in all who believe in Him, in those who are baptized, and have received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God’s Kingdom is present in the church in all those who are truly Christian.
We know from John 3:5 that a person can enter into the Kingdom of God, and that one must be born from above to be brought into it.
Notice a few scriptures in Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew 5 states that the Kingdom is an entity that a person can enter into even before Jesus’ return.
Matthew 5:20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Matthew 18:3-4 Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
So a person can enter into God’s Kingdom, but there are also required responsibilities to fulfill.
Mark 1:15 The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.
The phrase “The time is fulfilled” suggests that nothing can be added to it, that time will not be extended or prolonged.
The phrase “the kingdom of God is at hand” suggests that it is near or close. Combining these statements indicates that Jesus was teaching that it can be entered into immediately when God’s basic conditions are met.
The most basic requirement is to be born from above, born of the spirit. So Jesus announced that the Kingdom could be entered at that time.
John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.
God reigns in people who have His Spirit dwelling in them. In this context, Christ teaches the Kingdom as an entity of valuable spiritual and moral force.
But the day is still to come when His Kingdom will be realized in the third way, when Christ will establish it here on earth in a visibly glorious way.
The whole message of the Bible looks forward to that. Christ came down from heaven to earth to establish and to bring in this Kingdom in its fullness.
Although Christ has made God’s Kingdom available to the elect, He is still engaged in the task of preparing for the Kingdom’s visible establishment at His return. Then He will, according to the apostle Paul, hand it to God the Father.
I Corinthians 15:24-28 Then comes the end, when He [Christ] delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
So our prayer request really amounts to this. We should have a great longing and desire that the Kingdom of God and of Christ will eventually be accepted by all, and that all human beings will come to the point of complete and total submission to God’s government.
So when we pray “Your kingdom come,” we are praying for the success of the gospel and its sway and power. We are praying for the eventual conversion of all men and women according to God’s will. We are praying that the Kingdom of God may come visibly and gloriously very soon.
But it goes further than that. It is a prayer that indicates that we are, as Peter puts it in, II Peter 3.
II Peter 3:12-13 Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
It means that we should be anticipating the day when all sin and evil and wrong and everything that is opposed to God will finally have been defeated. It means that we are longing for the time when Christ will come back again, when all that is opposed to Him will be cast into the Lake of Fire, and the kingdoms of this world will have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.
Christ is emphasizing there that before we begin to think of our own personal needs and desires, we should have this burning desire within us for the coming of His Kingdom, that the name of God may be glorified and magnified over all.
The third request, or petition, in the Lord’s Pattern Prayer in Luke 11:2. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In one sense, this needs little or no explanation. However, as we have seen from Richard Ritenbaugh’s sermon series on “Seeking God’s Will,” it is not something to be taken for granted and it includes everything in life.
This third prayer request is in a kind of logical sequence and conclusion from the second, as the second was a logical conclusion from the first. The result of the coming Kingdom of God among men is that the will of God is done among men.
In heaven the will of God is always done perfectly. We have only some dim and faint figures of it in the Scriptures, but we have sufficient knowledge to know that what is characteristic of heaven is that everyone and everything is waiting upon God and are anxious to glorify and magnify His name.
The primary desire of all in heaven is to do the will of God and thereby to praise and worship Him; and it should be the desire of every true Christian to do the will of God.
In the pattern prayer, we are looking forward to the coming of the Kingdom, because this request will never be completely fulfilled and granted until Christ returns to establish God’s Kingdom here on earth among men.
Then the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven. There will be new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. Heaven and earth will become one, the world will be changed. It is a process that is going to take a thousand years, in the Great White Throne Judgment, to actually become complete.
In these words of the first three requests, then, we are taught how we begin to pray. Those are the requests or petitions with which we must start. We can summarize them in this way. Our innermost and greatest desire should be the desire for God’s honor and glory.
In one sense, our desire for this should be even greater than our desire for our own salvation. Before we even begin to pray for ourselves, before we even begin to pray for the extension and the spread of God’s Kingdom, there should be the overruling desire for the glory of God and that all might humble themselves in His presence. If we start our prayers like that, then we will have the right focus right from the beginning.
