Samuel Lindsay • September 12, 2022
This is the next instalment in our journey through the Lord's Prayer, unpacking how Jesus teaches his disciples to pray.
"forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Mt 6:12).
This is the first contingent part of the prayer. The plea for God to forgive our sin-debt against Him, is followed closely by this qualifying statement. It is essentially asking God to forgive us with the same measure that we have forgiven others who have sinned against us.
As Christians we understand that our salvation is very closely tied to the forgiveness of sin. Sin is what separates us and God, Jesus died in our place to pay our sin debt. Now our debt can be forgiven and be reconciled to God.
All of this is through the grace of God; He didn't have do any of it. He bestows this salvation through forgiveness on us because of His grace. Not because of anything that we could do to earn it or qualify for it. We access this gift through faith (and even the faith is a gift!).
"It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph 2:8–9).
So if salvation is gift of grace, and forgiveness is part of that gift, how can forgiveness be dependant on our ability to forgive others?
It certainly seems to be what Jesus says straight after the prayer where he goes on: "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" (Mt 6:14–15).
Well, let me offer an explanation on what appears to be going on here.
When God saves a person, he changes them from the inside out. Their heart was dead as a rock, and God made it alive though his Spirit. Now we have hearts that can love God and respond to Him.
While we still sin, we now have the ability to truly repent and reject sin, including sins like plotting revenge, hating other people and ungodly jealousy.
With God's Spirit in us, and a new heart beating for the LORD, we are called to be like God, to be holy as He is holy. Forgiving as He is forgiving. But when we start to demonstrate that we are unwilling to be forgiving or holy we rightly start to ask: "Are you really changed? Do you have God's Spirit and a new heart?"
The evidence of God's work in people's hearts can be seen in the outworking of their attitudes and actions. You will know what species a tree is by what fruit it bears.
When we make a practice of bearing bad fruit it is the Church's job to call it out, and if the bad fruit keeps coming, we're told to treat someone as if they are no longer a Christian, because the evidence speaks for itself (Mat 18:15–20).
I think this part of the Lord's prayer is touching on that same theme: the evidence of a forgiven Christian is that they forgive others. If there is no forgiveness coming from someone, we can safely know that they have not received forgiveness from God.
It is absolutely obnoxious to think that we could draw on the wells of God's infinite forgiveness but be incredibly stingy with giving any forgiveness away! It's a sign that perhaps we're not actually accessing God's forgiveness in the first place!
To place a claim on God's forgiveness but actually not forgive others is even called "wicked" in the potent parable on this topic in Matthew 18:21-35. Although God willingly forgives sin, he does not take away the obligations for how we are to live and act toward others in love, especially in light of what we have freely gained from Him.
It can be hard to forgive, especially when people have committed heinous atrocities against us, perhaps they have deliberately traumatised us, or shown no remorse for their actions. Yet, God calls us to to forgive none-the-less. We have committed great acts of sin and rebellion against God and he forgives those debts, now we must do the same for those who owe us reparations for their evil deeds toward us.
Whether or not someone asks you to forgive them is beside the point, because, we need to forgive them if they ask (Mat 18:21–22), so you basically need a heart of forgiveness primed to be able to give it when it is requested.
So Jesus taught us to ask for the Heavenly Father's forgiveness, in the same way we forgive others. This causes us to look to ourselves to see that God's forgiveness does not stop with us, but flows out to others too.
Father, please help us forgive others just like you forgive us.
Samuel Lindsay • September 12, 2022
Forgiveness is arguably the most important need that you have.
By default most of us don't think this way, but it is hugely important for us, and that's why Jesus teaches us to ask from our Heavenly Father:
"...forgive us our debts..." (Mt 6:12).
Jesus Himself didn't have any debts toward God the Father, but He teaches us that we should pray for this, why? Because we do have debts to God!
Now, we haven't borrowed any money from God, so we're obviously not talking about that kind of debt. We're talking about moral indebtedness.
When someone commits a crime, they are required to go to prison as a form of punishment. Sometimes we say the criminal must "pay off their debt to society." We understand that crime racks up debts against the community that can't be paid back with money.
Same goes for God the Father! It is possible to rack up debts against God that can't be paid off with cash. In fact, not only is it possible, all of us have done it! All of us have committed crimes against God, and we call that "sin". The Bible says that all have sinned! That means all of us have a debt to God that needs to be paid.
Debt needs to paid! It is either paid by the person who racked up the debt, or by someone else who wears the cost.
