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Posts Tagged ‘Lord’s prayer’

We’re finishing up the second set of requests of the Lord’s prayer today, which have to do with our needs and concerns.

As we’ve seen we need the food, clothing and shelter necessary to sustain us day by day. We also need regular forgiveness and grace to maintain our relationship with God – and as a part of this we also need to give forgiveness and grace to others.

And then today we have before us what I’m calling the testing request; the final petition of the Lord’s prayer. It comes to us in two forms:

  • “And do not lead us into testing” – Luke 11:4
  •  “And do not lead us into testing, but deliver us from the evil one” – Matthew 6:13

Now, these are the same, except for the additional phrase that Matthew has, which is really just saying the same thing in the opposite way (antithetical parallelism). As we’ll see, to not lead us into testing is to deliver us from the evil one, who tests us.

Let’s begin with –

Three clarifications about this request

And first, we deal with a matter of translation. You are no doubt used to hearing this request with the word “temptation” in it, that is, “lead us not into temptation.” So, should it be “temptation” or “testing”?

Well, the Greek word here (πειρασμός) can mean temptation. But more broadly it means a test or trial. The reason I prefer the translation “testing” is that it refers to the whole process of faith testing.

You know how it works – we find ourselves in a difficult situation and then we have to make choices about whether we will be faithful to God or not. And this request doesn’t just refer to the moments of temptation, but to the whole situation of difficulty; the trial we’re going through.

A second clarification, God does allow us to be tested. We wouldn’t need to pray this, if God didn’t. So God may or may not lead us into times of trial, and we ask that he not do this. Here are just a few examples of God’s testing:

  • God tested Abraham. Genesis 22:1 says, “after these things God tested Abraham,” referring to when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac.
  • God tested Israel in the wilderness – Deuteronomy 8:2, specifically with regard to being hungry and relying on God for daily food.
  • And God tested Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry – Matthew 4:1-11.

As Proverbs 17:3 says more generally, “the Lord tests hearts.”

Why does God test us? God wants to know what’s in our heart; whether we will be faithful or not. This is what Deuteronomy 8:2 tells us.

Also Hebrews 12:10 tells us that God tests us – “for our good.” It’s not that we’ve done something wrong, although God can discipline us in this way. It’s that God wants to train us and help us grow in our faith and in our relationship with him.

And as he tests us, God is on our side. He wants us to succeed. And God is with us and helps us by his Spirit when we go through difficulties.

Third, in Matthew’s extra phrase, “deliver us from the evil one” should it be “evil one” referring to Satan or simply “evil/harm”?

 It’s true that tests always involve some kind of difficulty or suffering – so there’ harm to us. Faith testing does involve going through a hard time. The reason I prefer the translation “evil one” is because it’s broader. It includes both ideas. In a test we suffer hardship and the evil one is the instrument of the hardship.

For although God allows us to be tested, it’s actually Satan who tests us. He is called the “tester” – in Mark 1:13. It’s one of his names. And how was Jesus tested in the wilderness? “Jesus was . . . tested by the devil” – Matthew 4:1.

Satan asks to test us and God either allows it or doesn’t.

  • This comes out clearly in Job 1-2 – Satan asked permission to test Job.
  • And In Luke 22:31 Jesus says that “Satan demanded” to test the apostles when Jesus was arrested.

Why does Satan test us? He wants us to fail. He wants us to sin so that he can condemn and judge us (Hebrew 2:14). Peter tells us that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” – 1 Peter 5:8

So faith testing is a high stakes situation. God wants us to succeed and grow, but Satan is ever lurking to destroy us.

What this request means

It’s a bit strange, really. Even though we’re promised in Scripture that we will be tested (1 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Timothy 3:12; Acts 14:22), and even though God uses testing for our own good, what Jesus is teaching us to pray for here is “spare us  testing!” Spare us trials, spare us suffering, spare us pain. “Father, have mercy!” “Deliver us from the evil one who wants to test us.”

When we understand how this works, we understand that to be delivered from Satan is to be delivered from testing.

