Forgive Our Debts

On average, each US household with a credit card carries $8,398 in credit card debt. Total U.S. consumer debt is at $13.86 trillion. That includes mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and student loans. As serious as financial indebtedness is, you have a bigger debt problem, according to Jesus in Matthew 6:12. You have a debt to God which you cannot pay.

Forgive us our debts. Your debts come between you and God. Pray about the basic problem of your sin. Sin (Luke 11:4) involves missing the mark or standard that God has set. It is an offense against the holiness of God. Sins, or trespasses (Matthew 6:14,15), emphasize sin as crossing the boundary, or straying from the path, see Isaiah 53:6. It views sin as breaking God’s law. Your basic problem is not your finitude or your humanity, but the fact that you have sinned against God. You, like David, are involved in sin from birth, because you are sons and daughters of Adam. Like David, recognize that at its heart sin is rebellion against God. That is why David says, “Against you only have I sinned.” “[Jesus] speaks of ‘the human heart’ as the place from which proceed evil thoughts and all kinds of crimes. He teaches his disciples to pray for forgiveness of their debts as well as for their daily bread (Matt. 6:12)…. Jesus’ preaching is based on a view which denies to the man principally the attribute of ‘good’ and characterizes him rather as ‘evil,’ as a sinner, a debtor before God.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 222). Jesus, of course, was sinless. He taught his disciples to pray this prayer, but it is not a prayer that he prayed. Your sins make you a debtor. Sin has a penalty, a punishment attached. You are liable to that punishment. The wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23. That includes not only physical death, but also the pain of eternal separation from God in hell. The penalty must be paid, either by you, or by someone else. This prayer for forgiveness of your debts implies the need for a substitute to make that payment.

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The Gift of Daily Bread

In the African country in which I grew up, like the ancient Middle East, your diet would be heavy on bread. It comes to stand for all that you need, as Jesus teaches you to pray in Matthew 6:11.

Give us our daily bread. Ask for your daily bread. The word translated “daily” is rare (no uncontested usage in ancient literature outside of text and Luke 11:3). It could mean, “what we need for existence.” More likely is, “what we need for the current day.” Those concepts blend, and the traditional “daily” is a good translation. God is concerned with all of your life. The prayer begins with God (the preface and petitions 1-3) and moves on to your needs. The structure parallels the Ten Commandments, which begin with your duty to God and continue with your duty to you fellow men. Model this in your prayers (do they tend to focus on your desires?). God is concerned with all of your needs. God is not concerned only about your “spiritual” needs. Rather, no detail of life is too small to escape his concern. All of life is encompassed by this prayer, and thus all of life is holy. It is all to be lived to his glory.

Jesus requires moderation in your request. “Bread” includes all that you need to maintain your physical life. God does bless richly, often giving far more than merely the necessities. “As Israel required daily manna, so we require daily ‘bread.’ We confess that w3e are poor, weak, wanting creatures, and beseech Him who is our Maker to take care of us. We ask for ‘bread,’ as the simplest of our wants, and in that word we include all that our bodies require.” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew – Mark, page 52). All creation can be used to God’s glory, 1 Corinthians 10:26; Psalm 24:1. Enjoy God’s gifts. They are good! This petition echoes the spirit of Proverbs 30:7-9. Pray for enough to meet your needs, lest you be tempted to steal. Pray that God would preserve you from having too much, and disowning him.

Give us our daily bread today. God gives you your bread when you need it. Ask daily for what you need. Remember how God gave manna daily to his people in the wilderness. God supplies your needs as they arise, not always in advance, but just when you need them. This does not prohibit a legitimate planning for the future, but it does require you to make those plans with James’ “If it is the Lord’s will…” James 4:15. Do not worry about your needs. The prohibition against worry (verses 25ff) grows out of this petition. God assures you that you that you need not worry, Philippians 4:5-9. Don’t waste the energy God gives you to deal with today’s challenges by worrying about what has not yet happened, and may not even happen. “[P]art of what it means to recognize God as our heavenly Father is to trust him for food and drink and clothing, and this petition expresses that trust in its simplest form” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 247).

