The verses from the Lord’s Prayer which we read today remind us of our daily need for Bread, Forgiveness and Spiritual Protection. Because Jesus taught this prayer we can be confident God will answer it when we pray. Our confidence is increased knowing God is a good Father who gives good gifts; he is enthroned in heaven meaning he has the authority to answer us; his name is hallowed, meaning he is above human influence and therefore free to sovereignty answer without favouritism; and inviting his kingdom to come and his will to be done, we align ourselves with prayer God delights to answer.
When we read of daily bread, many of us will remember the manna, the daily bread given to the people of Israel as they journeyed towards the promised land. Daily bread is representative of all our physical needs. And there is also a spiritual dimension to this. When the people of Jesus day asked him for a sign, specifically one like Moses providing manna from heaven Jesus said, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:31–35) Earlier in his ministry in response to the temptations he faced, Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) We fail to understand the rich intention of God, if we simply think of bread in a physical sense but neglect our spiritual need. Too many people live with an abundance for their physical needs yet are impoverished spiritually.
The prayer asks, forgive us our sin/debt. Jesus spoke Aramaic, and in that language the word debt also referred to sin. Matthew gave a literal translation, debt, which his Jewish readers would have readily understood to mean sin, while Luke for his Greek speaking readers makes it clearer for them by translating it as sin. The scholar Michael J Wilkins states, Sin creates an obligation or “debt” to God we cannot possibly repay. We pick this up in the writing of the Apostle Paul, “He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13–14) Paul understood sin causes indebtedness to God. Jesus paid our debt, by taking our sin upon himself and dying in our place.
The spiritual principle is those God forgives, should in turn be forgiving. When Peter asked how often should I forgive those who sin against me, Jesus replied seventy times seven. Basically Jesus was saying the number is so large you can’t keep track of it so just keep on forgiving others. Jesus followed this with a difficult parable in which a servant having been forgiven a great debt, then went out and enforced debt collection on those who owed him little. Jesus then gave a very sobering warning, “In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. ‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’” (Matthew 18:34–35) If we cling to sinful unforgiveness, we place ourselves outside of God’s forgiveness. With this in mind, I invite you to remember, having been forgiven, we should be forgiving.
And lead us not into temptation. The concluding phrases of the prayer remind us we are spiritual people in a spiritual battle. At the time of Jesus the word used for temptation was equally used for a test that might have a positive outcome, as much as an enticement to sin. King David prayed “Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;” (Psalm 26:2) God often tests us so we can see our progress in the faith, how we are growing and were we need to grow. Such tests are not to crush us but to help us. But in these verses, temptation seems more weighted towards the modern meaning, an enticement to sin. We must be careful however because as we read, When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;” (James 1:13) We do however, see in the story of Job, how God allowed Job to be tested by Satan and we see in the New Testament how God permitted Jesus to be tempted by Satan.
It may be with this in mind that Jesus taught us to pray, Deliver us from the evil one. When God tests us it is to strengthen us, but when Satan tests us it is to hurt, harm and to make us fall. The Apostle Paul reminds us to stand against the devil’s schemes, and that our struggle is … against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) Jesus reminds us to pray about this spiritual battle, to be aware of our spiritual enemy and so to be delivered from Satan’s evil schemes. Overcoming the forces of evil is a spiritual victory in our lives. And this prayer helps us step towards that victory.
Prayer is a journey, To the heart of the Father, To the likeness of the Son and To the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Satan wants to divert and distract us on the journey so we do not draw near to the father’s heart, to become Christ-like or to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Imagine a church or person who succeeds in this journey of prayer, what a witness their life would be.
- What do we learn about prayer from Deuteronomy 4:7 and Isaiah 65:24, and how might this encourage us to pray?
- How is prayer linked to spiritual health and why might Satan try to sever our “supply-line” of prayer?
- How would you explain the connection between “daily bread” and the manna given to ancient Israel? How might John 6:31–35 offer a richer meaning of daily bread?
- What is the relationship between being forgiven by God and forgiving others? Mark 11.25
- Why do you think Jesus taught such a harsh parable in answer to Peter’s question about forgiveness? Matthew 18.21-35
- How would you explain the difference between a trial/test and a temptation to a new Christian who was confused about this?
- Read, Ephesians 6:12, 1 Peter 5:8 & James 4:7. How do each of these verses help us better understand the phrase “deliver us from the evil one”?
Rev John Malcolm