Monday, June 15, 2009

Jesus’ teachings on prayers (Luke 11:1-13) [Part I]

In Luke 11:1, the disciples of Jesus asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. In the next 12 verses, Jesus taught about:

1. Praying for oneself (Luke 11:2-4) - Lord's Prayer
2. Praying for another (Luke 11:5-10)  [covered in Part II]
3. Praying for the Holy Spirit to be given (Luke 11:11-13) [covered in Part III]

For this first part of a 3-part article on this portion of the Scripture, I going to write on the first item covered by Jesus – praying for oneself (Luke 11:2-4).

Praying for oneself (Luke 11:2-4)

He[Jesus] said to them, "When you pray, say:
" 'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us each day [today] our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.' "

What we should understand:

1. First we address God.
For Jesus, naturally He addressed God as the Father. Jesus is the Son, and God is His Father. I believe we can pray to the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit, or collectively, God. You can even use your own endearing terms like Abba and Father God. Some people use Lord Jesus or Almighty God.

2. Second, we honour God with our greetings.
Jesus said, “hallowed be your name”. I use “blessed be your name or blessed be the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. You may also want to thank Him for his work in the previous day/your life.

3. Third, we acknowledge God’s desires, before ours.
So I would follow Jesus’ words on this, “your kingdom comes, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

4. Now we petition for our needs.
If we look carefully at the Lord’s prayer (this is called the Lord’s prayer), we find that Jesus is trying to teach us to look at a day at a time, asking for what we need for the day. Jesus is saying, “Do not worry about tomorrow”, we just need to address this day. We are to address each day as it comes. I am quite sure many of us do not follow this. Almost all of us, and that include me, failed in this, it is not whether or not we failed but how badly we failed. God tells us not to worry (Mathew 6:34), yet almost all of us still do it. To worry is not trusting God. Another reason why we are “covering more than we should”, I believe is that we do not pray daily. And the reason for not praying daily can be one or more of these:

a. plain laziness
b. thinking you can/should handle “your life”
c. “too busy”
d. “too tired”
e. “why so troublesome”
f. so “cartoon”
g. thinking it is hypocritical

We should stop finding excuses for our failure to come before God each day.

There are different views about what “daily bread” mean in the Lord’s Prayer. Whatever the view, the daily bread is a need (not a want, and I know there are those who would like to say, “come on, our God is more generous than that, surely He grant not only our needs! That generosity is spelt out elsewhere, not here. I am also not saying you cannot tell God what you would like to have [a want]).

I also do not see anything wrong with the straightforward interpretation of daily bread as our basic needs – food, clothing and shelter. I know in Mathew 6, God asks that we do not worry about what we will eat and what we will wear, but do you know that our asking for just the daily portion is an acknowledgement on our part that God is provider. Even as we are gathering, we must always remember it is God who gives us the capacity to gather (Deuteronomy 8:17-18). If you want to interpret daily bread to mean more, like it should include His word, wisdom, “presence”, etc, I think it is fine, so long as the list represent your “needs” and not “wishes”.

5. Ask for forgiveness.
I view God’s forgiveness as a need just as I need food. We need food for physical life, forgiveness for eternal life.

I want to say that Jesus is telling us that we need to ask God for forgiveness daily (in fact every time we have sinned). Brethrens, be careful not to believe the preaching or teachings about God loving us so much that He will forgive us (Christians) whether or not we ask for forgiveness, or such things as there is not even the need for repentance since God loves us (Christians), or that we belittle the Blood of Christ when we repeatedly ask Him to forgive us.

Bible is very clear about the consequence of sin – the wage of sin is death. If I may be very blunt, it may be if we do not repent and have our sin forgiven of us, Hell we go, regardless we are a Christian. If the outcome is any different, it is because of God’s grace.

God’s Word says that there is a narrow door (Luke 13:24) for us to enter, yet, what many Christians are trying to do, instead of taking the already narrow door, is to take the chance and hope that they will squeeze through a tiny crack in the wall, greased by the grace of God.

I do not believe in auto-cleaning by the Blood of Christ. If you believe in that, you are implying that the Blood of Jesus is the license to sin. Or do you think that sin committed by you after acceptance of Jesus is any different from the same sin committed before you become a believer? Already many people are not accepting Jesus because they said Christians are so hypocritical – using the Blood of Jesus as the license to sin. So, don’t you go round propagating that Christians can sin and get away with it without even seeking forgiveness from the Lord. Please, if Jesus himself taught it, that we have to ask for forgiveness, it must be necessary; and He was not talking to non-believers, He was teaching the disciples.

I am saddened that “spiritual leaders” do not emphasize holiness and righteous living enough to the flock, and instead drop “contradicting” words/phrases here and there without proper explanations leading people to misunderstand the importance of holiness, repentance and seeking of forgiveness.

For example, a sharing about Christians loving the sinners but not the sin, if not done properly, can mislead people to think that repentance is not required.