We can put it like this. What is it that troubles and worries us? Is it the manifestation of sin that we see in the world, or is it the fact that people do not worship and glorify God as they should?
Christ was so committed to this that He put it like this in John 17.
John 17:25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these [referring to His disciples] have known that You sent Me.
Righteous Father. He said in effect, “Here is the tragedy, here is the thing that saddens Me, that the world has not known You. It thinks of You as a tyrant; it thinks of You as Someone who is opposed to it. Holy Father, the world has not known You. If it had known You, it could never think of You like that.”
And that should be our attitude; that should be our burning desire and longing. We should know God so well that our one longing and desire should be that the whole world should come to know Him, too. This is what we are working toward, having deeply embedded in our hearts, and openly the Holy Spirit can help us do that.
We now come to the last section of the three requests.
Luke 11:3-4 Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
These last three requests reference ourselves and our own needs and desires. The words Christ uses in verse 4 really determine this. The word “and” is the word that introduces each new request. “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” His use of “but” seems to indicate that it is really one request offered from two angles or two different sides.
But before we analyze these last three requests individually, there are two general observations to notice. The first concerns the all-inclusiveness of these requests. All of our primary needs are summed up in them. “Give us day by day our daily bread, forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Our whole life is found there in those three requests, and that is what makes this prayer so outstanding. In such a small compass Jesus has covered the whole life of the believer in every general respect.
Our physical needs, our mental needs, and of course our spiritual needs are included. The body is remembered, the mind is remembered, and the spirit is remembered. And that is the whole of man: body, mind, and spirit.
Think of all the activities going on in the world at this moment, the organizing, the planning, the legislation, and all the other things; they are for the most part concerned with nothing but the human body, its life, and existence in this world of time.
That is the tragedy of the worldly outlook, because there is another realm, the realm of relationships, the mind, the thing whereby man makes contact with his fellow man, the means of communication with one another and all social life and activity.
It is all here. And above all, we have the spiritual which links man to God and reminds him that he is something other than dust. Man has been made this way; he cannot escape it, he cannot avoid it. And Christ has provided for it.
We cannot fail to be impressed by the all-inclusiveness of these requests. That does not mean that we should never enter into details; we must, we are taught to do so. We are taught to bring our life in detail to God in prayer.
Christ gives us these and we fill in the details, but it is important for us to be sure that all our requests belong under one or the other of the headings.
The second general thing concerns the wonderful order in which these requests are put. Let us look at it again in its setting in Luke 11.
Luke 11:2 Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The level here is a wonderful, exalted, spiritual one. If we thought about this logically, we might expect that immediately after that would come the spiritual needs of man, followed in a descending order by the needs of the mind, and at the very end some remembrance of the body and its needs.
But that is not how Christ puts it. Immediately after those exalted requests about God and His glory, He says in verse 3.
Luke 11:3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
Jesus starts with the body. There is something surprising about that at first glance, but when we stop to think about it, we realize that the order is absolutely right. Christ is now considering our needs, and clearly the first thing that is necessary is that we must be enabled to continue our existence in this world. We are alive and must be kept alive.
The facts of my existence and being are involved, so the first request deals with the needs of our physical frame, and Christ starts with that. He then goes on to deal with the need of cleansing from the defilement and guilt of sin, and lastly, with the need for being kept from sin and its power.
That is the realistic way to look at man’s life. But then we are conscious of guilt and unworthiness, and feel the need to be cleansed from that. Then we think of the future and realize that we need to be delivered from certain things that face us there.
Another way is to put it like this: Life in a physical sense or in a biological sense is the basis upon which we place our concerns, so we must pray about our existence. But the moment we do so, we come to realize that the physical is only one side of our lives, and that our lasting happiness cannot be based on it.
There is another side. Christ said in John 17:3, which we will read.
John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
This spiritual side is that knowing how God thinks, how He lives, and our living that way leads to eternal life. Christ also said that He had come so that humans may have an opportunity for abundant, eternal life.
