“Deliver us…” – Prayer series VI

“And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”
Matthew 6: 13


During the week leading up to Jesus’ arrest, Jesus warns Peter, saying, “Satan wants to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith might not fail” (Lk 22:31-32). Jesus does not promise Peter that there will be no trials in life. Peter pledges loyalty even unto death but falls asleep in the garden. Jesus then awakens Peter and tells him to watch and pray lest he enter into temptation, but Peter does not pray and, soon after that, fails in his time of trial by denying Jesus three times. 

When we pray, we are protected by Jesus from Satan and his attacks. Satan, the accuser, is not prevented from his work as “the accuser.” Still, the disciples are instructed in the Lord’s Prayer not only to pray in general but for deliverance from the times of trial that evil brings. 

Whatever one’s views of the nature of Satan, it can be said that the way evil functions in society is most appropriately described using personal language. A demonic energy breaks out in people, societies and nations that act with the force of a guiding evil mind. “Lead us not into temptation” is better translated as, “Do not bring us to the time of trial.” Also, “do not bring us” can be understood to mean “Do not permit us to go.” 

The petition for protection from evil, or the evil one, is a cry from the heart in every age. In 1 Peter 5:8, we find Peter’s words, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 

Seeking God’s protection and guidance must be in our minds and our prayers daily as we venture into the lions’ den..

“Forgive us …” – Prayer series V

“And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.”
Matthew 6: 12

Jesus teaches that our relationships with God and our neighbours are closely tied. This was different from the tradition in which Jesus was raised and appears contrary to the world’s mindset today. Today, the typical human assumption is that the violator must ask for forgiveness before the wronged party can be expected to accept the apology and grant forgiveness. The cry “Never forget and never forgive” has been echoed throughout history. But Jesus asks the person wronged to forgive the one responsible for the wrongdoing even when there is no confession of guilt.

Is this possible? Can I forgive someone who has caused me great pain and sorrow? Can Christians who have suffered at the hands of oppressive governments, forgive them for years of murder and mayhem? This is a tricky question to which those of us who have never endured such suffering. We cannot presume to give easy answers. Yet a voice from the cross echoes across history to all, saying: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Neither Pilate, the high priest, nor the centurion offered any apology to Jesus, yet he prayed for divine forgiveness for them amid their brutality to him. Jesus acted out the second half of this prayer on the cross in total innocence of wrongdoing. This is not the cry of the weak but the extraordinary voice of the strong.

The world despises Jesus’ message because it thinks anger is necessary to fuel the struggle for justice.  In very few words, the Lord’s Prayer weaves together some of the weightiest themes of Jesus’ theology. In this week’s verse, Jesus connects God’s forgiveness of his people with their willingness to forgive others. Forgiveness must be offered even when it is not requested. The model is Jesus on the cross. Jesus used the Aramaic word khoba when he taught the Lord’s Prayer. That word means both debts and sins. We need forgiveness for both. Debts refers to unfulfilled obligations toward God and our fellow human beings. We should have reached out compassionately to our neighbour but failed to do so, and so our love for God is incomplete. So, we ask God to forgive us for our failures towards Him and others. 

Corrie Ten Boom once said, “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness”.

Forgiveness is a recurring need, like daily bread.

“Give us this day” – Prayer Series part IV

“Give us this day our daily bread.”
Matthew 6:11 NKJV 

I think one of the most crippling fears of the human spirit is the fear of not having enough to eat. Will we have enough? We are managing now, but what about the future? What if I lose my job? What if the kids get sick? What if I am unable to work? How will we survive? Fear of not having enough to eat can destroy a sense of well-being daily and erode hope for the future. 
 
Could this verse also suggest, “Deliver us, O Lord, from the fear of not having enough to eat”? Give us bread for today, and with it, give us confidence that we will have enough tomorrow. Our prayer can legitimately suggest, “Give us today the bread that does not run out.” This mindset focuses on an amount, frequency, and the fear that we will not have enough. It requests deliverance from that fear. It also implies that the bread requested is bread, not cake, cars, or wealth. 
 
We pray OUR BREAD, not my bread. Bread is a gift; when we pray and ask for our bread, we affirm that all bread comes as a gift. It comes as a gift from the one who owns all things. It is not a right, and we have not created it. We are given such gifts in trust, holding and using them for the one who gives them. All material possessions are on loan from their owner, the God who created matter itself. 
 
