The Prayer its all about the right attitude.
"This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.' Matthew 6:9-13
Think about it! The sole reason any of us are able to know God is because God made Himself known to us in the first place. In this respect we did not find God – He chose to come and find us. However, there are still many things in life that can compete for our attention such as thoughts, emotions, and the general hubbub of the world, all of which can subtly change the view of God that we have been given. Perhaps this is why Jesus told people how to pray – encouraging a community that had lost sight of God to focus their minds afresh on the One who loved them most. In Jesus’ words to a spiritually thirsty group of people Jesus shows us all how to experience life in its fullness.
In considering this I would suggest that this prayer shows us the right attitude of heart that a son or daughter of the kingdom has and the way to experience freedom and blessing in Him. In short it opens the door of our life to participate in the blessings of the “I will never leave you nor forsake you” One (Palm 23:4, John 14:23) who tells us that all God’s promises are, “Yes” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). In considering this, if we then start our prayer time acknowledging who God is before all else and our dependence on Him then surely it is His Spirit who will lead us, guide us, and empower us in prayer and not just you or I, clearing away the problems of the yesterday or blindly giving Him our latest list for the forthcoming week.
As already mentioned, the reason we can say, “Our Father,” is purely because this is how God has chosen to reveal Himself – as being like a father. And yet God is also unlike most earthly fathers in that He does not let us down; neither does He give up on us when things go wrong – His door is always open, but we need to engage with Him.
Because God has revealed His ways to us we know that there is another Kingdom and recognise, in seeing all that He has done, that His will is that which brings about freedom as it challenges and destroys evil. Because of what God has done we recognise that man does not live by bread alone but on all that He gives.
Because of what God has done we can know what forgiveness feels like and also find strength, in Him, to set free those who have hurt us, as well as setting ourselves free as we do so.
Because God has revealed Himself to us we know that there is meaning and purpose to life and that our lives are important to someone – to the One we have offended, yet who cares for us most.
In considering this we begin to realise that this prayer, spoken of by many as the Lord’s Prayer, is all about recognising who God is, the initiative He has taken and our position before Him as a child of God. Our response is to embrace this as we reach out to others in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, for we have never been called to do anything on our own.
Our Father in heaven.
A few years ago, I read an amazing story about a father’s search for his lost son.
Ken Thomson’s three -year-old son was kidnapped by his ex-wife and taken from his home in Australia to somewhere in Europe. Ken quit his job as a firefighter and spent many months trying to find his son and two years after the abduction moved to Europe in order to intensify the search.
Over a three-month period, Ken cycled over four thousand miles covering nine countries whilst also using the media and the internet to publicise the search for his son Andrew. His two-and-a-half-year search finally came to an end when a woman in Amsterdam became suspicious about a new mother who turned up to enrol a six-year-old boy called Andrew into the school. The school’s principle noticed that Andrew’s passport had expired and the school ran a security check and discovered the boy was the subject of more than 180 Interpol alerts. As soon as Andrew saw his dad he gave him a big smile and is now safe back in Australia with his father.
When we open the pages of God’s word we find scripture speaking of God as a father. He is a “father to the fatherless” and “a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5) and the person who sets the lonely in families and leads forth prisoners with singing (Psalm 68:6). He is a father who seeks to draw near and yet is also the father of heavenly lights (James 1:17) who is Lord of heaven and earth (Matthew 11:25). He is the all-powerful One yet is also depicted as the one who runs to greet the prodigal son (Luke 15:20) and the merchant who sells all in order to make us His very own (Matthew 13:45-6). When we look at Jesus feeding the crowd and weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) we see what our heavenly Father is really like because Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Jesus came to show us what a relationship with God really looks like - so that we could see what our heavenly Father is and understand our true identity and calling in Him. This differed greatly from the portrayal of God given by many religious people at the time of Jesus and even today at times. Their representation of God was often of someone who was distant, unobtainable, and quick to judge any misdemeanour that religious leaders came across. Jesus, on the other hand, revealed God as a loving Father and everything He did was the fruit of this relationship which His father, and including destroying the devil’s work (1 John 3:8) and sacrificially standing in our place, then opening the door to forgiveness and reconciliation with God (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 1:15-16). Satan had made God out to be someone who does not want the best for man and therefore could not be loving (John 8:44; Gen 3:1,4). In Jesus we see that God is exactly who He says He is; loving (1 John 4:8), gracious (Ephesians 2:8), compassionate (Psalm 145:9, Matthew 15:32), merciful (Matthew 12:7; Ephesians 2:4) and just (Matthew 12:18, Luke 18:7-8).
In John 8:44 we read of the devil as ‘the Father of lies’ this pointing back to Eden where Satan sought to persuade Adam and Eve that God was holding out on them and therefore could not be loving or trustworthy. In Jesus we see that God is exactly who He says He is.
In the incarnation we see the authority, power, and victory of the One who coped with life on the very terms that had been laid out for all mankind and in Jesus’ sacrificial death we see the highest expression of love from the One who despite being all-powerful, willingly entered our place of suffering. This was an awesome sacrifice in love for the rebel, yet religious people mocked Jesus as they watched Him die, Satan sought to triumph over Him, and those whose plans lay in ruins ran away from the One who had shown nothing but grace and mercy.