John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Having been concerned only with our bare physical existence, we now begin to learn that what really makes life is that we must be walking in fellowship and spiritual union with God. That, according to the apostle John in his first epistle, is the real way of facing physical and spiritual life in a world such as this.
There are contradictions and difficulties, there are all sorts of things to get us down. But John said he was writing that letter in order that “your joy may be full” in spite of it all. But how is our joy to be full in such a world?
By having fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. That is real living. But the moment we realize that, we know there are certain things that tend to interrupt that fellowship.
We commit sin, therefore we need forgiveness of sins in order that we may enjoy that life of God.
And when our spiritual union with God has been restored, the only other thing we need is to continue to enjoy that fellowship without interruption, without anything ever coming between us and the face of God who has become our Father.
So that is the order: daily bread, forgiveness of sins, to be kept from anything that may cast us again into sin, to be delivered from everything that is opposed to our higher interests and to our true life.
The sum of it all is that ultimately there is nothing in the whole realm of Scripture that so plainly shows us our entire dependence upon God as does this pattern prayer and especially these three requests.
The primary thing that really matters for us is that we know God as our Father. If we only knew God like this, our problems would be solved already, and we would realize our total dependence on Him. We would go to Him daily as children to their Father. There, then, are our general observations of these prayers.
Now let us look briefly and separately at the last three requests in the order that they appear.
If we were interested in the mechanics of Scripture, we could stay for some time considering the meaning of the term “our daily bread.”
Basically, it means, “Give us day by day what is necessary for us.” In other words, what we are to ask for is what is sufficient or what is necessary for each day. It is a prayer for necessities.
Jesus teaches His followers to pray for their “daily [epiousios] bread.” This expression is full of meaning. The (presumably) Aramaic original alluded to Exodus 16:4, where it is said regarding the manna that “each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day,” reveals part of the meaning of, “Give us day by day our daily bread.”
So then, the prayer asks God to feed His people now (epiousios means “for the coming day” in the sense of today) just as in the past. In the past, manna was thought of as bread, and there was an expectation that God would send manna in the end as at the beginning. It indicates a continual process.
Jesus and His followers thought of the bread of life as being both the present gift of God and a symbol of God's future provision for the saints. So the request, “give us day by day our daily bread” can bring to mind three things at once: the manna in the wilderness in the past, God's beneficent sovereignty in the present, and the saint’s need in the future.
Bread is a staple of life that comes to all human beings from God's providence. It is symbolic of the miraculous sustenance of life for God's chosen people in their wilderness wanderings, not only at the time of the Exodus, but also in a Christian’s day to day walk.
John 6:30-35 Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always." And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
Bread represents more than physical food; it is not confined only to the matter of food for physical sustenance. It is meant to cover all our material needs, everything that is physically necessary for the life of a human in this world.
But even more important than that is the fact that Christ, who is the Bread of Spiritual Life which is from the Father provides spiritual sustenance, satisfaction, and joy. So what we see is that when we ask for our daily bread, we should certainly be asking for Christ, the Bread of Life, to spiritually sustain us and to satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirsting.
There is something extraordinary and wonderful about the connection between this request and the previous requests. You go straight from, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” to “Give us day by day our daily bread.”
The God, who is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe; the God, who is forming His eternal kingdom and who will usher it in at the end; the God, to whom the nations are only as the small dust of the balance; is the God, who is prepared to consider our little physical and spiritual needs even down to the minutest details in this matter of daily bread!
What we pray for must be necessities. We are not told to pray for luxuries or superabundance, nor are we promised such things. But we are promised that we will have enough. King David, looking back in his old age, could say, in Psalm 37,
Psalm 37:25 I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.
The promises of God never fail. But our idea of necessity is often not God’s. But we are told to pray for necessities. This is why we must first think about what we should pray about before merely launching into making requests of God. I know the younger we are, the more we ask for material things; maybe when we are younger, we ask for a TV, a new car, or something of that source. We have to ask things according to God's will and from the approach of being necessities.
Jesus asks us to make our requests; but He said that we are not to be like the worldly who think they will be heard for their many words and constant speaking.