Recently I had a first-hand encounter of this. A highly regarded preacher/pastor shared about how he continued to love a person who had sinned greatly against his son and had brought shame to his (the preacher) family. While the preacher’s love was commendable and perhaps when the sharing was done in a different context or done with more sensitivity as to avoid misinterpretation, it would have been excellent, but in this case, it was not. Subsequent to the sharing/preaching, a brethren spoke with me and reiterated that he was right about repentance being not required; he said the sharing confirmed he was correct about his interpretation of a certain parable in the Gospel, in which he said that no repentance was required.

I can agree God can work with very little, that a small step on our part can trigger a big move from God but we really have to be careful to say that God does not require repentance. I did not feel good that this brother's view had been reinforced, although I have to agree, preachers always run some risks that their messages may get misinterpreted.

If you are still not convinced that repentance is required, consider what was the mission of John the Baptist (Mathew 3:2), what were Jesus’ very first sermons about (Mathews 4:17), what Jesus said to the adulterous woman who was spared the stoning (John 8:11), and how Jesus taught about forgiveness (Luke 17:3b-4).

6. Forgive others when we want God’s forgiveness.
There are "requirements" for God’s forgiveness? I think the word “grace” has been overused, so much so that people subconsciously think that they have to do nothing! Christianity is not about doing nothing. Do not say, “It is grace-what, I do not need to do anything”.

I can name a few things you have to do for God’s forgiveness. First you have to ask, that is what Jesus said, the other is repentance, which has been touched on, above. Another is the forgiveness of others. In Mathew 6:15 it is clearly stated you need to forgive in order to receive forgiveness from God (The Lord’s Prayer is also found here – Mathew 6:9-13).

From the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Mathew 18:23-35), it is clear that if you do not forgive others, God will not forgive you. It is that serious, this is what verse 35 says, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”(Mathew 18:35 KJV). [The lord of the unmerciful servant delivered the servant to the tormentors]. You can read the whole story at:;&version=9; [I am giving here the King James Version reference because it still retains the use of the word “tormentors”. Newer translations of the Bible tended to use “torturers” instead. We will look at this word, “tormentors” or its root word, “torment”, in a while].

I propose below the explanation for the seriousness of unforgiveness in the eyes of God:

From verse 32 of Mathew 18, we can see God equate the unwillingness to forgive with wickedness – “O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee…”. Wickedness is direct contrast with holiness. God is holiness. Holiness is the most fundamental attribute of God. Wickedness is unholiness and it violates holiness, God cannot have that. Wicked people cannot enter the Kingdom of God [God cannot have Himself violated] – 1 Corinthians 6:9a (I recommend you read my writings on holiness at: ). But you might say, “What is so wicked about not forgiving someone?”. Let me explain:

When you sinned against another, say, you slandered another. What will happen to you? If the person whom you sinned against, in this case, the person you slandered, does not forgive you, that unforgiven sin of yours hinders you from entering the Kingdom of Heaven, unless you yourself ask God to forgive you directly and He forgives you (Because we do NOT know if someone we have wronged, forgives or NOT, us, the posture is always that we have to ask God for forgiveness for the wrongs or sins we have committed, in accordance to 1 John 1:9). Yah, slanderers will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven – 1 Corinthians 6:10.

If the person whom you sinned against, forgive you, the sin you committed will be forgiven by God. Not enough preachers preach about it or explain this. It ended up so many people do not clearly understand this. I did not say you have the power to forgive, Jesus said it. Jesus told the disciples when He appeared to them after his resurrection. It is recorded in John 20:23 - If you forgive anyone his sins [against you], they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. Understanding this, now can you agree that you are wicked if you will not forgive another - you "are sending" him/her to hell, when in fact, you yourself are asking God to forgive you of your sin so that you are spared from having to go to hell.

[added 17/01/2011: I am aware that there is an alternative rendering to the verse, John 20:23 in which interpretation within the context of the preceding verses could mean that Jesus was speaking of the sending of the disciples, complete with the empowering (indwelling) of the Holy Spirit, to preach the good news, which is essentially is about God’s forgiveness of one’s sins through the faith in the works of the Son of God, Jesus, on the Cross. When we preach the gospel, we preach forgiveness of God (not our forgiveness) for those who believe, meaning we are agreeing with those who would believe, their sins are forgiven them. And when they are not believing, we are in effect, witnesses, to their sins are not forgiven them (their sins stay, and they stay condemned).

But I assert that the alternative rendering of John 20:23 above, is without contradicting the authority to forgive, as coming from God. When a believer forgives, the authority to forgive does come from God, for the Holy Spirit indwells the believer. In any case, it applies only to sins against us.

Furthermore, if God would ask us to forgive one another as He forgave, which is by grace, why He NOT forgive the offender if we have forgiven in the same way that He would like us to forgive - by grace.  Imagine if you have forgiven the person, God would NOT?!]

