Teach us to pray - Part 5
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 6:13–6:13
Personal Thanks/Update to Congregation
Before I get started, I wanted to take a moment to give you an update on my family. Most of you know this, but there is one less person living in my house than there was six weeks ago. We had a little baby foster child named Haylee for a little over one year. She spent EXACTLY one year in our house, as the last night she spent with us was the anniversary of the first night she slept in our home.
We love Haylee as we would any of our other children – how couldn’t we? We had hopes of adopting her – something we were able to do with our 3 other children – but, God’s plan was different than ours as we returned her to her mother on August 27th. Needless to say, this has been a very painful and difficult time for our entire family.
At the same time, however, it has been a joy… not just to know Haylee, but that we are able to have a continued relationship with her and her mother. They are both an extension of our family now, which is very exciting to us!
We’ve had meals brought to us, cards of encouragement sent to us, we’ve been prayed for, we’ve had many of you weep – literally – along with us. So, on behalf of my family – THANK YOU for the work you have done in ministering to my family. It really does make a difference. Kari and I both commented throughout these last couple of months that our burden has not been as heavy as we would have thought. I am 100% sure that when one part of this body suffered – the whole body suffered, which is how Paul says it should be in 1Cor12. This did much to ease our suffering, so thank you for your vulnerability and your faithfulness.
And I humbly ask that you continue to pray. This is a time of transition for all of us.
Now a shameless plug: Kari and I are now considering what God might have for us next. We feel as though God is leading us to do something to engage the church in the care of foster children and orphans. We are still in the process of defining what that is, but if that sounds like something that would be interesting to you, please please please get in touch with me… just be aware that Jesus might lead you to do something radical.
So, here we are at the end of a five week series called – Teach Us to Pray. We named it this because of this exchange in Luke 11.
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John 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 forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation."
Notice what Jesus didn’t say… he didn’t give them any sort of magic formula. He gave them a form to use that their hearts would be stimulated. I’m guessing some of you are like me – we make the mistake of focusing on the very act of praying rather than on Him to whom we’re praying… it’s like looking at the windshield while you’re trying to drive. It is easy to do, but it just doesn’t make sense. So what we’ve been trying to do in our sermons is to remind you of truths about who God is as they relate to this prayer rather than coming up with our list of “Ten ways to a better prayer life…” Not that that stuff is bad, we just need to get first things first.
I will also say – that I have personally benefitted from this series. Though I’m not going to share much of anything about specific prayer methods or strategies, I will tell you that incorporating Psalms into my prayers as well as writing my prayers down in a journal have been two things that have given me some potency in my prayers…
Also, by praying through the Lord’s prayer piece by piece, God has helped me greatly. A couple of weeks ago I was journaling a prayer on the petition “your kingdom come, your will be done.” I began my prayer feeling like I was in a fog… I didn’t really want to pray. But as I started, I got just a few sentences in as tears began to stream down my face… I was faced with the sin in my own heart that so desperately wanted MY will and MY plan for MY comfort and happiness. I’ve never wept that hard, but by dealing with my sin, I once again experienced God’s presence and assurance.
The Lord’s Prayer
Before we get into the last part of the prayer – the text for this week, I’m going to take you on a quick journey through the entire prayer to remind you of what we covered already, and then we will take a look at the last two petitions. So open your bibles to Matthew 6.
Mat 6:5-13 "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (6) But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (7) "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. (8) Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Father. (9) Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Here we’re reminded that God is our Father… literally, our Daddy… and not like that imperfect father you have, he’s your HEAVENLY Father and He is holy. Of all the characteristics of God, do you know which is mentioned most? His holiness. That’s because it changes everything. He is perfect. His holiness assures us of his perfect love, justice, mercy, grace, and steadfastness. He has adopted you into His family – he has made you his child. Were it not for that… you would not have the ability to pray to the Father – because he wouldn’t be your Father.
1Peter 1:17-19 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear… knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
Note that this only applies to those whom have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. If you have not done that – you are instead a child of the Devil. It doesn’t matter how good you think you are… you have sinned, and Jesus has made things right – if only you would repent and believe. There will be a day when it’s too late, and you don’t know if that’s tomorrow or in 60 years.
