How Should I Pray (Part 2)

Though Jesus begins the Lord’s Prayer with an overarching concern for God’s glory, he remains deeply invested in the lives of his children. Through prayer, Jesus provides us with our daily needs, grants us forgiveness, and protects us from temptation and evil. Godly prayer is not devoid of personal concerns. It is filled with them. To pray well, we must take our troubles to God, beginning with our daily needs. 

Daily Bread

Though Christians sail through this world under the presumptuous banner of self-assurance, the world proves to be anything but certain. As James the brother of Jesus notes, “you do not know what tomorrow will bring (Jm 4:14).” The prayer for one’s daily bread captures this reality. Jesus’s original audience depended upon the daily production of bread which could be interrupted by floods, droughts, and bandits. They had ample reason to take their concerns about lunch to heaven’s throne.

Though we have pantries filled with five different kinds of bread and a few boxes of Lucky Charms, the fragileness of life remains. For example, the very technologies that make food so readily available such as gas-engines can be the source of our downfall as car crashes make clear. Moreover, finances can quickly crumble, jobs can disappear, and college plans can disintegrate overnight. Despite our perceptions of self-sufficiency, we cannot determine the destiny of our life. We cannot even guarantee that we will be on earth tomorrow much less five years from now.

Because our lives our fragile, Jesus tells us to take our needs to him. The wise soul will ask God for her daily bread for, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (Jm. 1:17).”. We should pray to God for our daily needs.

When we experience loneliness, we should pray for friends. When our bank account runs low, we should pray for the means to pay our electric bills. And when we need a new home to care for our family, we pray for the extra bedroom. We do not pray for the imaginary needs of next year. But we are to pray for the needs of today regardless of their size or importance. God cares for us and delights in providing us with good gifts.

Forgive us Our Debts

He also tells us to daily ask for our debts to be forgiven because he cares about our spiritual well-being. Though some branches of Christianity teach that Christians can achieve perfection this side of heaven, Jesus prepares us for the opposite reality. He teaches us to regularly pray for forgiveness because perfection comes only once we reach heaven and not before. According to Jesus, our spiritual life is fraught with peril and struggles. Instead of being surprised by our need to repent of the evil with have done today, we should make repentance a regular part of our prayer life.

Though the asking of forgiveness proves important, the Christian must also know that he has received forgiveness to rest easy at night. To experience the assurance of salvation, Christian’s must grant their enemies forgiveness. Jesus notes, “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven others (Mt 6:11).” Jesus makes our forgiveness contingent upon our ability to forgive others not because Jesus wants us to earn our salvation. Rather, he is teaching us that all who have been forgiven will in-turn extend forgiveness to others. We ask for help to forgive others because this is the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Those who can forgive have been forgiven. In other words, Jesus longs for his followers to rest in the knowledge that they have been forgiven.

Deliver us From Evil

Lastly, Jesus tells us to pray for deliverance from temptation and evil. Though we fashion ourselves as the devil’s equal, we are not. Satan is the lion, and we are the gazelles. If we hope to survive in the open, we must appeal to God for help, dwelling in the shadow of the all mighty.

When we ask God to lead us away from temptation, we are not insinuating that God tempts us. The Scriptures flatly deny this idea stating, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one (Jm. 1:13).” Though God places us in situations that test the character of our faith, he never desires us to sin or to respond to our circumstances with anger. God may ordain that we get cancer, but he does not tempt us to respond to that diagnosis with a tirade of expletives. The temptation towards those thoughts of hate come from our flesh, the world, and even Satan. However, the ability to resists those urges towards sin come from the Lord. God promises to make a away of escape for those who ask. Those who struggle with alcohol, pornography, coveting clothes, or being lazy should ask God for help. Often we struggle with sins and are consumed by evil because we refuse to pray. We like the apostle Peter trust in our devotion and will power.  We promise that we will never let God down and wisely manage our money. Though everyone else my go into credit card debt at Christmas, I will not. We do everything but pray. Then the shoes we always wanted, the car we needed, or the dream vacation pops up within reach, and we buy it. The next morning, we awake to a world of debt and regrets. Like Peter, we fall because of our pride. To steer clear of sin, we must get on our knees.

Final Thoughts

Though we assume our heavenly Father is like some of those T.V. Dad’s who simply nod along without any awareness of the situation, Jesus presents his heavenly Father in a different light. According to Jesus, God is deeply interested in our well-being. He tells us to take our material and spiritual concerns to him in prayer. Through prayer, we find relief from the troubles of this world and the doubts and sins that plague our lives. Jesus is never too busy for our prayers. We should never be too busy to pray. When we bump into daily needs, questions of forgiveness, and to enticing temptations we heed the old hymn and “take it to the Lord in prayer.”

Insignificant People, their Sorrows, and The God who Cares For Them

Scholars have stared incredulously at Matthew 2:16-18 because the text possesses no parallel in the writings of Josephus or any other ancient historian. But the absence of a story does not prove it did not occur. Matthew’s story matches the sentiment of Josephus’s narratives which recount Herod’s murder of his second wife, his assignation of three of his sons, and the wrongful execution of the families of his political opponents. Hours before his death, Herod also ordered his family to kill a group of prominent Jewish leaders the moment cruel king breathed his last so that Jerusalem would mourn at his death. The violence described in Matthew 2 aligns with Josephus’s description of the troubled monarch.

The fact that the deaths of around twenty children from an insignificant town of about 1000 people failed to make it into the annuals of a secular history is not surprising. Rather it is the point. The history of God’s mercy is not tied to the history of secular power.  

The Proof of God’s Care

The events that prove significant for the people of God often occur in the Bethlehems of the world out of the view of the power, politics, and prestige which reside in Jerusalem. God saw the tears of those families long ago that escaped the notice of Josephus. He still sees the tears of his little people. He knows the grief of the traumatized teenager who was abused, of the single mom who was overwhelmed, and of the old man who has been left a widow. Though all of these and thousands of other souls walk the streets of life unknown to the world of politics, power, and fame, God knows them. More importantly, he left heaven to redeem them from this broken world.

Though our tears, sorrows, and griefs are real, they are not the end of our story because they are not the end of Jesus’s story. The prophet Jeremiah reminded those mothers long ago, “There is hope for your future…and your children shall come back (Jer. 31:17).” While Jesus escaped the murderous hatred of Herod, he would too would one day be pinned unjustly to a cross, dying for crimes he did not commit. But he would not stay dead. After three days in the tomb, Christ burst forth, breaking the bonds of sin and death and offering salvation to all those who repented and believed. In other words, He triumphed over death so that Rachel’s children could return. Those babies in Bethlehem that fateful night now reside with Christ in heaven. One day soon, they will reside in the new heavens and the new earth. Their sorrow was only the beginning of a much larger story that ends with men and women from every tribe gathered together in heaven praising God in a land free of tears, sickness, and sorrow. God sees the grief that millions of people secretly suffer. Jesus comes and suffers under that same grief so that he can once and for all rescue us from this broken world. The words of Jeremiah 31:3 ring ever true: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

In Christ, there are no insignificant people. There are no insignificant sorrows. Christ died the for babies in Bethlehem. He died for you. Place your hope in Him! We will all be home soon!