Good news is that God knows we can't pay back our debts, so "He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross." (Col 2:13–14).
Jesus stepped in to take away our sin debt! It was nailed to the cross with Jesus! Now our debts are cancelled!
You don't need to fulfil any special qualifications to get this debt-forgiveness. You don't need to fill out any forms or go to any interviews! You only need to ask God to take the sin away: "forgive us our debts."
In doing this, asking this sincerely, you are trusting that what Jesus did on the cross was real and effective. You are believing that Jesus the Son of God was truly able to pay that debt in your place. Asking to have your sin-debt forgiven means believing in Jesus and what He said.
"Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the LORD does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit" (Ps 32:1–2).
"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn 1:8–9).
"In [Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us" (Eph 1:7–8).
Samuel Lindsay • August 20, 2022
The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you..." (Ex 16:4).
Every day the Lord filled baskets with bread from Heaven while the Israelites wandered the wilderness.
The LORD gave them daily bread.
Whether God gives you bread from heaven, or from the bakery, God provides everything you need. He can provide miraculously, but He normally fills your baskets with bread through the ordinary operation of His creation under His order and His rule.
We pray: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Mt 6:11).
Then the LORD provides.
He provides the wheat seed, the farmer and the tractor.
He provides the rain, the fertiliser and the harvester.
He provides the grain truck, the mill and the miller.
He provides the yeast, the baker and the oven.
He provides the bread tin, the electricity and the plastic wrapper.
He provides your income, your tap-to-pay card and your car to transport that bread home.
And that's just for bread!
In a system of society that is infinitely complex, God provides your bread (and even if you were to grow the wheat, mill the grain and bake the bread yourself, it still all comes from God!). More than that the Lord provides everything that you need and so much more!
Jesus teaches us in this part of the Lord's prayer to look to God for that regular daily provision for what we need, that is, the basics of life to enable us to live. God sustains us and we should look to Him for that sustenance.
Even if we know the way God's world works, with photosynthesis and weather patterns and economics, it is still the Lord who sovereignly rules over all things working through these mechanisms to provide or need. So we thank God for supplying our every need, and we ask him to continue doing it!
The Goldilocks Zone
One of the ways you can translate this part of the Lord's Prayer is "Give us bread for tomorrow". This brings forward the idea that Jesus teaches us to ask for just enough for the next day. Enough for now.
God could have dropped a weeks worth of bread into the Israelites lap in the wilderness, but instead God chose to do it daily to teach continual reliance on the Lord's provision. Hoarding got them nowhere. But God did supply an additional amount to provide for their times of rest on the Sabbath.
They received what they needed for what God asked of them.
In the Lords prayer, Jesus seems to be riffing on Proverbs, where the Wise asks for not too much, and not too little:
"Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God." (Pr 30:8–9).
This reveals to us the heart of our own nation right now! We have grown fat on the riches of the Lords blessing through time and now we have turned our back on Him and blasphemously ask "Who is the LORD?". Our people are fed by the Lord's hand and they do not even acknowledge Him!
Our nation would be well served to have all our riches and wealth pulled from under us so that we would wake up, and call on the Name of the LORD! It is better for us to live hand-to-mouth and glorify God that to have every worldly thing our hearts could desire.
As God's people, we trust Him to provide enough for what He has asked us to do. We ask for the supplies we need for now, praise Him as that Provider of what we have, and then get on with with our faithful service.
"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Lk 12:48).
The LORD will provide. The Lord provided the sacrifice on the mountain for Abraham (Gen 22), and He provides our sacrifice on the Mount of the LORD.
The Lord provides our earthly needs, and our needs for salvation. He provided Jesus as the one who stood in our place and suffered for our sins.
Just as the Lord provides our daily food, He provides Jesus, Bread of Life whom we must daily feed on by faith.
Ask for your daily needs, thank God for them and use them to do what He asked you.
And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided” (Ge 22:13–14).
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst" (Jn 6:35).
Samuel Lindsay • August 16, 2022
The next thing Jesus teaches us to pray is "Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Mat 6:10).
God's will is a matter of great consternation to many people. But it doesn't need to be!
Please, please, please do not obsess over all your life choices continually asking "Is it's God's will that I take that job? move to that house? marry that person? eat this ice-cream? etc..." God doesn't reveal intricate details in every moment on what you should do. Instead he gives you agency, a conscience being reformed by His Spirit and His revealed will from Heaven in the word of God. That's what you need to make those tough calls. Use the resources He's provided! Seeking more quickly devolves into superstition and mysticism.