Please consider it… He’s offered salvation to all. All you have to do is accept.
Your Kingdom (10) Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Not only is God our Father, he is our King. But most all of us are too busy building our own little kingdoms to really think of God that way or to serve as a member of HIS kingdom. Pastor Chris talked about how fragile our kingdoms are, and that we pray when our kingdoms are in jeopardy, but we don’t pray when they’re not.
We pray his Kingdom come because it means freedom from the bondage of our own… we do the reverse of the exchange Paul describes in Romans 1… we exchange our idols for the glory of the immortal God.
And we pray for his will to be done, knowing the promise that HIS WILL eventually results in his heavenly kingdom replacing the broken kingdoms of this world. There will be ONE king who will rule ALL for eternity. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
Bread (11) Give us this day our daily bread,
We pray that God would provide for our needs. Notice that this bread is not a lifetime supply all at once. Rather, it is relying on Him for our needs on a daily basis. Turn with me to John 6, starting in verse 25:
John 6:25-35 - When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shallnever thirst.”
Jesus knows our state… he’s telling us: you don’t need bread. You need me. May we never be satisfied with the things of this world if we don’t have Jesus.
Debts (12) and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
In this petition, we acknowledge we are sinful creatures. We acknowledge that because of our sin against a holy God, we are deserving of his wrath. But for those of us who call God Father - we also acknowledge God’s goodness and provision... 1 John 2 says He is our advocate – our propitiation [a substitute taking the wrath we deserve] for our sins.
Not only that, but as we have been forgiven much, we are called to forgive others. This is not easy, which is why we pray for it. Notice the prayer assumes you’ve forgiven others. The truth of the gospel – which Nate said so well last Sunday – is this… that he who has been forgiven of much should forgive much. As we grow in our knowledge of and belief in the gospel, our awareness of the divide between God’s holiness and our broken state becomes heightened. Not that either is changing – just our perception. As we begin to realize how much we’ve been forgiven of
THE FINAL PETITIONS
And now to our text of the week… the final petitions of this prayer…
(13) And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
It’s interesting that at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, after coming to him as our Father in heaven, worshipping him in truth by reflecting on His attributes, confessing our sins, asking for his provision, and asking that he give us a heart that is changed by the truth of the gospel that we might forgive others like we’ve been forgiven… after all that… it is interesting what remains to be said. We’re not finished – there is still something more that we need from our father: His protection.
Although working through this prayer will do much to help your heart change and will draw you closer to God, Jesus recognizes that we live in a fallen, broken world where evil and temptation surround us. Jesus knows that we can get to a point where we’ve dealt with our sin and we are experiencing a restoration of relationship with our Father, but that our need for the Father doesn’t end there. It’s for this reason that we say “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from Evil.”
Lead us not into temptation. That’s an odd phrase. Have you ever really stopped to think about this phrase? I’m not sure I had ever put much thought into it myself. Why pray that God would lead us not into temptation? Is that something we should really be all that concerned with? Does God really go around tempting people? The first chapter of James reads:
James 1:13-17 – Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Matt 7:9-11 – Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
James says it pretty clearly, doesn’t he? And Matthew backs it up. God tempts no one. Notice the warning that we shouldn’t be deceived… then notice what James implies we can be tricked into not believing… that the things God gives us are good things. Satan wants us to blame God when things don’t go how we want, he wants us to forget that God lavishes his good and perfect gifts on us… DO NOT BE DECEIVED.
Also consider the 23rd Psalm, which says that God “…leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Like we discussed earlier, God is our good and perfect holy Father in heaven – he gives us what is good… like even an evil father would. Of course He leads us in paths of righteousness.
So what is the explanation of this passage? Having not thought too critically about it myself, I think I’ve always assumed it was simply an acknowledgement of the fact that God is good and would not tempt me… but I think it’s more.
Acknowledging a Sovereign God
Most of us in this room probably agree that God is sovereign… that is to say that though we have the ability to make choices – right or wrong – and those choices impact the outcome of much that happens in this world, God doesn’t just know what will happen, he is in control of all that happens. If God is in control of anything, he must be in control of everything. For example, can God get Jesus on the cross without the control of all sorts of decisions – Judas’ betrayal, Pontious Pilate’s indifference, thousands of Jews deciding in just a few days that they should go from praising Jesus as king to demanding he be crucified?
