“God has no more precious gift to a church or an age than a man who lives as an embodiment of his will, and inspires those around him with the faith of what grace can do.”
On this our final post on the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, it is my desire and prayer that we have been able, by God’s grace, to begin you on a journey of formulating a biblical perspective on prayer.
I do not pretend to think that I have even begun to sufficiently deal with the issue or teach all Matthew 6 has to say about prayer. It is only my desire to serve you an appetizer that gives a taste that will leave you desiring more. Oh that you would delve deeper into the riches of what God’s word says – to taste and see that the Lord is good. If you pull anything away from these post, let it be that prayer is a means by which the Lord gives us the privilege to commune in fellowship with Him and to be a part of discovering and bringing about His will to glorify Himself in all things.
As we look at the end of this prayer in Matthew 6, our Lord ends with a list of things that are a generalization of all that we desperately need. But this is no mere list, but rather a confession of our complete need of Him and an exhortation to where our eyes should be fixed as we walk daily with Christ the giver and fulfiller of all our needs.
Give us our daily bread & forgive us
We are, of all things, a people who are in need. Before our regenerate state, we could not see this. However, now that we personally know the grace of God, prayer is a means by which we can daily confess our need of Christ and our dependence upon Him for both our spiritual and physical needs. In all reality, we never stop looking to Christ for salvation. The need for salvation does not end once we “become saved”. Because of His grace, we can now begin to grow in our understanding of our need of Him.
We never move away from our need of the gospel, we only grow in a more full understanding of and how it affects our lives. Don’t get me wrong: we are saved. It’s a done deal. We are complete in Christ [Col. 1]. We have all that pertains to life and godliness. But don’t forget: Christ is in the process of conforming us to His image. He is sanctifying us, and through prayer that confesses Him as provider of all things, we undergo an aspect of satisfaction.
Confess to the Lord that you have need of physical sustenance, which He, the sovereign ruler and creator of all things, can give. Confess each and ever sin on a daily basis. Repent. Never take your eyes off the cross. Ask Him to give you a more sensitive heart that sees it’s sin in all its ugliness, yet forgiven at the cross. Don’t forget that in Christ dwells the fullness of all things [Col.1]. This is why we ask Him for our daily bread and the forgiveness of sins.
Lead us not to temptation; deliver us from evil
There is only one-way to battle temptation: an utter and complete dependence upon God’s grace. There are indeed means of grace – His word, accountability, prayer, etc [Jam. 1, Gal. 6, Jam. 5:16]. But because of grace – the God given, redemption wrought ability to now do what I never could – we can be free from the bondage to fall into temptation. However, our sin nature still remains and temptation and evil is something that we will battle till our Lord returns.
But what means of appropriating this grace is most vital? Is it memorizing God’s word? Is it the sweet accountability of His Body? Or is it prayer? Each one is biblical and very important. I don’t think there is one that can be put over the other. They all work together as God given means to battle temptation. However, in this passage God is teaching His disciples to pray. And as He teaches them to pray, the specific supplication that He commands them to make is the request to lead them not to temptation – to protect and defend, which we know Christ does all of this.
Since through prayer we are actually confessing our need of His cross which won the victory, there is a profound emphasis on the work of prayer in the battle of sin. To fight the good fight of faith, it cannot be void of pray. Prayer causes us to recognize our complete need of Christ and His grace. It keeps our eyes fixed on the great Deliverer. Pray is not just a work, it is the work [Matthew 9:38]. By it, we confess, proclaim, and bring about the very ordained will of God. Pray. Memorize the word of God. Have those accountability partners but never every forget or lay aside prayer [1Thess. 5:17]. By it, we fight with the full armor of our God. It is a great privilege that we as God ordained priest can storm the throne of grace till our glorious God returns [Luke 18:1-8].
Before she left England, Amy had imposed on herself the discipline of drinking tea without cream and eating toast without butter, in preparation for hardships to be endured. It did not work. It was dull and boring, and it made everyone else nervous, so she gave it up. The Lord knew where her heart was –where He led she’d follow, what he fed she’d swallow. She found when the time came that she didn’t really mind anything nearly as much as she had feared she might. The promise of grace was supplied.
Elliot, Elisabeth. A Chance to Die: the Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael. MI. Revell. 1987 (p.74)
“Overflowingly full” is how Paul described himself – yet he had nothing physically speaking! What could he have meant?
How did Paul rejoice in prison when He had nothing? As a matter of fact, everything had been taken from him, yet he was more joyful than when he’d had everything – why? Paul went from the life of a wealthy, authoritative, militant who was respected by his people and his government, to a poor, homeless, humbled man – traveling on foot from city to city and being beaten, imprisoned, threatened with death, mocked, tortured…all while rejoicing. Our hearts should demand to know the “why” and “how” of all this!
“I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11
“I have all, and abound, and am full…” Philippians 4:18
Content: the attitude that one’s happiness is not dependent or reliant on outward circumstances, but rather on the inward state of the heart and soul.