More on godly decision-making some other time...
With that off my chest, let's talk about God's will for a few moments. God's will is often looked at from a few different angles. For our purposes here, lets look at God's revealed will and what I'm calling His ordaining will.
God's revealed will is what God has commanded or promised. If God has promised to save His people, that's His will. If God said "Don't murder", that's His will for us.
We know that there are things that happen that are against God's revealed will, yet intended and used by God. The Father, "who works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Eph 1:11), had Jesus "delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God" (Ac 2:23). So while the Romans and Jews sinned by executing the innocent Jesus, (going against God's revealed will), they were carrying out God's plan. That's what I'm calling God's ordaining will.
We cannot know God's ordaining will in each specific circumstance, but we can know how we should live. We can know "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Ro 8:28) but that may not give us insight into the specifics of why God allows natural disasters, dictators and "untimely" deaths.
Nevertheless, while we don't know the specifics, we can rejoice that God is at work for our good through his ordaining will. And we also know that God's revealed will (promises and commands) are for our good.
When we pray "Your will be done," we are happily asking for all of God's purposes to come to pass, both those which he has already promised, and the purposes which we don't yet know or understand. We know that He is good, and the rightful ruler over all, so we want His reign to take complete hold over everyone and everything.
We fail to follow God's revealed will at times; we sin. Our neighbours sin too, sometimes against us. Our governments don't obey God's will in every respect, nor do churches. On top of that, some of God's promises have not yet been brought to completion. So we pray that all of these things will be overcome when we say "Your will be done."
On earth as it is in heaven
Earth is the word the Bible uses for the realm in which we live, as opposed to the place where God and His host live called heaven. Heaven is conceived as a place that is above and beyond us - out of reach. Whereas the earth is the realm of living humanity and a place that has been infected by sin in a way that heaven has not.
While there is transmission between these two realms, such as Christ Jesus who became flesh on earth, or angels sent from heaven, or people appearing before God in heaven, the general idea is that God and his host live "up there" and we live "down here".
Heaven, being the domain of God, is a much holier place. It is a place where God's leadership and reign are unquestioned. His commands are carried out. His will is done. His glory is revealed.
This is not the case on earth at the moment, where there is plenty of rebellion and treason towards God's reign. Jesus already taught us to pray "your kingdom come" and now this petition is a request to see the reality of that kingdom manifested in the world around us, where we live.
We hope and long for a world where God's name is hallowed, where His righteousness reigns, and where His love pervades all. We basically hope for heaven to invade earth and make the place where God's lives that same place where we live (Rev 21:3).
Jesus Makes it Happen
We see in Jesus the ultimate example of a person who desires that the Father's will be done on earth as it is in heaven. He prayed to his Father while he contemplated the weight of the task that stood before him; to atone for our sins. Yet Jesus said:
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Lk 22:42).
He was willing to take the cup of the wrath of God if it meant that God's will was done. That was a preeminent concern for Jesus. Thank God that he did obey the Father, because he redeemed us from the Grave!
But, Jesus ask us to follow in his footsteps. While we don't earn our salvation by obedience, we still lay our lives down as a worshipful sacrifice to accomplish God's revealed will. We are called to give all even be ready to suffer for His sake, just like Jesus did (1 Pe 4:19).
A prayer that "God's will be done" means, at least in part, that we would individually carry out God's will insofar as it depends on us. Are you ready to pray this prayer and bend your life to His will?
"Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand" (Is 53:10).
"Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Heb 13:20–21).
Samuel Lindsay • August 16, 2022
Hegemony, it refers to the complete dominance and control exerted by one power over others. For example in ancient history, Rome had hegemony over the Mediterranean. For a while the Mongols had hegemony in their vast empire.
The idea of complete domination in any realm can send alarm bells ringing in our head, whether it be monopolistic businesses or governments or those who aspire to global control.
Our rebellious streak vies to break free from any stricture placed upon us, but it is worth remembering that there are advantages to hegemony, for instance the civil law and order in countries like ours. Infrastructure, social services and peace are benefits of power and control being given to someone. Defensive deterrents like armies and air forces are results of the dominance of one government.
The trouble with all earthly dominions is that they involve people, sinful people. No matter who has the power, whether it be a Caesar, Khan, King, Parliament or a tech-billionaire, all of them are sinners with terrible flaws. We invent systems to help overcome our weaknesses like democracies with term limits and separation of powers. But in the end, sinful people are still involved.