When you pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Do you ask for bread that sustains life, not all its extras? Do you mean ours and not mine? Do you acknowledge it is a gift?

“Thy will be done” – Prayer series part III

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.” 
Matthew 6:9 NKJV 

Have you heard the Latin expression “Deo volente”? In some cultural and religious circles, it is often a concluding statement that follows the making of plans. The conversation ends with a disclaimer that suggests let’s not forget God’s role. Deo Volente means “God willing”. It suggests that the sovereign God of the universe, whom we call out to when we begin the Lord’s Prayer, is in control. 
 
The will of God is everything that God desires or allows to happen in heaven and on earth; we acknowledge this when we say Deo Volente. For some, God’s will dominating all our plans and desires can appear defeatist. They may adopt a mindset of “why bother if God is going to do what God is going to do”. Why did Jesus invite us to make the statement, “Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven”, if everything was out of our control? Jesus taught us to say these words because He knows we can participate in God’s will and even influence its success in our lives.  
 
We pray for God’s will to be done. When we say these words, it is not only because we acknowledge God as the sovereign ruler of the universe overseeing all that happens. We pray these because we have free will and can choose, to an extent, to be part of God’s plan. If we could not choose because it was already predetermined, then we aren’t created in the image of God, an image that chooses between good and evil. God’s will can be simplified into two categories: Sovereign/hidden will and revealed will. The sovereign will is all that God ordains to happen with or without our awareness. The revealed will is given to us in scripture, allowing us to participate in His will done on earth. 

The human will is our capacity for choice and action, which we can exercise for good or evil. As such, it enables us to respond to God’s word in obedience or disobedience. Scripture reveals God’s will that helps us choose between good and evil. It guides us to loving God and others with our whole being. Scripture shares many stories of obedience, disobedience, living in harmony, and heartbreak. It reveals choices between right and wrong, and we must acknowledge that God wants us to do what is right. When we pray Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we are praying for the hidden and revealed will. And when we offer these words to our Father, we must acknowledge that there is much of God’s will that we can know that will help us live life to the fullest, understand God’s presence in our life, and keep us on that path to living the kingdom life now and in eternity. 

When we pray, “Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.” We are saying we desire God to keep His holy and loving hand over us, and that we want to do our part to see His will be done wherever we are. 

“Our Father” – Prayer series II

“In this manner therefore pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” 
Matthew 6:9 NKJV 

My wife and I took ill on Christmas Eve, and since that date, we have gone through several iterations of the flu and other bugs. Currently, she has pneumonia, and I have bronchitis. Our illnesses have been in spurts. We lay in bed for several days, would get up for a few hours and then back down again. Neither of us have been this ill for so long, and despite our best efforts, we could not maintain any sense of routine. I say we, but superwoman (my wife) would get up, make coffee, and keep the fireplace going while I was man-sick in bed. Praise the Lord; we (including our doctors) believe we are at the end of this mess. 

Before becoming ill, I had been studying the Lord’s Prayer to write a series of articles on the prayer. I was able to submit one article before mushy brain syndrome took over. I tried to continue with devotions and prayers but admittedly struggled during this time. I was both physically and mentally wiped out, but I did not want to ignore God because I knew He was not ignoring me. I tried to listen to sermons, devotionals, audiobooks, and praise songs but quickly lost focus or fell asleep. However, throughout my illness, the phrase “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9 NKJV) kept coming to mind, specifically the words Father and Hallowed

My Father passed when I was in my early teens, so I had no role model, nor was I capable of idolatrously compare God to an earthly father. Using the story of the prodigal son helped me understand the loving, gracious term ABBA. Modern life creates great distances between members of a family. However, this is not the norm in traditional communities in the Middle East. Their mother and father have lived near their children all their lives. In short, the Father is near and usually lives in the same house. In contrast, the Abba of Christian prayer is near yet far away; He is in the heavens. The worshipping community is part of the created world. Abba is the Creator. The faithful are servants, and Abba is the Master. Mortals are born and die, while Abba is the eternal One. Abba’s name is Hallowed, and my thoughts during my illness were, Abba, continue to make Your name hallowed so the world will see You are in control. You are loving, gracious, personal, and close to those who desire You”. 

