|“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” – Matthew 6:9-13. Introduction The disciples did well in asking Jesus to teach them to pray for we have been given the most wonderful and concise prayer of all time. How could such a short prayer contain so much? Let us go through the Lord's Prayer phrase by phrase and make a few comments and observations. Our Father which art in heaven. It is God whom we are addressing. God, who alone is uncreated. That thought is beyond our comprehension, so at once we are out of our depth! There are I believe, three infinities. Time, space and power. Uncreated God is eternal and has always lived throughout the infinity of time. Space is distance in every direction. There is no limit to space; it is unending in every direction. All that God has created by His infinite power extends into space. It may extend into all space. To say it doesn't is putting limitations on God, and, of course He has no limitations. Therefore He is perfect. That may take some thinking about, but I believe it has to be the case. Do you find that when you are considering such sublime matters that you can see some things but cannot find adequate words to prove your point? I do. And my next observation, too, is of a similar kind, for I believe that because God is perfect He is also Love. That may not seem an obvious conclusion but surely it must to be true; for God not to love and care for His creation would be unthinkable. So, because He loves His creatures He shows them kindness, mercy and compassion. God knows all, understands all, and has all wisdom. This is God's power. Again, this is a point which needs some thought. For by His knowledge, understanding all wisdom God created all things and dwells in all things. This is heaven; this is the universe. When God created the earth He formed it to be inhabited and the angels rejoiced and God saw everything that He had made and it was very good. That is, good in the sense it was pleasing to Him - it gave Him pleasure. And God gave man a free will. Man had a choice - to serve God or not. And the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil was placed in the Garden. The word “good” here is again the word often translated “pleasant,” so it was the tree of the knowledge of that which was pleasant and evil. To the mind of selfish man so much that is sinful seems pleasant and desirable and men became lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Not that all pleasure is sinful - that would be nonsense. We all find great pleasure in God's creation, in the beauty and wonder all around us, but there is much pleasure in selfishness and greed - the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. (1 John 2:16). But those who endeavour to put God first separate themselves from these desires and lusts, for God is separate from them. He sets Himself apart from all sin and transgression, and this we acknowledge when we say Hallowed be Thy Name. “Hallowed” means set apart; as does “holy.” Set apart from all that is not good in His sight, but even more than this. The angels are holy; they give God pleasure, they do His will, but God is separate from them in as much as He is increate, while all else is created. That makes God holiest of all - to be sanctified and glorified. Do we think of God with due respect? He is our God, our King, our Creator and we cannot esteem Him too highly in our thoughts. And what a contrast to ourselves. Man is so small and feeble; weak erring creatures of the dust; imperfect in thought, knowing very little, understanding even less, having a very faulty wisdom of his own, and, in such a state he cannot have access to the Tree of Life lest he continue in this sad state. Is it too much to think of the Garden of Eden as being a small part of heaven; a place where God's will was done up until Adam and Eve sinned? God was their King and they obeyed His authority, but when they did transgress God was no longer their King for they had obeyed another authority - that of self-will. And over the past 6,000 years most people have been pleasing themselves and very few want to please God, their Creator. But down through the ages there have been those few who have been prepared to listen to what God has to say, and they find that it is God who devises ways of bringing people back to Him. As a result these are the ones who pray Thy Kingdom come. Eden restored, and much, much more, for at this time the elect will become the youngest of the angels of heaven. Their work is to rule over the cities of the world. Immortals ruling over mortals, caring for their needs, teaching, advising, guiding in the ways of goodness, purity, truth and love. All those qualities we see and admire in Jesus Christ will be theirs. The law for the whole world will go out from Jerusalem . Not man's law but God's, and Jesus Christ will be King over all the earth. Psalm 72 tells us a lot about that age. The Psalmist looked forward to the time of Jesus' reign when he wrote: “Give the king thy judgements, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son. He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgement. The mountains (those ruling for Christ) shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness...” Verse 16: “There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon,” is, I believe, a reference to the work of the elect in the Kingdom, for Jesus was the corn of wheat, that single grain, which fell into the ground and died, which brought forth fruit to the glory of God (John 12:24). And here we have a handful of corn in the earth (the elect) yet to be placed in the top of the