We have all gone through a dramatic metamorphosis over the last year and—almost a year and a half. We have found that if we had like Rip Van Winkle gone to sleep and slept for a century or more and awakened, we would have awakened to a very different world. In many ways our world is very different now than it was even a year and a half ago. I think it’s pretty fair to say we are now living in an utterly pagan nation. By all measures it is a pagan nation. Even the church, like ancient Israel, has decided to worship God on the one hand and worship idols on the other hand, as it has bowed its knee to cultural gods.
Truth is replaced by lies, love is replaced by hate, peace is replaced by anger, and we are looking around asking what the solutions are. There are people who tell us the solutions are political. Others would tell us the solutions are social—we need to literally have a revolution in our country and burn down everything that is in the past and reconstruct some new utopian sociology. Others tell us it’s economic—the reason things are the way they are is because of economic inequality. And all of these things will help us get back to what would be an acceptable life, if we just deal with things politically, socially, and economically.
But what is God’s strategy? Because this is nothing new for the people of God. Israel in the Old Testament was a tiny nation in the sea of paganism. Back when they went into the Promised Land, having left Egypt, the pagans were so different, so anti-God, so demonic and satanic, that God told them to literally kill them all, be instruments of divine judgment. They didn’t do that. Instead they compromised with them, and the rest is the sad history of the Old Testament.
The church as we know it in the New Testament, the church our Lord established in the book of Acts, was another island in the middle of paganism. The Old Testament had no impact on the world at that time, and certainly the New Testament arrival of Jesus and the preaching of Jesus and the apostles had no affect on the world of that era either. So whether you’re Israel in the Old Testament, or whether you’re the church in the New Testament, or whether you’re the church today, the circumstances are very much the same—which then raises the question that is, “How did Jesus tell His people to confront these realities?” And for that I want you to open your Bible to the eleventh chapter of Luke, the eleventh chapter of Luke. And I have a great challenge ahead of me. I want to look at four verses; but when I originally preached this a few years ago, it took ten messages.
Luke chapter 11, verse 1, “It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John’”—John the Baptist—“‘also taught his disciples.’ And He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’” Jesus instructs us here to confront the world of paganism with something that seems to be of very little interest to the contemporary evangelical church; and that is to confront paganism with prayer, with prayer.
When God appeared on Mount Sinai in the Old Testament, the Israelites saw His presence, and they saw that His presence was accompanied by some very frightening realities: displays of thunder and lightning and smoke because, as Hebrews 12:29 says, “God is a consuming fire.” But in spite of the reality that God was presenting Himself as a terrifying sovereign and Judge, God also declared that He was approachable, and that His people needed to come to Him in prayer.
“The Holy One,” said the rabbis, the ancient rabbis, “yearns for the prayers of the righteous.” In Psalm 50 and verse 15, we read, “Call on Me in the day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor Me.” Psalm 91:15, “When he calls to Me,” says God, “I will answer him.” Psalm 145:18, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.” Psalm 65:2, “O You who hears prayer, unto You shall all flesh come.” Even in the Old Testament, with God as a consuming fire, God was approachable—and called His people to come to Him.
There’s a commentary, an ancient commentary called midrash, on Psalm 65, and here’s a paragraph from it: “A human king can hearken to two or three people at once, but he cannot hearken to more; God is not so, for all men may pray to him, and he hearkens to them all simultaneously. Men’s [ears] become satisfied . . .” and men’s ears can only hear a little, “but God’s ears are never [satisfied]. He is never wearied by men’s prayers.” The rabbis were saying in that commentary that God hears everyone all the time; no one is rejected who comes to Him.
The rabbis even taught that prayer was greater than sacrifice. Jewish teachers believed that prayer should be constant. In the Talmud it says, “Honor the physician before you have need of him.” And that means go to God in prayer before you get desperate. Pray when you’re in prosperity. Commune with God.
Now there were several elements in Jewish prayer; you find these through the Old Testament. I’m just going to run down some of them, just to give you a sense of this. First, there is the element of love and praise. Jewish prayers were filled with expressions of love and praise to God. Psalm 34, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 51, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise” [(NKJV)].