So this is what’s going on: Satan comes before God to seek permission to test us. And we pray that God not allow it. “Don’t listen to Satan!” We’re countering his petition to test us.

Why pray this?

1. Because hardships are painful and distressing. And if you’re anything like me you should be highly motivated to pray this request. For, I firmly believe, when we pray this God does hear us and spares us testing that we would have otherwise undergone, if we didn’t pray it. So, unless you just like trials, you should have every incentive to be faithful in praying this request!

2. Because we’re weak and might fail God. This prayer is based in a sober awareness of our weakness and vulnerability to fall. In the context of encouraging his disciples to pray this prayer request just before his arrest, Jesus said, “the flesh is weak” – Mark 14:38.

Yes, God gives us his Spirit to help us, as Jesus also said to them, “the Spirit indeed is willing” – Mark 14:38. But our request comes from humility. So we call out, “Have mercy on us in our weakness.” “God, we might fail the test and bring condemnation on ourselves and dishonor to your name. Spare us!”

Now, God will not always grant this request. He told Jesus no in the garden of Gethsemane and he will tell us no at times also. But even in this situation, we know that we have at least reminded God of our weakness and we can know that God will have mercy on us in the test. He will not allow us to experience the full assault of the evil one that would surely overwhelm and destroy us (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Some final thoughts

1. You can also pray this when you’re in a test, that it might end. So the sense is, “Do not lead us into further testing.” The request is not just preventative. “This test is very hard, God, please let it stop. I’m barely hanging on.” I have prayed this many times. (See Philippians 1:19)

2. The Lord’s prayer is “circular.” We pray to be spared testing – the last request, but also we go back to the first two petitions – Your name be hallowed, Your will be done. The end loops back around to the beginning. “God, if this test honors your name and is your will – may it be so.”

What I’m saying is that sometimes the first two petitions trump the last one, and we’re tested nevertheless.

  • When facing the cross Jesus prayed “remove this cup from me” in Mark 14:36, which is another way of praying “lead me not into testing.” But he also prayed the first petition, “your name be glorified” in John 12:28 looking ahead to the cross.
  • Jesus prayed to be spared in the Garden of Gethsemane, but he also prayed right after this, “yet, not what I want, but what you want” in Mark 14:36, which is another form of the second petition, your will be done.

We ask to be spared, but we submit this request to the first two requests – “your name be honored, your will be done.”

3. This is a corporate request. We pray “don’t lead us into testing,”  not just “me.” As we pray this we’re also praying for fellow believers in our congregation and throughout the world, many of whom are suffering greatly in times of testing – through poor economic conditions and political and religious persecution.

4. We should pray this diligently. We need to understand that we’re in a spiritual battle. Through baptism you declare yourself for the kingdom of God in a war between God’s kingdom and the kingdom of darkness. And so you become a target of Satan’s wrath.

Satan appears before God’s throne to seek to test us; to destroy us. And it’s God’s plan that we come as well and make our counter petition, “spare us.” Satan is not lazy, but persistently seeks our demise. But how often are we more like the disciples in Gethsemane, who don’t know what’s going on, who are not alert in prayer, and we fail.

We need to be diligent in our prayers and in praying this request.

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[rewritten]

Let me begin with a question – What sins are you struggling with? You know, things you know are wrong, but continue to choose to do. Is there one in particular?

Perhaps you feel like you don’t even have control over it anymore; that you are a slave to your sin. Like Paul says in Romans 7:19 – “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want, is what I keep on doing.”

In the next few weeks, I want us to look at five specific steps that you can take to be free; to overcome your sin. These steps come from looking at Jesus as he faced the cross -primarily from Mark 14:26-72. Here he was tested as to whether he would stay true to God and go to the cross. And we learn from his example, how to overcome in our own areas of struggle.

We will also look at Peter as a contrast case. He was tested to see whether he would stay true to God by standing with Jesus, even if it got him killed. He did not overcome. We can also learn from, and identify with him.

I encourage you to keep in mind the area of weakness you have identified and as we go through this, apply it to your situation.