Depend on your Father for all that you need. Your Father meets your needs. He cares for the least creature, verses 26 and 28. He has given you the gift of his Son, and will not withhold anything you really need (not identical to anything you want!). As the sovereign Creator he can do everything that you ask–and then more. The prayer teaches you humility, for you must come to God with your requests. You are dependent upon him for everything. Trust totally in your Father. Remember that this prayer is addressed to “our Father in heaven.” “[T]he whole life of prayer must be ruled by…faith in God’s fatherhood (Matt. 7:7-12; Luke 11:9-3).” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p.268). You can pray this truly only as you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Apart from him you have no claim on God’s blessings. Don’t believe the manipulations of the “health and wealth” preachers. This petition does not assume that you avoid suffering, or that you always get what you think you need. Perhaps you cannot understand why God sometimes delays an answer, or answers in what seems to be a strange way. Before you jump to the conclusion that he is unfair, remember how he gave his Son up to suffering and death for your sake. “[We are not] confronted with a kind of naive optimism of faith which has not yet discerned the problem of history and the riddle of suffering. But everything becomes intelligible only against the background of God’s fatherhood in Christ.” (Ridderbos, p.268). Because God is your Father in Jesus Christ, ask him for his blessing as you enjoy his good gifts.

Only your Father in heaven can meet your needs. Ask him for your bread–today.

“[I]n its present context it [the petition, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’] can unmistakably be understood only from the new relation to God given with Christ’s coming. Just like the exhortation not ‘to take thought,’ it is as Christologically determined as the petition for the remission of sins. In both cases the basis of the petition and its answer is found in God’s fatherhood as realized in the coming of Christ.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 268).

United with Christ

What does it mean to belong to the body of Christ, to be part of his church? How important is that? In Romans 6:1–14 Paul tells you there are life and death issues involved.

God has united you to himself in Christ. God has drawn you to himself. Deuteronomy 4 describes Israel after the Exodus from Egypt with the mighty miracles, after the appearance of God on Mt. Sinai, and after God’s provision for them in the wilderness. They had not earned this—they had been the recipients of God’s grace. God has dealt graciously with his people. Their inheritance is undeserved, unearned. Moses is calling the people to be faithful to their God as they enter the promised land.

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Your Will Be Done

Why does a child obey when a parent tells her to do something? How and why do you respond to an instruction from an employer? How do you respond when God instructs you how to live your life? In Matthew 6:10 Jesus tells you to pray about that.

Let God’s will be done. God has told you his will. God does have a secret will. No one can hold back his hand, Daniel 4:35,36. Everything is included in God’s will, Ephesians 1:11. Nothing is too small for God’s concern, Matthew 6:30. This eternal, secret will is always being done. This prayer refers to God’s revealed will, Deuteronomy 29:29. God once spoke to the fathers through the prophets, but he has now spoken in his Son, Hebrews 1:1,2. God has revealed himself in creation, Romans 1:20, and in conscience, Romans 2:14,15. You find God’s will revealed in his Word, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, 2 Timothy 3:16,17. God’s revealed will reflects his holiness, Leviticus 11:44.

Pray for God’s will to be done. Seek to do God’s will in your life. Pray to know God’s will. Doing the will of the Father can take place in your life only when, by faith, you are untied to the Savior. Paul tells you in Colossians 3 that you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. “[A frequently overlooked strand of New Testament teaching] is that not only is Christ regarded as having died for the believer but the believer is represented as as having died in Christ and as having been raised up with him to newness of life. This is the result of union with Christ. For by this union Christ is not only united to those who have been given to him but they are united with him. Hence not only did Christ die for them but they died in him and rose with him. . . .” (John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 48) Because you have died and been raised in Christ, you must put to death the sins in your life. The Holy Spirit is essential if you are to understand the Word. Study God’s revelation and apply it to your life. Submit to what God has said. You need a new will to obey, and that is the gift of God. Struggle against sin, Romans 7:24,25. Fight the good fight of faith. Pray for God’s will to be done everywhere. This is more than a personal request. It includes all of your life. The prayer includes all aspects of society. God’s people should be involved in politics, business, service organizations. You are the leaven in your culture. Pray that God’s will my be done by those in authority, 1 Timothy 2:1-3. Work to seek obedience to God’s law in all areas of life.