Everything Jesus did was out of His relationship with His Father which is why Jesus said, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30) and “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has told me to say” (John 8:28). He also said, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9) and “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener” (John 15:1).
Many Christians quite rightly say that God is never in a hurry. Yet there is one place in scripture where God is likened to someone who is in a hurry. In the story of the loving father and prodigal sons, God is likened to a father who sees his returning wayward son at a distance and being filled with compassion, runs out to him, hugs him and clothes him with the best robe (Luke 15:20).
In Galatians 4:6 Paul speaks of ‘Abba, Father’ with ‘Abba’ speaking of care and concern and the One who is the true foundation of the house, so to speak. You and I have been adopted into His family through the work of Christ.
“…In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:4-7.
In the above verse we see that God was pleased to reach out to us in a plan that was marked out before time. So, before you and I were placed in a cradle, God had already prepared a way for us to come to Him and after we leave this world we will (because of Christ alone) enter the fullness of all that He has done for us. We have been adopted into His family.
In the epic film ‘Ben Hur’, a man who was forced into slavery was eventually adopted as a son after saving his owner from drowning. In his case, the adoption, was in gratitude for something he had done. In our case adoption is despite all that we have done, and is all about the grace, compassion, mercy, and loving-kindness of our heavenly Father.
A young boy was clearing a path in his garden one day in order to make a track for his go-cart. He came across a large boulder and was soon sweating as he struggled to push it out of the way. As he was doing so his father shouted from the upstairs window of his house, “son, use all of your strength.” The boy did not reply but gritted his teeth and continued to push with all his might, yet to no avail. Again, his father shouted down at him saying, “son, use all of your strength.” The son turned and looked up at his father saying, “I am using all of my strength.” The father then said, “No son, you are not using all of your strength. I am your strength – ask me and I will come down and help you.”
We have a heavenly Father who wants to help us; we don’t need to do everything in our own strength. He is our Father in heaven.
Our Father in heaven.
My father was twenty-seven years older than my mother and died at the age of seventy-eight when I was only twenty-two. A week or so before he died my mother told me that he had committed his life to Christ. I was an atheist at that time and gave little thought to what she had said apart from, “If that makes it a little easier for him then good for him.” I remember seeing him on the day he died and all I could really say to him, as a young man very heavily involved in weight-training was, “Look at me Dad – no-one is going to get to Mum through me.”
A few years after my father’s death I became a Christian and shortly after this asked God whether or not my father had genuinely come to Him before he died. I did not really expect an answer but I it was that night, or a couple of nights later, that I had a dream in which I saw my father. My father was walking towards me with the power and vibrancy of a man in his mid-twenties and with his head held high and shoulders straight. He had incredible vitality and his skin seemed to glow with a golden light. The dream stopped there but I think it was God answering the simple prayer of a young Christian man who had so much to learn, letting him know that his father was with him.
Heaven is spoken of as God’s dwelling place from where He exercises His rule and reign (Isaiah 66:1), and although sin separates man from God, God has not let go of this world. In God’s words and actions, heaven has, in a sense, come to earth and in considering this we recognise that the reason we can know that there is a heaven is because God has taken the initiative in telling us about it. He is our Father in heaven with Jesus saying, "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
In the words, ‘Our Father in heaven’ we have the intimacy and transcendence of God intertwined like two pieces of rope. In many respects He is so close to us that we can call Him ‘Abba’ (Romans 8:15) yet is also the furthest from us in every respect. He is the One who says that the nations are like a drop in a bucket and regarded as dust on scales (Isaiah 40:15) and who also says that He knows the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:7).
We know that there are heavens above us and can see something of the wonders of the solar system, but the words, “In heaven remind us that there is another place outside these earthly realms. In considering this we remember that we are not the only location in the Universe; there is another place, a place where God resides in all His glory. “In heaven” speaks of that place beyond the physical dimension where God’s presence is fully manifested and where Christ and His followers live awaiting the culmination of all things. We have been adopted into His family and are on a journey of growth and blessing and can know His presence even amidst difficulty.
Heaven reaches out to earth and angelic beings can be seen to interact with earth, whether in the vision of angels descending and ascending on a stairway bridging heaven and earth (Genesis 28:10-13) or proclaiming the arrival of a saviour to shepherds (Luke 2:8-14). A chariot of fire and horses of fire appear as Elijah leaves these earthly realms in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11-12). An angelic being shuts the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:21-22) and elsewhere a hand reaches in and writes on the dream-wall of an arrogant pagan king, announcing the termination of his rule and the most powerful kingdom on earth (Daniel 5:5, 25-26). Not long after this a vision is seen by Ezekiel reminding him of who it really is that holds all power and authority in His hands….”
“Then there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.” Ezekiel 1:25-28
He is our Father in heaven (Isaiah 40:26) and He always knows exactly what He is doing. He is the One who “determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:4).
We are not alone and our Father is intensely interested in our lives. There is another place and one day heaven and earth will intertwine in a new creation when all that the world has become at the hands of men is wrapped up and removed like an old robe and that it is called to be is ‘birthed’ anew through God’s amazing grace.