mountains - the mountain used so frequently in Scripture as a symbol of ruling powers. This is a picture of the elect in authority, ruling as kings and priests for God ensuring that Thy will be done in the earth as it is in heaven. In the Kingdom age all things that offend will be cast out and only God's will will be done. It is my belief that in the Kingdom, people, that is, the mortal population, will still have temptations to sin just as we have today, but they will be warned directly not to because that would cause others to suffer as a result. Isaiah tells us of this time (Isaiah 30:21) when “thine ears shall hear a voice behind thee saying. This is the way walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left.” This is in contrast to the present age of which we read in Ecclesiastes 8:11, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” We who look to God in this present age as our King should endeavour to do His will, as Jesus did. But we don't try very hard, do we? Jesus, tempted in all points a we are never sinned. He had the tremendous responsibility of the work of redemption on His shoulders, too. “Not my will but thine be done” did not come easily to Jesus, for Hebrews 5:7 tells us of Him “who in the days of his flesh offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death.” (For surely, had He sinned He would have died - perished). “And he was heard in that He feared.” And He overcame. The way for us to overcome in this age is to exercise strong self-discipline - in the Kingdom age the voice behind them will thwart any opportunity for lust to conceive and bring forth sin, as James expressed it. How else can sin and evil and all things that offend be cast out and only God's will be done? Give us this day our daily bread. Our daily bread referred to here I feel sure embraces all our daily needs. They are really very simple. Food, shelter and clothing, is all we need. Not all we want by any means. In our affluent society our biggest problem is perhaps, that we are thoroughly spoilt; we have lots more than we need and still we want more and more. But our basic needs from day to day are very few. Anyway, God knows our needs and He has provided for them, so why ask “give us this day our daily bread”? Matthew 6:31, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, or yet for your body, what ye shall put on. For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things... but seek ye first the Kingdom of God , and His righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.” If they are so freely given, why pray for them? Several reasons. Firstly, it reminds us whose we are and whom we serve. When we ask God to give us this day our daily bread we are acknowledging Him as the Provider- which, of course, He is. The words “El Shaddai” are translated “Almighty God” but a better translation is “All Providing God'“ or “All Sufficient God.” Let us think for a moment, of a mother suckling her infant. She is providing love, warmth, comfort and nourishment, in fact, all her infant needs. She is all providing, all sufficient for her child. Now the word for breast in Greek is “Shad” and has the same derivation as “Shaddai,” – all providing - and I think this gives us a very touching picture of our relationship with God. I am sure all of you have seen how a child will look up into his mother's face while suckling, with those wide trusting eyes. I don't know what those eyes do for you mothers but I know that whenever I have seen them it has sent a pleasant tingle right through me. I wonder, do we look up, as it were, into the face of God with that same trust and do we give Him the pleasure and joy He looks for? Remember that underneath each of us are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27). Another aspect of this request to give us this day our daily bread is that we are praying for others. It is not “Give me this day my daily bread” but “Give us...” The second commandment is to love our neighbours as ourselves, and so we ask for others the things we would ask for ourselves. Indeed, from time to time we are likely to see that our neighbours needs are greater than our own, as, for instance in a time of illness or bereavement. Then we have the responsibility of paying greater attention to others in our prayers than to ourselves, while we must not at any time overlook the practical and material help we can give too. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan and go and do likewise, said Jesus (Luke 10:30-37). To pray for one another is a duty as Paul so often reminds us, and in the Old Testament we have the example of Samuel (1 Samuel 12:23) where Samuel is encouraging the people to follow the Lord and adds “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.” What of our desires apart from our needs? “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name I will do it,” promised Jesus (John 14:13). That sounds like having an open cheque drawn on the Bank of Heaven. And it is, but let us not “ask amiss that we may spend it upon our own lusts” warns James. Our asking must not be selfish but in accordance with God's will. Jesus gave a reason for doing whatsoever we ask in His name and that was that the Father may be glorified in the Son, so perhaps the best guide we can have as to what we should ask is to ask ourselves the question “Is this what Jesus would ask if He were in my place?” “Does this glorify God?” Keep this rule in the forefront of our minds and it will avoid our asking amiss. Then there is the spiritual aspect of this request for daily bread. