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Sept 10, 2017 - Matthew 6:9 Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name
Sept 17, 2017 - Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:1-13 Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Sept 24, 2017 - Matthew 6:11-12 (6:5-15) Give us this day our daily bread; forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors
Oct 1, 2017 - Matthew 6:13 Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
The Lord's Prayer is a very important in the life of the church. It is, in a sense, our open communication with God, a line of connection with him, our channel to make requests and praises known. And yet, for as important as prayer seems, few of us practice it as often as we should. Perhaps we lean a little too heavily on the idea that a Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (Rom 8:26), so we hope God knows what's on our hearts and minds even if we never get around to articulating it to him. But wouldn't be nice if God were to reveal to us what he expected in prayer? Wouldn't it be nice if he gave us a model?
Surprisingly enough, he did. According to Luke's Gospel, one of Jesus's disciples requested of him one day, teach us to pray (Luke 11:1).The instruction that followed (also in Matthew's Gospel, ch. 6) became known as the Lord's Prayer.
The first thing Jesus taught in that model prayer was that it should be addressed to the Father. God should not be thought of just as an abstract Creator, he is a loving Father who provides for, nurtures, and protects his children. God is also in heaven that is, he is in a place of purity outside this broken realm and therefore not tainted by our sin. As such, God's name needs to be set apart in this sinful place if we are to understand his holiness and if he is ever to dwell with us as his people.
So if you are looking to deepen your prayer life, this is where we should begin: focusing on our relationship with our heavenly Father, and looking for and working toward the sanctifying of his name in this world.
There are times in our lives when everything seems to be going right and all seems to be well in the world. At these times we rejoice and celebrate God's goodness to us, and we get a glimpse of what the new creation will be like. There are also times in our lives when things are not going well and sin and evil seem to be having their way. Unfortunately, these seem to happen more often than not, and we are left feeling confused and frustrated. We start wondering why life is the way it is, and asking God what are we supposed to be doing during our time here on earth.
If you have ever felt this way or struggled with this tension, you are not alone. While we were created to live in perfect peace and harmony with God and each other, we live in a world where things are not the way they are supposed to be. Yet God did not, and has not, abandoned us, and we are told that we should always go to Him in prayer. Â God sent His Son not only to die on the cross for us, but to inaugurate His Kingdom on earth and to give us hope through the good times and bad. But what is this Kingdom all about, and how do we go to God in prayer?
In Luke 11 Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray, but this prayer is not some magical formula to quickly say and solve all of their problems. Instead, the Lord's Prayer teaches the disciples how to orient their hearts and lives before God and to boldly seek after the things that are important to Him. One of these desires is that God's people will pray for His Kingdom to come in practical ways each and every day. This happens when the orphan finds a home, the widow is comforted, the sick and imprisoned are visited, the poor are helped, the Good News is preached, and the unlovable are loved. The other desire is that God's people will long and pray for Christ's second coming, when He will make all things new, and His Kingdom will be consummated.
What are we doing to manifest God's Kingdom here and now? And, are we praying for the day when all wrongs will be made right, and everything will be made new?
The prayer that Jesus taught his followers (commonly called the Lord prayer) is structured in a simple way. It addresses God as our Father and petitions him to set his name apart from all other names. It then petitions for the coming of his kingdom (and the establishment of his will) in this world. While these first petitions are addressed toward heaven, the next petitions seek direct provision here on earth.
This fourth petition is about our daily physical needs. We all need food, which, in the prayer, is simply represented as bread, perhaps because this was how the early Israelites were fed by God during their desert years (Ex 16:2-4). They were allowed to gather enough each morning just for that day, but were not permitted to gather more than was needed (Ex 16:16-18). So too we need to be careful not to accumulate an over-abundance. When we do, we often fail to depend on God and don't recognize his authority or involvement in our lives.
Forgiveness of Debts
This fifth petition is about our daily spiritual needs. We all are indebted to God because of our sins and the breaking of our covenantal relationship. If God were not willing to forgive us and release our debts, we would never be able to be in a relationship with him. Thus, because Gods posture toward us is forgiveness for the sake of relationship, we as his people are expected to be postured in the same way toward others (see Lev 25:8-17). If we aren't willing to forgive others their debts toward us, why should we expect God to forgive our debts (Matt 6:14-15; 18:21-35)?
As we learn and relearn how to pray, let us be shaped to only seek what we need in the moment, and be a people who are forgiven and quick to forgive others.
In the example Jesus gave when asked how to pray (Lk 11:1), he taught his followers to seek God's advancement (the sanctification of his name, the coming of his kingdom, the accomplishment of his will) and their own provision (daily bread and forgiveness of debts). The final part of the prayer relies on the heavenly Father for protection.
This sixth petition is the only negative request (asking God not to do something) made in the entire prayer. It can either be translated, lead us not into temptation or lead us not to trial. The ambiguity allows for the mystery of God's will, a will that sometimes tests people to discover their loyalty (see Deut 8:2-5) but never tempts people to bring about their moral failure (see James 1:12-15). Temptation is more often attributed to the evil one(1 Cor 7:5), who is mentioned in the seventh petition (but deliver us from the evil one).
We see the contrast between testing and temptation in the life of Jesus. In his wilderness experience, he was tempted by the evil one (Matt 4:1-11) under the direction of God's Spirit (4:1). Later, after the evil one left him, his trials returned in Gethsemane the night he was betrayed. There we find Jesus requesting from God that this cup may pass from him (Matt 26:39), but ultimately he is willing to accept God's will (vv. 39 & 42). This prayer eventually led him to a time of trial and testing before both the Jewish and Roman authorities, where Jesus kept his faithful testimony to God (see 1 Tim 6:13). We are called to essentially the same prayer, that God will help us to avoid testing if it is not necessary, but if, according to his will, it is necessary, we seek that he would keep us from the ultimate desire of the evil one so as not to deny our Lord (Rev 2:10).
In review then, Jesus seems to be drawing us deeper into the Fathers heart that we would rely on him for all we need in this life. If we truly pray the way Jesus taught, it should change the way we view this world and the way we order our priorities.