Abound: to have more than enough.
Why did Paul say he had more than enough when everything – yes, everything but his life and the clothes on his back – had been taken from him? Paul sees his state as the grace (unmerited, undeserved favor) of God! Wow!
“I am what I am by the grace of God…”
I Corinthians 15:10
You see, when Paul looked at his life, he was not counting the physical possessions he had – things that moth and rust would corrupt and thieves break through and steal. Paul was obeying Jesus’ command:
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:20
Paul was yielded to the Lordship of Christ in such a marvelous way that he perceived eternal treasures as the only thing worth counting. Tomorrow we will look at how this perspective played out in the life of Paul, and how it should play out in your life, and the life of every believer for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.
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“O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of His praise to be heard: which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved. For thou, O God, has proved us: thou hast tried us as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction on our loins. Thou has caused men to ride over our heads: we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.” ~Psalm 66:8-12
He alone holds my soul in life: my mind, will, and emotions. They are given grace, hope, joy, but only as I yield beneath the purification of the Refiner himself. The refining of the Christian life brings pain, suffering, loneliness…the list may go on. Yet, the increase is a wealthy place. What wealth? A desperation for God is born in that furnace of affliction and the hunger is satisfied by the very near presence of God…a wealth that is immeasurable, priceless. In loneliness, a dependance on God is brought forth – a need to rely more heavily on the Master. This too yields a rich increase. For we find as the fires burn low, and the chains are broken that we walk free, with a Friend who sticks closer than a brother. And time and space forbid me to list the many others… a dynamic life testimony; a suffering which has produced a gentle humility – one that enables the mighty hand of God to rest upon that sacrificed life and use it to bring glory.
Oh, let us not despise the Refiner, nor his cleansing work. For whom He loves, He seeks to purify. And the hardened heart will still suffer…only in vain. Be yielded, sacrificed, a life given wholly to the Refiner Himself. He will bring you out into a wealthy place!
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“And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife and thy two daughters which are here: lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city! And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth and set him without the city.” ~Genesis 19:16-17
The angels of the Lord – sent in a time of great urgency, to rescue a man who could not see his need. We find Lot in the city of Sodom, just before God destroys it, reluctant to leave. The night has been a rough one – he has almost lost his life, and his daughters, trying to protect two strangers that showed up at his door. Those very strangers he sought to protect delivered him, in his prideful, self-centered obliviousness, and smote those at the door with blindness so that they could not find the door. Morning has come, the city is in an uproar, and the tension is growing. Something is about to happen. The Lord of Hosts is about to come down, and totally obliterate two cities that have turned their backs on Him. These strangers – angels of the Lord – arise in the morning, and call to Lot and his family: “Lets go! Hurry up! Take your wife, and you daughters! Get out of here before it’s too late.” And what does Lot do? He lingers.
Perhaps as he stood there, his eyes fell on all that he owned. The Bible says only a few chapters earlier that Lot was a wealthy man. There was no time now to take that wealth. The circumstances called for a desperate measures. Whatever it was, it held him fast. Even as he lingered – dawdled, wasted precious time, the angels of the Lord grabbed his hand, and his wife’s hand, and the hand of his daughters, and physically removed them from the city, and set them outside of the gates. Why? Scripture says the Lord wanted to be merciful unto him.
How often are we like Lot? We hear the voice of the Lord, urging us to act, but we linger. God, in His mercy, and seeing us in our shortcomings, brings in the means to move us: parents, authorities, teachers, siblings, painful trials, broken relationships. Whatever it costs to take us away from the immediate danger, that somehow, we overlook in light of those competing loves in our life.
But then, as Lot stands without the city, we find that he is still ignorant – wallowing in prideful stupor. A self-sufficient, selfish man, who wants life easy. He is given directions again: “Flee to the mountains.” Instead of obeying, Lot wants it different. He whines his way out of obedience. “The mountains? My family and I will die there! Let us go to this small city over here. Please? It is just a very small one.” Can you picture the frustration of the angels? What is this person’s problem? Is he blind? Mentally insane? “Have it your way. Go to the city. But hurry up. The wrath of God waits for you to remove yourself from this place so that you will not be harmed.”
As Lot heads off the the small city, I am reminded of my own life. God, in His mercy, removes me from a great pitfall in my life. He asks for complete surrender to His call. Without recognizing the mercy I have just been extended, I reply, “The sacrifice is too great. You have taken the big sin. Let me keep the small sin. Please Lord, it is just a very little one.” Have you done that? The small and the big were irrelevant to God. Only a few verses later, we find Lot fleeing to the mountains – God’s intended place of refuge for him – fleeing what? The destruction of that very small city. And what has he lost in the process? His wife is no longer at his side. She turned back between Sodom and Zoar. Would she still be there if he had obeyed the angels command, and gone up into the mountain? Had she been there, surely he would not have fathered the nation of Moab, and the children of Ammnon. Yet, he could not obey. The cost he had to pay was probably higher than he would have been willing to sacrifice, had he counted it beforehand.
