Friday, February 08, 2008

Study on Prayer - week 3

We come now to the second part of our study of the Lord’s Prayer, what I’ve titled, “P’s in a Pod, Part Two: Things We Need God to Give Us”.

Last week we looked at the first part of the prayer in the “Things we need to give God” and we talked especially about the holiness of God. We looked at the first set of “P’s” by looking at God’s Paternity and Placement by saying “Our Father who art in heaven”; we looked at Praise when we say “hallowed be Thy Name.”

And, we saw that His Divine Providence took place when we say “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

Praying that part of the prayer is extremely important; spending time in “worshipful” prayer - in a deliberate time of meditation and study - studying the attributes of God, is what gives us the “privilege” of praying this second part of the prayer

But I think, if we’re real honest, we’ll find that our prayers spend much more time in this “second” portion - in “the things we need God to give us” than in the “things we need to give God.” And yet, God is so gracious… and He keeps on giving us so much!

As we’ve noted, this “model” prayer is found in both Luke 11, where the unnamed disciple asked Jesus - in an urgent tone of voice - to teach them how to pray.

And, the “model” prayer is also found in Matthew 6, as a part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where He is teaching the “attitude” of worship, by teaching about fasting, giving, and praying - what is acceptable, and what is not…

With this study we’ll be focusing on the version found in Matthew as it is closest to what we actually say when we repeat “The Lord’s Prayer.”

(Matthew 6:9-10 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.”)

Before we go on - think about last week’s handout? Did you “ponder” on those questions? What about the scriptures? Could you see the similarity between the OT prayers and the “model” prayer?

(and then verse 11 “Give us this day our daily bread.”)

And now we come to Provision. What do you think this means? The Message translates it as “Keep us alive with three square meals…” (That doesn’t really work for me…)

The Revised Standard Version says, “Give us to-day bread for the coming day…”

There are many ways to look at what “bread” means here - sorta like “it depends on what ‘is’ is…” There’s the bread of the Lord’s Supper, the bread as Spiritual food, and of course, bread as Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life…”

But, sometimes I think we try to get far too theological in reading the Bible. Sometimes we just have to read it with a simple heart. It means, exactly what it says - provision (whether food, or clothing, or housing, or healing) whatever we need “provided” - today.

One of the reasons the early church had a hard time understanding the meaning was that the Greek word which is used for “daily” is a word that for a very long time was found nowhere else in Greek literature - no-where! In fact, many people thought that Matthew had invented the word. Then, not too long ago a fragment of papyrus was found with this word on it. You know what it was? A woman’s shopping list. The things she needed for that day.

Give us this day our daily bread - give us the things we need for this day. Does that mean we sit back and wait for our provisions to just roll in? No, scripture also tells us that God provides for the birds of the air… but like I’ve always said, He doesn’t throw it in the nest for them…

Also notice Jesus does not teach us to say, “Give me this day my daily bread…” The world’s food problem is not with supply, but with distribution… One writer said, “Only when we’ve prayed the “us” with that as the focus, have we prayed it right…”

(Verse 12 “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” )

If we must understand the Provision of the prayer with a simple heart, then we must understand that the Penitence of the prayer exposes our sinful heart.

The theologian and commentator William Barkley said that “Before a man (or woman) can honestly prayer this petition, he must realize that he needs to pray it…

Now, I believe that most of us would readily agree that we’re sinners… but if pressed, and asked, “What sin did you commit today?” How would you answer? Anyone want to share how they sinned today? :-)

The trouble is, we all agree that the drunkard, the murderer, the burglar, and the adulterer are sinners, but… how do we recognize our own sin? We know that Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. And Romans 5:8 says that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners… but just what is sin? And how come in this prayer I have to ask to be forgiven in the same way that I’m willing to forgive? Ever think about that?

