Robert Wurtz II
Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one” (Luke 11:1–4 NKJV).
When I read this prayer and its cognate prayer in Matthew 6, it strikes me as something that should be our daily focus in prayer. I’m not one given to liturgy, but these two prayers are vital to our understanding of prayer. It’s like Jesus is telling us how to direct our focus towards what is important when we pray each and every day. Is it acceptable to pray the prayer exactly how it’s written? Certainly, if we do it in sincerity and not just out of habit or repetition.
The Fundamentals of the Prayer
First, we should pray to God as our Heavenly and Holy Father. We should thank Him for his goodness and recognize Him for who He is and what He has done (Psalm 100:4). His name is holy.
Second, we should pray that His kingdom would come. Theologians speak of how the kingdom is both now and not yet. Any place where people are fully in subjection to God, His Kingdom is there. The kingdom needs to come in each and every one of us. God is King of us and we need that to be an absolute reality in our lives.
Third, we petition the Father for His will to be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven. That’s an amazing prayer. God wants the earth to reflect the obedient attitude that the elect angels are moving in. They don’t resist God. They don’t resist His will. They are servants who wait upon the Lord continually. They do His bidding and are glad to do it. Jesus put it a different way when He stated, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me.” It was manna (if you will) for Jesus to know and do His Father’s will. It should be the same for us.
Fourth, Jesus said to pray, “Give us day by day our daily bread.” This can be viewed as both spiritual food and physical food. It deals with all the sustenance that we need as a regenerated human being on all levels. This is daily. It is perpetual. We must have this “bread” on a daily basis. It’s easy to ask God for food on our tables, but how often do we ask Him to give us a fresh word from Heaven? “Lord, I need a fresh word from You! Speak to my heart. Quicken your Word to my heart so I know You have spoken to me! Give me my marching orders if there be any. Reveal yourself to me. Speak Lord, thy servant heareth!”
Fifth, And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. If we take the second statement first, theologians are quick to point out that in ancient Rome it was common for people to do work for each other as a means of getting things done without exchanging money. This created a cycle of debt and repayment and allowed for people to exercise coercive powers over other people indebted to them. So someone could become indebted to you simply because you did a service of some kind for them. Jesus would be challenging this mentality if that’s what is in view. If you help someone out, don’t treat it like a debt that they now owe you a favor (as it were). However, it is more probable (IMO) that sins as debt are in view within this context.
Keep in mind that unrepentant or unforgiven sins are what harm our relationship with God and separate us from Him. Sin must be dealt with foremost. On one occasion, Luke records Jesus says, And forgive us of our sins. On the other occasion in Matthew 6, He says, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). He then adds to this after the prayer, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14–15 NKJV). So clearly we have our own forgiveness linked with our willingness to forgive within this prayer.
We still seem to be moving in the “daily” aspect of things since the conjunction “and” joins the “give us this day our daily bread.” Could it be possible that believers need to ask God to forgive them of their sins — daily, just like we need to forgive others, daily? It would seem to me that as often as it is necessary we should include this in our prayers. Perhaps because of sins committed in ignorance, we need to pray it regularly. Yet the Christian perfection in me says, no! Christians are not supposed to sin daily. But yet here are these prayers.
What are we to make of behaviors that we display that offend God and we are hardened to them or are insensitive to them? Could it be that we probably sin far more often than we realize? The old-time preachers used to say that we need to “keep short accounts with God.” Meaning that we should not neglect to ask for forgiveness or confess known sin(s). Moreover, the Israelites had this law in Leviticus, “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the LORD’S commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them, if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the LORD for a sin offering” (Leviticus 4:1–3 ESV). It seems that God is concerned with sins done in ignorance as He is those committed knowingly, otherwise, there wouldn’t have needed to be an offering for it under the Old Covenant.
Another consideration stems from before the Old Covenant to the era of Job. You will recall that Job’s friends did not answer rightly regarding their counsel to Job and as a consequence, they were to bring a burnt offering and ask Job to pray for them. Surely, they had no idea they were sinning with their counsel. What law did they break that would warrant a sacrifice? Clearly, there is more in play in regards to our need for forgiveness than we realize or are willing to admit. But there is no need to fuss about it because the price of all of our sins was paid at Calvary. Jesus said to pray, And forgive us our sins. This should be reason enough to simply obey what He said.
Sixth, And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.” This reminds me of the Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane when He asked, “Father if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me…” Even the Lord Jesus prayed for Himself not to be led into a great trial. Moreover, He said, “But deliver us from the evil one.” Satan is the evil one. We should pray that God will deliver us from the fiery trials that the enemy longs to bring upon us. God will put His people to the test today just as He did in ancient Israel, but certainly, some trials can be avoided or we wouldn’t be told to pray this way.
The two prayers of Matthew 6 and Luke 11 are directly from the counsel of Jesus. This isn’t a prayer manual written in modern times; this is a timeless list of topics that we ought to concern ourselves with when we pray daily.