Jesus' Perfect Prayer #2 (Matthew 6:11-13)

In this post, we cover the final three petitions of the Lord's Prayer.

In the last post, we covered the address and the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. We noted how the Lord’s Prayer is really a mini-manual on prayer. We need to be taught how to pray correctly, and Jesus shows us the way:

“The first three petitions basically ask the same thing, namely, for God’s total victory over all that oppose Him. This lends them a distinct end-times character; that is, they will not be answered fully until the kingdom of heaven arrives in glory and the present dispensation of the world comes to an end.”

When we pray the first three petitions, therefore, we are praying with hope. Hope that one day this present evil age so dominated by Satan and wickedness will come to an end.

But what about now? Before the kingdom comes in glory, what about our needs in this life? We’re moving on, therefore, from the first three petitions to the last three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.

I really appreciated what one commentator wrote as we transition,

“A true understanding of the God we pray to, as heavenly Father and great King, although putting our personal needs into a second and subsidiary place, will not eliminate them. To decline to mention them at all in prayer (on the ground that we do not want to bother God with such trivialities) is as great an error as to allow them to dominate our prayers.”

That’s very helpful. God is our Father now for eternity. Eternity should dominate the horizon of our life. Our needs are subsidiary, but not unimportant.

Therefore, in these last three petitions, Christ teaches us to pray that the Father would 1) supply our physical needs 2) forgive our sins and 3) grant protection from spiritual forces of evil. We want to spend the rest of our time looking at these three petitions.

Petition for Daily Bread

Let’s begin with v. 11. Christ says, “Give us today our daily bread.” What is the presupposition of this petition? It is James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” Now, if every good gift comes from him, then it stands to reason that our food comes from him too. Whenever we eat we can trace the means of production back to an ultimate source—the Father of lights. The presupposition of this petition is that our food, our provision for physical life, comes from God.

To ask God to supply us with our daily needs is an acknowledgement that we depend upon him for our physical life. Unbelievers don’t acknowledge that, do they? They work, they purchase, and they eat. All the while, they think, “Look what my hands have done.” But the disciple of Christ knows that every time they put a piece of food into their mouths, that they are being physically sustained by the God who upholds creation both in seedtime and harvest. He it is who sends rain upon the earth to water it and to make it bear and sprout so that the sower can sow his seed and so that the eater can eat. “Give us this day our daily bread” is, therefore, an expression of dependence and need. “Father, provide us what we need for our physical lives. We depend upon you.”

A Modest Request

Now, this request is very modest, isn’t it? It’s modest in two ways. First, it only asks for what is needed, and nothing more.You’ll recall the manna that God provided in the wilderness for the Israelites. He provided exactly what was needed daily. The people were taught by that to trust him every day.

Therefore, we pray that God would give us what is needful for today so that we keep from sinning in two directions. First, we ask that God would keep us from the sin of self-sufficiency and pride. Second, we ask that God would keep us from the sin of theft. “Lord, I don’t want to be self-sufficient, and I don’t want to steal. So give me for today what is my portion.”

This request is also modest in another sense. It doesn’t concern itself with the distant future. There’s a major debate about what the word “daily” is supposed to mean in this verse, and I’m not going to bore you with the details. But in prayer when we ask God for provision, our petitions should be modest in the timeline. We should let tomorrow’s cares be tomorrow’s cares and trust God for today. To close our discussion of this petition, let me quote from one commentator who said this:

“Whatever the precise meaning [of the word “daily”], the point seems to be that the disciple prays for immediate day-to-day necessities rather than for long-term luxuries.”

That’s the key. Let’s pray to our heavenly Father every day that he would be our provider. Every day that we eat, drink, and sleep in our homes, we should thank him for the daily sustenance he gives to us.

Petition for Forgiveness

That brings us to the penultimate petition, where Christ says, “And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.” Not only do we need God to physically survive, we need God to forgive us for the sins we daily commit.

Think of a human father. A human father provides food for his family. But he also seeks to live with each one of his children in harmonious relationship. But dishonor on the part of a child often disrupts the harmony of the relationship.

Christ is teaching us that we will never meet our obligations to God. In this life, we will constantly commit sin (c.f. Ecclesiastes 7:20). You notice the word used here in this petition, “Forgive us our debts…” In Luke the word used is sins. What is a debt? Simply put, a debt is something we owe. Here, a debt is something that we owe to God that hasn’t been paid; an obligation that hasn’t been met. The implication of this petition is this. While our calling is to be perfect like our heavenly Father, the reality is that we never will be in this life.

