The Lord’s Prayer (Part 2)
By Arthur W. Pink
[Editor’s Note: See last month’s issue for the first portion of this message.]
"Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen" (Matt. 6:11-13).
"Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread"
"Our daily bread" refers primarily to the supply of our temporal needs. With the Hebrews, bread was a generic term, signifying the necessities and conveniences of this life (Gen. 3:19; 28:20), such as food, raiment, and housing. Inherent in the use of the specific term bread rather than the more general term food is an emphasis teaching us to ask not for dainties or for riches, but for that which is wholesome and needful.
In begging God to give us our daily bread, we ask that He might graciously provide us with a portion of outward things such as He sees will be best suited to our calling and station. "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain" (Prov. 30:8-9). If God grants us the superfluities of life, we are to be thankful, and must endeavor to use them to His glory; but we must not ask for them. "And having food and raiment let us be therewith content" (1 Tim. 6:8). We are to ask for "our daily bread."
Christ inculcates the lesson of moderation. We are to stifle the spirit of covetousness by forming the habit of being contented with a slender portion.
By asking God for the daily supply of our temporal needs, we acknowledge our complete dependency upon His bounty. This petition, however, comprehends far more than my own personal needs. By teaching us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," the Lord Jesus is inculcating love and compassion toward others. God requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to be as solicitous about the needs of our fellow Christians as we are of our own needs (Gal. 6:10).
"And Forgive Us Our Debts, As We Forgive Our Debtors"
"Forgive us our debts." Our sins are here viewed, as in Luke 11:4, under the notion of debts, that is undischarged obligations or failures to render to God His lawful due. We owe to God sincere and perfect worship together with earnest and perpetual obedience. The Apostle Paul says, "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh" (Rom. 8:12), thus stating the negative side. But positively, we are debtors to God, to live unto Him. By the law of creation, we were made not to gratify the flesh but to glorify God. Failure to discharge our debt of worship and obedience has entailed guilt, bringing us into debt to Divine justice.
God not only has endowed us with talents, obligating us to serve and glorify our Benefactor, but also has placed us under His Law, so that we are condemned for our defaults. And as Judge, He will yet call upon each of us to render a full account of our respective stewardships (Rom. 14:12). There is to be a great Day of Reckoning (Luke 19:15), and those who have failed to repent of and bewail their debts and to take refuge in Christ will be eternally punished for their defaults. Alas, that so very few conduct themselves in the conscious realization of that solemn Assize.
Not only does this metaphor of creditor and debtors apply to our ruin, but, thank God, it applies equally to the remedy for our recovery. As insolvent debtors, we are completely undone and must forever lie under the righteous judgment of God, unless full compensation be made to Him. But we are powerless to pay Him that compensation, for, morally and spiritually speaking, we are undischarged bankrupts. Deliverance, then, must come from outside ourselves. Here is where the Gospel speaks relief to the sin-burdened soul: another, even the Lord Jesus, took upon Himself the office of Sponsor, and rendered full satisfaction to Divine justice on behalf of His people, making complete compensation to God for them. Hence, in this connection, Christ is called the "Surety of a better testament" (Heb. 7:22).
"And forgive us our debts." What do we ask for in this petition? First, we ask that God will not lay to our charge the sins we daily commit (Psa. 143:2). Second, we plead that God will accept the satisfaction of Christ for our sins and look upon us as righteous in Him. Some may object, "But if we be real Christians, He has already done so." True, yet He requires us to ask for our pardon, just as He said to Christ, "Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance" (Psa. 2:8). God is ready to forgive, but He requires us to call upon Him. Why? That His saving mercy may be acknowledged, and that our faith may be exercised! Third, we beseech God for the continuance of pardon. Though we be justified, yet we must continue to ask; as with our daily bread, though we have a goodly store on hand, yet we beg for the continuance of it. Fourth, we plead for the sense of forgiveness or assurance of it, that sins may be blotted out of our conscience and from God’s book of remembrance. The effects of forgiveness are inner peace and access to God (Rom. 5:1-2).
Forgiveness is not to be demanded as something due us, but requested as a mercy. "To the very end of life, the best Christian must come for forgiveness just as he did at first, not as a claimant of a right but as a suppliant of a favour" (John Brown). Nor is this anywise inconsistent with, or a reflection upon, our complete justification (Acts 13:39). It is certain that the believer "shall not come into condemnation" (John 5:24); yet instead of this truth leading him to the conclusion that he need not pray for the remission of his sins, it supplies him with the strongest possible encouragement to present such a petition. This petition implies a felt sense of sin, a penitent acknowledgement thereof, a seeking of God’s mercy for Christ’s sake, and the realization that He can righteously pardon us. Its presentation should ever be preceded by self-examination and humiliation.