Also, Jewish prayers were filled with gratitude and thanksgiving. Jonah prayed, chapter 2, verse 9, “I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving.” And the rabbis said this: “Though all prayers will one day be discontinued, prayers of thanksgiving will go on forever.”
The third thing that was part of Jewish prayers was a recognition of God’s holiness. A rabbi named Simon said, “In his prayer, a man should think the shekinah glory of God was before him.” In other words you’re coming to God recognizing His glory.
A fourth element in Jewish prayer was a desire to please and obey God. And Psalm 119 is just full of this, almost in every single verse; the whole psalm illustrates the desire to please and obey God. One verse, “My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right” [(ESV)]. And that theme goes all the way through those verses.
So Jewish prayer had an element of love and praise, gratitude and thanksgiving, recognition of God’s holiness, desire to please and obey. It also had a component that we’re familiar with, and that is confession of sin and a request for a pure heart. Psalm 26:6, “I will wash my hands in innocence, and come to Your altar, O Lord.” Psalm 24:3 and 4, who can ascend to the Lord? He that has clean hands and a pure heart. The Jews believe that the prayer of the righteous in confession could turn the anger of God to mercy.
A sixth element of Jewish prayer was unselfishness. The highest Jewish prayers were offered always for the community. It was a little unusual to pray for oneself. For example, here’s a quote: “Israel will all be redeemed,” they said, “only when it forms one single band. When all are united, they will receive the presence of the shekinah.” The rabbis said that in order to get people to unselfishly pray for corporate, national Israel rather than their own personal agendas. Another interesting thing the rabbis taught is expressed in this: “Let not the prayer of the traveler find entrance, O Lord, before You.” Don’t listen to the prayer of a traveler. Why? Because travelers want fair weather, but farmers need rain.
There was also in Jewish prayer not only the idea that you were praying in a corporate sense—and you see this most powerfully illustrated in the ninth chapter of Daniel; you can look at it on your own—but another element of Jewish prayer was perseverance. Moses was praying for the mercy of God in Deuteronomy 3 even after God said, “Enough” for you. “Speak no more to Me of this matter,” Deuteronomy 3:26. God said, “That’s enough”—and Moses prayed for Israel after the golden calf for forty days. Jewish prayers pled with God.
There’s another element in Jewish prayer, and it’s humility. Over and over again Jewish prayers begin with this phrase: “May it be Your good pleasure. May it be Your will.”
Now all of these elements were embedded in Old Testament praying. That is the traditional Jewish approach to prayer. Psalm 55:1 and 2, “Give ear to my prayer, O God. . . . Give heed to me and answer me.” Psalm 61:1 and 2, “Hear my cry, O God; give heed to my prayer. . . . I call to You when my heart is faint.” Or Psalm 116, verses 1 and 2, “I love the Lord,” Yahweh, “because He hears my voice and my supplication. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.” You get the sense that they believed in prayer, and that prayer had all of those components and all of those elements.
Why am I telling you that? Because as the Lord teaches His disciples to pray, He is really restating those same things. It’s not as if this is new revelation; these are the very elements that made up prayer in the Old Testament, refined by our Lord. Why, if this is the traditional Jewish way to pray, why was it that the disciples in verse 1 say, “Lord, teach us to pray”? And by the way this isn’t the first time they said it. It’s recorded in Matthew 6, verses 9–13; they ask the same question months before, months before. This scene takes place near Jerusalem. The Sermon on the Mount took place in Galilee months before, and they were asking the same question then; and they’re back asking the same question here.
Why, if this is the traditional way the Jews pray, and if they grew up in Judaism and were familiar with Scripture, why is it that they don’t understand this? Why is it that they don’t get this? Why do they need to be instructed in prayer after all the generations of the traditional approach to prayer the Old Testament lays out? Well the answer is pretty simple, really. The answer is true prayer had been replaced by hypocrisy.
Matthew chapter 6, verse 5, Jesus says, “When you pray, you’re not to be like the hypocrites.” What had happened to Judaism had therefore happened to prayer in Judaism: True religion had been replaced with hypocrisy. “Don’t pray like the hypocrites; they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” And that is that they were seen by men, not heard by God. “But, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, pray to your Father who’s in secret. Your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the pagans do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” So you have Jewish prayers, which had been reduced to self-promoting hypocrisy, and pagan prayers, which dominated the outside culture; and this had left true prayer out of the picture.