A few years after my father died my mother started going out to China as a missionary. She smuggled bibles in and was to eventually play a major part in setting up a large centre for reaching out to Chinese students in Northern Ireland. Because of her interest in China, I became aware of some of the incredible things God was doing in a country that severely oppresses Christians.
On one occasion a pastor was arrested and in the struggle to get him to the police station was severely injured. His wife was called and rushed to the station, leaving their oldest child in charge of the other children. Sadly, her husband died and as this grief-stricken woman travelled home she wondered how she was going to tell her children that their father was now in heaven.
As she approached her home she could hear her children singing and on entering the house found them extremely excited and animated. She told them the sad news and to her surprise they said that they already knew dad was in heaven because angels had come and told them and then sang songs with them until she got home. Heaven interacts with earth.
Hallowed be your name.
"So — who is like me? Who holds a candle to me?" says The Holy One. “Look at the night skies: Who do you think made all this? Who marches this army of stars out each night, counts them off, calls each by name — so magnificent! so powerful! — and never overlooks a single one?”
Isaiah 40:25-26 (The Message)
In recent months different nations all over our world have been working hard to produce a vaccine for COVID and in the last few weeks vaccinating has started gaining pace in many countries. Think of all the time, effort and thinking that has gone into bio-engineering in order to be able to get this far. However, this would not have been possible without the previous work done by Dr Francis Collins – head of the human genome programme – and his team of scientists who completed a rough mapping out of the human genome in April 2003. When asked how many base pairs it would take to provide the information for a human, Dr Collins said that if the code for one cell in our body were to be read aloud without stopping it would take roughly thirty-one years to do so. We cannot even begin to imagine the bio-engineering that goes into each cell. How much greater then is the one who designed it?
Dr Collins is a Christian and in his testimony speaks of starting off as an agnostic and then becoming an atheist whilst pursuing a career in science. He said that during this period of his life he thought that everything about religion and faith was a carryover from an earlier, irrational time, and now that science had begun to figure out how things really worked, religion wasn’t needed anymore.
Whilst studying science he read about what Einstein had to say about God and concluded that if there was a God, it was probably somebody who was off somewhere else in the universe and certainly didn’t care about him. He went so far as to say that he could not see any reason why he needed to have God at all, even if he did exist.
However, Dr Collins also said that he came to realise that his atheism was dangerously thin when one of his patients asked him what he believed about God. This prompted a journey to try and understand why intellectually sophisticated people could believe in God. At the same time, he began to recognise that in the science that he loved there seemed to be evidence for a creator – there is something instead of nothing. He also began to realise that atheism was becoming the least rational of all choices and in his testimony quotes G.K. Chesterton who once said, “Atheism is the most daring of all dogmas, for it is the assertion of a universal negative.”
During his search for truth Dr Collins was given a copy of C.S. Lewis’ book ‘Mere Christianity’ and said that he then reluctantly concluded that though God could not be proven, nevertheless it was “the most rational choice available.” It was then through wondering whether God personally cared about him that he finally came to encounter Jesus and put his trust in Him as Lord and Saviour. Since then, Dr Collins has written many books on science and also on Christianity, including, ‘The Language of God – A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief.”
On one occasion Dr Collins wrote that if God is who God claims to be, and I believe he is, then he is not explainable in natural terms. He is outside the natural world; outside of space and time.” God is nothing like us and in “hallowed be your name” we recognise that, in our prayer life, we need to acknowledge that God is vastly different from us. The very fact that Jesus saw it as necessary to be in prayer suggests that if we are not careful we can forget who God is and make him into something that He is not……manageable. God is not manageable in any way whatsoever.
In ‘Hallowed be your name’ Jesus is telling his listeners (Israel) that God’s name is hallowed; so how would Israel have understood the name of God?
In Hebrew thought a name spoke of the nature and character of what was being named and all names attributed to God speak of who He is and what He is like.
The two main names by which Israel knew God are Elohim (meaning ‘God’) and Yahweh (LORD).
Israel recognised that God (Elohim) is the One who began this world, and that He is the One who has all power and sovereignty. Nothing can compare with His might and power, and nothing is so small that it does not warrant His attention – and that includes you and I.
As we read through scripture we see that God often uses imagery to convey truth about Himself. For example, in the New Testament Jesus likens Himself to a Vine, a gate, and the bread of life.
In the Old Testament imagery associated with God includes a king, a father, and a vine grower, and in the word ‘Elohim’ (God), there is also the imagery of One who is strong like an ox, only so much more. This would resonate with an agricultural community where everyone knew how much easier it was to plough a field with Oxen compared to doing it themselves. God is the strong creator who comes alongside us and leads the way. As in a yoke of oxen where the stronger more mature animal would take the main burden, so too God comes alongside us to strengthen and support us as we walk with Him. God is the active One who is nothing like us – He is the creator who holds all things in His hands and as Isaiah states, to God “…the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust” (Isaiah 40:15).
Other imagery associated with the name ‘Elohim’ is that God is One who has the authority of a Shepherd who guides and protects – the One leads to green pastures (Psalm 23) and the One who protects us (Numbers 6:24).
So often when we come to prayer we forget that prayer starts with slowing down and focusing on who God is. Slow down and remember that this is His world and remember that, in one respect, the nations are no more than a drop of water in a bucket to Him. There is nothing we can compare Him with and no matter how long nations or kingdoms of false ideologies have been present they are no match for Him. He alone is the great Shepherd, and the One who has all authority.