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” for this is our spiritual bread. Every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God is the Word of God. The Scriptures inspired by God contain His Word and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the key to opening that Word, for without Jesus the Bible has no value; Jesus makes it what it is. John, in his first chapter says that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And in the 6th chapter and at verse 51 Jesus says of Himself that “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever. And the bread that I give is my flesh... Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.” The only way we can feed upon Jesus is to study the Word, the Scriptures - daily - give us this day our daily bread. Knowledge, understanding and wisdom come into this, too. The knowledge of the Scriptures is our bread. Understanding the scriptures is to gain nourishment from that bread. And wisdom is to apply our knowledge and understanding in the things that glorify God. Yes, this Bible we have before us is our daily bread just as much as our daily meals. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. We entered into a new agreement with our heavenly Father at our baptism and at that time any passed misdeeds were washed away and were gone. We are now in a new relationship; we are His children by adoption and He is our Father (Galatians 4:5). We are Brothers and Sisters of Jesus and in Jesus. He died for our sins of His own free will. In Him we have complete forgiveness. Nevertheless we continue to sin and do not put into our fight against temptation the determination that Jesus did, for will it ever be said of any of us that in the days of our flesh we “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that is able to save us from death” and that we were “heard in that we feared”? (Hebrews 5:7). Is that the extent of our fight to overcome self will and do God's will? None of us are tempted above that which we are able to stand, so how hard do we try? There are too many pleasures around us and life can be very easy when we give up trying. And so we sin again and again, and the Lord God, in His great mercy, forgives again and again and again... until we grow tired of asking for forgiveness, or are too ashamed to keep on asking and so comes the further temptation to give up bothering altogether. And that is very sad, because then there would be no future - and the future should be glorious. So we must keep on lest we loose our adoption as God’s children and again become strangers to our Creator. It is better for us to ask for help in overcoming, and such help will not be refused. Jesus asked help of His Father and the angels came and strengthened him as we read in Luke 22:43. And what about forgiving those who offend us? “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” means forgive in like manner, or in like measure. “With what measure ye mete shall be measured to you again.” That is perfectly fair, isn't it, so dare we ask for preferential treatment? “Lord, I haven't fully forgiven my brother but I do want you to forgive me.” If we forgive half-heartedly and with certain reservations we cannot expect more than this from God. But we need His forgiveness in order to enter into life eternal, so we must forgive utterly and completely. No strings attached. It may not be easy; in fact, we human beings are very lazy, but let us ask for God's help in this, to overcome as Jesus overcame. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Here let us note first of all that we are asking God to lead us, that is, to lead us where He wants us to go; to do His will and not our own. But is this really what we want? We all too often say, “No. We will go our own way,” and then what happens? We stumble, we fall into temptation and we sin. Temptation is all around us, but God says “Don't touch.” He doesn't lead us into temptation, but He does allow us to be tempted and that is necessary for our character building. We may indeed find our temptations to be our problems, but our problems are really our opportunities - opportunities to please God and not ourselves. If it were not for such temptations we could not grow strong in faith and love, so we ask God to lead us, and if we can follow that lead without falling it shows our strength of faith. Let us look at the relationship between sin and evil in its simplest form, for it is this: the evil I suffer is caused by the sin of others, and the sin I do is going to cause others to suffer evil. It follows then, that if we love our neighbour as ourselves we would not want to be the cause of them suffering evil and so we should not wish to commit sin. Nevertheless, the world is so full of evil that it is part of the natural course of our lives and when we ask God to deliver us from evil we are asking Him to change the course of events for us. I have heard it said that God does not do such things - but He does. Else why did Jesus teach us to pray “deliver us from evil”? So are we delivered from evil? Ultimately we are, of course, when we are made immortal, but what of this present time? If we stop to count our blessings I'm sure none of us would be in any doubt as to the answer. But why does God answer prayers the way He does? He doesn't always deliver from evil for both John the Baptist and Peter were in prison, at different times; John was beheaded, Peter released. Both Stephan and Paul were stoned. Stephan died but Paul lived. Why? The answer may be in Hebrews 11 that great chapter on faith tells us of many who suffered evil and verse 35 tells of those “who were tortured not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonments. