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The Rev. David W. Hall (PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is married to Ann, and they are parents of three grown children. He has served as the Senior Pastor of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) since 2003. After completion of his undergraduate studies, Pastor Hall studied at Swiss L’Abri and then enrolled at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating in 1980. In addition to pastoring, David Hall is the author or editor of over 20 books and numerous essays.

Article by David Hall

Concrete Praying

June 30, 2015 •

Read Matthew 6:11-15

Let’s look at the last three Petitions of Jesus’ prayer guide.

  • Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread. Our “daily bread” is the portion of bread needed for this one day. We are to pray for provisions like daily bread. Bread used to be baked daily in kilns because of no refrigeration. God’s children are to depend on him daily—not stockpiling groceries so as to lull themselves into a false sense of independence. “One day at a time” is the goal of our prayers for material needs. Possibly we should not pray for a month’s staples and then forget that prayer, but we should pray each day at a time. Thus we are to learn dependence on God. How sinful we are in a gluttonous culture. The disciples of Christ are to also learn moderation and humility. Note we are not led to pray for or claim steak and lobster by prayer but bread. Bread is a figure of speech that stands for “the substance of our material existence.” We humbly ask God to provide for the substance, the whole of our physical needs. This should be recognized at grace in homes.

This is also a confession “that we are poor, weak, wanting creatures” who beg God to care for them, beginning with the simplest of needs. (Ryle)

Thoughtful commentators and pastors realize that the Lord invites us to ask for concrete needs in the physical realm. As we do so, we humbly confess that we cannot provide for ourselves entirely (maybe not nearly as much as we think), and that all good gifts are from our heavenly Father. On the contrary, if we think it beneath us to ask for these gifts, we either overestimate ourselves or underestimate God. Does that ever happen to you in prayer? Maybe a re-emphasis on concrete praying would remind us more accurately of how we fit into God’s universe.

  • Forgive Us Our Debts, As We Forgive Our Debtors. The first part of this petition is oriented solely God-ward as the pray-er “recognizes that there is no other method by which his debt can be wiped out.” (Hendriksen) In this clause, every time we pray it, we’re admitting and confessing our sin as debts—that which is owed to God. Thus we confess that we are in debt to God and owe him more than can possibly be paid. So we ask for forgiveness. The Greek word for forgiveness refers to debts being carried away or removed. The second part of this petition teaches us that in prayer we are to have a forgiving disposition. Since God forgives us (who are unworthy debtors), we also are to forgive those whom we perceive as being our debtors. “God forgives only the penitent one of the chief evidences of true penitence is a forgiving spirit.” (Stott) “If we pray this petition with an unhealed breach. . . we are asking God NOT to forgive us. If we say, ‘I will never forgive so-and-so for what he has done to me’ and then we go and take this petition on our lips, we are quite deliberately asking God NOT to forgive us.” (Barclay) There may therefore, be some times when we cannot pray this petition until we’ve repented.

This fifth petition, calling for giving as well as receiving forgiveness, enunciates truths that are reiterated in our Lord’s commentary in verses 14-15; these must be highly important. Right prayer calls on us to admit that we, too, are sinner—we, too, need forgiveness. And if we grasp that, our attitude toward others changes. John Stott puts it succinctly: “God forgives only the penitent, and one of the chief evidences of true penitence is a forgiving spirit.”[1]

      The sixth and final Petition has both a negative and positive aspect. We pray for Daily provision, daily forgiveness, and daily deliverance from temptation.

  • Lead Us Not. We pray for God not to lead us into a defeating temptation or one that will capsize us. God does indeed have us face some temptations, but not to stump us. Rather God’s trials are to strengthen us. When God tempted Abraham (Gen. 22:1), God gave him a test of loyalty or obedience. We pray here simply that he would not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle (1 Cor. 10:13). Do not allow us to be led into an overwhelming temptation. Temptation to test our loyalty and build character is to be counted all joy. But here we pray to be delivered from temptation that would allow Satan to conquer. And we ask for deliverance from the evil one.  Jesus’ own prayer later (in John 17:15) does not ask the Father to remove us from the world but to protect us from the Evil One.

Such is the concrete kind of praying that Jesus commends to us. As exalted as he is, he does not ignore our needs—material, emotional, or spiritual.

[1] John Stott, Christian Counter-Culture (Wheaton, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1978), 149.


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