Matthew 6:8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
People wonder…if God knows before we ask Him, why should we express our needs to Him? Why tell Him about things that He knows already? It is a good question for someone who is not converted, because a converted person knows what the answer is.
This brings us to the heart of the meaning of prayer. We do not tell God these things because He is not aware of them. We must think of prayer more as a relationship between Father and child, and the value of prayer is that it keeps us in touch and in contact intimately with God.
God, as our Father, wants us and likes for us to speak to Him. He is similar to an earthly father in that respect. The earthly father is seriously hurt by the son (or daughter) who enjoys the gift his father gives him, but who never seeks his company again until he has exhausted his supplies and needs some more.
The father likes the child to come and speak to him and God has given us the father and child relationship to give us an idea of how He works at this relationship. God does not give us our needs all at once. He gives it to us in installments. God is there in grace offering His guarantee;
what we have to do is to ask according to His will for it. It is crucial to understand that, if it is not asked according to God's will, our prayers are not going to be answered. God blesses us anyway as He does the world; but on the things that really matter and are important, we must ask according to His will.
This certainly is a wonderful privilege we have—that God likes us to come to Him. The God who is self-existent, the God who is not dependent on anyone…because we are His children, He likes us to come to Him and likes to hear us.
Let me emphasize another aspect, we must all realize our absolute dependence on God, even for our daily bread. If God willed it so, we would have no daily bread. He could withhold the sun and its beneficial effects; He could stop the rain; He could make our land absolutely barren so that the farmer with all his modern implements and chemicals could not raise a crop.
He could blast the crop if He wanted to. We are absolutely in the hand of God, and the supreme foolishness of this age is the folly of thinking that because we have acquired a certain amount of knowledge of God’s natural laws, that we are independent of Him.
Nothing would continue if it were not sustained and kept going by God. “Give us day by day our daily bread.” Several times each day we should remind ourselves that our times, our health, and our very existence are in His hands. Our food and all these necessary things come from Him, and we depend on His grace and mercy for them. Even the rotation of the earth around the sun, and the planets around the solar system, and everything we can see with the visible eye, is sustained by Him.
We now come to the second request in the second group.
Luke 11:4 And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
Matthew 6:12 records it in a slightly simpler form. I think this is the one we are most used to.
Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
You remember, that in John 13, Jesus washes the disciple’s feet, and Peter said to Him, “Lord not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”
John 13:10 Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean;"
There is only one washing of the entire person—our justification. But having been justified, every Christian as he walks through this world becomes soiled and tarnished by sin. Though we know we have been justified, we still need forgiveness for particular sins.
The Christian, though walking in the life of faith, may still commit sin. So, what are we to do about it?
I John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Confession involves two things. It is an acknowledgment of one’s sins to God and to a neighbor whom we have wronged.
James 5:16 “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
John is not writing to non-believers; it is a letter to believers. He is writing to Christians, and Christ was speaking to believers in His pattern prayer in Luke 11. Who is the person who can pray? “Forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”
He is the person who already has a right to say, “Our Father.” And the only person who has a right to say “Our Father” is the one who is in Jesus Christ. It is not a prayer for just anyone, but only for those who have become the children of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. This makes the pattern of prayer so much more valuable, more meaningful, when we think of it in those terms—the privilege we have been given to have that sample prayer.
It is a relationship of the child to the Father, and the moment we realize we have offended, or sinned against the Father, we confess it and ask to be forgiven.
Luke 11:4 does not say, “Forgive us our debts because we forgive our debtors,” it does not say, “Forgive us on the ground of the fact that we forgive our debtors.” It says rather, “as” or “even as” or “for we also,” “even as I forgive those who are my debtors.” God wants us to have a willing attitude, a proclivity to forgive others according to His will. God is looking for us to be like Him, always ready to forgive.
What we have here is what we find so clearly taught in Matthew 18, in the parable of the steward who would not forgive his underling although he had been forgiven by his master. It means that a proof that you and I are forgiven is that we, with pleasure, forgive others.
If we really know Christ as our Savior, our hearts are broken and contrite, and we know our own flaws; therefore, we cannot refuse forgiveness. How can a true Christian not want to forgive? Why would we want to withhold it?
