Jesus—His Life and Message: The Sermon on the Mount
August 16, 2016
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: The Sermon on the Mount
(You can read about the intent for and overview of this series in this introductory article.)
How to Pray (Part 6)
This is the last in a series of articles about the portion of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus taught His disciples how to pray.
In the last post we covered two of the three “our/us” petitions, those which focus on our needs and the needs of our Christian brothers and sisters. We now move on to the last petition:
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.1
The previous phrase, forgive us our debts,2 covered our past sins. The prayer now addresses future sins. There are two clauses, and the second, deliver us from evil, is understood to be an expansion of the first. A question sometimes arises regarding the first part of the petition: Does God lead us into temptation? In the book of James we read:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.3
The Greek word used here, peirasmos, means test, trial, or temptation. The word has a basic meaning of “a test”; however, when it’s used of Satan’s testing people with a view to their failing the test, it comes to mean “temptation.” We know that life is full of moral testing; we have to make moral decisions often, and it’s not as though we can avoid such tests. The petition isn’t asking that we never be tested; but is prayed with the understanding that we know we are weak, and we ask our Father to keep us out of some situations because our faith may not be sufficient to endure them.4
In the second part of the petition, we pray deliver us from evil. The Greek word rhyomai means to rescue, to deliver. We’re asking the Lord to rescue us, free us, deliver us from evil. Some translations render the Greek ponēros as “evil” and others as “the evil one.” Both translations are technically correct, and commentators seem to be equally split between the two choices. Either way, we are praying for God to rescue us. The apostle Paul wrote:
The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.5
The Lord’s Prayer ends with a request based on our understanding that we need God’s help to keep our relationship with Him healthy. We are sinners by nature. We understand this weakness within ourselves, and we know we need help to avoid sinning. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil6 is the petition of one who wishes to keep a healthy and right relationship with God. We are requesting that our Father keep us from sinning, from situations in which we will fail the test, and from evil in every form—in our hearts, our attitudes, and our actions.
We make these petitions because we love God and desire to keep our relationship with Him healthy and unbroken. We beseech our Father to keep us from anything which would come between us and disrupt our communion with Him.
The prayer in the Gospel of Matthew ends with:
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.7
In an earlier article, I mentioned that this last phrase is not included in many translations and is considered to have been added in the late second century. Of the nine Bible versions I regularly use for study and writing, four do not include it within the text (though they may include it in a footnote), three include it in either italics or brackets, and two (KJV and NKJV) include it as normal text. All of the commentaries I read speak of it being a doxology that was added after the Gospel was originally written. It reflects King David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11–12:
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
Though it may not have been part of Jesus’ original teaching, it is nevertheless a beautiful and fitting end to the prayer. The prayer started by focusing on our Father, then moved to addressing our needs, and it’s appropriate to return the focus to Him by professing the beauty of His power and majesty as we end the prayer.
In Matthew’s Gospel we find the Lord’s Prayer within the Sermon on the Mount, right after we’re told not to heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.8 Jesus gave His disciples a short prayer which addresses both our needs and the needs of all other Christians, and which is to this day recited by Christians all over the world. It’s a prayer that is concerned with both the glory of God Almighty and the relationship we, as His children, have with Abba, our loving and caring Father.
Scot McKnight gave insight into the Lord’s Prayer when He wrote:
We learn in the recitation, memorization, and repetition of this prayer to yearn for God’s glory and for God’s name to be held in highest honor, and we learn to long for God’s kingdom (not ours) and for God’s will (not ours) to be done. Then we learn to yearn and ache for the good of others. We yearn that each person will have sufficient food, that each person will find reconciliation with God through forgiveness of sins, and that each person will be protected and preserved by God’s grace from the snares of temptations and the grasps of evil (or the evil one). When we are done, our desires have been reordered to God and to others, and in having those desires we find ourselves as God made us to be: beings designed to have proper loves, that is, love for God and love for others.9
When I’d finished reading about and studying the Lord’s Prayer, I wanted to unpack it in order to more fully understand what it taught, so I wrote a version which expressed the concepts put forth in the prayer. This, of course, made the prayer much longer, but it was helpful for me to write so that when I pray the Lord’s Prayer I am more conscious of what I’m praying for. Here it is, and I hope that it’s helpful to some:
Dear Father, You have saved us through Your Son’s sacrificial death and have adopted us into Your family, so that now we have You—the one above all others, the Creator of all things—as our Abba, our Father. As we come to know You, Your love, power, and holiness, we want to give You the reverence You so heartily deserve. You are God, holy, present, and righteous, and You deserve our praise and worship. May we add our voices to those in heaven who never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”10 And may we be as the twenty-four elders who cast their crowns before Your throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.”11
May You reign in our lives and throughout all the world. Use all of us who believe in You to share the joyous news of salvation and the joy of having You as our primary love and relationship. Teach us to live according to the principles of Your kingdom; help us to be conscious of them in our choices and decisions, so that we may reflect You and Your ways. Work in the lives of others as well, so that as many as possible will come to know You and live in a manner that reflects life in Your kingdom.
Cause Your will to be done in the world, and especially in those of us who believe in You. We’re sinners and we won’t be able to do Your perfect will until the life to come, but in our world today, help us to do our best to do Your will. Cause us to desire Your will instead of our own, to regularly seek Your will, and to pray for the grace to do Your will.
We ask that You supply our physical needs and that You help us to put our full trust in You for them. While we all labor in some manner to receive our “daily bread,” we acknowledge that we are dependent on You for our sustenance. Give us health so we can provide for our loved ones, and may we constantly thank and praise You for the means You have given that provide for us and those we love.
Besides our physical needs, we ask for our spiritual needs as well. We know that You have redeemed us through Your Son, and we are eternally grateful for Your gift of salvation. Yet we are human, and thus sinners, and when we sin, it damages our relationship with You. Please forgive us when we do that. Throughout our lives we sin countless times, and we ask that You forgive us for each one.
When others sin against us, when they hurt us; when they lie, cheat, steal, slander, or do any number of things that are offensive and hurtful, help us to reflect You. You are merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and full of love. You forgive iniquity and transgressions. You have forgiven the great debt of the lifetime of our sins. Help us to be forgiving of others, as You have forgiven us.
Abba, we don’t want to sin against You, but we are weak human beings. Even though we love You deeply, we still hurt You by doing wrong. We ask that You keep us from situations in which we will be tempted to do things that wrong You. Please rescue us from attacks of the Devil, as well as from our inherent sinfulness, which causes a breach between You and us. We beseech You to keep us from everything which will disrupt our fellowship, communion, and relationship with You.
Yours is the kingdom, the power, and glory forever and ever. Amen.
In closing, here is the Lord's prayer from the book of Matthew:
Our Father who is 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 do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.12
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 Matthew 6:13.
2 Matthew 6:12.
3 James 1:13.
4 Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 148.
5 2 Timothy 4:18 NIV.
6 Matthew 6:13.
7 Matthew 6:13 NKJV.
8 Matthew 6:7–8.
9 McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, 191.
10 Revelation 4:8.
11 Revelation 4:10–11.
12 Matthew 6:9–13 NAU.