After our Lord has taught his people to pray that God’s name may be hallowed, his kingdom come, and his will be done, he now teaches them to pray for their own physical and spiritual needs. The order of the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer is indeed beautiful. After one has prayed the first three petitions in all sincerity he will be able to pray the following petitions in the right frame of heart and mind.
It is significant that our Lord teaches his people to pray for their physical needs before they mention the needs of the soul. That is not due to the fact that the physical is more important; nay, the contrary is true. However, logically the physical comes first (I Corinthians 15:46). God’s people may. rather, must pray for their physical needs too. The Lord is not speaking of spiritual bread, but the bread which we need for the nourishment of our bodies.
Jn this simple statement, “Give us this day our daily bread,” Jesus includes all the necessities of the body. We are here taught to pray for a finished product rather than for the raw material. This includes all the labors necessary for this product. It includes the ability and health to eat this product. All economic life is therefore included in this one, brief petition.
The struggle for existence is almost as old as the human race. Wars are often fought for economic reasons only. The child of God realizes that his bread comes from his Father, and he therefore prays, Give. He recognizes his dependence on his God. Whether the bread is present or not, he still prays, Give. His God is the source from whence all his necessities come, and God’s blessing is necessary even though the necessities are present. It is, therefore, not contradictory to pray, while seated at a laden table, Give us this day our daily bread.
Notice, that Jesus teaches his people to pray only for the essentials. We arc not to pray for wealth. but for our daily bread. That bread has been promised us. When we receive these necessities we are to be content. The possession of the necessities of life should make God’s people grateful-then how much more when they enjoy the abundance of his blessings! Christ teaches us to pray for the necessities of today. Each day has its needs. How dependent man actually is! He is to look to his God each day anew for a blessing.
Is it correct to speak of our daily bread? Is it ours? Do we have a right to it? Remember, we are to address him as our Father. As we pray we come to him as his children. His children are not beggars. His children shall not be found begging bread. They have a certain right to the bread for which they pray. This gives them confidence as they approach the throne of grace. Jesus teaches his followers to pray in such a way that they come confidently and that they will naturally give thanks. Those who pray this petition in sincerity will eat and drink to the glory of God.
The fifth petition is the first one which deals specifically with the needs of the soul. “Forgive us our debts.” The needs of the soul are many, but forgiveness is the most basic need. The one who comes to God in prayer must realize the enormity of his debt. He has nothing. His only possession is his sin! As long as he is in debt to God he cannot ask for other things. This debt must first be forgiven. How dare he ask that this debt simply be canceled? The answer is very simple: He has been promised this forgiveness if he asks for it sincerely. It makes no difference how great the debt is. One owes a little more than another, perhaps, but the figure is a staggering one for everybody.
The latter part of this fifth petition sounds confusing. Jesus instructs his followers to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Is our own readiness to forgive our fellow-man the ground on which God is to forgive us? Are we in this petition asking God to follow our example? It sounds that way. That, however, would be contrary to aIt the teaching of Scripture in other places. Nor does Jesus teach that in this instance. The atonement through the blood of Christ is the only ground for forgiveness. What then, does our Lord mean by these words?
To ask for forgiveness is to ask for more than we would ever dare if we had not been commanded to do so. Not only do we ask for much, but we should also have the assurance that this forgiveness has indeed been given us. How can we be sure? When the grace has been given you to forgive your fellow-man, you have the assurance that you have been forgiven by your God. To forgive our fellow-men is not easy. That takes self-denial; and the self is the last thing a person wants to deny. Our Lord, in the parable recorded in Matthew 18:21–35, teaches us how difficult it often is to forgive our fellow-man. The debt we owe our God is enormous while the amount our fellow-man may owe us is negligible. Man expects God to forgive but is very unforgiving himself. However, do not think that God will forgive you if you do not forgive others.
The sixth petition is closely related to the fifth. Here we are taught to pray that we may not be led into temptation but that we may be delivered from the evil one. We are here taught to fear sin. We are also taught our own weakness. “Don’t lead me into temptation, for I am afraid I will fall into sin”. My spiritual strength is not great enough to enable me to remain standing! This being my prayer, I may not put myself into such places or circumstances where I know the danger of temptation lurks. Deliverance from the evil one, that is, Satan, is also the earnest prayer of the child of God. He knows the evil one’s power. The believer is no match for him. He is afraid that he will sin deeply if the Lord permits him to fall into Satan’s hands. But God controls Satan’s activities. Therefore; Deliver us from the evil one. Job was given into Satan’s hand. Yes, there were restrictions. But notice his decline; At the end of the first chapter – “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” At the close of the next chapter –“ In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” Later he also sinned with his lips! No, Job did not curse God; but “deliver me from the evil one lest I do curse thee!”
The Lord’s Prayer is the model prayer. He who so prays is a child of God and acceptable to him. This prayer is brief but it includes all our needs. Our prayers should be examined in the light of this perfect prayer.
Questions For Discussion
1. May we pray for the standard of living to which we are accustomed?
2. May we pray for more than is promised us?
3. In what sense does God FORGIVE? Remember, Jesus PAID the price.
4. Can we really forgive and forget the evils done to us? If we do not forget them can we expect forgiveness above?
5. How can the concluding petitions of the Lord’s Prayer aid us in knowing “how great our sins and miseries are”?
6. Does God lead his people into temptation?
7. Are we ever really delivered from the evil one as long as we are in this life?