It could be that you have a virtuous leader, like a King David who will rule for a time, exercising his authority with wisdom and helping the people prosper (for the most part). You would want them to take all the reins to bring good order. But what happens when they die? Who's to say the next one can be trusted? Or that they will be filled with the Spirit of God?
There is a need for hegemony over the human race; we are in dire need of world-wide rescue and restoration. Left to ourselves we are quick to make a right hash of things, but under the right leadership and boundaries we thrive.
We need the right one to take control over all: The LORD God.
He's the only one who can be trusted with complete control over all.
He's the only one who could bring in a complete reign that perfectly personifies justice and mercy.
He's the only one who can be trusted to be completely beneficent and loving in all his laws.
He's the only one who could be trusted to perfectly defend from all threats foreign and domestic.
We need his reign. We need His dominion. So we pray:
This prayer is a call for God to bring in His hegemony. To bring in his dominion over everything and everyone.
While it is true that God already has power and authority over every square millimetre of the universe, a lot of that creation is in rebellion to Him. We, have tried to establish breakaway states and separatist movements that throw off His benevolent rule.
But we acknowledge the need for all those rebellions to be put down, not because God is a bully, but because He is good. We are created to thrive and prosper in the world that God has made.
Pull a fish out of water and it will survive for a few minutes, you could even say it is "living" out of water. But, eventually it will die. It was not designed to live out of water.
We're not designed to live outside God's kingdom. We may "live" for a time, but eventually we will die because we are cut-off from the source of Life. So we pray that the life-giving reign would be extended over all things.
Thankfully God has promised to do that, and he chose to do it through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus came and heralded the Kingdom of Heaven. Then Jesus secured the right to be our king, paid our debts, defeated death and now he directs the retaking of the kingdom on the Father's behalf.
This reclamation project starts in our hearts, praying that God would exercise His dominion there, and from there flow out in our families, churches, communities and eventually the whole world.
So, pray. Pray it loudly and sincerely "May your kingdom come."
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go..." (Mt 28:18–19).
"Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet" (1 Co 15:24–25).
"In love a throne will be established;
in faithfulness a man will sit on it—
one from the house of David—
one who in judging seeks justice
and speeds the cause of righteousness" (Is 16:5).
"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, o coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (Da 7:13–14).
Samuel Lindsay • July 30, 2022
Have you noticed how the Lord's prayer starts? By looking to God and seeking His honour!
Our culture is relentlessly self obsessed, and so this is a wonderful antidote to our own tendency to make everything revolve around our self. We address our Father, and we honour Him first. We ask for His honour, plans and intentions to take centre stage.
This is obvious in the first petition (i.e. request) of the Lord's Prayer: "hallowed be your name." (Mt 6:9).
It's a very well known phrase, but what does it actually mean? What are we praying in these words?
We don't use the word "hallow" really. It shows up in the word Halloween, which is All Saints Eve (and any more about that topic is a story for another day). Hallow is not a common word we use, but it is essentially the verb of holy, the action of making something or someone holy. We could also say "sanctify". So we pray that God's name would be made holy or perhaps that His name be "holified."
The LEB translation tries to use more common language by translating it "may your name be treated as holy". That's more intelligible to the average person!
Did you notice that this is a rather passive way of speaking? So we are left asking who is supposed to fulfil this request? a) is the Father meant to do this for His own name? or, b) are we asking Him to help us do it?
Probably both. The imprecise petition leaves room for both. And in the end, if God does b) then He is doing a) anyway!
What is Holiness?
When you think of something that is "holy" you might be thinking of something being pure or perfect or religious. However, these things are actually incidentals of holiness.
In the Bible holiness is often about being set apart, dedicated or consecrated to God, for His use. So if a bowl was dedicated and reserved for use in the temple, then it would be considered "holy". It was for God's use. (Holiness also carries the idea of a kind of divine potency, but I'm not going to focus on that aspect here).
In a reductionistic sense, my toothbrush has been made holy to me; set aside for my exclusive service and benefit. I would be quite offended if someone took it upon themselves to defile it by using it for something else other than it's dedicated purpose.
The cleanliness of my toothbrush is not directly related to its holiness, but I tell you what, if it was not clean it would not be considered holy for much longer!
God can't abide sin and wickedness, so it is almost a contradiction in terms to try and put holiness and wickedness together. Something can't be consecrated for God if it is defiled by sin or some other corruption.
