New City Catechism 41.3
Question 41: What is the Lord's Prayer?
Answer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today 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.
The last three petitions of the Lord's prayer focus on our needs:
(4) Give us today our daily bread.
(5) Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
(6) Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
It is easy to remember the three P's when praying for our own needs: provision, pardon, and protection. Our prayer for provision (or "daily bread") is an acknowledgement that all we have comes from God. Although we are quite accustomed to having plenty of food and money on hand at any given time to last us a while, most people in the first century lived hand-to-mouth. Like the Israelites who came out of Egypt, they had to trust God to provide for them day-to-day. And just as the Israelites ate daily bread from heaven, so are we to trust God on a day-by-day basis. There is nothing wrong with having food in a pantry and a refrigerator and having some savings on hand. But if having those things causes you to forget your dependence on God at all times, then you have a problem. Praying for daily provision, and trusting God to provide it each day, is an important part of our relationship to God in prayer.
Praying for pardon by asking for forgiveness each day is also an important, daily reminder that we are constantly in need of God's forgiving grace in Christ. Although we are only justified (declared righteous before God) once, we nevertheless continue to sin as long as we are in this present life, and confessing our sins to God is a practice by which we come to agree with God about our sin, turn from it, lay it upon Christ in our own hearts, and receive God's assurance that it has not turned his heart away from us. Moreover, when we ask to be forgiven in the same way we have forgiven others who have sinned against us ("our debtors"), we are forcing ourselves to confront any bitterness in our hearts and get rid of it before it turns into a poisonous influence. We are also forcing ourselves to seek reconciliation with others wherever that is possible. Praying for forgiveness from God, and tying that to the way we forgive others, is a very sanctifying experience.
Finally, praying for protection from temptation and the influence of the evil one (the devil) is praying that God would guard our hearts from running after sin. It is an acknowledgement of our own weakness and need of his protecting, preserving grace to keep us faithful to him in the end and to thwart the purposes of our very crafty enemy who seeks to destroy our faith. I pray this prayer often for myself, my family, and the people of my church. We have a very formidable enemy, and without God's grace we have no hope of being rescued from his schemes.
The Lord's Prayer teaches us to pray for God's name, God's kingdom, and God's will and then for our own provision, pardon, and protection. Use it as a framework for your own practices of prayer.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Spend this week meditating on Jesus' teaching on prayer from Matthew 6:5-15. What does Jesus teach us not to do in prayer, and why? What do we learn about how we should pray from this passage?
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