Secondly, Jesus’ audience would know God’s name as ‘Yahweh’ literally ‘LORD’ also carrying a variety of flavours and speaking of the One who was, and who is and who will be. He is the self-existent One and in Genesis 2:7 we read of the Lord – Yahweh – raising man from the dust of the ground and breathing life into his nostrils.
Because of this and the ways that God works in history, Israel knew God as the One who raises up, the One who breathes life and the One who, in grace and mercy, restores and strengthens life. For example, think of the Lord’s engagement with Moses, a failed hero at a burning bush. Moses must have lived with a deep sense of failure for many years and this was expressed in some of the excuses he made to God. However, God reaches out and raises Him up. God then worked through Moses as He removed the powerful sophisticated demonic-influenced world that controlled Israel and raised Israel out of bondage. In grace and mercy, He then set about taking the thinking of Egypt out of Israel – God does not overlook sin, wherever it may be found.
The holiness of God speaks of His sheer perfection with this being communicated through the giving of the Law and man’s need of forgiveness. God is a God of justice and in justice we see the restoration of shalom peace in a rebellious world where the sinner is given the opportunity to repent, whilst evil is dealt with and accountability is never overlooked. For example, in the words of Nahum we read…
“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.” Nahum 1:2-3
In 1 Peter 1:20 we gain insight into God’s thinking before the world was created, with Peter writing that we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ a lamb without blemish or defect, chosen before the creation of the world..”
In Peter’s words we see at least two things. Firstly, we see that God’s love is unlike any other love and is a sacrificial love and that the sole reason He could engage with our world without compromise to His holiness is because His Son had chosen to come and stand in our place in a decision made before the world began. Secondly we recognise that it is not God who needs a sacrifice but man because God is holy and law-breaking must be called to account.
The incredible truth is that the One who stood before crowds and taught them to pray, “Hallowed be your name” is the One chosen from the foundation of the world, the Holy One, coming to stand in the place of the unholy and is the One who said…” Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). In Jesus we see both the nature and character of God and how man is called to live.
Think about it! When the Son of God entered these earthly realms, He did not do so as superman but with His glory veiled (John 17:5), being birthed through His creation (woman) and being placed in a manger – all so that we could find forgiveness and be seated in heavenly realms and set apart as holy. God is nothing like us; hallowed be His name, His nature and character.
In ‘hallowed be your name’ we have the reminder to focus on and confess that God is nothing like us. He is the creator, the All-Powerful One, the Great Shepherd who says that the power of the nations are no more than a drop in a bucket. He is the One who will raise us up and help us, no matter what we go through. The help we receive may not always be as we expect it to be, but God will be with us, with many Christians around the world testifying to this truth. For example, take the following words from an Iranian Christian imprisoned for nine years before being brought to trial. In his written defence at his trial, he wrote…
“I would rather have the whole world against me but know that the Almighty God is with me, be called an apostate but know that I have the approval of the God of glory…They tell me, ‘Return!’ But from the arms of my God to whom can I return? Is it right to accept what people are saying instead of obeying the Word of God? It is now 45 years that I am walking with the God of miracles, and His kindness upon me is like a shadow and I owe Him much for His fatherly love and concern…”
‘Heroes of our Faith’ p203 Ed.Dr Patrick Sookhdeo.
God is the One who helps us to recognise that He is completely different from anyone else – the Holy One who stoops low to get alongside the unholy. In God alone we see One who has been wronged more than any other, seeking to make it right for the wrong-doer at great personal cost to Himself (John 3:16).
In God we find that the most offended person is the most caring and that the most powerful person is the gentlest and we also find that the One who has the right to judge this world right now, instead waits as long as possible so that all have the opportunity to turn to Him. In considering this we see that He truly is the One who stretches time, almost like the parent who waits for the child who is late, before serving up the meal, or like the teacher waiting for the student who hasn’t made it to class on time. He is the most-offended One who has made a way for the enemy to find forgiveness and receive a love that has been present from eternity past (Titus 1:2). He is the most offended party in history yet in Christ the rebel can find forgiveness and be pronounced free from condemnation (Romans 8:1) and adopted into His family (Ephesians 1:5). He is the unfathomable and the untameable One, hallowed be His name; He alone is the Holy One.
In saying “hallowed be your name” we recognise that we must not portray God as someone clothed in our ideas and limitations but are called to reveal what He is like in how we live and act. This requires understanding the heart of holiness.
For us, holiness is being set apart as special. It is being brought back into our true standing as sons and daughters and is therefore all about belonging to God. God is the One who makes us holy (Exodus 31:13; 1 Peter 1:16) through the work of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) and in desiring to walk with Him (Galatians 5:25) we find His Spirit drawing us closer to the Father and helping us walk in the power that is ours through Christ alone. This is what holiness is all about and out of this we overcome wrong-thinking and walk in His light. Hallowed be His name.
