And lead us not into temptation

Jesus said, “When you pray, say ‘…And lead us not into temptation….’”

Luther explains, “What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.”

Salvageable adds: Last month during an interview Pope Francis remarked that he would like to change the wording of the Lord’s Prayer to remove the suggestion that God tempts people to sin. Martin Luther did not need the pope to tell him that “God tempts no one.” We pray that God would protect us from temptation and would guide us on paths that are safe for us and pleasing to him.

God leads us, even when we do not pray for his leadership. By his commands he tells us how to love him properly and how to love our neighbors properly. God tells us what to do and what not to do, not as a dictator who likes to bully others, but as a Creator who knows why he made us and what our purpose is in this world. When you wonder why you were born, turn to the Bible and read the commands of God. They will tell you why God put you here and what he expects you to do.

Like sheep, we go astray. We enjoy temptation. We enjoy walking along the edge of temptation, promising ourselves that we will not fall into sin. Jesus warns us that we are safer removing a hand or foot or eye rather than allowing them to drag us into sin. Of course our hands and feet and eyes only do what we tell them to do; they do not cause us to sin. Sin comes from deep within us, from within our hearts. The devil tempts us to sin, and he is called a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour—but he is a caged lion, restrained by the Word of God, with only the power of his lies available for him to harm us. The sinful world around us tempts us to sin, to sink to its level of evil, but again God’s Word directs us away from sin and keeps us safe from the perils of the world. When we prefer the sinful world to God’s Word, that choice comes from a sinful heart. Rather than removing hands and feet and eyes, we need a new heart. So we join with David, praying, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

God answers that prayer. Jesus is the heart donor who has given us a clean heart and a right spirit. Far more important than the heart we give to him is the heart he gives to us—a pure heart that keeps us alive and leads us away from temptation on paths that the Lord has chosen for us. God tempts no one. He leads us on paths of righteousness for his name’s sake, and he will lead us across the valley of the shadow of death to dwell in his house forever. J.

 

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Forgive us our trespasses

Jesus says, “When you pray, say ‘…And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us….’”

Luther explains, “What does this mean? We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.”

Salvageable adds: Repentance is not something a Christian does once in a lifetime and then never has to do again. Even the best of us sins every day. Therefore, we repent every day, and we remember how God forgives us through the work of Christ every day. The Lord’s Prayer gives us an opportunity to confess our sins, listing those we remember and also asking forgiveness for those sins we have forgotten and those we never noticed.

Along with this prayer of repentance, we make a promise in the Lord’s Prayer: we promise to forgive those who have sinned against us. As we make this promise, we remember that God goes first. Jesus purchases forgiveness for all people on the cross. Having received that forgiveness ourselves, we now share that forgiveness with other people, especially with those who have sinned against us. We do not begin the process of forgiveness, nor does God limit his forgiveness of our sins to the level of our forgiveness for other sinners. The ransom Christ paid is sufficient to cover all the sins of every person who ever lived or will live, including our sins. When we fail to share forgiveness with another sinner, we cast doubt on the extent of Christ’s ransom and God’s forgiveness. Therefore, Jesus teaches us to pray daily that we will forgive the sins that were committed against us.

Two versions of the Lord’s Prayer contain different pictures of sins. One speaks of trespasses—people going where they are not supposed to go. The other speaks of debts—something that is owed to another person. Our sins are trespasses, for we have gone where God told us not to go. Our sins are debts, and we owe God a penalty of debt we can never pay. Jesus went where he should not have gone—to a Roman cross meant for criminals, and to hell itself, where his Father abandoned him for a time. Jesus went there so we do not have to go there. Jesus paid our debt by his ransom, so we are no longer in debt to God.

Jesus went there for us and for all people. Therefore, when people trespass into our lives and fall into debt to us by their sins, we forgive them. We forgive, not from the goodness of our hearts, but from the wealth of God’s goodness. No act is more Christlike than to forgive someone who has hurt you. No witness of Christ is more dramatic than to forgive as Christ has forgiven. We forgive by the power of God’s forgiveness that has already been given to us. J.

Give us this day our daily bread

Jesus says, “When you pray, say, ‘…Give us this day our daily bread….’”

Luther explains, “What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”

Salvageable adds: Daily bread brings to mind the manna that God sent to his people in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land. Six days a week (but never on the Sabbath) miraculous bread appeared around their camp. It met their daily needs but could not be saved for the future.

So we pray for bread, but not for desserts. We pray for daily bread, confident that if God will supply our needs today, we can ask tomorrow for what we need—we take one day at a time. We pray for our daily bread, remembering that we have fellow Christians around the world, some of whose needs are more desperate than our own.

As Luther reminds us, daily bread encompasses every need that we have in this life—things we pray about often, and things we neglect to mention in our prayers most days. And, as Luther reminds us, God supplies all these things whether we bother to ask for them or not. Even evil people receive daily bread, for God has provided enough food in the world to meet the needs of everyone living. It is not distributed evenly; God expects those who have more than enough to share with those who have less than enough. When we pray for our daily bread, we might also consider how our prayer is being answered as God gives us enough for ourselves and enough to share with others, who may or may not be praying the same prayer.

God can do whatever he pleases, but God chooses to work through creation and through the people he has placed into creation. We pray for daily bread, and we thank God for the food we eat. Yet God has provided us with bread through the labor of farmers and millers and bakers. He has given each of us abilities so we can work to earn money and spend that money at the store on bread and other things we need. The farmer prays for daily bread but continues to plant and harvest. In the same spirit, we pray for the good things we want and need—for ourselves and for our neighbors—but we also cooperate with God by doing what we are able to do for our own benefit and for the good of others. And when we can do nothing else, we continue to pray, and even in that way we cooperate with God as he accomplishes his will in this world.

The word “daily” applies to all four of the concluding petitions of this prayer. We sin daily, so we seek forgiveness daily. We need not continue to repent for yesterday’s sins—we repented yesterday and they were forgiven yesterday. We do not seek forgiveness for tomorrow’s sins—that would mock God’s grace, for us to plan future sins. We pray only about today’s sins. And we forgive others daily, neither remembering yesterday’s sins nor dreading tomorrow’s sins against us. We ask God to lead us and deliver us every day, trusting that he hears our prayers today and answers them today. Trusting God, we live one day at a time, confident that we are safe in the Lord’s hands today. J.