“Give us today 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 the evil one.” – Matthew 6:11-13
I think most of us understand that there’s a wrong way to pray. For example, this year’s Super Bowl was an absolute slaughter. At halftime the Chiefs were down 21-6 to the underdog Buccaneers. And by that time, you can guess what many Chiefs fans were doing, especially those who had bet on the game: They began praying for a miracle. After all, they had a lot riding on that game: money, pride and bragging rights. Do I even need to say it? That’s the wrong way to pray.
Another wrong use of prayer is to take someone else on a guilt trip. Instead of confronting them face-to-face, we choose the passive-aggressive approach and pray in front of them. “Lord, thank you for Jennifer. But I pray that she’ll stop being late all the time.” Or, “Father in heaven, help John to stop being so rude to me.” Most of us parents, at one time or another, have performed some guilt-trip prayers in front of our kids. After all, why confront them with their bad behavior when we can just pray for them at the dinner table? Friends, that’s another wrong way to pray.
But in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins teaching us the right way to pray. He says, “This, then, is how you should pray” (Matthew 6:9). And He proceeds to teach us The Lord’s Prayer. There are six prayer requests in this short prayer. Many Christians assume the first three requests in The Lord’s Prayer are focused on God’s needs and wants—“Hallowed by Your name,” “Your Kingdom come,” and “Your will be done”—while the last three requests focus on our needs and wants. But that’s only partly true. The last three prayer requests are very personal and practical, but each one still stems from a desire to see God’s name honored, God’s kingdom come and God’s will be done. Let’s take a look.
Jesus’ 4th Prayer Request (v. 11): “Give us today our daily bread.” Many ask, “What does Jesus mean by ‘daily bread’?” Well, we know that “bread” is a common symbol in the Bible, usually used as a synonym for food. So, Jesus’ 4th request in The Lord’s Prayer most likely boils down to this: “Our Father in heaven, give us the food we need today for our sustenance and support.” Or, as the New Living Translation puts it: “Give us today the food we need.” Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “Give us this month the food we need.” Or even “Give us over the next few days the food we need.” Jesus wants us to express our dependence on God every day.
Jesus’ 5th Prayer Request (v. 12): “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In Jesus’ day, Jewish teachers used the word “debts” as a synonym for “sins.” So, Jesus is teaching us to pray that God will “forgive us for our sins, as we also have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” And if you’re wondering if Jesus is actually saying what you think He’s saying, the answer is YES … HE IS. Jesus is teaching us to basically pray, “Father in heaven, please forgive me for my sins. But only forgive me to the extent that I have already forgiven others who have sinned against me.” And all God’s children say, “Uh-oh!!!”
In case we miss what Jesus is saying here, He clarifies this 5th prayer request later on, in verses 14 and 15: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Is Jesus actually saying that God will refuse to forgive us if we refuse to forgive others? Bingo! That’s exactly what He’s saying. Think about it: How can we possibly expect God to forgive us for a sin that we fully intend to commit again and again--tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that?
So, according to Jesus, this is the right way to pray: “Our Father in heaven, You are a God of great mercy and forgiveness. So, as we follow in Your footsteps, we have shown mercy and forgiveness to those who have sinned against us. Now, that we ourselves aren’t holding on to any unforgiveness, please forgive us for the sins we’ve committed against You.”
Jesus’ 6th Prayer Request (v. 13): “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” The Bible teaches us, “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone” (James 1:13b). So what does this prayer request mean? Here’s a great insight that I learned from Pastor John Piper: “All our experiences are tests from God and are temptations from Satan.” He goes on to explain, “Pleasant Experiences – God wants us to thank Him. Satan wants us to idolize the pleasure. Painful Experiences – God wants us to trust Him. Satan wants us to curse God.” Learn to think of everything that you go through in life—whether it’s good, bad or ugly—as a test from God and as a temptation from Satan.
I pray that you’ll take these prayer requests to heart and pray them daily, alone AND with your family. Express to God your complete dependence upon Him to meet your needs today. Forgive others first, and ask God for forgiveness second. And finally, ask God to deliver you from anything—even blessings—that might pull you and your family away from God.
Dane Davis is the Pastor
of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at