This is of course one of the wonderful, beautiful aspects of the Gospel, that we who are defiled by sin, can be washed and consecrated to God for his glorious Kingdom purposes. We have been sanctified for God through Jesus Christ. Now we are called to live out that identity "Be holy as I am holy" (1Pe 1:15–16).
We are devoted, loyal and faithful to the LORD. We cannot serve other gods, idols or masters because we have been set apart for Him exclusively. Every one of our sinful rebellions against God is a plea from us to be dedicated to someone or something else. Sin is an assault on the holiness that God has given you in Christ.
"Do not profane my holy name, for I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites. I am the LORD, who made you holy and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD” (Le 22:32–33).
How is God's name Hallowed?
When we pray like Jesus teaches us to, we are in a sense praying that God's Name would be consecrated, dedicated and reserved for God. That it would be known and honoured.
God's Name is representative of who He is. It is how we identify Him. It is a point of intelligibility and contact between the inconceivably eternal Lord of Hosts and His limited creation.
If God's name is not made holy, then it is by necessary consequence not set apart for Him. It would be profane and ordinary and shared rather than reserved for Him and dedicated to Him.
It is our sincere hope and desire expressed in this prayer that there would be no rivals to God's name, no cases of mistaken identity with relation to God, and no confusion about the nature of the One who owns the name.
There is no-one else like our God, and thus He should not and cannot be confused with any other person or thing. He is unique, and so His name stands alone as a unique identifier for Him and representation of Him to creation.
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Ro 10:13). If God's name is not made holy, how will they know on whom they are to call? If His reputation is not attached to His name, how will they know to who they are calling for salvation?
While we ask God to hallow His Name, one of the ways in which He goes about making His Name holy, is though His people. Our identity and actions demonstrate how God's name is set apart, special. Because God's people are set apart for Him, when people look on us they should see a reflection of what God is like. They should see our reverent fear and our humble obedience. They should see God's mercy and his blessing. When people see God's people, they should see people set apart serve the LORD who is utterly different from everything else.
We are praying for the undoing of the confusion that we see about who God is. We Christians have not clearly demonstrated to the world that our God, the Consuming Fire and Good Shepherd is not the same God of the Muslims, Mormons, or moralistic deism. We are too accommodating and thus we have by our own actions profaned the name of the Lord.
God want His people to treat His name reverently (Ex 20:7), not even making promises in God's name that we will not keep, because that associates the LORD with falsehood and faithlessness (Le 19:12).
God has hallowed His name among the gods of Egypt,
as He did among the gods of Canaan,
as He did among the gods of Babylon,
as He did among the gods of Rome.
We pray that He would do the same among the gods of our day!
"Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:
“Jacob shall no more be ashamed,
no more shall his face grow pale.
For when he sees his children,
the work of my hands, in his midst,
they will sanctify my name;
they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel" (Is 29:22–23).
"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. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes" (Eze 36:22–23).
Samuel Lindsay • July 23, 2022
There are two records of what we call the Lord's prayer. One in Matthew 6 and one in Luke 11. They are quite similar but seem to be taught by Jesus on two different occasions: one in the Sermon on the Mount, and one on-request after Jesus had been spending some time praying himself.
These two instances should tell us two things. First, the form was important because the outlines are repeated. Second, the exact words are not a mystical incantation because they were not copied exactly. If the Holy Spirit preserved this teaching from Jesus with this similarity and variety, we should pay attention to both of these things.
Given that the one in Matthew has more content in it, we will primarily follow that one to see how Jesus instructs us in prayer.
The prayer is prefaced: "Pray then like this:" (Ma 6:9a)
This means that Jesus is teaching us about how we should, or ought, to pray. This comes off the back of comments about how NOT to pray; that is not to show off and not with great verbosity and length (i.e. "heaping up empty phrases" Ma 6:7). Those things are clearly avoided in this prayer because it is simple and short. Unless you put on a silly vocal affectation, it is quite hard to show off with the Lord's prayer.
Far too many people think that prayer is a free-for-all where anything vaguely spiritual goes. They judge their prayer by metrics that Jesus doesn't use. So, if Jesus provides clear teaching on this, lets sit up and pay attention. Imagine being asked to bake a cake: you're given a recipe, it's a guide so you can vary the amounts a little to provide a cake that is a little softer or bigger or tastier etc. But, if you don't follow the recipe at all, you're not going to end up with a cake. Be careful to keep the leaven out of your prayers.
Jesus gives us a way to pray that is true, profound and concise. A worthy model to mimic. "When you pray, say..." (Lu 11:2a).
Who should we pray to?