Your kingdom come – your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In the early church there were no pictures of crosses but of a shepherd (John 10:11), who gave His life for His sheep reminding us that in Jesus we see the King of the Kingdom – the Mighty One who carries a staff in His hand as the Great Shepherd who looks after us. In considering this we see that the Kingdom of God speaks of the rule and reign of heaven being brought to bear on earth. For example, every miracle, and every word and every touch of Jesus on broken humanity seeks to restore, uplift and speaks of the normal of His kingdom – “May your kingdom come.”
In Jesus we see that God’s kingdom does not come with the power of worldly weapons, but by the Spirit of sacrifice (Zechariah 4:6). The law of God’s kingdom is the Law of unconditional love, and in Jesus we see exactly what that love looks like. For example, Jesus did not write off the tax collector, the adulterer, or the Centurion’s servant whilst, at the same time, always calling sin to account. Jesus regarded no-one as insignificant and no situation as too trivial to warrant His attention and in the parables He shows us the heart of the kingdom.
A clear example of this is found in Matthew 13:45-46 where Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a merchant (thereby personifying the kingdom), who searches for pearls and gives everything in order to buy one. You and I are that pearl and the ‘merchants’ best is his own son. Elsewhere, this time in the parable of the loving father and two sons, the ruler of the kingdom is pictured as being like a father who, filled with compassion, runs to greet an empty-handed and returning wayward son. (Luke 15:20).
Jesus also personifies God’s kingdom as being like a landowner who goes out at different times of day to find people to work for him (Matthew 20:1-16). The unusual aspect of this parable is that in the Ancient Near East it would not be the landowner who goes out to find workers, but his servants. We also see that the person employed at the end of the day receives just as much money as the ones employed for the whole day. In this we see that the Kingdom of God gets involved personally and that it is not so much about getting work done by others as it is making sure everyone is taken care of.
“Your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
God reaches out – it’s as simple and beautiful as that and, in the words and actions of Jesus the Righteous One: (1 John 2:1), we see how life should be lived in total dependence on God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
God’s righteousness speaks of His salvation-creating activity as He works with the precision of a surgeon’s knife to deal with the ‘cancer’ of sin and the offering of life to the sinner. At every turn of the pages of scripture we see that God always knows what He is doing. We will struggle at times because life certainly does not always go the way we want it to. However, if we are trusting in Him, He will help us even if things appear to get worse for a while.
For example, think of a surgeon who is part way through an operation. The patient has been cut open and there will be blood everywhere. In this respect things will look worse than when the surgeon first began to operate, yet it is still part of the healing process and the surgeon knows exactly where he or she is going with the operation and what they expect to achieve.
God knows you by name and you are precious in His sight and part of His story. You may not always know what is going on but can trust in the One who has given Himself and who will never leave you nor forsake you. Let us always remember that in Jesus we see justice in action as He walked in unconditional love for His Father and made a way for separation from God to be reversed and broken lives restored. All of this is possible because of His perfect life, substitutionary death, and triumphant resurrection. Our contribution to His suffering was wrong-doing whilst His gift to us is unconditional love. Through Jesus we are pronounced justified - forgiven and brought home (Romans 5:1-2). May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Think of life as if it were like a jigsaw puzzle that had become faded and worn, with edges missing and pieces lost. For you and I there is little hope concerning putting the jigsaw together again, especially since we never saw the original picture in the first place. Yet this is not the case with God when it comes to our fragmented and damaged lives. Our Heavenly Father knows how the faded, gap-filled and scribbled on pieces of our life should fit together. He can straighten our thinking, reshape our emotions, and rescue us from what self has become, bringing us into life and freedom in Him. However, dealing with the problems we have encountered is certainly not all that there is in our new life in Him. In grace and mercy, He teaches us how to reach out to others and in the fruit and gifting of the Spirit we gain a foretaste of heaven as we reach out to those around us and often find ourselves doing much more than would be possible if we were just following some sort of religious code. On one occasion King David said, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my free on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40:2). However, Jesus also says,
“… the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). May your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In praying, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we recognise our need to fulfil our true calling and bring glory to our Father; but what is glory?
A glorious sunrise or sunset can capture our attention and lift our hearts, yet ultimately glory is not a thing in and of itself. Glory is something that points to someone (Psalm 19:1-2); to our heavenly Father who reaches from eternity into space and time. For example, God’s glory is seen in how He reaches down and gains the attention of a failed hero through a burning bush that was not consumed (Exodus 3:2-4), or, for example, in how He uses an angelic encounter with an “I’ve had enough” prophet (1 Kings 19:1-9) whom He then nurtures.
Glory points to what God is doing and is an expression of covenant-goodness. Therefore, in saying, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we recognise all that God has done and our calling to seek His will in all things and keep in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25). This can only come about through a heart that is open and available to God. For example, all that Jesus did was in total accordance with His father’s will and by keeping in step with the Spirit. He was anointed by the Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17) and continually filled with the Spirit speaking of the deep relationship He had with His father and reliance on the Spirit’s leading (Luke 4:1). When we were born again we were marked with seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14) and are to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) this referring to submitting to His leading in all areas of life. In submitting to God in heart and mind we only lose what should not have been there is the first place and walk in increasing maturity and freedom as we learn more about Him. Therefore in, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we do not so much have a future event in mind as a confession of our calling to submit to His rule and reign now. We are saying, “May you, in your grace and mercy, exercise your power and authority over, in and through my life by the Spirit. I seek your rule and reign so that I may live out of all that is mine through Jesus.