We begin with –

Step #1. Understanding what God’s will is, acknowledge your weakness to do what God says

We learn what God’s will is primarily through studying the Scriptures. As Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We especially need to learn from Jesus and the New Testament, since Jesus gives us the complete and final revelation of God’s will for us.

Once we begin to understand God’s will, it will become apparent that we don’t measure up.

It’s just like Jesus said, “The flesh is weak” – Mark 14:38. Weak that is, in terms of doing God’s will. We sin very easily, especially in a time of testing when we are put under pressure.

In humility we need to recognize this. As Paul said, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” – 1 Corinthians 10:12. As Proverbs says, “Pride goes before a fall” – Proverbs 16:18. Our pride will kill us.

But if in humility we are rigorously honest with ourselves – God can help us.

Peter’s failure. He was confused about God’s will. Before he got to Gethsemane, he didn’t think Jesus had to die on a cross. In fact, he rebuked Jesus when he said he had to die – Mark 8:33. Despite hearing Jesus’ repeated teaching, he thought Jesus would be a warrior Messiah and he would fight alongside him.

But not only is he confused, he was overconfident. He saw himself as strong. He said to Jesus, “Even though they all fall away (the other disciples), I will not.” – Mark 14:29. And he said, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you” – Mark 14:31. Peter doesn’t acknowledge his weakness.

Jesus’ example. He knew God’s will for his life. Before he ever got to Jerusalem he told his disciples, “The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.” – Mark 10:33-34. (In our story Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7 – Mark 14:27)

And Jesus was upfront that this would be hard. Just as he said to Peter and the others, “The flesh is weak” – Mark 14:28. Jesus didn’t want to die the shameful death of a criminal on the cross. He didn’t want to be abandoned by God. He didn’t want to come under the judgment of death. Mark tells us that he “began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.’” – 14:33-34. He knew it would be hard.

Step #2. Remain alert in prayer for times of testing and temptation

At Gethsemane Jesus told the disciples “keep alert and pray that you might not enter into testing” – Mark 14:38.

As we saw last week, Satan comes before God requesting permission to test us. He wants to test us in order to cause us to sin, so that he can condemn us before God. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that he “prowls around like a lion, seeking someone to devour.”

So, since we know that we are weak and the enemy is trying to destroy us, we should look to God in prayer (Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2) and specifically we should ask to be spared testing and temptation. We need to counter Satan, by asking God, “do not lead us into testing but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13), as Jesus teaches in the Lord’s prayer, and as he told the disciples in our story. We are saying, ‘God, the enemy is powerful and I am weak. Have mercy on me. Don’t let me be tested, lest I sin against you.’

Now sometimes in mercy God will answer our prayers and we will be spared. And who doesn’t want to be spared going through difficult situations? Why wouldn’t we be praying this all the time?

But even if God allows us to go through testing, because he knows we can handle it, and he wants us to grow in character and godliness – we will be ready, being alert and prayerful. We will recognize what is going on when it confronts us.

Peter’s failure. He was not spiritually alert to what might come his way. In fact, he was literally asleep – Mark 14:37. Jesus found him asleep three times.

Although Satan had obtained permission to test him, as Jesus said in Luke 22:31, he didn’t ask God to spare him testing, asking for God’s mercy.

The final time that Jesus woke Peter up he said, “The hour has come” – Mark 14:41. It was too late to get ready. There Peter was in the test of his life – confused and unprepared.

Jesus’ example. Jesus was alert and knew what was coming. And so he prayed to be spared. He prayed that “the hour might pass from him” – Mark 14:35. He prayed fervently, three times, “remove this cup from me” – Mark 14:36, which is another form of the prayer “do not lead (me) into testing.” He asked for God’s mercy.

And when God didn’t intervene to offer up another way, he was ready and accepted the test.

Now sometimes in mercy God will hear us and answer our prayers. But God will not always spare us testing, as in the case of Peter and Jesus. They were both tested. When this happens, if we have watched and prayed ahead of time, at least the test will not catch us off guard. We will be alert and prayerful as we enter into it.

Let me end by asking –

Are you ready for a time of testing?