So the disciples say, “We need to know how to pray.” And again, I say, a few months before they had asked that question as well. So Jesus says, “OK, here’s how to pray.” Verse 2, “When you pray, say this.”
And we know these familiar words—a little bit different than Matthew 6, but we are familiar with the prayer. And we love the prayer, and we pray the prayer, and we sing the prayer, and that’s fine. It is an amazing prayer. But it is more than just a prayer, it is structure on how to pray.
When you pray through this structure, the first things you notice are there are basically two persons involved. There is God, and there is us. God is Father. It refers to His name, His kingdom, His will, His gifts, His forgiveness, His guidance and leading. For us it is equally important. We are not only asking for things with regard to Him, but for us: our daily bread, forgiveness for our sins, and leading us not into temptation. In an economy of divine words, just that very brief section, verses 2, 3, and 4, the Lord gives us a structure for how to pray in the dire circumstance of being the people of God in the midst of paganism. And you have to learn how to pray because we have Christian hypocrisy, and we have pagan forms of prayer; and sometimes the two are mixed.
What is it that the Lord tells us here, in giving us this structure? Now the disciples asked the question, “Teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples.” John had a group of followers, and it was said of them, “The disciples of John often fast and pray.” They had been what I guess you could call identified, thus, as a remnant of people who were still praying the way you were supposed to pray. They were still praying in the traditional and appropriate way. It was the Pharisees who commented about John the Baptist and his disciples that they fast and pray. So the disciples are saying, “How do we pray the way John’s disciples pray?” “When you pray,” or literally, “Whenever you pray.” In the broad sense, “Whenever you pray, say this”—and the first word, verse 2—“Father. Father.” This is absolutely critical.
This is the first feature in the structure of prayer: You identify God as Father. He is rarely called Father in the Old Testament, by the way. Never in the Old Testament is there a prayer addressing Him which calls Him Father. In fact it was so strange and so unheard of for Jews to call God Father, that when Jesus called God Father, John 5:18 says the Jews wanted to kill Him—because in so doing He was making Himself equal with God.
And while it’s rare in the Old Testament that the Jewish people call God Father, although there are occasions that He is identified as Father in the Creator sense, Father in the sustainer sense, Father in the compassionate sense, it’s not until you get to the New Testament, and the change is just overwhelming. God is called Father sixty-five times in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and a hundred times in the gospel of John.
And the Greek is patēr. But the Jews didn’t speak Greek, they spoke Aramaic. And the word they used was abba; abba, the most intimate term the children would use to refer to their father. The word for mother was immah. Immah and abba. Still used today in Hebrew-speaking families, an endearing expression of tender affection and family love. This was really just unheard of, among the Jews, to be that familiar with God.
So we’re coming to God in a relational sense that is something very different than what people have assumed in the past. Even though God declared Himself available, even though God declared His compassion, His love, His mercy, His kindness, His tenderness, His power, His lovingkindness, distance had come between the people and God, because the nation had become a nation of hypocrites. Jesus begins with addressing God, then, in a way the Jews never did. Oh they would see God as a father in the creative sense or in the sovereign sense; but in this intimate expression, this is the relational sense. God is a loving father.
The New Testament makes so much of this. This is where all prayer has to begin, with the recognition of God’s promise to grant us our request. Listen to Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it’ll be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” Again, He’s your Father, He’s your Father. He’s not a stranger, He’s Abba.
Jesus made an amazing statement in John 20, verse 17. He was talking about going back to heaven, and He said, “I will go to My Father and your Father.” In Jesus’ time the distance between God and man was widening. Even the names of God were hidden, not allowed to be spoken of in public. Jesus always called God Father—every time except one, when He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
There was an emphasis, then, in that, of the relationship and the intimacy of that relationship. Israel knew God as the Father of the nation, the God of Israel. “Our Father,” says 1 Chronicles 29. They knew His presence in a creative sense, in a sense of expressing power. They also knew from some of the psalms that He was compassionate. They knew God was there to guide them. Jeremiah 31:9, “They will come with weeping and with supplications, and I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way in which they shall not stumble; for I am a father to Israel.”