Our Lord teaches us to confirm this petition with an argument: "as we forgive our debtors." First, Christ teaches us to argue from a like disposition in ourselves: whatever good there be in us must first be in God, for He is the sum of all excellency; if, then, a kindly disposition has been planted in our hearts by His Holy Spirit, the same must be found in Him. Second, we are to reason with God from the lesser to the greater: if we, who have but a drop of mercy, can forgive the offenses done to us, surely God, who is a veritable Ocean of mercy, will forgive us. Third, they who would rightly pray to God for pardon must pardon those who wrong them. Joseph (Gen. 50:14-21) and Stephen (Acts 7:60) are conspicuous examples. We need to pray much for God to remove all bitterness and malice from our hearts against those who wrong us.
"And Lead Us Not into Temptation"
This sixth petition also begins with the word "and," requiring us to mark closely its relationship with the preceding petition. The connection between them may be set forth thus. First, the previous petition concerns the negative side of our justification, while this one has to do with our practical sanctification; for the two blessings must never be severed. Thus we see that the balance of truth is again perfectly preserved. Second, past sins being pardoned, we should pray fervently for grace to prevent us from repeating them. We cannot rightly desire God to forgive us our sins unless we sincerely long for grace to abstain from the like in the future. We should therefore make it our practice to beg earnestly for strength to avoid a repetition of them. Third, in the fifth petition we pray for the remission of the guilt of sin; here we ask for deliverance from its power. God’s granting of the former request is to encourage faith in us to ask Him to mortify the flesh and to vivify the spirit.
"And lead us not into temptation." A few remarks upon our responsibility in connection with temptation are appropriate. First, it is our bounden duty to avoid those persons and places that would allure us into sin, just as it is always our duty to be on the alert for the first signs of Satan’s approach (Psa. 19:13; Prov. 4:14; 1 Thes. 5:22). As an unknown writer has said, "He who carried about with him so much inflammable material would do well to keep the greatest possible distance from the fire." Second, we must steadfastly resist the devil. "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines" (Song 2:15). We must not yield a single inch to our enemy. Third, we are to go to God for grace submissively, for the measure He grants us is according to His own good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).
We are to endeavour, indeed, to pray, and use all good means to come out of temptation (Thomas Manton).
"But Deliver Us from Evil"
This seventh petition brings us to the end of the petitionary part of our Lord’s Prayer. The four requests that are for the supply of our own needs are for providing grace ("give us"), pardoning grace ("forgive us"), preventing grace ("lead us not into temptation"), and preserving grace ("deliver us"). It is to be carefully noted that in each case the pronoun is in the plural number and not the singular – us and our, not me and my. For we are to supplicate not for ourselves only, but for all the members of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). How beautifully this demonstrates the family character of truly Christian prayer. For our Lord teaches us to address "our Father" and to embrace all His children in our requests. On the high priest’s breastplate were inscribed the names of all the tribes of Israel – a symbol of Christ’s intercession on high. So, too, the Apostle Paul enjoins "supplication for all saints" (Eph. 6:18). Self-love shuts up the bowels of compassion, confining us to our own interests; but the love of God shed abroad in our hearts makes us solicitous on behalf of our brethren.
"But deliver us from evil." We cannot agree with those who restrict the application of the word "evil" here to the devil alone, though doubtless he is principally intended. The Greek may, with equal propriety, be rendered either the evil one or the evil thing; in fact, it is translated both ways.
We are taught to pray for deliverance from all kinds, degrees, and occasions of evil; from the malice, power, and subtlety of the powers of darkness; from this evil world and all its allurements, snares, tempers, and deceits; from the evil of our own hearts, that it may be restrained, subdued, and finally extirpated; and from the evil of suffering... (Thomas Scott).
This petition, then, expresses a desire to be delivered from all that is really prejudicial to us, and especially from sin, which has no good in it.
It is true that in contradistinction to God, who is the Holy One, Satan is designated "the wicked [or evil] one" (Eph. 6:16; 1 John 2:13-14; 3:12; 5:18-19). Yet it is also true that sin is evil (Rom. 12:9), the world is evil (Gal. 1:4), and our own corrupt nature is evil (Matt. 12:35). Moreover, the advantages that the devil gains over us are by means of the flesh and the world, for they are his agents. Thus, this is a prayer for deliverance from all our spiritual enemies. It is true that we have been delivered from "the power of darkness" and translated into the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13), and that, as a consequence, Satan no longer has any lawful authority over us. Nevertheless, our adversary wields an awesome and oppressive power: though he cannot rule us, he is permitted to molest and harass us. He stirs up enemies to persecute us (Rev. 12, 13), he inflames our lusts (1 Chr. 21:1; 1 Cor. 7:5), and he disturbs our peace (1 Pet. 5:8). It is therefore our constant need and duty to pray for deliverance from him.