Are you acting ahead of time knowing that there will be tests and struggles ahead? So many times the battle is lost before we even get to the test, because we haven’t done what we could have done ahead of time.

  • Do you understand what God’s will is?
  • Are you aware of your areas of weaknesses in doing God’s will?
  • Are you alert in prayer?

These are specific things that you can do before a test, before Satan pressures you and entices you to give in to the weakness of your flesh. I encourage you to put them into practice this week.

William Higgins

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We’re talking about God today; who God is and what God is like. It’s a big topic and we are only delving into a part of it. 

God was seen as a Father in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 1:31; 8:5; Proverbs 3:12; Jeremiah 31:20; Jeremiah 3:19; Hosea 11:1; Isaiah 63:16; Psalm 103:13). But the prominence of “Father” as a, or perhaps the way of talking about God comes from the New Testament.

God as “Father” in the New Testament

The word “Father” is used 250 times in the New Testament as a reference to God. As one scholar calculates – 43% of all references to God in the New Testament call God “Father.” 

This emphasis on Father language comes from Jesus: 

  • For instance, Jesus uses “Father” 100 times in the Gospel of John as a reference to God.
  • And Jesus addressed God in prayer as “Father” every time he prayed, save one. This was in Mark 15:34 where on the cross he is quoting Psalm 22:1 and says, “My God, my God.” In every other recorded prayer that we have he uses “Father.” 

God as our Father

Now, Jesus’ Father language is certainly connected to the fact that he was God’s unique and beloved Son. And as God’s Son, Jesus called God, “Father.”

But even though he is in a class by himself with regard to being God’s Son, Jesus teaches that God can be our Father too!

When we become a Christian: 

  • we are born of God – John 1:12-13
  • we are children of God – Luke 11:11-13

According to Jesus, our relationship to God is like the relationship between a Father and a young child.

  • And so just as Jesus referred to God as Father, so we also can call God “Father.”
  • And just as Jesus prayed to God as Father, we also are taught to pray to God as “Father” in the Lord’s prayer. 

Now we have to be clear here . . .

God is not male! 

In a Harris poll from 2003, 37% of men and 46 % of women though that God was male. Of the different religious groups surveyed, 49% of Protestants thought that God was male.

  • But God has no gender. God is neither male nor female. It was in the pagan world that the gods had a gender, either male or female.
  • Scripturally, both male and female are created in the image of God, who is our Father – Genesis 1:27 
  • And there are also feminine metaphors for God in Scripture (Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 42:14; 49:15; 66:13; Jeremiah 31:20; Matthew 23:37)

So, when we name God as “Father” – we are referring to a social role with specific attributes. One that is captured by this name and is centrally important to God’s identity. What is at focus is the social role, not the gender. 

The point is that God acts toward us as a loving father acts toward his family. 

So, I want us to look at the attributes of this “father” role, and specifically . . .

The characteristics of our heavenly Father

. . . so we can see what it means to call God, “Father.” We’ll glean this from Jesus’ teaching in the first three gospels:

1. As Father, God is One who is powerful. Just as a small child marvels at what a human father or parent can do, so much more so with our heavenly Father.

  • Jesus spoke of the Father as “Lord of heaven and earth” – Luke 10:21. The Father has all power.
  • And as Jesus said in prayer, “Father, all things are possible for you” – Mark 14:36. God’s power is only limited by his own character and purpose.

2. As Father, God is One who loves us. 

  • The prodigal son’s father presents to us a picture of God as our Father. The Father is characterized by patience, steadfast love and compassion for his wayward son. Luke 15: 20 says, “while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” 
  • God cares for even the weakest among us. In Matthew 18:14, speaking of new Christians, Jesus says, “It is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” 
  • Jesus teaches us that the Father loves even his enemies, caring for their needs – Matthew 5:45. So How much more does he love and care for his own children? 

3. As Father, God is One who is close to us, who is in relationship with us. 

  • Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” – Matthew 6:8. 
  • And he said that the Father sees us in secret. For instance while we are praying in a closet – Matthew 6:6.
  • The Aramaic word “Abba,” which Jesus used for father [although too much has been made of it – it doesn’t mean “daddy”] means “dear father” – Mark 14:36. 

