Lord, teach us to pray 5

Why would God lead us into temptation? That would not be a loving thing to do for a loving God!! What gives? The Greek word is the same for test and temptation!!! A test is meant to improve a person’s character. A temptation is meant to entice a person to sin. It matters who is behind it – whether it’s a test or a temptation, and also how we respond.

The evil one seeks to turn tests into temptations. It is very subtle and unrelenting. So the prayer could be translated as, “Father, you know that we cannot stand up to much pressure. As you lead us to the test (all of life is a test) as you seek to prove and improve our faith, do not let the test become a temptation, a seduction to sin, but deliver us from the subtle wiles of the deceiver against whom we are no match.”

So why does God test us? Because life, real life that is worth living, is found in trusting God – letting him be king of our lives, submitting, trusting, loving, enjoying…. So God tests our trust for him by putting challenging circumstances in our life and see how much we actually do trust him and not in ourselves. The quality of our lives is a function of the quality of our trust in the one who made us. A test is a situation in which we may fall, but in which we ideally come out victorious: stronger and wiser, trusting God more.

The evil one doesn’t like God and doesn’t want us to like him either. He wants us to doubt the goodness of God. Once we doubt that, the rest is easy: chaos, violence, addiction… Satan uses 5 strategies:

  1. Sowing seeds of suspicion
  2. Focusing on the negative
  3. Helps us make false deductions from the negative
  4. Force the Father’s hand – nut God doesn’t play that game at all
  5. Take things into our own hands.

So Paul writes in Ephesians 6:10-16: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Who is Satan?

In Job 1:6ff. a figure appears who is referred to not merely as satan, Hebrew for “an adversary,” but as hassatan, ” The Adversary.”

The New Testament expands on this theme by describing Satan or the devil as “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30), “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). This is the basis for the church’s claim that Satan has been granted temporary dominion over the earth (see also Luke 4:5-7).

The apostle Peter applies this teaching directly to the everyday experience of believers. He writes, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:8, 9).

James agrees: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Satan, then, though he is extremely powerful, has not been given complete control of the earth. People are free to choose whether they will follow him or remain loyal to their Creator.

Luke 10:17-20 refers briefly to Satan’s fall

Why Does God Allow Satan to Attack Us?

Almost everyone wonders why God has done things as He has, but there are almost never any answers in the Bible. The Bible tells us the things we need to know to live holy and moral lives, but it does not attempt to explain or justify God’s actions.

One possible answer is that God allows Satan to test us to see if we are truly committed to practicing our faith (Job 1:8-12, Matthew 7:21-23, 1 Peter 1:6-7). It is easy to say we believe and trust in God and Christ, but our actions demonstrate our true motives and beliefs.

God tells us to turn to him and renounce the occult

Many people, including Christians, think it’s harmless to look at astrological charts or engage in various forms of spiritism. They think it is fun or entertaining.

Others look to astrology, divination, and mediums for guidance, not just entertainment.

But God clearly warns against such practices in many Bible verses. Some reasons the Scriptures warn against engaging in any form of the occult:

  • We are opening ourselves up to spirits other than God’s.
  • We are not looking to God for guidance, but to the occult.
  • We are turning away from true faith in Jesus.
  • We are disobeying God’s word, the Bible.

Bible Verses on the Occult – To be forewarned is to be properly armed.

  • “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes His son or daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures up spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-13)
  • “And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them …” (Deuteronomy 4:19)
  • “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:31)
  • “And the person who turns after mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people.” (Leviticus 20:6)
  • “So Saul died for His unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord because He did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because He consulted a medium for guidance.” (1 Chronicles 10:13)
  • The idols speak deceit, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd. (Zechariah 10:2)

New Testament Christians turned from sorcery. May their example serve as an inspiration and a warning: Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. (Acts 19:18-20)

Lord, teach us to pray 4

Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Why do some people say debts? Some trespasses? Some sins? – The Greek word most closely translates to mean debt – but not just financial debt. It is debt in the widest sense of the word. If you do a job for someone, they are indebted to you – that sort of thing.

The Greek word for ‘forgive’ also comes from the financial world – to wipe the slate clean, to cancel the debt.

