Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Daily Needs and Forgiveness

Part 3 of the Bible Study Series Teach Us to Pray

"Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matt. 6:11-12).


The Lord’s Prayer contains six petitions: (1) God’s name, (2) God’s kingdom, (3) God’s will, (4) daily needs, (5) forgiveness of sin, and (6) avoidance of sin. The first three concern God’s glory (“your… your…your”); the last three concern our good (“us…us…us”).


Jesus gave some amazing promises about prayer. Read John 14:13-14; 15:7, 16; 16:23-24. Six times Jesus says, “Ask me anything, and I will do it.” How do we often respond to these seemingly too good to be true promises? 

Paul Miller writes, “Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart” (A Praying Life). How is this true?


The fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer is “Give us this day our daily bread.” “The prayer is for our needs, not our greeds. It is for one day at a time (‘today’), reflecting the precarious lifestyle of many first-century workers who were paid one day at a time and for whom a few days’ illness could spell tragedy…. The idea of God ‘giving’ the food in no way diminishes responsibility to work but pre-supposes not only that Jesus’ disciples live one day at a time (cf. v. 34) but that all good things, even our ability to work and earn food, come from God’s hand (cf. Deut. 8:18; 1 Cor. 4:7; James 1:17). It is a lesson easily forgotten when wealth multiplies and absolute self-sufficiency is portrayed as a virtue” (D. A. Carson, “Matthew” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 171-72).

Read James 4:2-3. Paul Miller, in his book A Praying Life, likens “Good Asking” to a path with a cliff of both sides. On the left side is the Not Asking cliff. On the right side is the Asking Selfishly cliff. “James describes two dangers in asking. The first danger is Not Asking. James writes, ‘You do not have, because you do not ask.’ The second danger is Asking Selfishly: ‘You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions’ (4:2-3). We can fall off either cliff. Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane demonstrates perfect balance. He avoids the Not Asking cliff, saying, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me’ (Mark 14:36). Those who err on the Not Asking side surrender to God before they are real with him. Sometimes we try so hard to be good that we aren’t real.... In the next breath, Jesus avoids the Asking Selfishly cliff by surrendering completely: ‘Yet not what I will, but what you will’ (14:36). Jesus is real about his feelings, but they don’t control him, nor does he try to control God with them. He doesn’t use his ability to communicate with his Father as a means of doing his own will. He submits to the story that his Father is weaving in his life.”

The fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer is “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This “does not mean that believers need to ask daily for justification, since believers are justified forever from the moment of initial saving faith (Rom. 5:1, 9; 8:1; 10:10). Rather, this is a prayer for the restoration of personal fellowship with God when fellowship has been hindered by sin” (ESV Study Bible, 1832).

Read Matt. 6:14-15. “Just as the phrase ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ (6:10) related to all three of the previous petitions, so also here the words of 6:14-15 on the necessity of an attitude of forgiveness relate not just to 6:12 but also to all three requests for human needs. Disciples are hereby warned not to ask for their needs to be met in a spirit that is unwilling to meet the needs of others. Rather, disciples will realize that their experience of God’s forgiveness enables them to forgive others (cf. 5:23-24, 38-48; 18:21-25)” (David Turner, Matthew, 189).


“My experience is that most people do not put God to the test. They don’t ask him for what they want. I say this cautiously because many Christians have experienced unanswered prayers that are still unprocessed. Nevertheless, most people consistently fall off the left side of the Not Asking/Asking Selfishly chart. They don’t ask” (A Praying Life). Why don’t we ask? 

Read Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8. All of Jesus’ teaching on prayer can be summarized with one word: ask. Why should we ask?

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