We will never be able to live in such a way that we are not in debt to him, morally speaking. But if we constantly offend, how can we live with our Father in a harmonious relationship? Simply put, we can live in harmony by asking that he would forgive what we owe him, what we cannot pay back. One person has written,

“When disciples pray for pardon, they recognize that they are not yet perfect—their attitudes and activities often fall short of kingdom standards.”

Some people have wondered, “Why do we need to ask God to forgive us if we’re justified once-and-for-all ?” The response is simple: “Why does a husband need to ask his wife for forgiveness when he has sinned against her if they’re already married?” While Scripture certainly uses transactional language to describe our salvation, it’s important to recognize the danger of thinking merely in terms of transaction. Those that God justifies have a new Spirit-driven relationship with him in union with Christ. Therefore, I ask God to forgive me just as I ask my wife for forgiveness when I have offended her—because sin creates disharmony in fellowship.

Forgive as We Forgive

Christ goes on, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” There is a relationship between a person’s willingness to forgive others and their experience of God’s forgiveness. If we are God’s children, we take on his likeness. The opposite is true as well. If we don’t take on his likeness, we are not his children. The Heidelberg Catechism summarizes this petition like this: “Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors.”

That’s the key to understanding vss. 14–15. If we are not willing to show mercy, then have we really been shown mercy? Christ says, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” One person wrote,

“A forgiven person, is a forgiving person.”

True disciples of Christ have received God’s mercy. That mercy melts them into merciful people. Perhaps the best commentary on these verses is in Matthew 18, where Christ tells the parable of the unforgiving servant. The servant is forgiven an absolutely massive amount of debt he would never have been able to repay. But after receiving mercy from the king, what did he do? He went out and showed no mercy to the one who owed him significantly less debt. The parable deftly displays the incongruity of the man’s actions.

Christ is saying in vss. 14–15 that a person who shows no mercy cuts themself off from mercy. God will not be mocked. But notice what Christ says, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Note this well—the person praying this prayer has forgiven others their debts. They do not forgive in order to merit God’s forgiveness, but because God has already shown them kindness and grace in salvation. They are saying, you have forgiven me, so I forgive others. I forgive others, so continue forgiving me. 

Petition for Spiritual Protection From Evil

That brings us to the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Christ says, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil [or from the evil one].” My argument about this petition is quite simple. “Lead us not into temptation” must be viewed as a negative counterpart to the positive statement that follows, namely, “Deliver us from the evil one.”

In other words, “Do not bring us not into temptation” means “Don’t let us fall into sinful temptations, but rather rescue us from the evil one.” This is a petition, in other words, for spiritual protection from Satan.

There are some commentators who want to say that evil is more encompassing than the evil one, but the reality is that the evil one in the Bible is the god of this age who blinds unbelievers, tempts believers to sin, prowls about like a roaring lion, and is much stronger than we often consider.

In this final petition, Jesus is telling us to petition God for protection from falling into Satan’s wiles. One person has written this,

“The petition asks God, as the almighty Ruler, to see to it that His children do not walk down paths where sin can overpower them.”

This petition is based on the understanding that we don’t have the power to resist temptation unless God comes to our aid by the Holy Spirit. The Heidelberg Catechism puts it like this, “By ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment.”

This petition is based on our understanding of our proneness to sin. Spiritual pride would say, “I’m strong enough. I can take the devil by the tail, swing him around, and make a fool of him.” But the truly spiritual person, humbled by the reality of their own sin, knows that they are not strong enough in themselves and need God to guide and protect them so as not to be sifted like wheat.

The Christian knows that their walk is beset by dangers. We are at war. The Heidelberg Catechism describes this petition in this way,

“Lord, uphold us and make us strong with the strength of your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle.”

This petition implies, therefore, that disciples have a healthy sense of distrust in their own moral strength. However, they also realize that this petition is ultimately asking that Christ would arise to finally separate the wheat and the chaff and bring an end to Satan’s work in this present age. We pray that Jesus would (as he has promised) cast Satan headlong into the lake of fire. “Deliver us from evil” is, therefore, ultimately a request for eschatological deliverance from the prince of darkness.

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