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Monday, June 10, 2013

The Lord's Prayer for Us

Luke 11:2-4 and Matthew 6:9-13 

In considering prayer, the first place one goes as a believer is to the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is included in two of the Gospels, Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. Both Luke and Matthew put the Lord’s Prayer into a context. For Matthew, the context is in how a believer is supposed to live. First he speaks of giving to the poor, then how to pray not like the religious hypocrites, and then in context to forgiving those who sin against us. Luke puts the Lord’s Prayer in the context of how to pray and how our Father in heaven would undoubtedly hear us because of His love for us, like an earthly father loves his child. In both of these passages, we are taught how to pray, but each of them speaks of it in different contexts.   

The Lukan account of the Lord’s Prayer comes about after Jesus prayed and the disciples listened. They heard the relationship with which Jesus approached Yahweh. They heard the certainty in Jesus’ voice when He prayed to Yahweh. They knew they were with a true Teacher of the Word of God. As disciples of a teacher, they asked to be mentored/taught in how to pray. He taught them to say, “Father, hallowed/holy is your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts (no longer keep a debt against us), for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And, lead us not into temptation (keep us from being enticed to sin).” In this prayer, Jesus taught His disciples about revering God and asking for Him to reign on earth. He also taught them how to ask for their needs, for food, forgiveness, and guidance away from temptations. Jesus told them it is not the amount of words that is meaningful, but the request and order of the words. First, as disciples, we are to revere God; we are to recognize that He is most important in the universe, not our needs. Second, Jesus shows that God’s will for earth is more important that our wills. That does not mean that these two are contrary to each other. It does mean that we should be concerned about that with which God is concerned, His people with whom He desires a relationship. Next, we can and should ask for ourselves. Once we have the perspective of God in place, His priorities of our relationship with Him and His relationship with the world, we will be in-line with His desires. We are taught then to pray for our needs. Jesus considers our physical and spiritual needs. When we are in-line with God, then we will ask for those things that are important for our body and spirit, food, clothes, shelter, relationships, forgiveness of sin, and guidance in His way. Jesus recognizes that we are created with mortal bodies that have needs. He knows that these bodies have requirements to be able to survive in the world. Without those provisions, we could not be in the world; we could not be about God’s purposes, to tell others about Him. God does not ignore our physical needs; He knows best what they are because He created them. He also knows we have spiritual needs, once again because He created our spirits. He knows that nothing in the world can fill that need within us and is teaching us through Jesus how to have those needs met. We must recognize our inability not to sin. When we do that, we will have come into the realization that there is a higher level of life than what we can experience with our five senses. We recognize there is a being who is great enough not only to create us, our bodies and spirits, but also to fulfill our needs and desires. It is this need that Jesus addresses in the Lord’s Prayer when He teaches His disciples to ask for forgiveness of sin, ask for strength of spirit to forgive others who sin against us, and to lead us so that our relationship with this higher uncreated being, Yahweh/Father God, is priority. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches His disciples to recognize the Father, rectify their relationship with the Father and with men, request guidance, and relinquish control to the Father’s better knowledge and judgment. 

When you consider the Matthew account of the Lord’s Prayer, it is noted in context with how to be a Christian. Matthew teaches how to give to the poor, how to pray, how to forgive others, how to fast, and why not to be anxious. This is not to say that Matthew’s account of the Lord’s Prayer is less important. It is to say that it is a part of being a Christian. We are to pray this prayer regularly as being a part of God’s kingdom. We recognize God, our sins, our needs, and His guidance as we walk through the life He has given us. As we fast, we should consider the Lord’s Prayer, God is more important than our desires. As we give to the poor, their needs and God’s purpose for giving us the means to help are more important than that we helped. We should not set ourselves up so that others know we have helped someone. As we live, we should forgive people who have done things against us, as God forgives us each day we sin against Him. In addition, we are not to be anxious because, as the Lord’s Prayer teaches, all we must do is ask. By knowing to ask for our needs, we acknowledge that God is the provider for everything we need; thus, we will not be anxious. God is greater than anything we encounter and will provide all we need. 

The Lukan account teaches Jesus’ disciples how to pray. The Matthew account teaches us how to live, knowing God, pray, fast, forgive, and be assured that all our needs will be fulfilled. The Lukan account of the prayer teaches not only of God’s supremacy, but also of His sufficiency and grace. God will provide for our spiritual and physical needs. Luke, later in his Gospel, gives a prime example of this. Consider Luke 18:1-8; in this passage, we see a widow who is unashamedly persistent in asking the judge for judgment in favor of her. The woman never ceased asking but kept bringing her petition before the judge. Before the judge’s patience was worn down and because he knew it was the right thing to do, even though she could not give him anything in return, he gave in to her request for favor in the eyes of the civil law. The judge said, “For a while he was unwilling, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection; otherwise, by continually coming, she will wear me out.’” Jesus showed that even a non-God-fearing man knows what is right; how much more will your Father in Heaven, the God you recognize as supreme, will give what a person needs. The widow’s persistence paid off. God says not to give up in the face of need; ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you. Seek and keep on seeking, and you will find. Knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For all those who ask, seek, and knock will be heard, seen, and led to God’s provision for their physical and spiritual lives. He asks once more, how much more will your Father in heaven give you good things if your earthly father gives you good things. If earthly fathers know how to give good things, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask? God knows that the Holy Spirit is what humans need most; He gives eternal life (Luke 11:9-13 NASB). Your physical needs are always met. Your spiritual needs are met, too; however, you must agree to accept this grace of God. 

The Lukan form of the Lord’s Prayer is for all of us. It teaches us to acknowledge there is a God and He is supreme. It teaches us to know there is a gift of grace given to us if we will ask for and accept it. It teaches us that God not only provides for our physical needs but also for our spiritual needs. It teaches that not only are we sinners who need to ask for forgiveness from God, but we also need to forgive others for their sins against us. Finally, it teaches that we need God’s guidance every day to be able to walk the life He has given us in the way that is most edifying for our character and for God’s glory. It is the best road; all other ways are disjointed, disappointing, and dispiriting. We must decide whether to acknowledge God’s existence, His supremacy, His love, and His grace. Which road will you choose?