There are 5 Greek terms in the New Testament that relate to sin. Debt which is used here means a moral or spiritual debt or “owing.” Sin means missing the mark. Trespass is falling or slipping - more from carelessness than from intentional disobedience. (Notice that only these three words are used in The Lord’s Prayer.) Then there’s transgression which means crossing the line or going beyond limits prescribed by God. This one is more conscious and intentional. And then there is lawlessness, which is even more intentional and flagrant. It is direct and open rebellion against God and His ways.

Remember we said in the first week that this prayer is given to those who were (and are) already believers; who were (and are) already saved from the judgment, so the debts referred to here are those committed by us when we “owe a debt” to God, or “miss the mark” or “slip up.” And we all “owe a debt”, “miss the mark” and “slip up.”

And we have all been “owed” a debt. And we’ve all had someone “miss the mark” with us, or “slip up” with us…

But, for me, the word “trespasses” has the most impact - “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” The reason is, when I think of “trespass” I think of “no trespassing” signs. And what that means is “no crossing.”

I may not think of anyone to whom I owe a debt, or against whom I’ve sinned, but I can certainly think of people I’ve “crossed” and especially of those who’ve “crossed” me, and in that regard, the prayer hits a little closer home.

Barkley again says that the literal translation is “forgive us our sins in proportion as we forgive those who have sinned against us. This is the only phrase of the prayer that Jesus gives further details about in verses 14 and 15. But note! This does not affect our salvation! This has to do with fellowship. It is our continued sinning that breaks our fellowship with God, and it is refusing to forgive another person that disrupts our fellowship with them.

Asking forgiveness implies confession. Feet that are not presented to Christ can’t be washed, and sins that aren’t confessed can’t be forgiven, or rather a better term might be can’t be “cleansed.” Our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus, but if we don’t confess them, they can’t be cleansed or removed from us. We will carry the guilt and weight of that sin if it is not confessed.

To confess means to agree with, and when we confess our sins, we agree with God that they are wicked, evil and defiling, and have no part in those who belong to Him. It’s not easy to confess sins. Oh, we might say, “God, forgive me of my sins today.” Or sing the song, “If I have wounded any heart today, if I have caused one foot to go astray, if I have walked in my own willful way - Dear Lord, forgive.” But when it comes right down to naming our sins, not saying “if” I’ve done anything, but “as” I have done something; then it is much harder.

By the way, when I think of that song, I often think, “Yeah, if I have wounded a heart, or caused a foot to go astray, or walked in my own way, I know I can be forgiven, but what of the consequences of my actions? What about the one I hurt? What about the one I caused to falter? Because of my willful way, what’s going to happen to them? The consequences of our sins are extremely far reaching.

The last phrase of the prayer brings us to Protection.

(verse 13 “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]” )

We have just prayed to be forgiven of our sins, and now we pray that we not return to the folly of sin, nor may we be tempted to do it. But, the Greek word for temptation is basically a neutral word, which means it has no connotation of either good or evil, as does our English word “temptation.”

We always think of something evil, or of doing something wrong when we hear the word “temptation” (I’m “tempted” to eat that last piece of cheesecake) but the root word means “testing or proving” which doesn’t have to be doing something wrong. (However, we seldom say, “I’m tempted to help someone today…”)

In Genesis 22, in the KJV it says that “God tempted Abraham.” But in nearly every other translation it says that he was “tested…” Testing something proves how strong it is.

1Co 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

But, I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly want to know how strong I am! And so when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” it is an appeal to God to place a watch over our eyes, our ears, our mouth, our feet and our hands - that in whatever we see, hear, or say, and in any place we go and in anything we do, He will protect us from sinning.

We pray that He will not allow us to go there because if we continually allow ourselves to be placed in tempting or sinful areas, it is only a matter of time until we give in.