God was the Father in creation, He was the Father in sovereignty, He was a father in compassion, He was a father in guidance. They even knew that He played the role of a father in terms of the father’s authority. Malachi 1:6, “A son honors his father . . . . Then if I am a father, where is My honor?” God says through the prophet, “If I’m your Father, then I should have the honor that a father deserves.”
So the reality of God as Father was part of the Old Testament. But you have to understand, they’re an apostate nation—they don’t have a relationship with God. They don’t have that relationship, so they increasingly, historically distance themselves from the very idea of that relationship and sort of placed in granite the transcendence of God as over against the imminence of God.
But by the word “father,” listen to what Jesus is saying: “God is not apatheia” like the Stoic god, unable to feel anything; “God is not ataraxia,” like the Epicurean god, living in perfect, calm, indifferent serenity. God is not the god of Thomas Hardy, an Englishman who called God “the dreaming, dark, dumb Thing that turns the handle on this idle show.” God is not the god of the Deists.
He is Abba, He is Papa. And all that settles the matter of fear, and all that settles the matter of loneliness and settles the matter of hope and settles the matter of love and settles the matter of resources. Every time you say, “Father,” you’re not lost in the crowd. Every time you say, “Father,” you remember Isaiah 45:3, “I am the Lord who calls you by name.” Every time you say, “Father,” you put yourself in the place of the prodigal son, don’t you? And the Father has His arms around you, and puts a robe on you and a ring on your finger and sandals on your feet, and all of heaven celebrates your sonship.
All prayer begins with that. The recognition that, to simplify it and contemporize it a little bit, the Father knows best. Father has all the resources. Father has all the authority. Father has all the wisdom, all the experience, all the compassion, all the kindness, all the knowledge, to give us everything we need. Instead of screaming against the darkness, raging against the darkness, you turn to the light in prayer, recognizing God as source.
Secondly, recognizing God as sacred. “Father, hallowed be Your name.” What dominates this prayer immediately after the introductory word “Father” is the honor of God; that must be dominant. The first thing you need to say in your prayer is not, “I’m here to confess what I want. I’m here to give You my agenda.” No, “I’m here to honor You.”
The honor of our God is dominant; we seek nothing above that. Everything is filtered through that. The first petition establishes the priority and ends all selfishness and all self-seeking. And when you say, “Hallowed be Your name,” it’s not like, “Long live the King”; it’s not just some verbal compliment. And it’s not some kind of casual bit of religious jargon. When you say, “Hallowed be Your name,” you’re expressing such enormous respect that you wouldn’t ever say anything to God that did not exalt His glory. He is the reason for our prayer. His kingdom is, as we will see, the object of our prayer. His name, His glory, that’s where all prayer begins. And after all, Romans 11 says, all things are by Him and for Him. So as we look at that statement, “Hallowed be Your name,” let’s just talk about “name”—what does that mean?
In biblical times the name stood for more than just a title or a designation by which a person was called. First Samuel 18:30 speaks regarding David, “His name was highly esteemed.” The name of a person takes on the character of that person, right? I mean that’s true in your life. When somebody gives you a name, you make judgments about that person based on what you know about the person. The name basically is the entry into all that that person is.
The name stands for the entire character of the person, revealed. The name stands for the personal, the communicable and incommunicable attributes of the person you’re talking about. The name of God stands for His nature, His character, His attributes, His personality. In fact His name is everything that He is; that’s why Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know Your name put their trust in You.” It’s not just knowing His name in Hebrew or English, it means knowing His character, knowing all that is bound up in His name.
I love Psalm 20, verse 7: “Some boast of chariots and some of horses, but we boast of the name of the Lord, our God. We boast of the name of the Lord, our God.” Jesus in John 17:6 said this most magnificent statement: “I have manifested”—His prayer to the Father—“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world.” What did He mean, “I manifested Your name”? “I showed them Your person.” John 1 says that Jesus was “full of grace and truth” because He was “the only begotten of the Father.” He was God in human flesh. All that Jesus is is bound up in His name. In effect Jesus clearly revealed God. His true nature was God.
So “name” is not a title, it is the total of a person. And I think that’s even true in life. As I said a moment ago, when you say a person’s name, that name immediately comes through to you as the embodiment of what you know about that person. So this is how you pray: “Father, may Your person, Your character, Your nature, Your attributes, Your reputation, Your being be hallowed.”