While God the Father, Son & Spirit are all God, Jesus teaches his disciples to primarily address the Father: "Our Father in heaven" (Mt 6:9). Or to put it in the classic old-speak KJV: "Our Father which art in heaven" (Art thou not desirous that we should converse in like manner always?).
This is the One we are to make holy and beseech; our Heavenly Father. He can hear our prayers and respond to them, like an earthly father responds to his children's needs (Lu 11:10–13).
Now, all of us have had fathers. All of us have had fathers who were sinners. But for some of us, our experience has so tainted our view of fatherhood that we have a hard time seeing God this way. However it is important that we do not take the earthly shadow and use it to understand heavenly reality. So let's set the record straight. Our Heavenly Father...
- Will never leave or forsake his children (De 31:6),
- Will protect his children (1Pe 1:5),
- Knows & supplies his children's needs (Lu 12:22–31),
- Disciplines his children appropriately (He 12:4–11),
- Gives wonderful gifts to His children (Lu 12:32–34),
- Leads His children well (2Co 2:14, Ex 3:8–10),
- Knows when to say "No" (Ja 4:3),
- Always fulfils his promises and never lies (He 6:13–20).
God is infinitely better than our earthly fathers. We should expect our dads to mimic as much of this as is possible, but when they fail us, don't put that on your Heavenly Father.
God is everywhere: omnipresent. He is spirit (has no body), and yet he is said to be in heaven. So while he cannot be contained, there is some way in which the Father is "located" in the spiritual realm of heaven. God is often described as being in a throne room, presiding over heavenly councils and all the activities of earth. It's kind of like how we understand Parliament house, Buckingham Palace or the White House as the location of power and authority, even if the persons in power are not contained there.
God the Father presides from Heaven, which is figuratively above us, over the affairs of earth. And so, because he is the one "in power" he is the one we turn to with due respect to make petitions, seek pardon, and thank for His lavish bounty.
Yet, He is not some distant bureaucratic deity, He is OUR Father. He has come and made us part of His royal family. The Father made an epic plan to make us His children, by sending his only-begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, to redeem us. Then the Spirit of God was sent to apply that redemption to our lives, adopting us in to a family that we have no right to part of!
Now we can come and speak to our Father, who is in Heaven, and call on his Holy Name because we are not strangers or outsiders or enemies, but His children whom He loves.
"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him" (Ro 8:14–17).
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved." (Eph 1:3–6).
Samuel Lindsay • July 14, 2022
'One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”' (Lk 11:1).
That we ought to pray to the LORD our God seems a given. It is a natural and inescapable fact that the people who belong to God should pay homage to Him, thank Him and ask for blessings from His all-powerful hand.
What child would refuse to speak to his Father?
What soldier would refuse to speak to his CO?
Yet we know, that there are right ways and wrong ways to speak to those in authority over us. Insolence can be forgiven and overlooked, but it does not make it a good standard mode of operation!
Our Father King speaks to us, the Word of the Lord has been given, how will we respond? In silence? With facile timidity? With a voluminous vomit of vocabulary? With the irreverent tropes offered in endless repetition?
The one who belongs to God must fear him. It is right for us to take a moment to consider how God would like us to speak to Him. Even if we don't fear being cast from his presence (seeing as it is secured in Christ), we do want to do what is most pleasing to him, and we want to pray in such a way that our prayers are not hindered.
The Disciples of Jesus, not yet cognisant of the fact that God was standing in their midst, asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. Perhaps because they felt under-equipped for such an lofty task and knowing that John the Baptising had taught his own disciples how to pray, Jesus disciples felt they could ask for the same.
And who better to ask than the one who was constantly seeking his Father in prayer! Jesus modelled what it looked like to pray, even forgoing sleep to pray through the night!
We too will do well to sit at the feet of Christ and have him instruct us in the way of prayer. Over the next few weeks these articles will walk through the so-called Lord's Prayer so that we may take in the depths of what Jesus teaches in this simple, short, deep, powerful prayer.
Whether we realise it or not, we inherit a great many traditions in our walk of discipleship. Some of these are wonderful and biblical traditions that have been passed down through the ages to our generation, like praying in Jesus name and saying "amen" (which means "may it be so"). Some traditions, however, are accidental things that we have fallen into the habit of doing, perhaps without thought. Some traditions are the fruit of heterodox teaching, worming their slimy tentacles into our present practice.
Some of us, Lord forbid it, have no practice for us to examine! Perhaps then you are in a blessed position, because you can some without predisposition to Christ to be instructed in the way of prayer.