God is the author of life, the all-giving One and He is with us in the Holy Spirit right now. He is the One who writes the story that you and I are a part of, and we are part of His church, called to share our lives with one another as He continues to share with us. God fulfils His will – I am to discover this and obey it in daily life. “You will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Give us this day our daily bread ….
In recent months I spoke to a friend who has many wealthy acquaintances who have just about everything a person could have been by way of the world. One of these men recently died and if you want to get an idea of his wealth just imagine how much it must have cost to rent a suite of rooms every weekend of the year for a whole year in one of the most expensive hotels in London. This man did so for many years and would always pay a year’s rent in advance. Shortly before his death he was talking to my friend and commented on how nothing in his life had ever really made him happy. How incredibly sad.
There are those who wrongly assume that ‘give us this day our daily bread’ is simply about God meeting our physical needs. However, to think this way can be to fall into the trap of seeing God as little more than a personal provider who helps us appropriate what we need to succeed in life. This wrong thinking can then lead to the assumption that a rich or successful Christian is automatically being more blessed than others which is certainly not necessarily the case. If you think that it is then try saying it to the many Christians who have lost everything and are now in prison. For example, in the last few days, I heard of a family in Iran who have just been imprisoned for their faith. The grandparents, in their seventies, were sentenced to twenty years imprisonment with the first five being in solitary confinement. Their children have been imprisoned for five to eight years each and their grandchildren - the youngest being three – have all been split up and put into Muslim families. If ‘give us our daily bread’ is all about being secure in the ways of the world, then these people must have done something wrong!
As a young Christian I was once in a meeting where a multi-millionaire Christian was speaking about his work and that he had written a book about God and would give a free copy to anyone who wanted it. I was a little concerned at some of the things this well-meaning man said and when he had finished the pastor stood up and said, “I am very sorry but I cannot agree with all of this.” As he said this there was a rush of wind and all the ceiling tiles in the building lifted up and then fell back into place for no natural reason. So, what do you think God may have been saying through this?
“Give us this day our daily bread” does not speak of appropriating everything we need in the physical realm as if this were some sort of endorsement proving God loves us. This does not mean that God won’t bless us this way at times but in saying, “Give us this day our daily bread” we are relinquishing our ideas of autonomy as we confess that our lives are ultimately sustained by God’s grace and mercy and that He is the One who provides what we really need.
. In living this way – being nurtured, shaped, and moulded by Him – we become those whose ‘leaf does not wither’ (Psalm 1:1-3). In other words, we do not draw from our own strength alone when tough times arise, but on His. In placing our hope in Him we find that He conflates His strength with ours (Isaiah 40:31), literally meaning, we are bound together. This is also conveyed in the words, “Abram believed in the Lord, and he credited to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6) which is literally saying, “Abraham leant on the Lord and God credited (gave him strength) to walk the right path (righteousness).
During Israel’s desert wanderings God taught His people that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from His mouth (Deuteronomy 8:3-4) as He fed and nurtured His people, whilst at the same time dealing with wrong-thinking and rebellion.
Israel had a choice as to which way they were going to live but needed to see that exercising their perception of freedom, without reference to God, ultimately crippled them and separated them from God. In judgement God would, on occasion, allow them to reap the ultimate harvest of their actions. Had he not done so, there would be no Israel and subsequently no Messiah through Israel.
Throughout Israel’s time in the desert there was no hope of them surviving in their own strength and in God’s provision of food, water, and instruction and guidance they were able to benefit from the goodness of God as the true covenant-keeper.
In “Give us this day our daily bread” we are asking for the manna that never runs out – His word sustaining and moulding and shaping our lives - recognising our dependence on Him and need to be open in order to receive the blessings secured in Christ. As we slow down and recognise all these truths which God reveals we find ourselves being released from insecurity and inadequacy and feelings of never having achieved or done enough as the truth of, “Man does not live by bread alone but every word that comes from the mouth of God” embraces and sustains us.
"Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day, the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen” (Nehemiah 9:19-21).
“Forgive us our debts…..”
Dave Ramsey runs a well-known radio show in the U.S.A. which is all about straight talking. finance and life. Recently his company purchased ten million dollars of unpaid medical and car debts from two private debt collection companies and then emailed thousands of debtors to inform them that their debts had been paid off. In answer to the question, “Why would anybody do this?” he said, “The answer is simple – to show the love of Jesus Christ. You see, this whole completely forgiving a debt thing has been done before – by him. No other gift could compare to that one, but we felt this was one small way we could continue to pass on that love.” In a parable about two men who owed different amounts of money to a moneylender (Luke 7:41), Jesus uses the remission of debt as a metaphor for the forgiveness of sins.
In scripture sin is seen as that which seeks to overwhelm, control, and ultimately destroy life and is, on occasion, spoken of as binding a person with strong rope (Proverbs 5:22) and entangling the mind at every opportunity (Hebrews 12:1). Sin promises much but ultimately takes everything which is perhaps why it is also pictured as an uncontrollable fire that destroys the nature and character of its ‘host.’ Sin is a squatter, a ‘not supposed to be there’ drain on life and a continual missing of the target. It is also the refusal to live as God’s son or daughter.
