Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Lord's Prayer: But Deliver Us From Evil

'. . . but deliver us from evil.'

Because Jesus pairs this petition with ‘lead us not into temptation,’ the evil may be connected to our own sin and its consequences. At the same time, some translations render the Greek term here as ‘the evil one.’ And, as we considered yesterday, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the evil one. Either way, we know one thing for sure.

There is evil in the world from which we need deliverance. Without guidance otherwise, we will walk straight into temptation. Without divine deliverance, that temptation will keep us bound to evil.

We confess our weakness. We admit our inability to rightly lead ourselves. We acknowledge our dependence on the Father for deliverance, and we give thanks to the Son for teaching us to pray like children!

The Lord's Prayer: And Lead Us Not Into Temptation

'And lead us not into temptation . . .'

Jesus knows what it means to be led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted. He did not call his disciples to follow him out there.

Jesus alone was the target of so high a temptation, and Jesus alone shows the faithfulness to rebuke Satan with such resolution. We are called to follow Jesus. We are not Jesus.

Why didn’t Jesus give us this petition in a positive form? He could’ve had us say, 'lead us along paths of righteousness.' I don’t know, but when we pray not to be led into temptation, we make a confession.

We remind ourselves that we are susceptible. Jesus alone was faithful to withstand the high temptation of the wilderness, whereas we are vulnerable to lesser temptations—even in friendlier settings!

So, we pray not to be led into temptation. We confess our weakness, and we give thanks for the One who withstood the wilderness.

The Lord's Prayer: And Forgive Us Our Debts

'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.'

I’m thankful for the simplicity here. Forgive us our debts. Things are slightly more complex in Leviticus, and yet I might prefer that to a detailed report on my sins. Not that Scripture doesn’t tell us to confess our sins. In this prayer, however, Jesus says only ‘forgive us our debts.’

After giving his disciples the prayer, he connects forgiveness of our sins, not to how we manage them after the fact, but to how we forgive others.

When I say, ‘as we also have forgiven our debtors,’ certain people often come to mind. I used to wonder how I was supposed to forgive them.

They don’t owe me money. I almost never see them; how can I show them some grace or mercy? After focusing on this prayer for months, it hit me that I did consider them to be in my debt.

They owe me a debt of unpaid respect.

I’ve been foolish to keep that debt on the books, because they are never going to pay it. That, of course, isn’t the point.

Any debt I think I’m owed is nothing next to my indebtedness. When it comes to loving God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength, and loving my neighbor as myself, I’m all for throwing out the book. If I want the ledger of my debt thrown out, Jesus says I’m to stop keeping the ledger on what I’m owed. I’m still not sure exactly how to do that.

I’ve got places in my heart that have been hard for a long time. The only thing I know to do is to keep hitting at those hard places with the prayer—to keep saying, day in and day out, ‘Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’

The Lord's Prayer: Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

'Give us today our daily bread . . .'

Just before giving them this prayer, Jesus tells the disciples their Father knows what they need before they ask. We pray ‘Give us today’ as a confession, reminding ourselves that everything we have comes from above. Even when we harvest it from the ground, we don’t make it grow.

We always have ideas about what we need. What we really need is for the kingdom to come and the Father’s will to be done. Jesus teaches us to pray for those things right at the top. That’s our real need, and—when we’re most yielded to the Spirit—our deepest longing. As for everything else, the Father has it covered—each day.

Our storehouses of past production and our plans for future provision mean nothing on their own. They provide us nothing apart from the Father’s providence. We know that, but we live in a world that makes it easy to forget.

So, we confess our dependence on the Father for even life’s basic sustenance—one day at a time.

The Lord's Prayer: Your Will Be Done

Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

How does this petition differ from 'Your kingdom come?'

It could be a stepping-up of the same idea. Or, maybe these two petitions work together to reflect the idea of already-but-not-yet.

The kingdom is expanding in the here and now. Ever since Jesus proclaimed good news to the poor, the kingdom of heaven has been working its way through the earth like yeast in the flour (Matt. 13:33).

So, we pray for that ongoing advancement of the kingdom. That’s the already.

At the same time, when we pray for the Father’s will to be done on earth as in heaven, we’re praying for his will to be done perfectly. 

While nothing thwarts the Father’s will, when we look at the earth today, it’s hard to see his will being done in the visible realm as perfectly as in heaven. That’s the not yet.

We long for the day when Jesus’ work of making all things new (Rev 21:5) reaches completion. We long—and pray—to see the Father’s will done perfectly, on earth as in heaven!