The debt that we owe is obedience. God who created us calls us into relationship. Because he created us, he knows what’s best for us, so he gave us guidelines. The 10 commandments are not restricting – they open life so that it can be lived fully, freely, in relationship to God. But we all fail. We all owe God a great debt. And not only to God. Every time we fail in our relationship to God, we fail in a human relationship. When we steal, covet, commit adultery, swear – we hurt people and we hurt God – relationships break down. The debt grows.

What we have in this section of the Lord’s Prayer is a simile, both in English and Greek. This comparison centers on the word “as.” With just these two simple letters we have a huge comparison. The problem with “as” is that we often use it to mean “while.” We can say “as I was walking down the street” — but what we really mean is “while I was walking down the street.” That makes us think that Jesus isn’t making a comparison here. If we had translated the Greek word as “like” this would not happen. We would read “Forgive us our sins LIKE we forgive others.” There would be no question.

Just two verses earlier Jesus used the same word when talking about heaven and earth. He has already told us that God’s will should be enacted on earth just like it is in heaven. We are left with the realization that what Jesus is really asking is that God would forgive us just as much as and in exactly the same way that we forgive others. The irony is that Jesus understands we might miss this — so He tells us literally right after He finishes the prayer that God will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others. 14-15 “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. (Matthew 6:14-15 MSG)

There’s an important point we don’t want to miss – the words of Jesus are not all comfort and love, there is also challenge in them:

We are able to ask God to “forgive us our debts”, only because we have already forgiven others for their debts against us. The prayer is pretty blunt about it – don’t come seeking absolution, seeking forgiveness, if you are still holding onto hatred and resentment toward someone else. How can we expect God to forgive us, if we can’t find it within our hearts to forgive others?

We need to be at peace with one another, before we come to seek peace with God. If you don’t, your debt will burden you forever. If you can’t forgive someone, or ask forgiveness from someone, Jesus is saying, then it is going to be like you are in prison – and you’ll remain there as long as forgiveness received and forgiveness given remains elusive.

If we cannot find the love to forgive others, then how can we possibly receive love in return? If our hearts are so closed to compassion and justice and empathy, then it is impossible for us to receive such compassion for ourselves. If we cannot find the grace to forgive the debts of others toward us, then how can we possibly expect to be shown grace?

This may seem backwards to you. But think of it this way, God is offering you an amazing gift: forgiveness of everything you have ever done, but you have a major grump on and don’t want to listen. So you turn your back on God and on this amazing gift. But over time, God works on your heart. God speaks to you through the morning glow of the sunrise, the warmer weather, trees budding, your child telling you that they love you and wrap their arms around you even though an hour ago you yelled at them. God works on your heart and softens it. He turns off the grump bit by bit. You say sorry to your child for yelling – again. And slowly, you turn towards God. (The word repent means to turn around!) Your grump goes away, melts. And then you’re able to receive that most amazing thing that God does – forgiveness. And you’re like, wow, why did I take so long? Why did I hold on to that grump so long? This is pretty sweet. Thank you, God!

One of things that we need to remember about the Lord’s Prayer is that Jesus is trying to teach us. He isn’t asking God for daily bread simply because He needs it. He is teaching us that our existence depends on God. We can’t even have the bread we need to live without the grace of God. Jesus isn’t simply teaching us to ask God for forgiveness. You don’t need to teach people that. We all have a desire to get away with sinning.

No one likes to be in trouble and we like punishment even less. But, for Jesus to simply be teaching people that they can ask God for forgiveness seems too shallow.

We have all been forgiven great debts to God. Jesus took all of our debts, died on the cross, and by so doing, erased our ledger. We are all in need of Jesus. But unless we truly understand how much we need Jesus and how much grace we have been given, we cannot hope to extend that grace to others.

Jesus makes it pretty clear. Either you understand the grace that God gave you and thus forgive others or you don’t. Revenge and bitterness are the enemy of God. When we don’t forgive others we stand in the place of God, passing judgement on someone. We in essence say “Look God, I know that you have forgiven them, but I know better than you do.” Unforgiveness declares that God is either a liar or a fool.