Sin is never static and in seeking to shelve the wrong-thinking in our minds we forget that it will still spread and permeate everything, as does the smell of rotten fish left in a neatly wrapped package on the shelf.
However, in another way, sin can almost become invisible in that we can become desensitised to wrongdoing and no longer see that it is there – not unlike like someone who can smell their deodorant at the beginning of the day, but later on is no longer aware that it is present! I know that is not a brilliant illustration, but it almost makes the point! And yet, despite all this we are the most forgiven people in the world because of Jesus.
Forgiveness comes about through God’s generosity (Jn 10:28, Rom 3:23, 1 Pet 1:3-4) and is undeserved, and unmerited by us in any way. Through the work of Christ, we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), seated in heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6) and no longer under condemnation (Romans 5:1). We have been lifted out of our life of existence and brought into life with our heavenly Father and, as the Psalmist writes, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
Sin begins in the heart and mind before being expressed in word and action. Therefore, although we are no longer under condemnation concerning the eternal consequence of sin, we are still those who need forgiveness on a day-by-day basis, for none outside of Christ have been able to fulfil God’s law of love even though we may try our best. We are recipients of incredible grace and mercy and, in turn, are to show this grace and mercy to others, hence the words, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
“.…as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
In Jesus we serve a Saviour who prayed for the forgiveness of His enemies whilst enduring the pain, suffering and mockery of the cross, saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34). In doing so Jesus is asking for their pardon, yet this does not absolve them of their need of repentance and faith in order to receive eternal life as opposed to the wages of wrong-doing: eternal separation from God.
As Christians we are the most forgiven people on earth and called to forgive the sinner as have so many Christians in forgiving terrorists who have killed their families. Although very few of us have gone through the atrocities that many have faced at the hands of terrorists or dictatorships, we all live in a world where people make mistakes, because everyone around us is flawed to one degree or another and that includes us. We are called to forgive others and without doing so will not be able to experience the present-day benefits of our walk with God because a double-minded person cannot prosper (James 1:8) and has become near-sighted and blind, forgetting that we are the most forgiven people on earth (2 Peter 1:8-9). We can forgive because we have been forgiven and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit helps us to do so even in the worst of situations as the following story reveals..
As a young boy Sokreaksa Himm was left for dead by the Khmer Communists, after seeing them butcher his whole family. For many years he carried the traumatic images in his mind, along with the bitterness and hatred that had built up in him. Later in his life Sokreaksa committed his life to Jesus and was eventually able to come to a place where he could deal with the emotional turmoil. He writes, “As I gave up my desire for revenge and pulled out the root of hatred, anger and bitterness from my heart, I was journeying towards forgiveness and the healing of my soul and the wiping away of its tears…Forgiveness has been a special gift from God in my life. It’s a spiritual power, breaking the time which bound the images of the killers in my soul. It cleaned away the bitterness from my heart…since I have forgiven those who killed my family, my life has changed. The fire of hatred has gone from my heart and soul, though the bitterness has not been forgotten. By forgiving completely, I can move ahead, relying on God’s healing power. Forgiveness has released me from the emotional torment that burned within me for years and now my heart is lighter and my spirit has peace.”
Sokreaksa is now a businessman and has paid for schools to be built in the areas where the enemies of his family live and has seen some of them come to Christ. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. This does not mean that God will not call debtors to account but it does mean that we are not stained by their wrong-doing and end up living as victims instead of victors in Christ.
Lead us not into temptation…but deliver us from evil.
The phrase, ‘lead us not into temptation’ does not mean that God tempts us, with scripture stating elsewhere,” Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13-14). To understand this statement, we need to recognise that ‘lead us not into temptation’ is a Jewish idiom.
An idiom is a group of words with a meaning that is different from the meaning of each of the separate words. For example, the phrase, “he or she is under the weather” means that someone is feeling ill. It does not literally mean they are ‘under the weather.’
“Lead us not into temptation” is a Jewish idiom meaning, “Do not let us succumb to the temptation of sin,” with this phrase also being taken in parallel with the next line, “deliver us from evil.” Both statements are saying, “do not let us succumb to evil inclinations within our lives; help us to avoid sin.”
Because God has come to me and because God has opened my eyes and because God has shown me a better way to live - a way with Him that brings freedom - I now begin to see what evil is and that it is not just the absence of good – it is living by my own rules and not according to His leading. It is failing to adhere to the law of agape love and the fruit of this failure is seen all across our world today and clearly reveals that we need to rethink how we live. As Einstein once said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be change without changing our thinking.”
Evil can speak of aggressive outside covenant living that most equate with things like war, murder, and exploitation of the poor. However, in many respects the greatest danger concerning evil is not recognising it for what it is or not knowing that it is present. By way of illustration, think of a terrorist walking down your local High Street brandishing a gun and then, in contrast to this, an old woman slowly and subtly putting small amounts of poison in a neighbour’s coffee every time they visited her, without being noticed. Both are dangerous but which is more dangerous? Surely it has to be the one we do not see and therefore can do nothing about?