My prayer life is lacking. Is there anyone among us who feels theirs is up to scratch? How wonderful that it is not me who will be the schoolmaster, but Jesus himself.
"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name." (Heb 13:15).
"Teach me your way, LORD,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever." (Ps 86:11–12).
Samuel Lindsay • July 13, 2022
How weird is it when you sit down to eat and you forget to say grace?
Something feels missing. It seems out of place. Not quite right.
I've been alive 12,104 days. Providentially I was blessed with Christian parents, they taught me to thank God at every main meal. So then, with some back-of-the-napkin math... roughly, 34,000 prayers of thankfulness for food, life and blessing.
That's an awful lot of prayer when you think about it! A little habit of thankful prayer before eating adds up fast!
This is the power of habitual holiness.
To be sure, there are times when prayers are said in haste, or without real regard for the LORD himself, but most of them are genuine prayers. Most of them are also the same formula, offered over and over again, in genuine thankfulness.
This holy habit is intensely ingrained in my life. So much so that I remember as kids we would accidentally start saying grace when dessert was served up, because it was kinda like starting another meal!
God made us creatures with malleable brains. We can adapt to all kinds of situations and we can learn all kinds of responses to different stimuli. This can be used for good or evil! Have you noticed the way that you, almost without thinking, react a certain way in some circumstances? We have made pathways in our brains that we follow naturally.
What happens when those "natural" reactions are ungodly? We have to learn to see our sin for what it is and practice godly responses. We need to retrain our brains.
We want holy practices to be so natural to us that we do it without even thinking; for it to be so normal and natural that it is not even on our radar to do anything else; to feel odd and weird when we sin, rather than it being the same-old thing.
Spontaneity is not a marker of holiness. In my opinion the modern church is far too interested in what is new, spontaneous and how it makes us feel. This is obvious in prayer; many of us would look down on people who seem to have a rigid Christianity with dedicated times of prayer throughout the day, or pray certain forms, or follow a church calendar. But you know what? At least they are praying! Many of us would sneer at the idea of formulaic prayer practices, and yet are practically prayer-less in our own lives. You know what's better than no prayer? Some prayer!
To be sure, if prayer traditions are given as legalistic burdens there is a problem! But when it's not legalistic, if it can be an opportunity to grow in righteousness, then why not take advantage of it?
After all, grace before a meal is practically the same thing. While sometimes you don't "feel it," it is still good practice. It has enough structure to be regular but also freedom to go above and beyond when the mood strikes!
We do what we love. And so that sometimes means we have to learn to love something by doing it. It is not till the musician has pushed through the drudgery of many dreary days of practice that they can learn to play glorious music on their instrument. After they submit to the formulaic structure they are free to enjoy and express their heartfelt music!
We are called to "Make every effort... to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Heb 12:14), and in that holiness we are called to "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Th 5:16–18). Let me offer to you some inspiration on how you could start to integrate prayer into your life such that it becomes habitual response. What can start out as a formula, can end in a life filled with prayer.
When you wake up in the morning thank God for sustaining you through the night and for the rising of the Son from the dead as the sun rises in the sky as if from the depths of the earth.
When I shower I often confess my sin and ask God to cleanse me of all unrighteousness; "wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin" (Ps 51:2).
Set alarms on your phone to remind you to pray during the day.
But these little habits can be used for things other than prayer. I have a current habit of drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, and I will almost never miss that cup of coffee, but you know what I might skip? Spending time listening to God from the Scriptures! It's easy to get lost in doing pressing things. So I'm practicing only drinking my coffee while I read the scriptures. This is training me to prioritise the practice of scripture reading. One day I might be able to uncouple coffee from Bible reading, but for now it is a habit I'm leveraging to grow in godliness.
When you look up at the rainbow, remember the covenant promises to Noah.
When you look up at the night sky, remember the covenant promises to Abraham.
When you look at the Lord's Table, remember the covenant promises in Christ.
"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" (Dt 6:4–9).
Your life could be one continuous worshipful prayer to God. And I don't mean that you never think about things like the footy or work or dishes in the sink. But I do mean that in Christ we are freed from slavery to sin, and we are invited to replace that sin with beautiful holiness as ones devoted to God. We grow in godliness, practicing living for God and giving over our lives as spiritual offerings to Him. One day we will be so fully transformed into that holiness that we will never sin again, so lets start training for that day right now.
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate a the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Co 3:17–18).
