The Disciples’ Prayer – 03 (The 4th, 5th and 6th Petitions)
Last week we looked at the first three petitions of the “Lord’s Prayer,” namely “…hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt.6:9b10).
Although the first three petitions of this “model prayer” of Jesus have priority over those that follow, the latter must not be considered unimportant. The first three concerns God and the remaining petitions concerns us and our personal needs.
Today we are going to look at the last three petitions in the “Lord’s Prayer.”
2. SCRIPTURE READING:
Matt.6:5-15 ~ “5And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11Give us this day our daily bread, 12and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
3. THE FOURTH PETITION (vs.11):
In the “Lord’s Prayer” there is just one brief mention of our physical and material needs ~ “…give us this day our daily bread.” We do not have to dwell on our needs because God knows all of them. The problem that most Christians have is that we are pre-occupied with the material side of life. We pray mostly about how we are to be fed, where we are to live, what we are to wear, illness of people, better jobs, etc. We should not stop praying about these things, in fact we are encouraged to pray about our basic physical and material requirements. The God who has become our heavenly Father is the Maker of all things. He conceives, sustains, looks after and directs everything to its intended end and therefore, the Lord taught us to include material requests in our prayers, but it must be kept in the right place and within proportion.
The Greek word translated “daily” is known only from this prayer. It has been understood to mean “daily,” “necessary,” “future,” or “tomorrow’s” bread. When praying for our daily bread, we must keep the words of the author of Proverbs in mind ~ “…give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Prov.30:8-9).
The idea is not to ask for abundance or more than we need – only that which is needed or required by us. There is a danger of our asking for material benefits which God in His love and wisdom denies us because our motivation is basically (and sometimes entirely) selfish, and which, if He granted, would lead us astray ~ “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (Jam.4:3). God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift ~ “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jam.1:17). We often fail to look beyond the “gifts of the Giver.” This prayer encourages us to fix our eyes to where they ought to be – on “the Giver of the gifts.”
Let us have a closer look at this fourth petition. Bread is the basic necessity of life, the symbol of all that is necessary for survival and for a full life. There is much meaning in this fourth petition:
∞ “Give us…”: We must realise that the good things of this life are the gifts of God. We’ve referred to Prov.30:8 and there we have seen that we may pray for our daily bread. Bread however, not only represents food, but is symbolic of all our physical needs. We may therefore also pray for our health ~ “Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled” (Ps.6:2). In short, it shows that God cares for our bodies, but it also points to our spiritual needs of nourishment. We can and must also pray, “give me that spiritual bread that comes down from heaven.”
Jesus is the Source and Sustainer of life. We must add to this by asking Jesus to fill our lives with abundance in our spiritual life, as we give some of what we have received to others. We come to Christ for filling, thus we must share some of what we have received, if we are to receive more from His hands. We need to have an attitude of sharing and giving. That includes sharing the Gospel with the spiritually needy, but also other material things like food, therefore helping others meet their basic needs, through our blessings and gifts we have received.
The word “us” implies that we must not only pray for ourselves, but also for others. We must not pray selfishly; we are to pray collectively for ourselves along with others.
∞ “This day our daily…”: The second word or phrase in this fourth petition is “this day our daily…” We do not pray, give us bread for a month or a year, but this day, “Give us this day.” If we live as God intends us to live we are to live one day at a time. That is, we are not to be anxious about the unknown future or to fret about it. We are to live in the moment, dependent upon God ~ “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” (Matt.6:34a). It is also interesting to note that the Israelites during the exodus, only received daily provisions of manna ~ “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not” (Ex.16:4).
We as Christians know that God has never been unfaithful to us. We know that there are times when God does withhold things from us: sometimes to teach us something and at times merely to bring forth praise to Himself. We often lack in things we believe to be necessary, but which are not. And yet, it is not the rule for God to permit His children to suffer great wants and needs. Is God faithful? Of course, He is faithful. Hence, you can trust Him both for your today and your tomorrow.
∞ “Bread”: It is clear therefore that the meaning of bread does not only refer to food, but to all our physical needs too (e.g. health). It however, also refers to our spiritual needs and spiritual health and our responsibility to the physical and spiritual needs of others.