In our schools, colleges, and the media in general many have been taught a political correctness that is at complete loggerheads with the truth, but in many respects cannot see this because it has become the blueprint for life. Surely this is why God has sent His Spirit into the world to convict the world of sin (John 16:8-11) and help people understand that what they might assume is normal and alright is anything but. If, as Christians, we act as no more than moral crusaders then surely we fall far short of God’s way of doing things which exposes what is wrong in the context of love, grace, and mercy. You and I are called to show those around us a better way to live which does not come about through trying to be perfect but in how we relate to God as our heavenly Father on a day-to-day basis. In doing so we recognise that we are also prone to failure and seek God’s help to walk with Him.
Lead us not into temptation…but deliver us from evil.
‘Deliver us from evil’ is not simply about protecting self from all that goes on in the world, it starts by acknowledging our weaknesses and need to find help in breaking the hold of what we have become by way of the world, as we seek to grow in our walk with our heavenly Father and reach out to others understanding our calling to help them see the truth.
Because God has revealed His love, grace, and mercy to us we can understand what evil is. The root of evil is not a lack of morality first and foremost, but a broken relationship with God. It is dysfunctional, outside-covenant existence and a lack of willingness to come to our Father and therein lies our real problem. Sin is a departure from the norm, it is never static and is both an overstepping of the line, so to speak, and a failure to reach it – both transgression and shortcoming and the reason we invariably become enslaved by our circumstances as was the case of the prodigal son who ended up living amongst pigs (Luke 15:16).
In saying, “deliver us from evil” we recognise the need to be delivered from all wrong-doing both inside our own lives as well as around us, recognising that there is a spiritual battle going on and an enemy who is called the father (the source) of lies (John 8:44).
Many pray the Lord’s prayer because of habit or tradition yet in reality the prayer is all about challenging ourselves to see God’s greatness and the grace, mercy and love that is being expressed to us right now as those who deserve nothing, but through Christ can receive everything. In this respect the Lord’s Prayer is, as we said at the beginning, the bedrock-attitude of those who really want to engage with God – an attitude of mind that opens our hearts and releases us into deeper intimacy with the Father and greater strength and power as we walk in the Spirit.
In this attitude of heart and mind we recognise that we can know God because He has chosen to reveal Himself as a Father – “our Father”. We also recognise that we can know that God is different from any other person we will ever meet because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us and shows us what holiness, love, compassion, grace, and mercy is really all about – “hallowed be your name “
In engaging with this prayer, we also acknowledge that this world is not all that there is and that there is another place, a kingdom that dwarfs anything we have ever seen in the kingdoms of men. His kingdom is one that no kingdom of this earth can match in power, love, grace, and mercy – “Your kingdom come.” In Jesus we clearly see what kingdom living is like and recognise that God’s will is the will of a Father who loves us and knows what is best for us and we also know that we have a responsibility to obey Him and share the life He has given us with others – “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
In engaging with this prayer, we remind ourselves that our security and well-being ultimately comes from knowing and engaging with our heavenly Father, recognising that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. He is our Creator, the One who knows how all things should be; He is the potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8). His word nourishes us, challenges wrong thinking, and promotes growth in life as it should be lived: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
In coming to God, we don’t do so as those who think their merits deserve some sort of payment. Instead, we recognise that we are often the ones who can so easily be distracted and end up walking in our own strength as we break His shalom-peace and forget that we are in a spiritual battle. Yet, as one man who almost stumbled in this way once said, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
In writing Psalm 73 Asaph speaks of at a time when he had almost slipped up through focusing on how well everyone else around was doing and then beginning to wonder if it was really worth serving God at all. Fortunately, Asaph came to his senses as he entered the temple and adjusted his vision, so to speak. He recognised that God is the One who holds him close and who guides him through life and into an eternal destiny. In short Asaph recognised that God is his portion forever.
The word ‘portion’ can seem a little strange to us at first but refers to a portion of land with the same word being used in Numbers and Deuteronomy to speak of the division of the land between the tribes. The only people that did not receive land were the Levites (Numbers 18:20) who were totally dependent on God as they ministered His word and blessings to the people and received support from them in doing so. Therefore, when Asaph (a Levite), speaks of ‘a portion’ he is thinking about this and saying that God is his ‘land’ who provides him with everything.
At a time when the disciples were about to face unimaginable difficulty Jesus tells them that He is going to prepare a place for them (John 14:2), and elsewhere God tells you and I that we have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, that is kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:33-5). There is a place that awaits us, ‘land’ that is ours and is our inheritance through the death and resurrection of Jesus who fully satisfied the demands of the law,
A right attitude in prayer acknowledges that we are the ‘forgiven ones’ recognising that we do not receive what we do deserve (hence mercy) whilst being able to receive what we don’t deserve (grace) because of Jesus Christ the Righteous One. Because of God and all that He has given us and all that He teaches us we can say, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
As we come to God in prayer we recognise who He is and also our true position before Him as those who will always be dependent on Him. In understanding all that He has done we then turn to pray for others in the power of the Spirit.
Prayer is about engaging with God; it is about knowing God and surrendering our lives to Him. In surrendering to Him we lose nothing except that which should never have been a part of our lives in the first place. In surrendering we then remain open to receiving His blessing we acknowledge who God is and request His help and guidance to be all that it means for us to be as a son or daughter of the kingdom.
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, "Abba, Father." Romans 8:15