Then there’s the story of Joseph – I don’t have time to tell it to you now, but you can read it in Genesis 37-45. How his brothers were Jealous of him and were going to kill him, but instead decided to sell him into slavery… and then to see all the intricacies of the story unfold! Ultimately, Joseph’s story – particularly the ‘bad’ things that happened to him – leads to God showing His power and glory to the world through his deliverance of Israel from Egypt… Our God is amazing! In Exodus 50, Joseph tells his brothers – “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good!”
The Source of Temptation
So, since scripture teaches that God is sovereign and that he tempts no one. How is it, then, that we can so regularly face temptation? Well, thankfully scripture addresses this as well.
1Cor 10:12-14 – Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. It’s clear that Paul is allowing for temptation – expecting it will occur – knowing from experience that it does.
And one of the most encouraging passages for me in scripture… Rom 7:15-24 – For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (16) Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. (17) So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (18) For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. (19) For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (20) Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (21) So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. (22) For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, (23) but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (24) Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
1Peter 4:12-13 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Peter says we are not to be surprised when we’re under fire. A way that I’ve come to understand temptation in the light of God’s sovereignty is this. God TESTS us and Satan TEMPTS us. I’ll say it again… God TESTS us, Satan TEMPTS us. What’s the difference? A test is designed to be passed. Like we just read in 1Corinthians 10… “He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape.”
Do you get it? It’s not a surprise to God that we are tempted!!! He knows all… by implication, 1Corinthians 10 goes as far as to say GOD PROVIDES the temptation – not as a cruel joke, but as a way to test your faith THAT HIS GLORY WOULD BE REVEALED (1Peter 4).
So when we pray “lead us not into temptation” we are really humbly asking for mercy. We are asking for mercy. Like Paul describes in Romans 7, we are weak in our flesh. We are acknowledging God is sovereign over the entire universe – but we can’t even control ourselves. We are saying a prayer similar to Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as HE HIMSELF was experiencing weakness of his human flesh when he prayed –
Mat 26:39 …he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."
Deliver Us From Evil
We also ask that God would deliver us – or draw us out of – evil. This begs the question: Do we need to be delivered from evil? The answer is an emphatic YES. In his book “Praying the Lord’s Prayer,” J.I. Packer puts it well when he says,
Can you yet see your own life in terms of being threatened and endangered by evil of all sorts, and so of needing God’s deliverance at every moment? If not, believe me, you cannot yet see what you are looking at! You are like a person wandering blindfolded and with ears plugged in the middle of a city street, with traffic coming both ways. Learn from the Lord’s Prayer what is really going on in your life, and as you are increasingly enabled to discern the dangers, lean harder on the Great Deliverer.
We live in a world full of all sorts of evil… 1Peter 5:8 says Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Like any child with a loving father would cling to their daddy in a scary situation, so should we cling to our Father. Yes, we do so in prayer, but there is more. We armor up. Our Daddy has given us things to protect ourselves with – he does not call us to be passive. He gives us the tools to fight for our deliverance. Consider Ephesians 610-18:
Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
So, get in the WORD, get in COMMUNITY with other believers, and get on your KNEES.
Finally, we know that although we are called to endure all sorts of evil in this world – including the evil that resides in our hearts – that God HAS delivered us from evil through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We know that through the same Jesus that gives us access to the Father we have been saved, delivered, and freed from sin. Brothers and sisters – as you come up to the table to take communion, be thankful, be encouraged – that your sins have been washed away. Celebrate all that you have been given as you confess your sins to the Lord.
For those of you who can’t call God Father… recognize that the pit that is in your stomach now telling you that there’s something right and good about what I’ve been saying is not your breakfast burrito at work – it is God beckoning to you – inviting you to acknowledge your need for a savior. If that’s you, don’t leave here before you submit your life to Jesus… repent and believe. That’s the call of the gospel. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, it doesn’t matter how dirty you think you are. Through Jesus, God will forgive you of ALL sins – past, present, and future.