There are however two types of bread that cannot properly be called bread: “the bread off idleness” and “the bread of violence”:
o “The bread of idleness”: We read in Prov.31:27 ~ “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” An idle person lives at another’s cost ~ “…his hands refuse to labour” (Prov.21:5). Paul says in 2 Thes.3:10b-11 ~ “…If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”
o “The bread of violence”: We cannot call “bread of violence,” our bread. Bread of violence is that which is taken from others; whether by means of stealing or through fraudulent dealings ~ “…who devour widows’ houses and for a pretence make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation” (Luk.20:47). James in James 5:4 says ~ “Behold, the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” Those of us who have labourers in our houses or gardens or who are working for your company, listen to what Prov.22:16 says ~ “Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” Paul warns us in Col.4:1 ~ “Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”
We as Christians should treat our workers as creatures of God and we should pay our labourers more than the minimum wage prescribed by the state – and even more than more. We should also pay UIF (if they qualify for that) in case our employees lose their work due to unforeseen circumstances. Not only because the law requires it, but to make provision for them when suffering loss of work due to disability, bankruptcy, or bad economic times, etc. Look after your workers in similar fashion your heavenly Father looks after you!
I want to summarise “our daily bread” in one word, “contentment.” We must be content with our daily bread. God in His grace provides this for us – we may not covet or murmur about it. God who provides us with our daily bread knows what quantity is best for us, because to be content with our daily bread keeps us from many temptations which discontented people fall into. Listen to what happened to Israel when they were discontent with their daily provision of manna and longed after some meat ~ “Then a wind from the Lord sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits (about 90 cm.) above the ground. And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers (about 2200 litres). And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague. Therefore, the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving” (Num.11:31-34).
4. THE FIFTH PETITION (vs.12):
If daily bread represents our basic material or physical wants, forgiveness sums up our first spiritual need ~ “…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (vs.12).
The word “debt” is one of five New Testament Greek terms for sin. In this case, the Greek word used, is ὀφείλημα (opheilema) and it refers to moral and spiritual debt to God that must be paid. In his version of the “Lord’s Prayer,” in Luk11:4, Luke uses the Greek word ἁμαρτίας (hamartia), which clearly indicates that the reference is to sin and not financial debt.
We know that sin is man’s greatest enemy and greatest problem. Sin dominates the mind and heart of all mankind. It has contaminated every human being and is the root to all forms of evil, unhappiness, sickness, misery, dissatisfaction, guilt, death and damnation. John says in Joh.3:19 ~ “…people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” The tendency of mankind is to sin.
A.W. Pink writes in his book, “An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount,” “As it is contrary to the holiness of God, sin is a defilement, a dishonour, and a reproach to us as it is a violation of His law. It is a crime, and as to the guilt which we contract thereby, it is a debt. As creatures, we owe a debt of obedience onto our Maker and Governor, and through failure to render the same on account of our rank disobedience, we have incurred a debt of punishment; and it is for this that we implore a divine pardon.”
Because man’s greatest problem is sin, his greatest need is forgiveness and that is what God provides. Though we have been forgiven the ultimate penalty of sin, as Christians we need God’s constant forgiveness for the sins we continue to commit. We must therefore pray, “forgive us!”
Forgiveness is a main theme of the Gospel. Our Lord Jesus came both preaching and giving forgiveness. His first miracle recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke pays attention to the priority of forgiveness over physical healing (Matt.9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luk.5:17-26). Forgiveness was and still is, the main focus of the Gospel. Jeremiah prophesised in Jer.31:34 that the Father will send His Son, Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins… ~ “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” and Luke confirmed and testified about this in Acts 10:43 ~ “To Him (i.e. Jesus the Christ) all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His Name.” Jesus Christ is the One who has made possible what God promised through the prophet Jeremiah (and the other prophets).
We must however ask for forgiveness and by asking for forgiveness it implies confession, because sin that is not confessed cannot be forgiven ~ “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Joh.1:9).