Forgiveness doesn’t always happen all at once. We can pray that God would help us forgive. We can pray that God would give us eyes to see the other person the way God sees them.

When that happens – over time – then you realize that the non-forgiveness has been a huge burden. Just like a financial debt that has been cancelled, that is how it feels when you cancel another’s debt – when you forgive someone. And then your debt is also cancelled. And a huge burden comes off of your soul – you are then free.

May you come to realize that forgiveness is not just for yourself. May you be healed from the wounds that others have inflicted on you. May you extend to others the same grace that God gave you. May God open your eyes to see people the way that He does. Amen!

Lord, teach us to pray 3

Jesus taught us to pray so that we don’t need to wonder if our prayer is acceptable to God. This prayer is totally acceptable in all its shades of meanings.

Today, the prayer shifts to “us” terms, not “your” terms. (Your name, your kingdom, your will) but it is not a shift from the heavenlies to the earth. The first three requests were all connected to that little phrase, “on earth as it is in heaven.” Those requests all had to do with very practical applications here in our midst. That is where the need for bread is also.

Lord’s Prayer switches that around – puts God first. When we ask for God’s kingdom and will be done first, then the rest of our asks fall into place where they should be. Otherwise, we’re asking for that shiny red bike when that’s not within God’s will for us right now. I mentioned last week that we are caught up in the prisons of our own desire, and we pray for a shag rug for our prison cell rather than praying for freedom. Desiring God’s will first makes the rest more clear.

Today: Give us today our daily bread

What do you notice: it’s a demand, not a polite request! It is for today only, not tomorrow or next week. Just for today. That’s where God wants us to focus our prayers

When the Israelites stumbled through the desert, God provided manna for them, a bread-like substance. When they tried to disobey and collect more than they needed, it went maggoty overnight, except for the extra they collected for the Sabbath – read this section Exodus 16:1-5, 13-25

Exodus 16 (New International Version)

16 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’”

17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little.18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.

19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 22 On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. 23 He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’”

24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a Sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today.26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”

It does not pay to ask for more than today’s needs, though God knows you have those needs tomorrow as well. That is where trust comes in. We ask God to be our provider. Not Telus, or Bell, but God as our provider.

In the Bible, the kingdom of heaven that we prayed for just before is often referred to as a banquet. Jesus knows the importance of food in our lives. Jesus was always eating with people, celebrating, serving. He fed 5000 people once, with 5 small loaves of bread. So praying for bread follows very logically on the heels of praying for the coming of the kingdom.

This request raises a lot of questions – we have bread in our cupboard most days – what about that? What about the starving poor? Where is their bread?

2 basic questions:

  1. What is Jesus telling us to ask for here? – what does the prayer mean
  2. What are the implications to praying this? – What happens/ought to happen to us when we pray this?

One: it is suggested that it means everything we need for the next 24 hours for our bodily well-being. That we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life and enjoy God’s blessing with them.

6 layers:

  1. Physical bread – fuel for the body
  2. Everything necessary for functioning in the world; a balanced diet; for good weather patterns; for farmers and on up the production line to the baker & cook
  3. Everything necessary for kingdom life – wisdom, courage, strength, patience, holiness and vision
  4. Spiritual bread – the resources of the Holy Spirit that enable us to live in faith, hope and love. The bread that feeds our spirit
  5. Jesus himself – Jesus called himself the Bread of Life [John 6:35] “you need me more than you need your next meal – audacious!! He is the only one who satisfies our deepest hunger.
  6. Bread for the “coming day” – the final day – the bread of peace, joy and rest, for the glorious future when we shall never hunger again.

Two: there are 3 major lifestyle implications

  1. We are in solidarity with all others who call God “Father.” – That is what the ‘us’ refers to. – It makes us ‘kingdom-conscious.’ How would the world be different if we prayed this with greater sincerity?
  2. The prayer calls us into dependency on God for our daily To live one day at a time. We pray for enough bread so that we are not tempted to steal, but not so much that we are tempted to think we are self-sufficient and feel no need to pray. God is faithful, and make much out of little – wedding at Cana, bread for 5000, catch of fish. Today I have God, God has what I need. The same will be true tomorrow.
  3. It calls us into a lifestyle of gratitude. Every time we eat, a prayer has been answered. That demands gratitude. Every time we receive any of the 6 meanings of the word bread – actual bread, good food in general, that what we need for kingdom living, spiritual nourishment, Jesus, and bread for the last day – we receive the goodness of God. The only appropriate response is “thank you.”

