This text continues the portion of Jesus' sermon that is focused on prayer. In the last blog in this series, we mentioned that the priority of this kind of prayer is that God's name would be "hallowed" (honored, glorified, made holy). The rest of the prayer flows out of the desire for the name of the Lord to be high and lifted up in our lives.
In verse 11, Jesus makes a statement that almost seems out of place when compared with the previous verse. He has just modeled how we should pray for God's Kingdom to come and His will to be done in our lives. Then, He moves on to daily sustenance through food (and subsequently, all our daily physical needs): "Give us this day our daily bread." But this is exactly in-line with how Christ would have us pray. Not only are we to be dependent on God for our spiritual needs, but also for our physical needs. And this is a day-by-day reliance on God.
Like we rely on God daily for provision for our needs, so do we rely on Him daily for the forgiveness of our sins: "and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." This request is attached to the daily request for food. But you may object: If we are saved once-and-for-all, and the gospel is for my past, present, and my future, why do I need to continue to ask for forgiveness? That is a valid question. We are absolutely forgiven for all time in Christ: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). But at the same time, for our own sake as children of the Holy God, we recognize that we need to be reminded of this forgiveness day-by-day. This is true because we sin day-by-day. Paul Tripp says it like this:
"When I live this lifestyle, I find joy in telling Jesus, day after day, that I need what he did in his life, death and resurrection. This lifestyle is about growing to acknowledge that in some way, every day, I give evidence to the fact that the cross was necessary. And this lifestyle of forgiveness makes my daily attitude one of heartfelt gratitude and joy."
Verses 14-15 are connected with this request. This is weighty warning that Jesus gives His followers. As people who have been forgiven an unimaginable debt (our sin against God), we must be willing to forgive all the lesser debts (the sins of others against us). Those who have been forgiven much forgive much (see Luke 7:47). Christ expounds on this more in His parable in Matthew 18:21-35. What Jesus is not saying here is that somehow, we are saved by our own ability to forgive. That would clearly contradict the rest of the Bible. But He is saying that if we have truly experienced forgiveness, we will be willing to forgive others. This won't always be perfect, as we don't have perfect forgiveness like Jesus. But the evidence of a forgiven heart is being willing to forgive others.
Sandwiched right in the middle of these statements on forgiveness is verse 13: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." While God never tempts anyone, we recognize that we need His strength from keeping us from going into places or situation which would lead us to potential sin. Evil is a real presence. Satan is roaming about, knowing that his time is short. The only way we can survive is through the leading of our champion, Jesus. We need His Spirit to guide us day-by-day. This is not just a cute saying. This is a war-time cry for help to our Warrior God. This entire prayer is a petition of dependance upon our Heavenly Father. O how we need Him day-by-day.
May we all learn to cry out to Him every day, all for the glory of His beautiful Name!