May 11, 2023
After the first three petitions in the Lord’s prayer in which we pray for God to be reverenced, His kingdom to come, and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, the prayer turns from focusing on petitions related to the Father to focusing on human needs. “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:11–13). This pattern—first prioritizing God, and second moving on to human needs—is also seen elsewhere in Jesus’ teachings: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
The prayer changes from the second person singular (your name, your kingdom, your will) to the first person plural (our bread, our debts). The person praying is praying to God, but the prayer doesn’t focus only on their individual needs, but also on the needs of other believers; the petition is for “our” bread, the forgiveness of “our” sins, and delivering “us” from evil.
Give us this day our daily bread conveys the request for our Father to provide our physical needs—whatever is needed for the preservation of our lives. In petitioning Him for our needs, we are expressing our dependence on Him. In first-century Mediterranean life, workers were paid daily and only had enough to live on day by day. Today’s pay bought today’s food. Living in such insecure circumstances made the prayer very meaningful.
God providing daily bread would have also reminded the Jewish people of God supplying manna when they were in the wilderness. He supplied enough each day for that day, and on the sixth day He supplied enough for two days, so that they didn’t need to gather on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:13–26). God literally supplied their daily bread.
We acknowledge our dependence on our heavenly Father when we pray this prayer. We are expressing that we look to Him to supply our physical needs, and we ask Him to do so. The Lord wants us to trust Him and depend on Him to supply our needs.
The fifth petition reads: Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew uses the words debts and debtors to portray sin, while Luke uses sins and indebtedness: “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4). In Aramaic, Jesus’ mother tongue, the word khoba was used to express both debts and sins. Matthew’s debts and Luke’s sins both convey transgressions against God.
When Jesus told His disciples to pray forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors, He was speaking of our being forgiven of our sin. God has graciously and mercifully forgiven us for our sins through salvation. Therefore, we are to forgive others as an extension of God’s grace. Those who are forgiven are to forgive others.
Reconciliation—the ending of conflict and renewing of relationship—is the hallmark of Christianity, of the kingdom of God. God has reconciled the relationship between sinful humanity and Himself through Jesus. He has offered renewed relationship through His forgiveness. As members of His kingdom, we must also renew relationships with those who have sinned against us through forgiveness. We are to reflect God’s nature, which is inherently merciful and forgiving. This is part of being a Christian.
The last petition isLead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13). The previous phrase, forgive us our debts, covered our past sins. The prayer now addresses future sins.
A question sometimes arises regarding the first part of the petition: Does God lead us into temptation? In the book of James we read: “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” (James 1:13).
The Greek word used here, peirasmos, means test, trial, or temptation. The word has a basic meaning of “a test”; however, when it’s used of Satan’s testing people with a view to their failing the test, it comes to mean “temptation.” We know that life is full of moral testing; we have to make moral decisions often, and it’s not as though we can avoid such tests. The petition isn’t asking that we never be tested, but is prayed with the understanding that we know we are weak, and we ask our Father to keep us out of some situations because our faith may not be sufficient to endure them.
In the second part of the petition, we pray deliver us from evil. We’re asking the Lord to rescue us, free us, deliver us from evil. Some translations render the Greek ponēros as “evil” and others as “the evil one.” Both translations are technically correct, and commentators seem to be equally split between the two choices. Either way, we are praying for God to rescue us. The apostle Paul wrote: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).
The Lord’s Prayer ends with a request based on our understanding that we need God’s help to keep our relationship with Him healthy. We are sinners by nature. We understand this weakness within ourselves, and we know we need His help to avoid sinning. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil is the petition of one who wishes to keep a healthy and right relationship with God. We are requesting that our Father keep us from sinning, from situations in which we will fail the test, and from evil in every form—in our hearts, our attitudes, and our actions.
We make these petitions because we love God and desire to keep our relationship with Him healthy and unbroken. We beseech our Father to keep us from anything that would come between us and disrupt our communion with Him.
The prayer in the Gospel of Matthew ends with: For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen (Matthew 6:13).
This last phrase is not included in many translations and is considered to have been added in the late second century, though they may include it in a footnote or italics or brackets, while the KJV and NKJV versions include it as normal text. All of the commentaries I read speak of it being a doxology that was added after the Gospel was originally written. It reflects King David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11–12:
“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”
Though it may not have been part of Jesus’ original teaching, it is nevertheless a beautiful and fitting end to the prayer. The prayer started by focusing on our Father, then moved to addressing our needs, and it’s appropriate to return the focus to Him by professing the beauty of His power and majesty as we end the prayer.
In Matthew’s Gospel we find the Lord’s Prayer within the Sermon on the Mount, right after we’re told not to “heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7–8). Jesus gave His disciples a short prayer which addresses both our needs and the needs of all other Christians. It’s a prayer that is concerned with both the glory of God Almighty and the relationship we, as His children, have with Abba, our loving and caring Father.
Dear Father, You have saved us through Your Son’s sacrificial death and have adopted us into Your family, so that now we have You—the one above all others, the Creator of all things—as our Abba, our Father. As we come to know You, Your love, power, and holiness, we want to give You the reverence You so heartily deserve.
You are God, holy, present, and righteous, and You deserve our praise and worship. May we add our voices to those in heaven who never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). And may we be as the twenty-four elders who cast their crowns before Your throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:10–11).
May You reign in our lives and throughout all the world. Use all of us who believe in You to share the joyous news of salvation. Teach us to live according to the principles of Your kingdom; help us to be conscious of them in our choices and decisions, so that we may reflect You and Your ways.
Work in the lives of all those who believe in You, so that as many as possible will come to know You and live in a manner that reflects life in Your kingdom. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Originally published August 2016. Adapted and republished May 2023. Read by Reuben Ruchevsky.
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