David writes in the Psalms that the Lord waited, that he might be gracious. In regards to Lot, the Lord was patient…he waited for an arrogant sinful man, who had not put God before his eyes, to hear the Word of the Lord and obey. Lot’s life was spared – but he failed to finish well. He could not leave himself behind. He took his selfish, egotistical pride with him everywhere he went. Shame, and dishonor followed him – he became the father of two nations, enemies of God’s chosen people. A man who went where he wanted to, and paid the price, never learning the lesson.
My mom reminded me only about a month ago: “God gives believers tests in life – often in the form of trials. If those tests are not passed, they come again, and again, and again…always getting harder, and always costing more than the one before.” Such was the life of Lot. He never should have left his home with Abram. When he did, he chose the land of best appearances – he reserved what he thought would make him the greatest. He moved to a city of perversion, sodomy, immorality, and false worship – made his home there, and married his daughters off to two sinful men, who refused to leave when the angels came to forewarn his family. He lingered when it was time to leave, and took the “easy” way out instead of trusting the very ones who had just delivered him from the wrath of God. He became the father of two wicked nations, and he stands as an example in Scripture of a man who lived a life that was an abomination to the Lord. And what of you, and me? What of the tests that God has given us? Do you take the easy way out…look to compensate for weaknesses so that you land on top, and everyone else on the bottom? Try to make things better by patching up? Refuse to make right those wrongs which are holding you back from abundant life?
Have you heard the voice of God, urging you to desperation – to act, to remove yourself from some place, or thing, or situation in life? Do not linger. Get up, and do not turn back. For the instructions, however difficult they may be, are the Lord, desiring to be merciful to you. He waits to be gracious to you – desiring that you obey. Yet, that window of grace is open only for a short season, and then it is closed – the price is payed, and the test must be re-taken, at a far greater cost. Dear believer, remember this: obedience does not linger. It acts instantly, cheerfully, and completely.
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It’s repeated over and over and over again, all through the Psalms, all through Scripture in multiple ways. The amazing grace of God – that in my neediness, He not only does, but He desires to draw near, and make me whole…complete…full. I fall every day. We all do. We slip in the dark, sometimes we slip in the light. Sometimes we just sit down to sulk. His mercy waits for us. His window of grace is open, being poured out, sometimes even on an unwilling heart, but there for the taking, nevertheless. Deserving? No. Yet, He sees our destitution before Him, whether we do or not. He knows our frame…dusty, frail, feeble. He pities. His Father-heart overflows with compassion for us. It is that compassion and love that causes us sometimes to be put in the furnace of affliction for greater refining. Yet the mercy is new and fresh ever morning. It endures. Not for today, not just for tomorrow. It endures forever…eternally given, eternally received. May we draw near, with thankful hearts, because we are fully assured of His love…that mercy will always pick us back up, and the grace of God will always abide near, to keep us in all our ways.
When a baby is born, does it stay a baby forever? The obvious answer is :”Of course not!”. And, it doesn’t make any difference whether or not the baby wants to grow up – it has no choice!
A parallel to our own lives of spirituality: We must be growing in Christ daily. We need to be in the Word every day. We should be bringing all of our questions and problems – even the “little” ones – to Him. If we aren’t doing this, what happens? Do we stay a spiritual baby? No, If we stop growing, we start dying. We will become one of those cold Christians whose only claim to Christianity is the fact that they attend church every Sunday. We will become one of those people that non-Christians look at and say, “Why would I want to get saved? Those Christians are no different than me!” We don’t want this for our lives, do we? “So grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
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“Face it out to the end, cast away every shadow of hope on the human side as an absolute hindrance to the divine, heap up all the difficulties together recklessly, and pile as many more on as you can find; you cannot get beyond the blessed climax of impossibility. Let faith swing out to Him. He is the God of the impossible.” ~Streams in the Desert
No closed door is too tightly shut for your Master to open, if it is within His will. No time is too short for Him to do a miracle. He is never a moment too late. No difficulty is too big for Him to face. They are all bigger in our eyes than in His. Our imaginations of the impossible are a drop in the bucket for Him. In the blink of an eye, the flick of a finger, the turning of a page, He can do what we would believe to take days, months, years, on our own physical time table. Yes, our limits are wide and varying. We are finite and unable. He is infinite, and He delights, amidst our hopeless weakness, to draw near and show us that He can do all things, anytime, in any way, to the praise and glory of His own matchless name. Dare to test the limit. He goes farther, higher, wider, than you ever imagined possible. You will not run out of range, you will not be beyond His reach. Yes, His boundaries are boundlessness, and you find yourself in a vast field of measureless grace, free for the taking, and reckless faith, offered by the most trustworthy One of all. Seize it, and look up!