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The Prayer-Filled Life - Praying Biblically and Effectively

Part V


Luke 11:1-4 1 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." 2 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. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 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."

How to Pray

Pray as a Child

How should this affect our prayer life?

(1) When we pray as New Testament believers, we are to talk with God as our Father, not simply about God in a theological monologue of high sounding and pious phrases and tones.
True, we should exalt the Lord in our prayers through praise, adoration, and thanksgiving for His person, His essence, and His works in creation, history, and salvation. Our need, however, is to come to God as a child and talk with Him as our Father (Ps. 103:13).

(2) It means we are to talk with Him as a Father who loves and cares for us as His children.
We will praise Him for His divine essence and being, and for His wonderful and mighty works, but ultimately it means praying with the frankness of a child while counting and resting in God as a Father who has a father's heart, love, understanding, wisdom, and strength. To pray to God as our Father means recognizing that He is a person who is intimately concerned about us more than we could possibly be concerned about ourselves. He is not a blind or impersonal force.

(3) Calling God our Father means believing Him to be so.
Such a relationship and conviction could never really be expressed if we were to address God as simply, "Almighty God, the great and terrible one," or "Dreadful Creator and Ground of all Being." This kind of approach to God would actually betray one's ignorance of the nature and relationship of God to us in Christ, or one's unbelief in Him as a loving heavenly Father.

Pray for spiritual needs

(1) Regarding personal sin-"and forgive us our sins," (11:4a)
First of all this verse deals with the subject of the forgiveness of the child of God, not the forgiveness of the unbeliever. The unbeliever is not forgiven by praying this prayer or by confessing his sins as though that would win his forgiveness. Instead, the Bible reveals that he must acknowledge his sinfulness, that he is a sinner separated from God, helpless in himself, and in need of the saving grace of God through faith in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ. The passage is addressed to disciples, to believers who can call God their Father as the regenerated children of God through faith in Christ. Judicially, for those who have trusted in Christ the penalty of sin has been settled by the cross (Rom. 3:21-24; 5:1-2; Col. 1:14), but as we see in John 13, we all face the problem of personal sins that we incur as we walk down the defiled streets of this world. Known sin hinders our fellowship with God, it quenches His power and control of our lives, and it hinders our ability to grow and be truly changed by the grace of God. Therefore, in this model prayer, the Lord shows us that we must deal with the problem of personal sin.
We must remember that this prayer gives us a pattern for prayer in its general content. Here, it deals with the subject of forgiveness as a very important part of our prayers if they are to be answered and significant in our lives and our walk with God. This passage does not give us an explanation of the mechanics or details by which the believer is to handle sin and experience forgiveness. For this, God expects us to turn to the rest of the Word for instruction and insight. Rather, this model of prayer reminds us of our sinfulness, shows us our need of cleansing for fellowship with God, and demonstrates our responsibility to deal with the problem of personal sin in all its many categories as:

  • Mental attitude sins-resentment, envy, jealousy
  • Sins of the tongue-lying, gossip, criticism, abusive language
  • Overt sins of every kind-stealing, fornication, adultery, murder, substance abuse, fraud, etc.
  • Root sins-failure to appropriate God's grace and live dependently on Him, false values, false motives, and false patterns of thinking and dealing with life. This involves the defense and escape mechanisms and the independent strategies of self protection or self management that we all tend to use to control our lives and protect ourselves rather than trusting in the Lord.

Let's look for a moment at Luke 11:4a "And forgive us our sins." The verb, "forgive," as it is first used in this verse, is a construction in the Greek text (an aorist imperative) which adds a note of urgency-undoubtedly because of the consequences of sin. The Lord spoke here of specific sins. The word sins has the article and is in the plural. In light of the analogy of Scripture, the Lord is talking about specific personal sins that we are responsible to acknowledge as sin because of what it does to our fellowship with the Lord and our capacity as believers to love and minister to others.

This means we are not to take this request, "forgive us our sins," as just a broad all inclusive and sweeping prayer for forgiveness of sin in general, i.e., "Lord, forgive me of all my sins." That would avoid specific conviction and acknowledgment of specific sin, and leave us with non-convicting generalities. Such a prayer would simply sweep sin under the rug. It would clean up the outside of the cup but ignore the filth on the inside.

Matthew 12:34-35

You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil.

Matthew 23:25-26

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. The verb is afihmi and means literally, "to send away, let go." It comes from a preposition, "from" and a verb, "to be." It had, however, a legal use and meant "to cancel, remit, or pardon." It was used of a loan or debt and also of the guilt or debt of sin which, as a result of forgiveness, removed the penalty or consequences of sin. The consequence in view here is broken fellowship which is restored by honest confession. (See Appendix 5 for an overview of the key issues in forgiveness for the believer.)

(2) Regarding relationships with others-"For we ourselves also forgive everyone ..." (v. 4b)

Here and in Matthew 6:12b this is stated in the form of a principle rather than a request, but it deals with a subject which certainly needs to be a matter of prayer. It is an area we each need to turn over to the Lord for management. God holds us responsible for our relationships with others and the focus here is when we think we have been mistreated and would tend, then, to hold grudges and seek revenge.