Abba, the loving Father, is approachable yet dwells in excellent majesty in the heavens in all His glory. Jesus taught His disciples to pray to God, who is near and yet far away. He is “our Father” and, at the same time, is “in the heavens.” 

Our Father

“In this manner therefore pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name”  Matthew 6:9
He said to them: “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” Luke 11:2a.
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Many who have attended church sometime in their life have most likely heard the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13 & Luke 11:1-4). As children, we often repeated it in public school (when we did those things), in Sunday School, or as adults while in worship. We may have been taught to say it as the catchall prayer when we did not know what to say. However, how many of us have reflected deeply on what Jesus taught? 

We know that words, statements, stories, etc., found in the Bible are not placed there accidentally but have a meaning, so what was the significance of these words? I do not believe that when Jesus said, “In this manner, therefore pray “, or “When you pray, say,” that He suggested this was the only prayer we would say. He warns us in Matthew 6:5 about the hypocrisy and vanity some display when they pray to be seen or repeat phases, hoping God will hear. His guidance reminds us to acknowledge the omnipotence and grace of God, to take the focus off ourselves and turn it to God. 

The apostles would have learned and recited the Hebrew prayers in synagogues. So why did they need to be taught? They noticed Jesus prayed differently. He prayed short and long prayers in the language of the times at different hours and locations. He used the expression “our Father” which may have been surprising to them. It seems simple for Christians to refer to God as “our Father”, and we have been taught that way since we accepted Christ. We don’t give God’s title a second thought but to His first disciples, it may have seemed out of place. However, when Jesus was asked by His disciples to teach them to pray, he instituted a new way of praying. 

Two major Abrahamic religions, Judaism, and Islam, use a sacred language in their prayers. Jews pray in Hebrew while Muslims pray in an ancient Arabic tongue. Jesus lived in a world where the public reading of the Bible was only in Hebrew, and prayers had to be offered in that language. However, when He invited the disciples to call God Abba (our father/my father), He took the giant step of endorsing Aramaic as an acceptable language for prayer and worship. He opened the door for the New Testament to be written in Greek (not Hebrew) and then translated into other languages. Ancient languages or customs do not bind Christians as Jesus implies, we are free to worship as we are.  

There is a deeper meaning, not a hidden one, in the Lord’s prayer. Over the next few weeks, you are invited to join us as we dissect the Lord’s Prayer and share tips that may change how you understand this prayer and how you pray in general.  

Facing life.

 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The military continually develops, and updates documents they call SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). These short documents outline how military groups would respond to emergencies such as a fire aboard a ship, a crash on the runway, or an impromptu search and rescue activity for a child lost in the woods. Initially designed as emergency response guidelines, they expanded to other areas of military life. Military personnel always look at their SOP to ensure they are ready to respond to any military difficulty. Are you prepared to be able to respond to life’s difficult moments? 
 
The civilian world also has SOPs; although they are not formally written or posted in a place of prominence around our house, they exist. Families have discussed what to do in the event of a fire in the home, when they hear of upcoming bad weather, and so on. We are good about being prepared for emergencies that don’t come often, but how prepared are we for everyday life?  

Have you developed any SOPs in your Christian life to help you adequately deal with emergencies? Do you know how to respond to sorrow, anxiety, temptation, or other trouble? Have you read your scripture enough to understand what God’s response suggests? Have you reflected on events and noted where you fell and how God lifted you? When life seems to overtake you, do you have a SOP to calm yourself, such as reading psalms, singing praise songs, or just sitting and thinking about God? 
 
Paul’s words to Timothy remind us that scripture prepares us for whatever we face. Are there areas in your life that would benefit from overhauling your SOPs? We are starting a new year, and it’s a good time to dust off your Life SOP to make sure you can respond to the world around you. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you develop a faith-based SOP for facing the world. Let the breath of God refresh you. His Word will guide you through 2024 and beyond.  

Pray with your heart, not your head.


“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers”. Acts 1:14


Many of us have heard stories about a baby’s first words. Moms had spent time coaching (and possibly bribing) their little ones to say momma, while dads just stood around waiting for the first words. In anticipation, families would gather around the baby coaching those first words from their lips. Often, as all stared excitingly, the baby would start to speak, slowly starting with the sound mmma …. mmma … and then … DADA. All would laugh, and some were surprised. Despite the coaching the baby said what was baby was comfortable saying. Language can be taught and with practice and guidance, the baby will learn more words. But the baby started to talk by saying something the baby decided to say and not what the parents wanted it to say.