We are blessed indeed by a generous and faithful God.

Lord, teach us to pray 1

Matt 6:5-15 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Prayer is not mysterious. Prayer is a conversation, as with a friend.

And yet, prayer is very mysterious. It is a conversation with the creator of the universe. What power! But what intimacy and tender loving care!

Prayer changes things, unlike worrying, which does nothing positive. Praying is trusting God to act. Trusting God to act in our best interest, which includes his saying no to some of our requests. Praying opens up time and space for God to reveal his will to us, to guide us, to love us. I find in hindsight, sometimes I’m glad I didn’t get what I asked for, that God in his wisdom (greater than mine!) said no.

Paul wrote to the Philippians 4:6-7 Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks. And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

God is always available, always cares, and always listens. God delights in his creation, in you. God cherishes time spent with you. God is generous and gives what you need. If he doesn’t give you the million dollars you asked for, it’s because you don’t need them!

We tell God our requests. We remember that he cares. We know he is powerful. We thank him for his faithfulness.

Today, we will read from the Gospel written by Matthew. Jesus preached a massive sermon – it covers chapters 5,6 & 7 in Matthew. It is commonly referred as the Sermon on the Mount. Today’s bit comes from chapter 6 – the middle of the sermon.

Jesus opposes 2 kinds of prayers – those who stand on street corners for show and those who babble on endlessly. We can view the Lord’s Prayer as given words to pray – the Jewish people in Jesus’ day recited prayers all the time. There’s nothing wrong with that and a good deal right, as long as we don’t say the words mindlessly, which is the danger in memorizing prayers.  Then it becomes babble. But if we recite the Lord’s Prayer as prayer, when we want those things we pray – the coming of the kingdom, and our daily bread – then it is helpful in learning how to pray. It is a good model.

God knows what we need before we pray. God doesn’t know what we will say, but he knows our needs! Not what we think we need. God has a different perspective on our needs than we do, a larger, infinite and wiser perspective.

Today’s little section to be explored: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Our – means we live in community, we are not first and foremost individuals in God’s eyes

Father – indicates a family relationship; we are sons and daughters through Jesus, who is Son of God. Abba; Daddy. To call God “Father” in prayer is to receive God’s love, to know his power and to seek to embody his will.

In heaven – the German words for heaven and sky are the same. So it was in Jesus’ day. Heaven wasn’t a place far away. Heaven is here, now, God is in us, among us, as well as everywhere else. That is still where heaven is today.

Hallowed be – make holy, be honoured, be glorified, be sanctified, be made real

Your name – back in Jesus’ days, without police checks, internet, or record keeping, one’s name is one’s reputation, one’s character. It is who God is: Yahweh.

In this statement, “Hallowed be your name,” Jesus is asking God to make his name holy. We do not – we cannot! In praying this, we are asking God to keep up his reputation of being loving and righteous. We are asking God to be and act in ways that bring honour and glory to himself. (ex. Ezek 36:22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.”)

Who do we want to rule over us? God who is good and loves us? Or something less perfect?

Jesus’ name in Hebrew is Joshua, or Y’shua, meaning “Yahweh saves.” In everything Jesus does, the saving character of God is revealed. It is the deepest passion of Jesus to reveal the nature and character of God. This is why Jesus died on the cross. John 12:27-28 Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!

Jesus is God, God is Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, God died. God died for your sins. God took them away from you and paid the price so justice was served. Death separates the sin from the sinner.

In “The Shack,” the father, Mack, was willing to stand in for his children so they would not have to go to hell. That is what God did for everyone. As Christians, we believe this and we accept this gift and rejoice!

…and his name shall be called Emmanuel, God with us.” Jesus is now with us always, in our hearts, in our lives, everywhere. Jesus is God’s gift to humanity, when we accept this gift, it is ours to keep. This is the choice to make.