It is important to realise and highlight the fact that true Christians do not see God’s promise of forgiveness as a license to sin. Rather they see God’s gracious forgiveness as the means of spiritual growth and sanctification, continually giving thanks to the Lord for His great love and gracious willingness to forgive.
Jesus, in His “model prayer” to His disciples, also gave a prerequisite for receiving forgiveness in the words of, ~ “…as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The principle is simple: If we have forgiven, we will be forgiven. If we have not forgiven, we will not be forgiven ~ “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luk.6:37).
We are to forgive because it is the character of righteousness, and therefore the character of the faithful Christian’s life. Forgiveness is the mark of a truly regenerated heart and unlike the servant in Matt.18:21-35.
Peter one day, asked Jesus about forgiveness. Apparently thinking about the person who had been wronged by his brother (vs.15), he asked how many times one should forgive those who have sinned against another. Seven times is a generous upping of the traditional Jewish allowance of three. Jesus’ answer of 70×7 probably is meant to cover forgiveness of all wrong, because no one would keep a careful tally of such large numbers of offences.
Then to illustrate the point Jesus told a parable about an unmerciful servant. In it a creditor, a king (God Himself), remitted or forgave a very large debt owed to him. But the forgiven servant, as a credit to himself, failed to remit a lesser debt owed to him through his debtor into prison. When the first creditor heard about it, he retaliated in the similar fashion.
The point of the parable seems to be abundantly clear down to verse 34-35. Vs.34 says that the one with an unforgiving spirit will be… ~ “delivered to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due” (ASV).
What are the properties and fruit of forgiveness?
∞ As we’ve already seen, forgiveness is the mark of a truly regenerated heart.
∞ Forgiveness reflects God’s own gracious forgiveness.
∞ Forgiving of another person’s sin expresses the highest virtue of man ~ “The discretion of a man maketh him slow to anger; And it is his glory to pass over a transgression” (Prov.19:11).
∞ Forgiving others also frees the conscience of guilt. Being unforgiving not only stands as a barrier to God’s forgiveness but also interferes with peace of mind, happiness, satisfaction, and even the proper functioning of the body.
∞ Forgiving others is of great benefit to the whole congregation of believers. The Holy Spirit cannot work freely among those who carry grudges and harbour resentment.
∞ Forgiving others delivers us from God’s discipline. It brings God’s forgiveness to the believer. This truth is so important that Jesus reinforces it at the end of the prayer, in vss.14-15.
5. THE SIXTH PETITION (vs.13):
The last petition in the “Lord’s Prayer” is ~ “…And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (vs.13). In this petition, we should pray for deliverance first, that we might be kept from trials and temptation (“lead us not into temptation”) and second, that we might be delivered from the devil (“deliver us from evil”). The Greek word used here, is πονηρός (poneros) literally meaning, the devil.
The last three petitions are joined by the word “and,” showing that they are three constant needs of God’s people: provision for our daily needs and for forgiveness of sins and deliverance from evil. The petitions for deliverance from temptation and from the evil one are not linked by the word “and,” which means that they belong together as parts of one request, that is, deliverance from temptation and from the evil (or the evil one) that stands behind it.
Martin Luther once said: “We cannot help being exposed to the assaults, but we pray that we may not fall and perish under them.” Jesus our High Priest in His great intercessory prayer, prayed… ~ “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (Joh.17:15). Let us also pray this for ourselves and for one another.
6. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
The “Lord’s Prayer” gathers together all the prayer’s essential elements, with our major concerns being the honour of God’s Name, the coming of His Kingdom and the doing of His will. These three pre-occupations sum up our duty towards God.
The whole of our personal lives are covered by these requests: our past (“forgive us our debts”), our present (“give us our daily bread”) and our future (“lead us not into temptation”).
To surmise everything, we spoke of in the past three weeks into a few sentences is almost impossible, but in an attempt to help your prayers should contain at least some certain elements:
∞ First, praise God and recognise that He will act how He sees fit.
∞ Second, be aware that God will provide for you whatever you need.
∞ Thirdly, forgive freely and generously.
∞ Fourthly, accept that you have to face temptations but that God will carry you through.
∞ Lastly, remember that God owns everything and He will make sure that His will, will be carried out.