Satan’s favorite device is to incite or to deceive us into a prolonged self-indulgence in some one sin to which we are particularly inclined. Therefore, we need to be in constant prayer that our natural corruptions may be mortified. When he cannot cause some gross lust to tyrannize a child of God, he labors to get him to commit some evil deed whereby the name of God will be dishonored and His people offended, as he did in the case of David (2 Sam. 11). When a believer has fallen into sin the devil seeks to make him easy therein, so that he has no remorse for it. When God chastens us for our faults, Satan strives to make us fret against our Father’s chastening or else to drive us to despair. When he fails in these methods of attack, then he stirs up our friends and relatives to oppose us, as in the case of Job. But whatever be his line of assault, prayer for deliverance must be our daily recourse.
Christ Himself has left us an example that should encourage us to offer this petition, for in His intercession on our behalf we find Him saying, "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (John 17:15). Observe how this explains to us the connection between the clause we are now considering and the one that precedes it. Christ did not pray absolutely that we should be exempted from temptation, for He knew that His people must expect assaults both from within and from without. Therefore, He asked not that we should be taken out of this world, but that we be delivered from the evil. To be kept from the evil of sin is a far greater mercy than to be kept from the trouble of temptation.
"But deliver us from evil." This is a prayer, first, for Divine illumination, so that we may be able to detect Satan’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11). He who can transform himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) is far too subtle for human wisdom to cope with. Only as the Spirit graciously enlightens can we discern his snares. Second, this is a prayer for strength to resist Satan’s attacks, for he is much too powerful for us to withstand in our own might. Only as we are energized by the Spirit shall we be kept from willfully yielding to temptation or from taking pleasure in the sins we commit. Third, it is a prayer for grace to mortify our lusts, for only to the degree that we put to death our own internal corruptions shall we be enabled to refuse external solicitations to sin. We cannot justly throw the blame on Satan while we give license to the evil of our hearts. Salvation from the love of sin always precedes deliverance from its dominion. Fourth, this is a prayer for repentance when we do succumb. Sin has a fatal tendency to deaden our sensibilities and to harden our hearts (Heb. 3:13). Naught but Divine grace can free us from unabashed indifference and work in us a godly sorrow for our transgressions. Fifth, it is a prayer for the removal of guilt from the conscience. When true repentance has been communicated, the soul is bowed down with shame before God; there is no relief till the Spirit sprinkles the conscience afresh with the cleansing blood of Christ. Sixth, it is a prayer that we may be so delivered from evil that our souls are restored again to communion with God. Seventh, it is a prayer that He will overrule our falls for His glory and for our lasting good. To have a sincere desire for all these things is a signal favor from God.
What we pray for we must endeavor to practice. We do but mock God if we ask Him to deliver us from evil and trifle with sin or recklessly rush into the place of temptation. Prayer and watchfulness must never be severed from each other. We must make it our special care to mortify our lusts (Col. 3:5; 2 Tim. 2:22), to make no provision for the flesh (Rom. 13:14), to avoid every appearance (or form) of evil (1 Thes. 5:22), to resist the devil steadfastly in the faith (1 Pet. 5:8-9), to love not the world, neither the things that are in it (1 John 2:15). The more our character is formed and our conduct regulated by the holy Word of God the more we shall be enabled to overcome evil with good. Let us labor diligently to maintain a good conscience (Acts 24:16). Let us seek to live each day as though we knew it was our last one on earth (Prov. 27:1). Let us set our affection on things above (Col. 3:2). Then may we sincerely pray, "But deliver us from evil."
"For Thine Is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, For Ever. Amen."
This model for Divine worshipers concludes with a doxology or ascription of praise to the One addressed, evidencing the completeness of the prayer. Christ here taught His disciples not only to ask for the things needful to them, but to ascribe unto God that which is properly His. Thanksgiving and praise are an essential part of prayer. Particularly should this be borne in mind in all public worship, for the adoration of God is His express due. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ!" exclaims Paul (Eph. 1:3). To pronounce blessing upon God is but the echo and reflex of His grace toward us. Devout praise, as the expression of elevated spiritual affections, is the proper language of the soul in communion with God.
In this pattern prayer, God is made both the Alpha and the Omega. It opens by addressing Him as our Father in heaven; it ends by lauding Him as the glorious King of the universe. The more His perfections are before our hearts, the more spiritual will be our worship and the more reverent and fervent our supplications. The more the soul is engaged in contemplation of God Himself, the more spontaneous and sincere will be its praise. "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving" (Col. 4:2). Is it not our failure at this point that is so often the cause of blessing being withheld from us? "Let the people praise Thee, O God; let all the people praise Thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us" (Psa. 67:5-6). If we do not praise God for His mercies, how can we expect Him to bless us with His mercies?