So if you do not forgive, you are wicked and what will happen to you who will not forgive. God does not forgive you either.  People without forgiveness from God, go to hell, eventually. In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant above, what happened to the wicked servant? He was given over to the tormentors, i.e. he ended up being tormented (afflicted with acute and more or less protracted suffering). Think for a moment, what happens to people who end up in hell. Yes, they get tormented. See the parallel?!

Specific to unforgiveness, is it possible that tormenting may happen in this life? Some of what I am going to say in this para. and the next, is little subjective, not (yet) fully referenced to the Word of God but I believe they are valid.

I believe in some cases, people with combinations of unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness may actually be tormented in their present lives. I believe that wicked people, including wicked Christians may not have the full covering of God (by this I mean, as Christians, by default, God always “watches over” us – using angels, the Lord’s army, Holy Spirit, even men; yes, God uses men).

When “God withdraws” (partial/complete) his covering, from say, wicked Christians, the principalities of darkness (Satan, evil spirits, etc.) know and they will attack. It is as if now they have a right to torment you.

It is like when you received God’s forgiveness, you crossed over to God’s side of the battlefield and when you refused to do the very thing that God did for you (to forgive another by grace), you have done a mutiny and the enemy knows it and comes for you. We need to understand that God’s covering for us is a grace from God.

When it is grace, it means we do not deserve it, yet He extends it to us anyway. So, He is completely justified to withdraw his covering at any time. This idea is illustrated in the Book of Jonah, God caused a vine to grow to provide Jonah with a shelter from the heat, even after he (Jonah) was unreasonably angry with God, but only to take the vine away the next day. The specific verses are Jonah 4:5-8, but you really should read the whole Book of Jonah, it is a short book.

Here, I use the words, “God withdraws” but I believe, often we are the ones who “force” the hand of God. I believe that when we read in the Bible that people were “given over” to or “delivered” to (yes, sometimes, this word is used; in fact it is used in the Parable of Unmerciful Servant above), say, the enemies or tormentors (or more modern translations, torturers), it really means God lets go, letting thing takes its course, which often in this fallen world, can be pretty awful.

A man reaps what he sows (Galations 6:7c). Romans 2:9a says, “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil”. God does not cause you to be tormented. You suffer the consequence of your sin (refusal to forgive).

Always remember God is good, yes, He does chasten but He cannot think and plan evil against you. [By way of mention, it is possible also that wicked people may still enjoy God’s covering as a result of imputed covering (that of righteous husband over wife, for e.g.) - covering accorded to them by God because of intercessions of protection by kind souls (eg. A mother’s persistent prayers of protection for her wicked son). But if they (the wicked) die unrepentant and unforgiven, hell may well be still their destination.].

So, in real life, we do find people, including Christians tormented for years but not able to receive breakthroughs, until the issues of unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness are addressed properly in their lives. Because of failure in this area, some get demonized, saddled with sicknesses that do not seem to have any cures (sickness does not go away or keep recurring), aches and pains all over, emotional instabilities, and loss of effectiveness in living normal lives.

7. The 3rd part of the 4-part verse 4, “And lead us not into temptation” is one of those difficult verses to understand.
Up until now, I really do not know how to interpret this. Even what I am saying now, may not be what you would agree, but I believe enough to think it is an acceptable interpretation.

It is difficult to interpret it on face-value because there is another verse in the Bible that put it very clearly that God does not tempt people.

James 1: 13-14:
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

Then why did Jesus ask us to ask God not to lead us into temptation. Yes, God does chasten us and test us, and the Bible explains why God does the chastening and testing. In short, it is to help us to grow and to be refined. So, it cannot be that Jesus is asking us to ask God not to chasten or test us. Also, 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that we will not be tested beyond what we could bear and God will provide a way out. There is no need to pray for avoidance.

I want to submit to you that this part of the verse may simply mean “Help us not to sin”. If you look at 1st 2 parts and the 4th part of verse 4, it would look like it makes sense – in 1st 2 parts we ask God for forgiveness as we forgive others (people sinned against us, we forgive so as to NOT sin [to NOT forgive, is sin], and we ask God for forgiveness for our own sins), then we ask God to help us not to sin and deliver us from the evil one. Jesus knows human weaknesses, and when He said this, He was walking the earth with the disciples; and the Bible said this of Jesus:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy {including forgiveness for our sins} and find grace to help us in our time of need {including the time that we are tempted}. (Hebrew 4:15-16)

8. Lastly, we ask God to deliver us from the evil one.
The evil one here can be simply evil men or principalities of darkness (Satan and evil spirits). The latter often perpetuates their evil schemes or plans through evil men. I often plead with God to hold onto me, not to let go of my hand even if I slip and fall, even as I want to “hold the hand that holds the world”.

God, may you help me to put into practice what you have shown me,

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - to practise what God has shown is high expression unto Him

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