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins being destitute, afflicted, tortured (of whom the world was not worthy). They wandered in deserts and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth…” Isn’t life easy for most of us? We just don't know how much we have been spared. 70 years ago it was difficult for some - during the war years in Europe . Some suffered great hardships, some were sent to prison, some were killed. Again, today, there is very little peace in the world. So what of the future? If we are called upon to suffer for our faith and love of God are we prepared? For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, for ever. The Lord's Prayer ends as it began - with praise to God. When God formed the earth. He formed it to be inhabited, and knowing the end from the beginning He purposed to populate it with people who would give Him pleasure and to whom He could show His Glory, in the age to come all the earth will be filled with the Glory of God as the waters cover the sea. And by the grace and the mercy and the love of God we can be there. The choice is ours. As we have gone through the Lord's Prayer we have seen how it started with praise to God, then requests; firstly, for Thy Kingdom to come, then for daily needs, thirdly, for forgiveness, next for guidance and finally the prayer closes with praise again. As an example of prayer for us to follow it is unsurpassable. However, Jesus deliberately left something out and it is very important that we include it in our prayers. So what is it that Jesus left out of His prayer? It is that Jesus never asks us to say “thank you” - He leaves the thanksgiving to flow naturally from grateful hearts in response to all that He has done for us in reconciling us to His Father. We cannot help but be thankful and while some feel it right to pray only to God, through Jesus, it is surely good to say “thank you” to both God and Jesus. Prayer to Jesus is good for we must honour the Son even as we honour the Father (John 5:23). In conclusion I would like to express a few random thoughts of a more general nature regarding prayer. God speaks to us through the Bible and He doesn't like to be ignored any more than we do, so we speak to Him through prayer. “Enter thy closet and pray in secret.” It is something like a telephone really, but far, far better for if we wanted to speak directly with the Managing Director of a large organisation, or to the Prime Minister, or perhaps the Queen, what are our chances of a direct line? Nil, I would think; but God is always available and waiting, never too busy but always ready for our call so that He can answer us. So how often we call? Once a day? Once a month? Or only that 999 call when something has gone desperately wrong? Again, do we say grace before every meal, or only sometimes? Do we say grace before having a meal in a restaurant, witnessing for Christ? Or is that rather like the Pharisees standing on the street comers to be seen of men? We cannot lay down hard and fast rules for each other for it is our heart that must be right before God in order that our prayer be accepted. And that is very necessary, for our prayers must be earnest, sincere and fervent. Paul uses the word “strive” which means “agonise” - agonise in your prayers. And pray without ceasing means pray “stretching out.” The same word is used when Peter was walking on the water to go to Jesus and he began to sink, Jesus stretched out His arm to save Peter. We should stretch out in our prayers, reaching out and up to God. Let's go back to our illustration of the child. Not an infant now, but grown a little older and able to walk and run about. When he wants to be picked up what does he do? He reaches up – he stretches out his arms and pleads to be picked up because he wants comforting or is tired of walking on his own, and if he isn't picked up he runs in front and gets in the way quite determined that he will be picked up sooner or later. Remember the parable of the importunate man who wanted three loaves so that he could have a midnight feast with his friends? It was his audacity that got him what he wanted! Whatever it is we want never let us presume to tell God how. Leave that to Him. Paul very much wanted to go to Rome but he didn't expect to be taken as a prisoner chained to a Roman soldier. Hezekiah prayed that he might live and not die, so God told him he had another 15 years of life. Just think how it was for him as the years went by knowing that in year 15 he would die. How did he feel in year or 11, or 12, or 14? And what of Manasseh? He was twelve years old at the end of those fifteen years... History might have been very different without the wickedness of Manasseh...! The first miracle that Jesus performed was to change water into wine. All Mary said was “They have no wine.” She left the rest to Jesus and He didn't say, “Look here, don't you think they've had enough. If they have any more they'll all be drunk, and we don't want that.” No, He provided gallons and gallons, hundreds of bottles, of the very best ‘champagne’! But of course, we don't always get what we want. Why should we expect to? If, when you are cooking the Sunday dinner and your child comes in asking for sweets, you would of course say “No, not before dinner.” And so it is with us, we may not get what we want now, but there is something better for us soon. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). And I am sure He isn't very different in that respect whenever He gives. “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Russell Gregory.