Repentance and The Lord’s Prayer

I have a friend who has asked for prayer for her ten-year-old grandson, who doesn’t do his homework. I disliked school and had no aspirations until I chose to get a master’s degree. Then I began to enjoy the learning process, to achieve my goal in education. Later, when I was working full time, I had a mission or focus according to my assignments or objectives every workday. School or work is easy compared to our home lives or retirement because we have specified tasks and assignments. When we’re home, we’re often tired or rushed and occupied with family or personal tasks, so we may not think about why we’re doing them. We lapse into whatever is easy, familiar, or comfortable. But God calls believers to pay attention to our lives and live for him, rather than for worldly satisfaction or conformity. How do you refocus during the day or evening? I keeping an evening thanksgiving journal and also think about what I’ve heard in church or come across in my Bible studies. Our Christian Ed class is studying the Lord’s prayer this term, so I have found myself praying it to remember my biblical focus. * Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will on earth and in them, and for God’s provisions, forgiveness, and protection. He said, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 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 6:9-13) This is a humble prayer of praise and trust. When we pray it or pray “like” it, we are  seeking God’s help to submit to him for our provisions and protection. Perhaps while praying we repent for not appreciating how God has already provided what we need, or how he has forgiven and protected us. 

Praying For God’s Will and Kingdom

This model prayer begins with praise for a loving, heavenly Father who is not of this world but completely “other.” He is the “holy, holy, holy” God of Isaiah’s vision (Isiah 6:3) “The idea of praying to God as ‘Our Father’ conveys the authority, warmth, and intimacy of a loving father’s care, while in heaven reminds believers of God’s sovereign rule over all things. The concern of this first petition is that God’s name would be hallowed—that God would be treated with the highest honor and set apart as holy…The presence of God’s kingdom in this age refers to the reign of Christ in the hearts and lives of believers, and to the reigning presence of Christ in his body, the church—so that they increasingly reflect his love, obey his laws, honor him, do good for all people, and proclaim the good news of the kingdom.” (1) “The will of God may be said to be done by us, when our wills are resigned to his; when we patiently submit to every adverse dispensation of providence; when our hearts and actions are, in some measure, conformed to his law; when what is done, is done in faith, with a view to his glory, and without dependence upon it…These desire to do the will of God, as it is done in heaven, constantly, and without any interruption; and perfectly and completely.” (2) Now, which of us will proudly proclaim that we are passionate for the kingdom of God as we should be in our hearts, as sincere lovers of Christ? Ungodly, false pride must be confessed and repented if we want God’s will to be done in us, others, and the world.

Looking to God to Be Our Provider

“Give us this day our daily bread…” (v. 11) Here, we humbly recognize God as the first cause of every single thing that exists, of all that we have been given. He is the Creator of all natural resources, intellectual powers, spiritual fruit, mercy, providential circumstances, and ruler of time. Gill continues, “It is said to be “daily” bread, and to be asked for “day by day”; which suggests the uncertainty of life; strikes at all anxious and immoderate cares for the morrow; is designed to restrain from covetousness, and to keep up the duty of prayer, and constant dependence on God; whom we must every day ask to ‘give’ us our daily bread: for he is the sole author of all our mercies; which are all his free gifts; we deserve nothing at his hands: wherefore we ought to be thankful for what we have, without murmuring at his providences, or envying at what he bestows on others.” (3) If we claim to have nothing else to confess, we must admit and renounce our proclivity to take our provisions for granted. I was delayed today in writing this draft. But just as I was starting to think about my options to pick it up later (which would not be ideal), I received a text message that the people with whom I am meeting are running about an hour late. Perfect! I could not have predicted that God would so generously provide the exact time I need to keep writing and I wouldn’t have known to ask for it. We are Jesus’s disciples who need to pray for God’s will on earth and in us for his provisions, with humility and repentance. 

Speaking of Repentance 

Now we get to the heart of the passage for our purposes here, “…forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (v. 12). “[Our sins] are called ‘debts’ because…we owe satisfaction to the law and justice of God. The proper debts we owe to God are love, obedience, and gratitude…what is here requested is a manifestation and application of pardon to the conscience of a sensible sinner; which, as it is daily needed, is daily to be asked for.” (4) We are also taught by Christ to ask, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (v. 13). You and I know with absolute certainty that something will catch our attention, distract us from what’s right and needful, or overtake us, and may cause us to sin— today or over the following days. The more we prepare for these temptations and stumbles, the easier it will be to see them quickly, confess them, and turn away from them in repentance. As we grow in holiness we learn that sin always has consequences, most of which are not canceled just because we confess and repent, so we want to keep watch, being ready to confess our thoughts, attitudes, heart’s desires, and motivations.

Easy Repentance is a Myth

“It is a myth to say that repentance consists merely of turning from the evil I have done. No one has come to genuine repentance who has not repented both of what they have done and of what they are…Our great problem is not merely that we sin but that we are sinners. And when we come to repentance it is never enough to turn from what we have: our sin. It is mandatory that we turn from what we are: sinners. Face the facts: every one of us was born in sin. Sin has a vice-like grip on our lives. It has contaminated everything we are and do. You might have repented a thousand times of specific sins you have committed, but it is not until you repent of what you are that true repentance begins…If a person does not know that he is a sinner, he will not suppose he has any particular need of repentance…The contrasting subjects of pride and humility are among the most prominent themes in the Bible. Pride serves as a great barrier between the proud and repentance…Pride guarantees broken relationships that cannot be fixed apart from contrition and humility…Among the many commands that God issues to the proud are these potent words with promise, ‘Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted’ (Matthew 23:12).” (5)

Learning to Avoid Sin 

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  (v. 13) When we pray to be delivered us from evil, we are asking for the Lord’s protection from a sinful person’s influence, or focus of an event, idea, book, blog, movie, TikTok or Instagram entry, to not pull us into its grasp. “The meaning here most likely carries the sense, ‘Allow us to be spared from difficult circumstances that would tempt us to sin’…Trials and hardships will inevitably come to believers’ lives, and believers should ‘count it all joy’ when trials come, for they are strengthened by them (James 1:3–4). Nonetheless, believers should never pray to be brought into such situations but should pray to be delivered from them, for hardship and temptation make obedience more difficult and will sometimes result in sin.” (6) The longer we study biblical theology, the wiser we will become about the need for heart-felt confessions and repentance, and how to pray to avoid unnecessary sin. “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

Related Scripture: Matthew 5:48; 6:15, 26, 32; 15:13; 18:35; Mark 14:36; Luke 11:13; Romans 8:15; 1 Corinthians 10:12-13; Galatians 4:6; Ephesian 4:30; Colossians 2:13-15; 2 Peter 2:9.

Notes:

  • You can listen to the classes, starting with the first one, at:

 https://www.trinityboerne.org/mediaPlayer/#/audio/https%3A%2F%2Fwww.csmedia1.com%2Ftrinityboerne.org%2Fprayer-1.mp3

  1. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Matthew 6:9-13, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Matthew 6:9-13, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-6.html
  3. Gill, Ibid.
  4. Gill, Ibid
  5. Gill, Ibid
  6. Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 179, 185, Crossway, 2002.
  7. ESV Study Bible, Ibid.

October 7, 2021

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