“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”― Leo Tolstoy
I was sharing with our local body last night about the need to be praying for workers in the harvest. It was a little blurb as a piece in a larger evening of prayer. As I shared what I’d planned to say, I quoted Luke 10:2-3, where Jesus commands His disciples to ask God for workers to be sent into the harvest, and in His next sentence says, “Go! I am sending you out…” It occurred to me that we spend a lot of time praying for God’s will to be done; for God’s Kingdom to come here on earth; for our culture to be changed; etc. when we ourselves are not willing to be the agent of said change or kingdom expansion. Jesus basically says, “Pray for workers, and I am sending you out as said workers!” This is in line with several other passages, but this morning struck me as particularly connected to the model prayer in Matthew 6. Let me explain. But before we really dig in, please get your Bible out and read each reference carefully. Don’t just blow through here and miss the chance to hear God’s voice from His Word!
In the prayer Jesus offers as an example of how we should pray, He gives us some things to be praying for. These things are not new to us, right? Here’s a simplified list:
God is holy, His kingdom come and will be done on earth as in heaven, give us our daily bread, forgive our debts (as we forgive our debtors), lead us not into temptation/deliver us from the evil one, and in some manuscripts we are to acknowledge that His power and glory are the power and glory that are eternal. It took me a long time to see this. It actually took someone else pointing this out to me. But this prayer looks an awful lot like asking for things He has already promised us. I’m going to take the above list and break it down for you.
1) “Hallowed is Your name” – This is for us to acknowledge that He is above and apart from His creation. Even His name is holy (set apart). He is active in His creation, but not part of the creation itself. Isaiah 40:22-26 is a powerful reminder of this.
2) “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.” – The Scriptures are replete with calls to obedience as that is God’s will for us. Take your pick from the plethora of NT passages like 1 Thes. 5:18, Hebrews 13:20-21, Luke 9:23, James 1:5, and so on. How does God’s will happen on earth? We conform to His design for us in obedience. PARAMOUNT! This is the focal point of this entire model prayer: our conformity to His desire for our lives that His will would be done on earth.
3) “Give us this day our daily bread.” – Jesus has already promised that God meets our daily needs for food and water. In fact, later in this very same chapter of Matthew we read a well-known passage about not worrying about what we will eat or what we will wear. So, why are we praying that God will give us the food we need? We are reminding ourselves that His will gets done through our submission to His principles for us. Why do I strive to provide for my daily needs? Because I’ve forgotten His promise to provide for me. His will gets done on earth when I trust Him for my daily needs.
4) “Forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” – For those who have trusted Jesus, their debt is already forgiven. 1 John 1:9, Acts 3:19, 2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 1:7, Hebrews 10:17, Ps. 103:12, Mark 11:25… Why are we asking Him to forgive us? We often miss the contrast here. It’s His will that we forgive others as He has forgiven us. By submitting to His model of forgiving, His will gets done on earth.
5) “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” – This one’s a bit trickier, but if we look at a few Scriptures, we can make sense of it. First, James 1:13 says that God Himself doesn’t tempt us. But we find the Holy Spirit leading Jesus to temptation in Matthew 4:1. The key verse for understanding this is found in Psalm 20:24, which says, “A man’s steps are the Lord’s steps.” There’s not a moment you’ll face in your life that doesn’t hold a temptation. The thing is, God doesn’t lead you INTO the temptation. He orders our steps to places where our faith can grow. But our prayer is to not fall to the temptation. Again, this is a point of submission for us. He has already promised to deliver us from the evil one. He’s already promised us a way out of every temptation, as we see in 1 Cor. 10:13. Will we submit to His way out? Will we follow Him out of the temptation? When we submit ourselves to His way out, His will gets done on earth.
Here it is: this model prayer is all about us submitting ourselves to His reign and rule in our lives. He is holy, set apart. And to see His will done here on earth is His desire and should be ours. Therefore, trust Him for your daily provisions. Therefore, forgive as He forgives. Therefore, take His way out of temptation. The model prayer isn’t a wish list. Instead, we find a submission list with some of the greatest areas of our lives; all pointing to His Kingdom comes when we let Him change us by submitting to His design for our lives. Will you change the world by allowing God to change you?