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Study Notes:

Matthew 6:5-15

The Lord’s Prayer Pt 4

Summary: Jesus teaches us to declare dependency on our Heavenly Father for provision, pardon, and protection.

As we wrap up our study of the Lord’s Prayer this morning we see a shift in the focus of the prayer.   We finally get to the part where we ask for things, which is the part we think of most.  When it comes to prayer, most people tend think of asking for what we, or other people, need.  For many people, prayer is kind of like a child climbing up on Santa’s lap at the mall, telling him all they want for Christmas.

And in some ways that’s OK.  Jesus actually encourages us to ask God for things in prayer.  In fact, later on He’ll tell the disciples that sometimes they don’t have what they need because they haven’t asked God for it.  So, there is nothing wrong, fundamentally, with asking God for things or help.  But there are a few things you need to know first.  Let’s review them together again by starting our reading in:

Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 In this manner, therefore, pray:

​​Our Father in heaven,

​​Hallowed be Your name.

10 ​​Your kingdom come.

​​Your will be done

​​On earth as it is in heaven.

11 ​​Give us this day our daily bread.

12 ​​And forgive us our debts,

​​As we forgive our debtors.

13 ​​And do not lead us into temptation,

​​But deliver us from the evil one.

​​For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

When we pray, and especially when we make requests of God we need to thoughtful about how we pray. Jesus tells us: don’t pray to make a show of yourself in front of other people.  We focus on the God we are praying to, not the people who are looking or listening on. 

We also don’t need to try to get our way in prayer by using the right words, the right formula as if God’s really hard to get in touch with unless you use the Rosary or the Hail Mary or the Prayer of Jabez.  Jesus said don’t think you’ll be heard because you repeat the same formula over and over.

So, we need to be thoughtful about how we pray, but we also need to think about whom we are praying to.  The Lord’s Prayer opens with a reminder that we pray to a real God with a real personality, a real character.  We’re told to call Him, Father.  And, He is Holy – we say, “Hallowed be Your name.”  He has a will, a plan, a desire, there is a way God wants things to go and the greatest question in our lives is: do we agree with that direction?  Is it the way we want to go?  As Christians we pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” because we recognize that God’s plans and ways, His direction for our lives is the best, far better than any plans we could make on our own.

And once we’ve got all of that – once we think about how we pray and who we’re praying to, then we make our requests. Do you see why the order is important? Once we understand who God is, then we pray

11 ​​Give us this day our daily bread.

12 ​​And forgive us our debts,

​​As we forgive our debtors.

13 ​​And do not lead us into temptation,

​​But deliver us from the evil one.

We’re asking a God who is like a Father, but who is also Holy, a God who has an eternal kingdom, to meet our daily needs.  We can summarize the requests of the Lord’s prayer as an expression of dependence on God in three specific areas – for provision, pardon, and protection.  In broad terms, this summarizes all areas of life.  We ask for Provision – our daily bread saying, “God I need You to sustain me.”  We ask for Pardon – “God I need you to forgive me, and help me be forgiving toward others.”  And we ask for Protection – God keep me away from things that will harm me, things I’m not ready to face.

We’ll get into each of these requests in depth in a moment, but first I need to make sure we all understand that Jesus is telling you: it’s OK to pray to God and ask for things.  In fact, if you’re asking for daily bread, then that must mean it’s OK to ask God for the things you need on a regular basis.  You can come to Him every day and keep asking.  He actually wants it to be that way.

But we don’t always want it to be that way – we have all sorts of reasons why we resist, reject, or ignore this pattern of coming to God and asking for things.  Let’s talk about three of the most common.

First of all, some don’t want to ask God for anything because they don’t want to bother Him with the trivial details of their life.  They figure He’s busy running the universe, and has a lot more important things going on than just listening to you ask for your silly little things. 

Now, that sounds very humble and spiritual, but it’s not a biblical view.  The person who feels this way probably views God more as a CEO or President – He’s the one running the show and doesn’t have time for people who just work in the lobby.  If that’s you, may I gently direct your attention back to the first words of this prayer?  Who is the prayer directed toward? It says, “Our FATHER in Heaven.”  Do you see why the order of the prayer is important? 

Fathers have time to listen to the requests of their kids.  Now, it is possible for a father to get so caught up in his professional identity that he loses sight of his parental identity, but when that happens it’s because something has gone wrong and needs to be re-calibrated.  Regardless of the father’s position outside the home, he is still to be accessible, concerned, and engaged with the children of his own home.  So, like a child who is hungry has no problem asking dad for a snack, the child of God should have no problem asking God for daily bread.  Jesus is telling us: He’s not too busy for our requests and concerns.