How many books exist about prayer?  The answer is many. It seems as soon after humanity could record their thoughts, books on prayer appeared. We can read books on what to pray, why to pray, how to pray, where to pray and even when to pray. Jesus, who lived as a man in a culture where prayer was commonplace, was even asked by His disciples to teach them to pray. So, with all we have available to us, why do we struggle to pray? Is prayer really that hard that we need all these references to understand it?   

When a baby says its first words it does so because it feels right. Soon they learn the value of saying more words because those words draw them closer to the ones they love.  Frankly, some of us might need to grow up and say our first real prayer. Once they come out of our lips, it becomes easy after that. We also find value in going beyond that first prayer and talking with the One who, we read in Zachariah 2:8, refers to us as the “Apple of His eye”. Start by telling God what you want to say and not what you have been coached to say. 

Love the Lost

Timothy 1:15 – “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptations, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”


Christmas is just around the corner, and many are running around. To some people, Christmas means gift-giving and receiving. To others, Christmas means children’s plays and pageants. And to others, Christmas means family activities—decorating the Christmas tree together, family get-togethers, and wonderful meals with relatives. Sadly, for many people, Christmas is not all joy and peace on earth! Unfortunately, for too many, Christmas means overindulgence, drunkenness, debt, and even family anxiety, sin and immorality.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” Luke 19:10

I woke up very earlier this morning with a feeling of sadness hanging over me. Not sure what was causing this, but I felt compelled to go to my computer and read news headlines. “Mother say she is sorry for throwing her three newborns in the garbage”, “Fifteen year old killed in parking lot shootout”, “Mein Kauff top seller in Canadian iTunes store” and it went on. I then looked at several major newspapers from around the world and struggled to find a positive headline. Staring at my computer screen I tried to make sense of what I was reading and why I was awoken and then it hit me, I was reading a prayer list. I was looking at stories and images of people who need Jesus. I was looking at the lost. 

We can feel overwhelmed with what is going on around us and especially if we rely on the media to give us an impression of our neighbours. We can become hard and we can easily find negativity, but we mustn’t be afraid. Instead of shying away from the headline that speaks of terrorism, increased drug use, car bombing or turning our head the other way when passing a beggar on the street corner or turning up our eyes when we hear someone’s family troubles, we can take these things to prayer and offer them to God. 

The best we can do for a stranger is to pray asking God to intervene in their lives. When you are out and about today, do what Jesus did – leave a place of comfort and look for those who need comforting. Listen to what is being said. Offer a hand, a hug or a prayer.  

Joy

In the book of Exodus, God rescued Israel out of slavery in Egypt and established them as His covenant community by giving them His Law. Over and over, the Israelites would remember and recite this story, refusing to forget the joy of rescue

Through every trial and test ever after, their rescue from Egypt reminded them of what was possible through their God. In God’s covenant with the freed Israelites, He outlines what it looks like to be His people in the world. By following these commands, Israel becomes a compelling image of God’s heart on display. 

As beautiful as the Commandments are, they are but a glimpse of the Great Commandment that Jesus will outline in His ministry. Jesus sums up the entire covenant law given to Moses in the twin statements that make up the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 12:30-131)

Jesus has fulfilled all the laws by his arrival, life, death, and resurrection. By His grace, He is forming us into a covenant community transformed by His holy love. He is shaping us into a picture of what it looks like to be His people in this world. 

This Christmas, we should also remember our rescue. We must remember our story and how we were once enslaved. Not in Egypt with physical chains, under the brutality of Pharaoh. But we were once enslaved to sin. It was our exile, bound by its oppressive grip and strength. 

But Jesus faced down the empire of sin and proclaimed, “Let my people go!” Jesus is the long-awaited arrival of liberation. He overthrew the power and plagues of sin and became the Passover lamb of sacrifice so that we could be set free! He is our New Exodus! Because of Him, we can know the Joy of Rescue.

The people of Israel often retold their rescue story. What is yours? What is your testimony of Joy and Rescue? How and when did Jesus rescue you? How did that change your life? 

Look for an opportunity to share that joy this Christmas with at least one other person.