And the very names of God are many, aren’t they? Yahweh, the tetragrammaton, the “I AM”; it’s the verb “to be”: “I AM WHO I AM.” What does that mean? The uncreated, unchanging, self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal being. Elohim, the name that acknowledges Him as Creator, and the third word in the Bible: “In the beginning God.” El Elyon, which you find in Genesis 14: God the Most High. And there is Jireh, Yahweh-Jireh: the Lord will provide. Yahweh-Nissi: the Lord our banner. Rapha: the Lord that heals. Shalom: the Lord our peace. Raah: the Lord my Shepherd. Tsidkenu: the Lord my righteousness. Sabaoth: the Lord of hosts. Shammah: the Lord is present. Mekoddishkem: the Lord sanctifies you. And then the beautiful word Adonai: Lord. But the most magnificent name of God is this name: Lord Jesus Christ. In Him all the character of God is revealed. He is all that God is, manifest in the flesh.
So we understand the name. So we say, “Father, I acknowledge all that You are, and I ask that that reality be hallowed.” When you read “hallowed,” you think immediately of some archaic, some ancient or obscure, musty, dusty piece of history. Maybe old, cloistered halls, long robes, dismal chants. “Hallowed” may show up more in Harry Potter books than it does in your vocabulary. You may think of halos or mournful, morbid music and other tired traditions. But hallowed is hagiazō, it means holy—holy, holy.
So “I’m coming into Your presence with one goal in mind, and that is to acknowledge that You are my loving Father; and You are God the source, but You are also the God who is sacred, and I recognize that; I bow to Your holiness. You’re a different kind of being than I am. I come to Your matchless perfection in reverence and worship.” This is a protection against sentimentalism. Too much Abba and not enough hallowing gets out of balance.
When a Jew called God, “Father,” traditionally, they would almost always in their prayers immediately then say something about God’s majesty. Here are some of their prayers: “O Lord, Father, and ruler of my life. O Lord, Father, and God of my life. O Father, King of great power, Most High, Almighty God.” And then a series of prayers, eighteen prayers called Shemoneh Esrei. All of the eighteen start like this: “O Father, O King, O Lord.” On the ten penitential days at the time of the Day of Atonement, the Jews prayed what was called the Avinu Malkeinu: “Our Father, our King. Our Father, our King. Our Father, our King.” And that prayer sequence repeated that duet forty-four times, “Our Father, our King. Our Father, our King.” They would recognize, at least to some degree, God as a compassionate father; but immediately, they would match that with a declaration of His utter and absolute sovereignty.
So to hallow the name is to set apart everything that is common, everything that is human, everything that is profane; to acknowledge God and God alone as holy. That’s how you pray.
How do you hallow His name? By believing in Him. By believing that He is who He says He is. By believing that He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By worshiping Him as He is. By thanking Him. By submitting to His will. By glorifying Him. By displaying Him through your life. Every possible way that you acknowledge the sovereign glory of God is a way you hallow His name.
And you can spend a lot of time on those first two, can’t you? Prayer should major on acknowledging God as the source. And if you know your Bible, you can rehearse all that Scripture says about Him as the source of everything: Father of lights, the one from whom all good things come. You can spend a lot of time on God as sacred, rehearsing back to Him in your prayer that you acknowledge His absolute perfection, majesty, glory, and holiness.
Now you’re ready for the third element: God as sovereign. “Your kingdom come. Your kingdom come.” This is so obvious it really doesn’t need much of an explanation. But here is our Lord, preparing these disciples to live and proclaim the gospel in a completely hypocritical, corrupt, and apostate form of Judaism, surrounded by a world that knows nothing about Him, nothing at all, nothing about the Old Testament, nothing about the gospel. How are they ever going to make any advance? He says, “Here’s a simple request: Your kingdom come. God, do whatever advances Your kingdom.” That’s the heart of true prayer, OK? That’s the heart of true prayer.
That’s what we ought to be praying now, right? We’ve had enough of the kingdom of Satan. We’ve had enough of the kingdom of darkness. But are we praying for His kingdom to come? The Talmud said that the prayer in which there is no mention of the kingdom of God is not even a prayer. That was known theologically but not implemented, as hypocritical prayers were in and of themselves self-congratulatory and self-promoting.