And then, there’s that “evil one…” Nearly every commentary I read translates “deliver us from evil” as “deliver us from the evil one.” And believe me, there IS an “evil one.” He is not a cartoon character dressed in a red suit with horns, a pointed tail, and a pitchfork. The Bible tells us that he is like a roaring lion going about seeking whom he may devour. He is an accuser, and deceiver, and a liar - and he wants to destroy you…

Paul gives us the way to “stand” against the wiles of the devil - and that is by putting on the whole armor of God found listed altogether in Ephesians 6:10-18 - but really, it’s found all through out the Bible. (We don’t have time to go into what each piece is and how it is used at this time, but I do have an additional handout on that if anyone wants one. Just e-mail me and ask for the “Dressed for the Battle” handout.)

As we finish this part of our study on prayer, I want to share one more thing from the book that I began with, “A Pilgrim’s Guide to Prayer.”

If you pray this prayer seriously, then you see that it is not a “warm and fuzzy” prayer, but actually denotes a struggle, or a conflict.

Listen to the words:
If we pray, asking that God’s Name be hallowed - we are implying and admitting that it is not always so honored.
By praying “Thy Kingdom come” shows that it hasn’t come fully, yet. And sometimes, quite honestly, it looks like it’s not gonna happen anytime soon, either…

“Give us our daily bread” is there because of constant threats to our existence.

And “Forgive us” must be prayed because as David said, “My sin is ever before me…”

Crying “lead us not into temptation” (or testing) shows failure and ruin are out there waiting to get us and without God’s help, we’re bound to lose out in the struggle. And we all beg to be delivered from the evil one…

We saw in our first study that the unnamed disciple said, “Lord, teach us now to pray…” And for “such a time as this” we need to make that same request…

Our Father, teach us now to pray. In Jesus’ Name - Amen.


Study of Prayer - Week Three:
“P’s in a Pod, Part Two: Things We Need God to Give Us”

Key statement: Our prayers spend much more time in this portion than in the “things we need to give God.” And yet, God is so gracious… and He keeps on giving us so much!

Scriptures to read this week:
Deuteronomy 8:3
John 6:31-51
Matthew 18:21-35
Psalms 66:18
Mark 1:12-13
James 1:13-14
Ephesians 6:10-18

Questions to ponder this week:
(*Hint* Take one question a day and “ponder” on it. Jot down your impressions and thoughts to reflect back on them later.)

P - Provision: Why do you think Jesus told us to ask for bread? Do you think He was talking about food in particular?

P - Penitence: Have you ever had to forgive anyone? Do you still hold it against them in your heart?

Which translation helps you understand the verse better - “debts”, “sins”, or “trespasses?”

P - Protection: Do you believe God, does indeed, “lead” us into temptation?

Does saying, “Deliver us from the evil one” make this statement easier to understand?

What do you do to avoid temptation?

Upon Sitting in the Mall Food Court

I see a young black woman feeding an apparently handicapped white man. I am at a distance and can’t tell if he’s blind, or just can’t feed himself - and so, I begin to pray…

Father, bless this young woman in her ministry, her servanthood. May she receive a great blessing from her service.

As I look at all these people, I lift them up. What are their joys, what are their fears? I am old enough to know that within each of their lives, there is some pain - either within their own life, or someone very close to them.

I pray for them, Lord. May they know You and Your care, and Your love.

As I look, I know that You know each one of them. You made them. You know their fears, their joys, their concerns, and most importantly, You know their hearts. Do they know You, Lord? Is this young woman’s servanthood out of love to You, or does she not recognize You yet? Has she not responded or even heard Your call yet? I pray that if she hasn’t, she will.

I see a young mother with little children. Do they know You? Are these children being raised in a Christian home, or what kind of environment will they grow up thinking is “normal.”? I pray for this family Lord. If they know You, that they’ll be strengthened for the trials to come as the children grow older. If they don’t, that they’ll hear Your call and come to know Your love.

Father, the colors and nationalities, the physical, emotional, financial and educational differences represented by these Your children are many. Their ages are many and their experiences are many. We are all different, we are all loved by You. And now, may we all love and live to serve You.

In the Name of the One who died for even the least of these, I pray… Amen

Betty J. Newman ©May 2004

Next week: The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus - John 17
(This is the real “Lord’s Prayer”. This is the one He prayed for us!)



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