Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.Matthew 6:9-13/NIV
As we enter into the first week of our 40-day season of prayer leading up to Resurrection Sunday, now is an excellent opportunity to take the time to examine and retune our prayer lives to be laser-focused and in harmony as a body of believers. It is not a time to consider why we pray, when we pray, or what we ought to pray, for we know those things. Instead, it is a time when we should review how to pray.
When it comes to prayer, let’s face it. Satan will do his best to interrupt our time of prayer. Whether it’s the phone ringing, someone knocking at the door, or any one of a hundred other distractions, we can sometimes find ourselves trying to squeeze prayer into an already overbooked schedule. When we do so, we can often cut to the chase. In other words, we give God our laundry list of “please do, please don’t,” or “I need, I want” requests, then we wrap it up with an amen, and we’re on our way. However, prayer is so much more.
Throughout the gospel books, we encounter times when the disciples argued about who was the greatest and where one would sit at the dinner table with Jesus. There was even a time when two disciples sought to ensure their place at Jesus’s side in heaven, with one on the right and the other on the left. They wanted to be the Lord’s go-to-guys, if you will. However, I was most impressed when they one day asked Jesus this profound yet simple request: “Lord, teach us to pray.”
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus presents an eloquent, poetic prayer to His disciples, not what to say but how to pray, and though the prayer is short in length, its depth is great. Jesus said:
Our Father, who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name:
Jesus establishes our family-like intimacy with God by stating, “Our Father,” meaning my Father, your Father, and Jesus’s father. Hey! We are family! And the word father refers to how a child would call out to his earthy father. In Aramaic, the child would say, “Abba,” or as we would say, daddy or dad. The phrase “who is in heaven” preserves the balance between God’s transcendence and His nearness to us. “Hallowed be your name” calls us to recognize God’s sovereign holiness. The purpose of this verse is not to offer God our platitudes; it’s to put us into the proper mindset to communion with God.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven:
This verse speaks to the anticipation that should be the heartbeat of every Christian, the day when heaven and earth become one and God makes all things new. It will be a time when evil is no more; there will be no more war, no more death, no more tears, a time when God’s will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven for all eternity.
Give us this day our daily bread:
This verse acknowledges our need for our Father’s daily provision to meet our need for physical sustenance. The use of daily bread reaches back to when God provided manna for the Israelites during their 40-year trek through the desert. However, this verse speaks to me on another level. Jesus said that man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. So for me, this verse also acknowledges my daily need for spiritual sustenance. After all, Jesus did say that He is the bread of life.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors:
This verse is pivotal, and Matthew gives further insight into this in verse 15, where he quotes Jesus, saying, “For if you forgive other people for their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive other people, then your Father will not forgive your offenses.” Here we see that receiving our Father’s forgiveness is linked to our willingness to forgive others. To be forgiven, we must be forgiving.
We have all heard the phrase, “I can forgive you, but I will never forget what you did.” Forgiveness includes forgetting the person’s offense, which is to say do not cling to their offense as an obstacle to reconciling the relationship. Now, I admit, that is a tall order and often easier said than done, but our faith in and reliance on God makes it possible to forgive and forget.
In addition to forgiving and forgetting, we must seek to restore the relationship. Why? Because that is what God does for us when we confess and turn from our sins. He forgives us, remembers our sin no more, and he restores our soul— He restores our relationship with Him. If we say we forgive yet do not forget and offer a path to restoration, chances are we have not truly forgiven in our hearts.
Author Frank Stagg put it this way: “It’s not that God is unwilling to forgive the unforgiving, but that the condition of someone who is unforgiving is such that he or she is incapable of receiving forgiveness.” In other words, unforgiving people are too prideful to seek genuine forgiveness.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
Jesus is not implying that our Father tempts us because the Bible teaches us in James that God neither tempts nor can He be tempted by evil. Instead, we see Jesus giving force to the positive statement, “…deliver us from evil” by setting it against the negative, “…lead us not into temptation.” Here is another way to look at this verse: “Lord, I ask that you not test me; instead, deliver me from the temptations that already surround me.”
By using the Lord’s framework for prayer in our corporate and personal prayer time, imagine what miracles and wonders lie ahead for us over the next 40 days and beyond.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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