We need to pray that His kingdom would come. How does His kingdom come? Pretty simple: one soul at a time. His kingdom advances one soul at a time, one believer at a time. That’s what we need to be praying for. All these people who call themselves Christians, who are caught up in all of this social nonsense and turning people into haters, trying to promote rearranging life in a fallen world by making speeches to each other, should silence their mouths and go before God and ask Him to bring His kingdom.
You say, “Will God answer that prayer?” Listen, the church is the answer to that prayer. This is His kingdom. And I will tell you this: Over the last year and a half the Lord has advanced His kingdom—certainly in this place. While everything else seems to be going the wrong direction, this place is definitely going the right direction.
So the prayer is, “Let Your kingdom come down. Let Your kingdom come to earth. Bring Your kingdom.” Which means, “Bring an advance of the gospel that brings salvation that builds the church,” because the church is where the kingdom of God on earth is seen. And this is a prayer that we need to pray with some importunity.
You can never make a truce with evil. Look, we believe strongly in the sovereignty of God, but we don’t make a truce evil. We don’t just sit by and watch whatever happens happen. We fight against evil. You can never be indifferent to the evil of this world. You can never be indifferent to the eternal damnation of lost souls. You can never be resigned to some passive attitude, some gray acceptance of the way things are. You can never let your theological clarity become theological comfort and stifle your zeal for the intercession that calls on God to reveal His saving power in the world.
This kind of prayer is a rebellion. You want to rebel, rebel this way: David Wells said, “In [an] essence, rebellion—rebellion against the world in its fallenness, the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal. It is, in this its negative aspect, the refusal of every agenda, every scheme, every interpretation that is at odds with the norm as originally established by God. As such, it is itself an expression of the unbridgeable chasm that separates Good from Evil, the declaration that Evil is not a variation on [God] but its antithesis.”
We will never make a truce with evil. We will never surrender the biblical view of God. That’s why Jesus said in Luke 18:1, “At all times pray and do not lose heart.” We need to pray for His kingdom to come. J. I. Packer said, “The prayer of a Christian is not an attempt to force God’s hand, but a humble acknowledgement of helplessness and dependence.” And I would add it’s even more than that: It’s an act of faith that believes that God works through our prayers.
So we’ve gone through this: We’ve seen God as source, God as sacred; we’ve seen God as sovereign. And after establishing all of that, we sort of get to us, verse 3: God as supplier. “Give us each day our daily bread.” It’s not, “Make me rich.” We go from the majesty of God to the need of man. The two realms are contiguous. The whole idea of bringing His majesty to earth necessitates that His church is alive. Can we make it as simple as that? “Keep me alive so that I can give testimony to the truth of the gospel. Sustain me so that I can witness to Your name and Your glory.” The Lord promises to meet every need, every need.
“Take no thought,” He says in the Sermon on the Mount, “what you shall eat or drink. I know you have need of that; I’ll take care of that. I’ll sustain your life, because I can’t advance My kingdom if you’re dead.” That’s why Paul said, “Far better to depart and be with Christ; but I need to stay for your sake.” So we shouldn’t be getting to the point where we start saying to each other, “Things are so bad, let’s just all go to heaven.” No, things are so bad, let’s all rebel spiritually. Let’s never make a truce with evil; let’s pray for the kingdom to come and proclaim the gospel of salvation.
And that leads to the next. We see God as source, sacred, sovereign supplier, and then God as Savior. Verse 4, “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who’s indebted to us. Forgive our sins.” Sin is violation of God’s law. Sin is a crime incurring guilt. Sin deserves punishment; and that punishment is eternal hell, unless you have turned to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who has provided forgiveness to those who believe in Him. So when you get to yourself, you’re really praying, very simply, “Keep me alive, and show the power of Your forgiveness in my life.”
How do you see that? You see the power of Your forgiveness in my life by my forgiveness of others. Jesus gave a parable, remember, back in Matthew of a man who was forgiven an unpayable debt, and went out and strangled somebody who owed him a modest amount. Jesus was outraged in the parable.
You show that you have been forgiven by forgiving. This, Jesus made wonderfully clear in the Sermon on the Mount. Listen to Matthew 6:12, “Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” Then down in verse 14, “If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” That’s pretty straight.
