Applying the Lord’s Prayer

Religious activities, like giving to the poor (Mt 6:2-4), prayer (vv. 5-8), and fasting (vv. 16-18), are not for public spectacle. That’s how they become “religious.” They are meant to be spiritual activities, between you and God. They are meant to honor and show love for the heavenly Father. “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” When we allow expressions of our spiritual relationship with the Father to become ritualistic, religious activities paraded before the eyes of men, we dishonor the name of our Father. There is nothing holy about giving, praying or fasting in this way, and it reflects poorly on the name of the Lord before the very audience we hope will be impressed by our efforts. We glorify ourselves, not the Father.

“Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” So, don’t store up treasures on earth…, but store up treasures in heaven, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (vv.19-21). What are you looking at? On what are you focused? If you are focused on earthly, temporal things that corrode and rust, that can be consumed by insects or stolen by thieves, then you are looking at the dark, dismal, temporal world and missing the light of life, and the light of heaven in your life. If your eye is focused on the dark, then your whole body will be affected by it. Instead focus on the eternal. As Paul put it, “set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth.”[1]  No man can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and wealth, the eternal and the temporal.

And, on that note, “give us this day our daily bread.” Do not be worried about what to eat or drink (vv. 25-34).  Rather than seek earthly gain, or be concerned with earthly loss, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. He’ll take care of your temporal needs so that you need not be concerned with them. Life is more than food and clothing. Life is not about temporal needs or acquisitions. Life is about a relationship with the Living God, and life is found in seeking Him, and trusting Him to reward your search, by giving you Himself, and everything else you need. He gave us His Son, “how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”[2] God provides food for the birds. He provides beautiful “clothing” of flowers for the fields. Your worrying about these things or anything else is not going to add anything to your life. People who don’t know God worry about temporal needs. Why would you, knowing God, settle for anything less than more of Him? Seek Him, and don’t worry about tomorrow. It will bring challenges, but God has grace for those challenges, too. You don’t know what they are, or when or even if they will come. So, worrying now isn’t going to help. When they do come, worrying won’t help then either. Trusting Him will. He has grace for every need, for every situation you will face. If you aren’t going to face it, you will never have the grace for it. But, then, if you aren’t going to face it, there is no reason to worry about it. If you are going to face it, He won’t give you the grace for it until you need it. So, there is no need to worry about it now. When you do have to face it, there is no need to worry then, because He will give you the grace you need to make it through. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.[3]

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Right, because we surely have forgiven everyone who has ever owed us anything or offended us in any way. In the model prayer, Jesus follows up the request for daily bread with a request for forgiveness as we forgive. In the sermon, He follows up his admonition to trust God with the imperative, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” The standard you set for measuring and judging others, is the standard that will be used in measuring and judging you. Chances are really good that you don’t measure up any better than those you are criticizing. Do you not realize there is a 2×4 sticking out of your eye? If you try to get that piece of sawdust out of your brother’s eye, you will only succeed at smacking upside the head with your 2×4. You will only injure him with your hypocrisy, and neither of you will be better off or any closer to God as a result.

If you try to get that piece of sawdust out of your brother’s eye, you'll smack him upside the head with the 2x4 in your eye. You'll injure him with your hypocrisy, and neither of you will be better off or any closer to God. Click To Tweet

In Matthew 7:7-11, Jesus summarizes. It comes back to seeking God’s kingdom, and His provision. If someone wrongs you, do you see it as a threat to your “daily bread?” Are they somehow taking away what you need to survive in this temporal world? Is your focus on the temporal world, or God and His kingdom and His provision? Are you fully, truly trusting Him? Do you not love your children enough to take good care of them? If your son needs bread are you going to give him a rock? Your heavenly Father loves you more than you could ever, possibly love your children. How is that we doubt that the God who lavishes grace on us[4] will give good things to those who ask Him?

In verse 12, in what we call the “Golden Rule,” Jesus says, “In everything, therefore….” Therefore! Because of. On the basis of what’s been said. How can we forgive our debtors? How can we not judge those who have faults – specks of sawdust in their eyes that make us painfully aware of the 2×4 we are denying in our own eye? We need to know that our heavenly Father truly loves us far beyond what any earthly father ever will or even can. We need to know He truly does supply all our need, our daily bread, our food, clothing, and shelter. We need to know that by taking our eyes off the dark and dismal world of the corroding temporal, and focusing on the untarnished and incorruptible eternal kingdom, our temporal needs will be supplied and we will be filled with the light and life of the living God of heaven.

The next line of the model prayer can be a little confusing. Why would God lead us into temptation? Why, then, would we even need to request: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”? To me, it is so obvious that God would not lead me into temptation, that I never really thought of this phrase in that sense. I know that any time I am faced with temptation, test or trial, God is faithful and will with it make a way of escape.[5] I guess I have always thought of this phrase more in the sense of acknowledging that God leads us out of temptation and delivers us from evil. I just need the grace and spiritual strengthening to follow Him. Jesus gives the warning that the gate is small and the way is narrow. If we are thinking we’re following Him and we look just like everyone else that claims to be religious, then chances are we are on the broad path. Those who profess religion and whose religion is about religious rites and rituals and not about seeking Him and His righteousness will not produce good fruit. They will be horribly disappointed when they stand before the Lord thinking they have served him. They will be on the same sinking sand as those who refused to ever follow Him in the first place. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus described a new way of thinking that was different from that of those who promoted religious religion. He described a righteousness that exceeded that of those considered the most righteous. He promoted a heavenly kingdom to those who thought the Messiah would come to establish an earthly kingdom. He promoted a life centered on things above, not on things on the earth. And He ended it by declaring that the only solid foundation for life was acting on the things He said.

[1] Colossian 3:2

[2] Romans 8:32

[3] 1 Peter 5:7; see also Philippians 4:4-7

[4] Ephesians 1:7-8

[5] 1 Corinthians 10:13