The Lord's Prayer: Your Kingdom Come

We can debate what it means for the Father’s kingdom to come, but here’s a couple things we know. 

Firstly, we don’t pray for any other kingdom in this way. If the following lines—'your will be done on earth as in heaven'—inform this one, the kingdom coming involves the Father’s sovereignty. Imagine if any earthly kingdom got everything it wanted. Yikes! 

Because we don’t pray for any other kingdom in this way, we have an allegiance to the Father’s kingdom that forsakes all others. That brings us to the second thing—really, just the other side of the same coin.
All other kingdoms ultimately forsake the Father’s kingdom.

We pray for the Father’s kingdom to come because no other kingdom will hallow his name. Earthly kingdoms have more a track record of taking his name in vain. So, again we find ourselves celebrating our Creator’s singularity.

We pray for one kingdom to come, the one that will hallow the singularly significant name of our one Father.

The Lord's Prayer: Hallowed Be Your Name

What does Jesus mean when he says hallowed be your name?

It could be an exclamation of praise, or maybe a confession. Some read it as a petition—asking the Father to bring about reverence for his name in our midst. I think hallowed be your name has multiple meanings wrapped up in it. It contains layers of truth beyond what we can currently unwrap.

We do know that the disciples whom Jesus was teaching to pray were raised not to say aloud the divine name. That was part of their culture’s attempt to keep the commandment against using the Lord’s name in vain. In coordination with the prayer’s opening, Our Father in heaven, ‘hallowed be your name’ further emphasizes the Father’s singularity.

We like to hear our own names. To call someone by name often shows either endearment or respect. And, because we are all children, sometimes we feel the need to make a name for ourselves. We hope to achieve something that will make people say our name, because the speaking of my name makes me somebody.

The Father doesn’t have that need. His name is hallowed.

When we say hallowed be your name, we explain why we call him Father instead of calling him by name. Moreover, that we’re allowed to address him as Father, when his very name is hallowed, conveys the remarkable intimacy to which Jesus invites us in saying this prayer!

The Lord's Prayer: In Heaven

Why does Jesus teach us to specify that we’re praying to our Father in heaven?

In yesterday’s post, we considered how we are all brothers and sisters in that we have one Father. And yet, we tend to make distinctions. You have your father and I have mine. Or, we have our father and they have theirs. We push back against these distinctions when we specify that we’re praying to our Father in heaven.

All the divisions we make among ourselves stem from earthly fatherhood, whether in a literal sense, or regarding our commitments to different ideas—different politics, theology, etc. Our Father in heaven is undivided. Jesus emphasizes the singular status of the Father later in Matthew’s Gospel.

And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. (Matt. 23:9)

That’s the Father to whom Jesus teaches us to pray—our one Father in heaven. His being in heaven, however, doesn’t mean he’s too far off to hear us. He’s close enough to know every sparrow that falls and every hair on our heads (Matt. 10:29–30).

So, even when we pray alone, we pray together, to our one Father—in heaven, yet close enough to hear your prayer and mine.

The Lord's Prayer: Our Father

Why does Jesus teach us to pray to Our Father, rather than just to my Father?

In Matthew 6, Jesus makes two main points about prayer before he gives his disciples The Lord’s Prayer. First, he tells them not to pray for the sake of public performance. Next, he tells them not to heap up empty phrases. Regarding the first point, Jesus says,

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. (Matt 6:6)

Sounds like a private matter, doesn’t it? I go into my room, shut my door, and pray to my Father. And yet, Jesus doesn’t begin the model prayer with My Father, but Our Father. Why is that?

If I’m praying in my room, and you’re praying in yours, why do we pray to our Father? I don’t know, but I know that saying 'our' makes me think of how we all have the same basic relation to the Father. We’re all children. We’re all brothers and sisters, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.

When I think about the inclusiveness of 'our,' I sometimes think about three groups of people: believers whose faith and practice look basically like mine; believers whose faith and practice show clear distinctions from mine; and, nonbelievers. Those relationships involve all manner of details that we’ll never sort out before Christ’s return.

Still, we can take solace in knowing that Jesus taught us all to approach our Maker from the same place. Even when we pray alone, we pray together, to our Father.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Checking In Again

Just in case someone finds their way here apart from the facebook pagethat's where most of the action is happening these days. Right now, I'm doing a series of short reflections on the Lord's Prayer.

When I have some devotions or other thoughts to share, those will be posted here as well.

By the way, if you just don't do facebook, I'm also sharing the Lord's Prayer posts as a podcast.

Thanks for stopping by!