4. As Father, God is One who has authority over us to teach us how to live. Just as earthly parents teach their children about right and wrong.

  • Jesus teaches us that we are to do the will of our Father in heaven – Matthew 7:21.
  • And we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – Matthew 6:10. We pray this because God’s will, not our will, is all important. God is the one who is in charge and we submit to him.

5. As Father, God is One who forgives us when we fail.

  • As Jesus tells us, “Your Father is merciful” – Luke 6:33.
  • And we pray to our Father, “forgive us our sins” – Luke 11:4.

6. As Father, God is One who gives us gifts. 

  • Indeed, the Father gives us “good gifts” – Matthew 7:11.  Jesus said, “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!”
  • These gifts include the Holy Spirit. As Luke 11:13 says it, “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.” And these gifts include the coming kingdom. In Luke 12:32 Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This is our inheritance that God, our Father, gives to us.

7. As Father, God is One who provides for our material needs. 

  • Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” – Matthew 6:26
  • This is why we pray to our Father for “daily bread” – Matthew 6:11.

8. As Father, God is One who watches over and protects us. 

  • In the context of persecution, Jesus said about the Father’s watchful care, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered”- Matthew 10:30. We know that he watches over our very lives.
  • With regard to protection, we pray to our Father, “lead us not into testing, but deliver us from the evil one.” – Matthew 6:13. Our Father protects us from situations of testing that we can’t handle; that would overwhelm us; that are too difficult for us.

Having looked at all this we have to say that . . .

Human fathers are imperfect

Jesus certainly knew this. In fact, speaking of earthly fathers Jesus says, “you who are evil” in Luke 11:13, in comparison with our heavenly Father.

And many of us have had bad experiences with earthly fathers who were authoritarian, critical, abusive, distant, or not present for one reason or another. Perhaps we never knew our father. (Jesus’ own earthly father apparently died when he was young). And even the best earthly father is lacking. And so to use the language of Father for God can be jarring

But what I want to say is, to use the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:48 . . . 

“Your heavenly Father is perfect” 

We come to understand what a true father is, not by looking at the imperfect copy of earthly fathers, and projecting that onto God. But by looking at the heavenly Father, the perfect original; the one who defines true fatherhood.

And so for many of us, we need to relearn what a true father is and find healing in this for the damage done by our earthly fathers. 

Our heavenly Father is all that we could have ever wanted and yearned for in our earthly fathers. And he exposes evil human fathers for what they are  – imposters; fakes. And then he invites us to own him as our true Father and to find healing in this.

And so let me end by simply saying to you . . .

  • Our heavenly Father is one who deserves to receive honor, just as the fifth commandment tells us to honor our earthly parents. But so much more so – for our Father in heaven’s power and character.
  • Our heavenly Father is one whom we want to be in relationship with. We want to experience his love and closeness and to find forgiveness when we fail.
  • Our heavenly Father is one who is worthy of our obedience and submission.
  • Our heavenly Father is one whom we want to emulate. As they say, like Father like child. We want to be merciful and loving to all, just as our Father is merciful and loves even his enemies. 
  • Our heavenly Father is one whom we can truly trust to give us good gifts, to provide for us, to watch over us and to protect us.

What a privilege it is to be a child of God! I urge you, if you don’t know God as your Father, seek God out, so that you can have such a perfect Father in your life. And if you know God as your Father, look to God in all these ways, and receive all the blessings of his Fatherly care in your life. Let him be a Father to you.

William Higgins

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Let me begin by asking – “How often should we pray the Lord’s prayer?” Ever thought about this? One way to answer this is to ask:

  • How often do you need forgiveness?
  • Or, how often do you want to ask to be spared difficult times of testing?
  • Or even more specifically – how often do you need daily bread? (Hint – “daily”).

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Prayer Book 07

This is my latest Prayer Book. If this is helpful in any way please use it! William

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This is a presentation I gave several years ago on the Lord’s prayer – Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer

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