Obey God on earth as he is obeyed in heaven. Do God’s will on earth. Our sinful world is disobedient. Since the Edenic rebellion it has been characterized by hatred, crime, terrorism, and war. By nature man is a rebel in his relationship with God. (Even the Christians’s obedience is far from perfect.) You need to address your Father in heaven in this prayer. Self-improvement programs don’t work (as Ben Franklin discovered). Only God’s grace can save you. Only it can make you seek God’s will. God does hear and answer this prayer. Obedience (your sanctification) is not just something you do. It is God working in you by the power of the risen Savior. “The resurrection of Jesus is just as thor­oughly messianic and adamic as are his suf­ferings and death. His resurrection is as equally representative and vicarious as his death. Believers no longer live to them­selves but to the Christ, ‘who for their sake died and was raised’ II Cor. 5:15.” (Richard B. Gaf­fin, Jr., The Cen­trality of the Resurrec­tion, p. 66) The Messianic kingdom brings salvation to God’s people, but also institutes the rule of righteousness. Obey God now. Obedience to God’s will is not reserved for some future, heavenly reign. They must be a present reality. Thus Paul’s command for you to be what you are.

Obey God as he is obeyed in heaven. There is perfect obedience in heaven. The angels obey perfectly, Psalm 103:20-22. The glorified saints obey perfectly. Christ obeyed perfectly, as his prayer reflected, Matthew 26:39. While this obedience took place on earth, it was not of the earth. Only Christ’s obedience to God’s will can satisfy for sin. Because of Christ’s obedience, the Holy Spirit enables you to pray for God’s will and to do the will of God. “This petition does not merely express agreement with God’s decree or resignation to his will, but rather the longing that what God requires from man may be done on earth as it is in heaven. At present God’s will as expressed in his commandments is not being done on account of all that opposes God on earth. Both redemption and ethics are implied in this ‘will of God.’” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 247) Obey God completely, heartily, and immediately. Don’t give the partial, excuse-filled obedience of Saul, 1 Samuel 15:22,23. Love and obey God with all that you are, Deuteronomy 6:4,5. Just as the angels in heaven stand ready to carry out God’s will immediately, do not delay your obedience. Pray for the day, which will be achieved perfectly only at Christ’s return, when the earth will be full of this kind of obedience.

This week pray that God’s will may be done more fully throughout the earth. And obey with the kind of reverent, joyful service the angels render in heaven.

Your Kingdom Come

An immigrant, upon naturalization, takes an oath renouncing all foreign titles and allegiances. He pledges to support and defend the Constitution, and to bear arms on behalf of the United States. In this petition of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:10 you pray for the advance of God’s kingdom.