"For Thine is the kingdom." These words set forth God’s universal right and authority over all things, by which He disposes of them according to His pleasure. God is Supreme Sovereign in creation, providence, and grace. He reigns over heaven and earth, all creatures and things being under His full control. The words "and the power" allude to God’s infinite sufficiency to execute His sovereign right and to perform His will in heaven and earth. Because He is the Almighty, He has the ability to do whatsoever He pleases. He never slumbers nor wearies (Psa. 121:3-4); nothing is too hard for Him (Matt. 19:26); none can withstand Him (Dan. 4:35). All forces opposed to Him and to the church’s salvation He can and will overthrow. The phrase "and the glory" sets forth His ineffable excellency: since He has absolute sovereignty over all and commensurate power to dispose of all, He is therefore all-glorious. God’s glory is the grand goal of all His works and ways, and of His glory He is ever jealous (Isa. 48:11-12). To Him belongs the exclusive glory of being the Answerer of prayer.
Let us next notice that the doxology is introduced by the conjunction "for," which here has the force of because or on account of the fact that Thine is the kingdom, etc. This doxology is not only an acknowledgement of God’s perfections, but a most powerful plea as to why our petitions should be heard. Christ is here teaching us to employ the "for" of argumentation. Thou art able to grant these requests, for Thine is the kingdom, etc. While the doxology undoubtedly belongs to the prayer as a whole and is brought in to enforce all seven petitions, yet it seems to us to have a special and more immediate reference to the last one: "but deliver us from evil: for Thine is the kingdom...." O Father, the number and power of our enemies are indeed great, yet we are encouraged to implore Thy assistance against them, because all the attempts made by sin and Satan against us are really assaults upon Thy sovereignty and dominion over us and the promotion of Thy glory by us.
"For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory." What encouragement is here! Two things especially inspire confidence towards God in prayer: the realization that He is willing and that He is able. Both are here intimated. That God bids us, through Christ His Son, to address Him as our Father is an indication of His love and an assurance of His care for us. But God is also the King of kings, possessing infinite power. This truth assures us of His sufficiency and guarantees His ability. As the Father, He provides for His children; as the King, He will defend His subjects. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him" (Psa. 103:13). "Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob" (Psa. 44:4). It is for God’s own honor and glory that He manifests His power and shows Himself strong on behalf of His own. "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Eph. 3:20-21).
What instruction is here! First, we are taught to enforce our petitions with arguments drawn from the Divine perfections. God’s universal kingship, His power, and His glory are to be turned in prevailing pleas for obtaining the things we need. Second, we are clearly directed to join petition and praise together. Third, we are taught to pray with the utmost reverence. Since God is so great and powerful a King, He is to be feared (Isa. 8:13). Hence it follows that we are to prostrate ourselves before Him in complete submission to His sovereign will. Fourth, we are instructed to make a full surrender and subjection of ourselves to Him; otherwise we do but mock God when we acknowledge verbally His dominion over us (Isa. 29:13). Fifth, by praying thus, we are trained to make His glory our chief concern, endeavoring so to walk that our lives show forth His praise.
"For ever." How marked is the contrast between our Father’s kingdom, power, and glory and the fleeting dominion and evanescent glory of earthly monarchs. The glorious Being whom we address in prayer is "from everlasting to everlasting...God" (Psa. 90:2). Christ Jesus, in whom He is revealed and through whom prayer is offered, is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). When we pray aright, we look beyond time into eternity and measure present things by their connection with the future. How solemn and expressive are these words "for ever"! Earthly kingdoms decay and disappear. Creaturely power is puny and but for a moment. The glory of human beings and of all mundane things vanishes like a dream. But the kingdom and power and glory of Jehovah are susceptible to neither change nor diminution, and they shall know no end. Our blessed hope is that, when the first heaven and earth have passed away, the kingdom and power and glory of God will be known and adored in their wondrous reality through all eternity.
"Amen." This word intimates the two things required in prayer, namely, a fervent desire and the exercise of faith. For the Hebrew word "Amen" (often translated "verily" or "truly" in the New Testament) means "so be it" or "it shall be so." This twofold meaning of supplication and expectation is plainly hinted at in the double use of Amen in Psalm 72:19: "And blessed be His glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory; Amen, and Amen." God has determined it shall be so, and the whole church expresses its desire: "So be it." This "Amen" belongs and applies to each part and clause of the prayer: "Hallowed be Thy name...Amen" – and so forth. Uttering the Amen, both in public and private prayers, we express our longings and affirm our confidence in God’s power and faithfulness. It is itself a condensed and emphatic petition: believing in the verity of God’s promises and resting on the stability of His government, we both cherish and acknowledge our confident hope in a gracious answer.
– Condensed and edited from the last five parts of a ten-part series by Arthur Pink.