We see how important it is by the fact that Christ actually emphasizes the importance that we forgive others by repeating more about the requirement to forgive others. Having finished His pattern prayer, in the next two verses immediately following it, He explains.
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
It is absolute and inevitable that true forgiveness breaks a person, and he must forgive. As a result, when we offer this prayer for forgiveness we test ourselves in that way. Our prayer is not genuine, it is of no avail, unless there is forgiveness in our own heart.
Now, let me just mention something about the third and last request.
Luke 11:4 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from evil.
It means this. We are asking that we are never led into a situation where we are liable to be tempted by Satan, the world, or our own human nature.
It does not mean that we are dictating to God what He will or will not do. God does test His children, and we must never presume to tell God what He is or is not to do.
Some people make this mistake when they fast. They think that they can force God to do what THEY want Him to do, and to give them a favorable response for the outcome THEY want to see. This is the wrong reason to fast, and it is the wrong reason to pray.
God and Christ know that we need a great deal of training in our preparation for our responsibility as kings and priests in His Kingdom.
Of course, we are not to dictate to God at any time; however, we may request from Him that, if it is in accordance with His will, He will not lead us into positions and situations where we can be so easily tempted and where we are likely to fail. It is another way of saying, “God, please, lead us away from these things, in case we do not have the strength, or the personal where-with-all to resist.”
I mentioned it earlier in this sermon—that the use of the second person plural (“us”) throughout the pattern prayer emphasizes that the requests of “The Disciples’ Prayer” are not only for the individual members, but for the Church as a whole: “give us,” “forgive us,” “do not lead us into temptation,” “deliver us.”
It means that we should ask Him to preserve us from entering into temptation, into the ways of this world. This is what Christ meant by what He said to His disciples, especially Peter, at the end of His life.
Mark 14:37-38 Then He [Jesus] came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Since “temptation” can also mean testing, Christ is also saying, “Lest you fall prey to the testing you are about to face.” Though one may mean well, on impulse, the body is susceptible to becoming weary and exhausted, and in this weakened state a person’s mind and body are vulnerable to temptation than at other times. It is a good idea to ask God, to especially help us in those times of weakness.
There are situations that will be dangerous to you; watch and pray, always be on guard so you do not enter into temptation. And coupled with that is this other aspect of the request, that we pray to be delivered from evil.
Some would say “from the evil one,” but that limits the meaning, because evil, here, includes not only Satan but evil in every shape and form. It certainly includes Satan; we need to be delivered from him and his wiles.
But there is evil also in the human heart; hopefully it should not be in a converted individuals heart. We know that there is evil out there, but in a general sense, sin is evil, so, from that aspect evil can be dwelling in a converted person’s heart; but I am very careful to say that, because I also want to say that God's people are not evil—to be very clear on that. It includes Satan, and we need to be delivered from him. There is evil also in the human heart, so we need to be delivered from that; we need to conquer that as well, and from the evil in the world as well. We need to be delivered from it all. It is a great request, a comprehensive petition, and it requires a miraculous answer and solution in order for God to deliver us from evil.
Why should we ask that we may be kept from evil? For this wonderful reason: so that our fellowship with God may never be broken, so that we may be able to grow in grace and knowledge.
Our primary desire should be to have a right relationship with God, to know Him, to have uninterrupted fellowship and spiritual union with Him. That is why we pray, that is the intent of this pattern prayer, so that nothing may come between us and the glory of our Father who is in heaven.
One final essential thing. Paul admonishes us in Colossians 4:2.
Colossians 4:2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving
There again, we come back around to the idea of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving should always accompany prayer. It shows that our hearts are in the right place.
Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
We see, there, how to avoid going into temptation and also how to be delivered from evil. As we consider our needs, our dependence on Him, our relationship to Him, we cannot help but to be
thankful for our Father in heaven, and the fact that we are so privileged that He has made us His children and wants to have a personal relationship with each of us. What can be a greater privilege than that? To be God's children. For us to be able to say to Him, “Our Father,” and to be able to request these things after we have glorified Him. Words do not do justice to how great a privilege that is.