Pray for the advance of God’s kingdom. The kingdom involves the rule of God. The kingdom was present in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the idea of kingship was more common than the term kingdom. It refers to God’s universal reign, Psalm 47:2; 103:19. The Lord is specifically the King of Israel, Isaiah 41:21; Exodus 19:4-6; (and the whole concept of the theocracy). God’s glorious future rule was the hope of the Old Testament church, Isaiah 11:1-10. Salvation is: enduring, Isaiah 51:6; the product of God’s work, Isaiah 61:1-3; and results in the new heavens (Isaiah 65:17), the end of death (Isaiah 25:7), the resurrection of the dead (Isaiah 26:19), and the rule of the Messiah (Isaiah 11:10). Later Judaism added the strain of a purely earthly, national triumph, though still combined with the rule of the Messiah. The New Testament builds on the concept of the kingdom in the Old. John the Baptist preached the coming of the kingdom as he heralded the Messiah’s arrival, Matthew 3:2. Jesus preached the kingdom, Matthew 4:17,23. The kingdom is a theme of early preaching, Acts 1:3; 8:12. While some passages speak of the kingdom as God’s rule (John 18:36), others imply that the kingdom involves people and a realm (Matthew 5:19; 8:11). The kingdom of God is both a future and a present reality. It is future, Matthew 4:17; 8:11. This petition of the Lord’s Prayer suggest a future nature (your kingdom come). Yet the kingdom was, and is, a present reality, Matthew 11:11; 16:19. Jesus defined his ministry in terms of the kingdom, Luke 4:16-21,43. The kingdom is a present reality, for the Messianic King has come. The age of the church of Jesus Christ is thus a kingdom age. The resurrection of Jesus, the climax of his kingdom ministry, is the foundation of the church. Appreciate both its present reality and the potential of its future consummation! “The kingdom of God, which was foretold and expected by the prophets, in which God would be king and his will the delight of everyone, which in origin and and character is a heavenly kingdom and already present in heaven now (Matt. 6:10)—that kingdom is now coming on earth and is near (Mark 1:15).” “[T]o the extent that the rule of God is not immediately fully realized in believers here on earth, and they on their part do not yet fully receive and enjoy the goods of that kingdom—eternal life, the vision of God, complete salvation—the kingdom is indeed still in the future. . . . But insofar as it is established here on earth by the person and works of Christ and is planted in human hearts by rebirth, faith, and repentance, that kingdom is present. . . .” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, pages 246 & 247)

Pray for God’s rule. Prayer advances God’s rule. It is one of the means that builds the kingdom. It is something you can continue to do! Pray for the progress of the kingdom. Give thanks for its present character and for the redemptive events on which it is founded. Pray for its progressive realization and future consummation. God’s rule changes the world. The kingdom comes as the Father, on the basis of Christ’s atonement, through the power of the Holy Spirit, rules in the hearts and lives of his people. In a sinful world, only as God’s rule advances can there be lasting improvements in your own life and in national and international conditions. Avoid substitutes that put the kingdom of men in the place of God’s kingdom. “This threefold office of Christ as prophet, priest, and king together with his headship over the church has vast implications for how we consider his church. Plainly, it ought to shape how we think and speak of it, how we order it, how we serve in it, and how we worship in it—for it is his church, and we must seek his will diligently and constantly in all that we do.” (Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith, p. 108)

Offer yourself in service to the King. Make this prayer your own. Prayer advances God’s rule. It is one of the means that builds the kingdom. It is something you can continue to do! Pray for the progress of the kingdom. Give thanks for its present character and for the redemptive events on which it is founded. Pray and work for God’s kingdom to grow and advance in your marriage, in your family life, in the way you interact with those around you. Pray for its progressive realization and future consummation. God’s rule changes the world. The kingdom comes as the Father, on the basis of Christ’s atonement, through the power of the Holy Spirit, rules in the hearts and lives of his people. In a sinful world, only as God’s rule advances can there be lasting improvements in your own life and in national and international conditions. Avoid substitutes that put the kingdom of men in the place of God’s kingdom.

Serve in God’s kingdom. This petition involves a concern for missions. The Great Commission is the marching orders for the kingdom. Pray for, give, and work for the spread of the gospel, in this community and throughout the world. Use your gifts in the kingdom. Although the concepts of the kingdom and the church are not identical, they are basically co-extensive. “The kingdom-idea is the clearest expression of the principle that . . . everything is subservient to the glory of God. In this respect the kingdom is the most profoundly religious of all biblical conceptions.” (Geerhardus Vos, The Kingdom of God and the Church, p.102) Service in God’s kingdom includes your entire life. As you wash the breakfast dishes (part of caring for your covenant family), as you study for a geometry test (learning to use the world around you for God’s glory), as you perform your daily tasks to the honor of your Savior, you are involved in the work of the kingdom. God has blessed you with gifts. Use them to further his kingdom.

Pray for the growth of God’s kingdom–and offer yourself in service to the great King.