So that’s one objection to prayer.  Here’s another.  Maybe you grew up poor and never wanted to ask your parents for anything because you knew they didn’t have it to give.  And so, you don’t want to ask God for anything because you’re not the kind of person who asks for things.  You’re independent and you don’t like to lean on anyone or take a handout.

Well, that’s not a good understanding of God either.  As we will see in the coming weeks, God encourages us to ask for things – remember Jesus said there is a reward for those who pray.  And God says there are times when we don’t have simply because we have not asked. So think through your needs, humble yourself and bring them to the God who wants to hear.

Which brings us to the third reason some people don’t pray more: you might think, “What’s the need?”  Praying for daily bread seems trite when your refrigerator and pantry are stocked.  I don’t think anyone in this room is praying with sincerity and desperation for their daily bread. And if you are, please see one of the pastors after the service – we want to know what we can do to help you. 

Most of us already have food in the kitchen, enough for today, tomorrow, and perhaps even leftovers from yesterday.  And, you’ve got money in your purse or wallet to buy something on the way home if you need it.  Even if you don’t, you’ve probably got credit you could tap into.  So, yeah, “give us this day our daily bread” sounds kind of unrealistic.

Our modern affluence has smothered our sense of dependency on God.  You might call it affluenza – the excess of commercialism killing our soul.  I would be happy to make the case that while on the one hand I appreciate material blessings – I appreciate being able to plan meals out for the week and come out of the store with a cart full of groceries – on the other hand, I strongly believe that prosperity kills piety. 

So we find ourselves in this strange place where we live without a sense of daily dependence on God, but suddenly when disaster strikes and the grocery store runs out of everything from water to milk and eggs and there won’t be a resupply for days we suddenly begin to pray to a God we barely know and we’re reminded how fragile our daily lives really are.

Yes, most of us can go through the day without praying for daily bread, but at what cost to your soul?  The Apostle Paul, who famously said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” said that in the context of living through times of abundance and times of austerity.  He said he had learned how to be abased, and how to abound. 

That’s something we all need to work on, for I am certain we live in times of abundance that callous the soul by reducing our apparent dependency on God.  Now, I chose my words very carefully there – notice I said ‘our apparent dependency on God.’  We’re still dependent on Him and on His mercies regardless of how much we sense it or feel it.  What would you be able to hold on to if God began stripping things out of your life?  What if He took everything except the things you thank Him for – what would you be left with?  You see, we are much more dependent on God that we think even though our dependency is not always immediately evident.

And so, Jesus gives us this prayer – a prayer for all people, at times, all around the world – to the beggar on the streets and the professional in the city – we are all encouraged to pray for provision, pardon, and protection, so let’s take a look at each in turn.

We begin with provision – 11 ​​Give us this day our daily bread.

Notice the simplicity of the request – it’s a prayer for bread not beef.  Now, if God gives beef, go for it!  Enjoy a nice steak every now and then.  But this prayer is for the simple necessities of life.

And notice as well that the request is for daily bread – not a monthly supply.  What is that?  It’s because we want to stay in relationship with God.  God is not asking us to be independent.  Reliance is a good thing in this sense.  You see, here is where we go wrong in so much of our prayer – so much of it views God as Santa who brings us what we want if we’ve been good and then we don’t see Santa again all year.  But God wants us to see Him as our Heavenly Father whom we interact with daily. 

My kids are dependent on my wife and I for every meal and snack they eat whether in the house or out at a restaurant.  And that’s fine, they’re young, that’s how it should be.  Well, that’s how God wants us to see our relationship with Him.  I don’t expect my seven-year-old daughter to pick up the tab or cook the family dinner – even if she does help in preparing it I don’t expect her to pay for the ingredients.  She’s my daughter and I’m happy to provide for her. 

The same is true with you and God.  But do you see things that way?  How would praying only for the needs of today affect your prayers? 

And here’s something else to consider: how much of the stuff I have stockpiled and hoarded because I don’t want to get rid of it or because I might use it again one day is smothering me spiritually?  What could I purge or pass on for my own good and the good of others? 

Notice the communal aspect of this prayer – give US this day OUR daily bread.  We are to pray for our own needs and the needs of others.  Maybe you don’t sense the need as acutely as other people, but I can guarantee you there are Christians all around the world who are praying this prayer for REAL today – God give us what we need just to survive.  Can you join them in their prayer, asking God to take care of them?  And, might God want to give them their daily bread by using you to give some of what you have?

I’ll leave you that to chew on.  We move on now to praying for pardon. 

12 ​​And forgive us our debts,

​​As we forgive our debtors.

John Stott, the famous Christian pastor, theologian and author said, “Forgiveness is as indispensable to the life and health of the soul as food is for the body.”

Now, I don’t know if you know this or not – but Jesus was not a white guy.  You may have seen all kinds of paintings that seem to show otherwise, but remember, He was Jewish.  He probably had light brown skin and deep black hair.  He also probably spoke Aramaic, the language spoken by Jews living in Israel at the time He was alive.  It’s kind of a bridge language between Hebrew and Arabic.