Inspiration for this article was from The Christian's Daily Walk in Holy Security and Peace by Henry D. Scudder, 1627.
Samuel Lindsay • July 02, 2022
To the great joy of many many people around the world, last week the US Supreme Court overturned the awful Roe Vs Wade decision from almost 50 years ago!
This earlier ruling was the basis for abortion being a "right" in the USA. It meant that their Supreme Court had magically found a reason in the US constitution to allow people to murder unborn children.
Now that it is overturned, the current court has finally recognised that the previous ruling was wrong all along. They are not changing, or taking away any rights, they are merely recognising that there was never any such constitutional right in the first place. This means that, like Australia, it is now up to each state to make their own rules about abortion.
Praise God that the earlier foolishness of the court is now official!
"Enemies disguise themselves with their lips,
but in their hearts they harbour deceit.
Though their speech is charming, do not believe them,
for seven abominations fill their hearts.
Their malice may be concealed by deception,
but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly." (Pr 26:24–26).
By God's grace many of the US states already had legislation ready to go, so that as soon as Roe was struck down, laws came into effect banning or severely limiting abortion across about a quarter of the country. About another quarter are expected to either pass new restrictions or impose pre-Roe laws.
This is fantastic news, with one fell swoop so many unborn imagers of God finally get the protection of their civil government! That's how it should be! There is much more work to do, but this is a huge step in the right direction.
This news is only good if you believe that it is evil and sinful to poison, dismember and kill babies in their mothers womb - the place God designed to nurture, protect and give life. Unfortunately there are some deceived people who claim the name of Christ and yet still support this abhorrent practice, so perhaps one day I shall make a clear case on why abortion is always ungodly, just in case there was any uncertainty.
Now, you may be thinking: what has this got to do with us here? Two things.
First, this will have ripples around the world. There will be many children who will now be born and serve Christ! Yes, many will be born into poverty, or have parents who don't want them, but there is a heavenly Father who does, and who will give them untold heavenly riches.
Unfortunately and fortunately, the US is a world "leader." As they go, many countries follow. As much as we like to distance ourselves from the yanks, we are endlessly discipled by their entertainment, books, philosophies, technology and so on. That means that if there are seismic cultural shifts in their country of 330 million people, we will be influenced, for good or ill, in our little nation of 26 million people.
We can expect that in Australia there will be a resurgence of pro-life sentiment from both people who are newly won to the cause from US influence and existing pro-lifers who are encouraged to stand up and defend the innocent more publicly. Many of them will not belong to Christ, but we can work with these co-belligerents as long as our loyalty to Jesus is not compromised.
Secondly, it shows even the darkest and most evil policy can be undone. We have grown accustomed to living with disappointment after disappointment on the political stage. It can feel like any work to turn back the tide of wickedness our legislators foist upon us is like building sandcastles to face the sea.
But, when we grow weary of being battered by waves, we remember that we have the Lord as our refuge and our strength, our ever present help in trouble (Ps 46:1). Roe seemed like an insurmountable obstacle to stemming the tide of murder in the USA, yet it was not too great for God. He caused Dagon to lie flat on his face in humiliation, and similarly a modern day detestable idol is overthrown in the USA. It gives us hope that we may see similar victories on our home soil, in our day.
The overturning of Roe vs. Wade was rather "ordinary". Many of us forget that God works through ordinary means; while we keep looking for signs and voices from heaven (Mat 12:38–39) God is busy at work accomplishing His plans. God worked through ordinary parliamentary means with William Wilberforce to abolish the British slave trade, and God worked through court cases, court justices, Trump and other unlikely characters to overturn Roe.
While many of us would just prefer Jesus to come back and supersede all of our ungodly leaders, we must own up to the reality that we are in a world that God has commissioned us to care for, and make disciples in. We do not expect utopia this side of Christ's return, but we do know that God can act in history to make this a better world and that His Children will be agents of His change.
With Christ before us, the Spirit in our hearts, the Word in our mouths, perhaps we can go forth into the fray and see God overthrow wickedness in our parliaments as well as in hearts that turn to Him.
"There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies,
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community." (Pr 6:16–19).
"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us;
P.S. I know that there is a fair chance that someone who is reading this will have had an abortion. Hear this: If you have repented of this sin before God, and are trusting in Jesus, then you can have confidence that Jesus has atoned for this sin and provides full, free forgiveness! No sin is too great for God's grace, including this one. Look to Jesus, and trust him with the souls of those lost children. Do not despair, because Christ has overcome even death!