Friday, December 9, 2011

How To Pray (According To Jesus), Part 2

In our previous post we looked at the first 3 requests of the Lord's model prayer. We saw that Christ wants us to first focus on God, his praise and his heart, before we bring our personal needs to him. In prayer we have fellowship with God and through prayer God is molding our heart and will to line up with his own!

Now let's briefly look at the last 3 requests.

4. "Give us this day our daily bread." It's ok to ask God to supply our needs. In this petition Christ is teaching us to bring our needs to the Lord. But in the proper order! Our perspective must first be refreshed in the first 3 petitions, as we refocus on God himself, the glory of his name, the advance of his kingdom and the carrying out of his will. In this light of humility we realize that our needs are not as pressing as God's world-wide mission; but that our "Father in heaven" still cares about the details of our life! We also have a fresh reminder (after praying about God's powerful kingdom and will and glorious name) that he is truly able to meet our needs! We can boldly come and pray, not only for our bread, but for all the needs of the day.

Finally, we learn to trust God day by day for just what we need. This petition draws us out of a 'hoarding' mentality and teaches us to ask for what we need for today (we're not promised tomorrow). Just as the Israelites were instructed to gather only enough manna for one day (if they tried to hoard extra manna for tomorrow it would breed worms and stink!) [Exodus 18:14-21]. Don't think that it is selfish to ask God to supply our needs, for in our asking and his supplying he is glorified as our Source and Provider!

5. "and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." The 5th petition reminds us that we have deeper needs than bread! Jesus wants us to ask daily to be forgiven of sin. This is not the once-for-all declaration of righteousness we receive when we are born again and justified by God through faith in Jesus (for in that moment he forgives all our sin: past, present and future). Rather, this is dealing with daily sins that impede our realtionship with God; our walking in fellowship with the Father (1 John 1:9 speaks of a continuous need for forgiveness in this sense). When we first come to Christ we are 'given a bath' (justification) but daily we still have need to 'wash our feet' (progressive sanctification) as we walk in this world (John 13:8-11).

Another huge lesson Jesus teaches us in this 5th petition is that our forgiveness from God is connected to our forgiving others! Jesus instructs us to ask for forgiveness from God for our 'debts,' but in the same breath we are to confess to God that we have also forgiven others! We are to treat others the way God in Christ has treated us. In fact, to make this completely plain, Jesus says in the verses immediately following the Lord's prayer, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15, ESV). This makes sense when we consider that our sins against God are much greater than the things people have done against us (as bad as those things are - we do not belittle our hurts). This is because when others sin against us, they are sinning against someone who is finite and sinful. But our sins against God are against an infinite and holy being! This makes them eternal sins, worthy of eternal punishment. And since God has shown immeasurable mercy and love by placing our eternal sins on Christ so that we could receive forgiveness and love, he now desires that we show grace to those who have committed lesser sins against us. Our refusal to forgive others is evidence and proof that God has not forgiven us. It is fruit on display, testifying that our hearts have not been changed by God. This is so serious! No wonder Jesus teaches us to make this a daily, ongoing exercise.

6. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." The final petition in this prayer is for our spiritual protection. The Bible teaches that God himself never tempts anyone (James 1:13). But God does allow Satan to tempt us. The difference is in the goal. Satan will mean a particular situation for evil, to destroy us. But God will mean the same situation for our good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28)! Jesus wants us to pray for spiritual protection; to ask God to lead us in paths that please him.

What a glorious privilege it is to be able to pray to our Father through Jesus Christ! What an amazing thought that God desires to have fellowship with us, and has made that fellowship possible by removing the thing that stood in the way of our fellowship - our sin. By placing our sins on Jesus Christ and judging him in our place at the cross, we can now have intimate communion with God through faith in Christ!

Let us pray!

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