In relation to forgiving others, there are always two dimensions involved: the



vertical element, and the





In relation to God:

All sin against others is first of all a sin against God because it is a transgression against the law of God to love one another. Therefore, when we sin against another human being, we must first confess the sin to God.

In relation to men:

In the horizontal relationship, we have a dual set of obligations: those of the offended party (the one sinned against), and those of the offending party (the one sinning against another).

Vertical responsibility-Confess to God the sin against the other party. Responsibility-Forgive the offending party.
Horizontal responsibility-Ask forgiveness and seek reconciliation with the person offended. This can include making restitution. Responsibility-If necessary for unity, healing, restoration, etc., go to the offending party to seek reconciliation and restoration.

  • The offended party, as a forgiven person in Christ, has a two-fold obligation. First, he or she is to show the same unqualified forgiveness they received from Christ. This is the point of the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35. Second, if the offending party does nothing, then in obedience to Scripture and for the purpose of unity, restoration, and healing, the one offended should go to the offending party to correct the problem even if it means rebuke (Luke 17:3-4). If the offending party does not repent, then the offended party may need to follow the procedures of Matthew 18. This, however, never means the right to harbor resentment or anger.
  • If God by His grace and mercy has forgiven us such an enormous debt, one we could never pay because of our own sinfulness, how much more shouldn't we forgive others the debts or sins against us as mere fellow-servants regardless of how much we have been hurt. What we suffer cannot compare to what Christ suffered for us. But forgiving others is never to be viewed as a work by which we seek forgiveness for our own sins because our debt is too great for any of us to pay by what we do.
  • On the part of the offending party the obligation is also twofold: First, to deal with the wrong done by repentance or confession before God. This reestablishes the vertical relationship. Then go to the offended party and correct the problem by asking their forgiveness and by doing the right thing as called for by the circumstances. Compare the following passages on forgiveness (cf. also 18:21-35; Luke 17:3-4; and 1 Peter 3:7).
Ephesians 4:31-32

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Matthew 5:23-26

If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, in order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, you shall not come out of there, until you have paid up the last cent.

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

Principles to keep in mind:
  • Failure to forgive demonstrates our unwillingness to treat others on the same basis of grace that God has treated us. We must be willing to extend forgiveness as freely to others as God has freely extended it to us (Matt. 18:21-35; Eph 4:32).
  • Failure to forgive others stems from our failure to turn the matter over to the Lord and trust in His sovereign purposes and control. The Lord who rested totally in the Father's love and plan is our perfect example in this (1 Pet. 2:21-25).
  • Failure to forgive others keeps the Lord from forgiving us, not because our act of unforgiveness becomes the basis for our own forgiveness, but because unforgiveness, like any known sin, stands as a barrier to fellowship. The basis for our forgiveness is always the cross and Christ's presence before the Father as our advocate (1 John 1:9-2:2). It is important for us to understand, however, that failure to forgive others is not only sin, but a sin which is a contradiction to the heart of the gospel message (cf. Matt. 5:23-24; 1 Pet. 3:7; Ps. 66:18).
  • Failure of people to forgive one another results in a sick church-one without the power and blessing of God on its ministry and life.
(3) Pray Regarding Personal Temptation-"and lead us not into temptation ..." (v. 4c)

This particular request has troubled many. Exactly what does this mean? One thing for sure, it is not a request out of fear that God might lead us into some form of temptation. James 1:13 specifically reminds us that God tempts no man. Temptation to sin always comes from sources other than the Lord. This request stems from recognizing certain principles and spiritual realities. It reminds and warns us of:

  • The principle of our own inherent weakness and our inability to always recognize temptation or to be able to handle certain temptations due to our particular spiritual state or phase of maturity.
  • The principle of our three enemies, the real sources of our temptation-(a) the sinful nature or indwelling sin, (b) the world around us, and (c) Satan against us. Satan and the world have many snares and traps to which we are susceptible because of our own desires and proneness to turn to the many tempting offers made by these sources for significance and happiness.
  • The principle of our desperate need of the protection and guidance of the Lord-our only strength against temptation (cf. Eph. 6:10f).

This prayer request is a matter of recognizing these principles that we might turn to the Lord and lean on Him to protect us and to keep us from temptation, especially the unrecognizable forms.

Conclusion and Application

Because of our lack of wisdom and finite human condition, and because of our sinfulness, if God answered all our prayers just as we ask them we would receive that which would be equivalent to either a stone, a serpent, or a scorpion. But God as our heavenly Father through Jesus Christ (as the one who knows best, who knows all the facts, and who can give only what is best) waits until, through persistent asking, searching, and knocking, our prayers are changed into the will of God (if against it) or until we have learned the lesson(s) He is seeking to teach us through the training ground of persistent intercessory prayer.

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