You want to be forgiven? You want to have a clean slate with God, even as a believer? You want to make sure that your account is right with God? You want to be forgiven? Then be a forgiver.
The false religion that’s being foisted on our world that wants to provide no forgiveness, nothing but vengeance, violence, revenge, hate, is as anti-Christian as it can be. You put yourself on display as a Christian when you forgive, when you forgive; and you show that God is a Savior. If you don’t forgive, you’re not being forgiven. You’re in sin.
So how do you pray? You pray to God as source, you pray to God as sacred, as sovereign, as supplier, as Savior; and one final, beautiful note, you pray to God as security: “Lead us not into temptation.” This affirms what God has already declared: He is holy. He doesn’t temp anyone, not anyone. Scripture is abundantly clear on that.
James 1:13, “Let no one say when he’s tempted, ‘I’m being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he’s carried away and enticed by his own lusts.” God doesn’t tempt. We say, “God, give us bread,” and God says, “I’m going to give you bread; I make that promise.” We say, “God, forgive my sins,” and God says, “I have forgiven you all your sins in Christ, in the large sense, and I will continue to forgive your sins, wash your feet”—in the John 13 sense—“if you forgive others.” And God says, “Believe Me; I would never lead you into temptation.”
So you’re praying, then, that God would be God. “Protect us from trials that could turn into temptation,” would be the idea. And God promises that: “There’s no temptation taken you but such is as common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that you’re able, but will with the temptation make a way of escape,” 1 Corinthians 10:13. God will keep you alive; God will keep on forgiving your sins, washing your feet, as it were, as long as you are forgiving everyone else. And He will never, ever put you in a situation where a trial is going to directly lead to a temptation; He will always give a way of escape.
So when you pray, pray this way: “All I ask for myself is life, forgiveness, and holiness; all the rest I leave to You, so that Your name will be hallowed and Your kingdom will come.” Pray this way.
John 14:13 says, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” Do you understand what that means now? Anything consistent with what He’s promised (the last three), consistent with who He is (the first requests). And we can wrap it up with the words of James: “You have not because you”—what?—“ask not.”
Let’s just agree to start praying for the kingdom to come, right? Let’s not be praying for an exit. Let our prayers be this: “Father, we acknowledge Your absolute sovereignty. We acknowledge You’re the source of all that is good. We acknowledge that You are holy—that means You never do anything wrong and never make a mistake. We want Your name to be hallowed. We want You to advance Your kingdom through the gospel, one soul at a time. We want You to keep us alive so that we can be useful. We want You to fill us with thanksgiving that produces forgiveness for all who ever offend us, so that we can put Your forgiveness on display. And we want You always to show us the way through a trial so that it doesn’t end up as a temptation.” That’s how you pray. That’s how you pray. “If you pray that way, you ask anything,” He says, “I will do it for My name’s sake.”
Father, we thank You again for Your Word. So many frustrated people, some of them professing Christians, trying to figure out how to fix the world. The last thing they think about is prayer. Here we are in the midst of paganism. Like Israel in the land of Canaan, like the early church in the middle of the Roman Empire, we’re this little island in a sea of wretchedness orchestrated by the devil—the same devil that orchestrated all the trouble in the Old Testament and the New Testament—and his eternal minions, the demons. And we’re fighting for survival. But our rebellion is not a political one; it is not a sociology strategy; it is not economic. Our battle is fought before Your throne in prayer. We proclaim Your truth, and we pray for Your kingdom to come. Exalt Yourself. Glorify Yourself. Bring Your kingdom, and in Your time, bring Your King, Jesus, back to establish a kingdom of righteousness and holiness.
Until then, may we count it the highest honor to be citizens of the kingdom—to be among those who know Your name, and who are known by You, be the ones whose lives You sustain for the sake of Your kingdom, to be the ones who demonstrate what forgiveness looks like because that’s the heart of the gospel. How can we talk about a forgiving God, say we belong to Him, and have no forgiveness? This is a lie that is so obvious that it makes the gospel look ridiculous.
And Lord, help us to live lives facing trials, but never letting those trials tempt us to distrust You. Show us the way through and the way out; strengthen us by those trials. Father, bring Your kingdom. For Your glory we pray. Amen.
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