And in Aramaic, the word translated here as ‘debt’ can also be translated as ‘sin.’  One word, two possible translations because they each help us express a similar idea. 

You see, sin is like debt because it puts us in a position where we owe something to another.  Have you ever heard someone say ‘you owe her an apology’?  Think about that – we’re using financial terms to express an obligation you have to another person.  You did something wrong and created a debt.  Or, conversely, someone does something good for you or to you and you say, “how can I ever repay you?”

We use this language of owing people all the time whether for good or ill.  And God uses it to communicate with us about the debt we have to Him.  When we fail to keep God’s commands, or fall short of His expectations no matter how hard we try, we become indebted to Him.

The Bible tells us:

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

All of us are indebted to God.  None of us has lived a perfect life.  Even those who think of themselves as generally good people will admit they have some occasional faults.  Or they have in the past.  No one claims a perfect record when it comes to behavior, attitude, and action.  Whether small or enormous, we’ve all done something wrong. 

And God tells us:

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, notice there – the wages of sin – what we earn by our sin, is death.  But God is the giver of life.  Imagine a tug-of-war with God where you try to hold onto your life and let Him try to take it away – who’s going to win? 

The point is: God is the giver of life, and when we turn our back on Him, we turn our back on everything that is good, beautiful, just, and pure that He has made and that invariably leads to physical death and eventually, eternal separation from Him.  Which, is only fitting – if you want nothing to do with God in life, if you make no time for Him, if you don’t value Him, why would He force you to endure His presence forever in Heaven?

If you’re not happy with God on earth, there is no way you would suddenly be the kind of person who would enjoy Heaven.  So, the wages of sin is death.

But, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.  If you come to God and say, “You’re right – I have done wrong, I have been wrong, I am guilty, I am in debt to You, will You forgive me?  The answer is yes.  You may have earned death, but you can be given life.  And this is one of the things that is so marvelous about Christianity – it’s that you don’t get what you deserve, you receive something else instead, and what you receive is far greater than anything you could ever repair, replace, or restore on your own.

But then, God encourage us to show the same kind of forgiveness toward others.  In fact, in case we missed it, Jesus brings it up again immediately after this prayer.  He says:

Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

You can’t truly understand your own forgiveness and not forgive others.

But some of you are rather astute theologians and you may have said, wait – we’re already forgiven in Christ.  When we come to God and receive forgiveness it’s a once for all act.  When we find salvation it’s forever – God forgives us of all our sins, past, present, and future.  We stand before God holy, righteous, blameless in His sight because we have been hidden in Christ.

And you’re right.  But remember, we’re being called to a life of dependency – we stay connected to forgiveness – our own need for it, and the awareness that we have received it.

Praying for regular forgiveness reminds us there are still sins that plague us daily: actions, attitudes and responses that need to be put to death – new ways that we need to learn to live.  And, it reminds us that in this fallen world, people still sin against us, for all kinds of reasons, and so – we need to remain tightly tethered to the forgiveness we receive in order that we might continue to show forgiveness as well.

And that brings us to our final need: protection. So we pray

13 ​​And do not lead us into temptation,

​​But deliver us from the evil one.

Now, this immediately poses a problem for some of you Bible scholars because you remember that James says:

James 1:13 “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone”

So, what do we do we make of this?  Well, you have here an idea that doesn’t translate as easily into English as we would like.  We have been saying: the idea in the Lord’s Prayer is that we are constantly dependent on God.  We ask Him for provision, we ask Him pardon and now, we ask Him for protection from situations we cannot handle on our own. 

The word temptation can also be translated as testing.  And we know that God does allow us to be tested – to be tried, to be proven.  God allows us to be tested because He wants to see us grow, Satan wants to tempt us in order to see us fall.  The situation is the same, it’s just the desire of the person watching that is different. 

So when I pray “do not lead me into temptation,” I’m praying: God don’t let me face trials I’m not ready for – don’t leave me alone, don’t make me go it without You, because I recognize how dependent I am on You, my Heavenly Father, for strength, victory, progress and survival in this life.

And do you know what happens when you pray like that? You discover your Heavenly Father is there, offering you provision, pardon, and protection every day – whether you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, or lie down in green pastures, the Lord is your shepherd.  God is your Father. 

Christian, this is our God.  Are you receiving all He has for you?  Are you offering all you have and are to Him?  Are you dependent on Him and are you receiving from Him?  Is there anything you legitimately lack that He will not in His goodness provide?

Our God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that who ever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  He promises He will not turn away those who come to Him, but will receive you, and make His home with you, forever.  If that’s something you’re interested in learning more about, please let someone know after the service.

But for now, let’s pray.

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