Psalm 103: Dwell On The Lord

In recent months there have been numerous articles suggesting more Australians have been thinking about aspects of faith and spirituality. COVID seems to have had an impact, not only in the way we think about health and operate as such, but also in matters of faith, priorities in life, and the dwelling on eternity. Something about this past year has driven people to think about these things!

On one hand this is great. This should be the case due to what the world has experienced this year–coming to terms with our lack of control, the limits on our own capacity, and the realities of living in a broken world. Further, the personal reactions we’ve had due to the circumstances we’ve been through have led many to question and reflect on life. This year has been a reminder that there are greater things going on in the world than you or me.

But on the other hand this has been such an exhausting year for many that the capacity to contemplate and dwell on aspects of faith, and dwell on the Lord and his goodness specifically, has diminished. The impetus, the motivation, the inclination to sit with God is hard at the best of times, but add in the fear, stress, worry of 2020 and we find ourselves hindered in doing so.

Here in Psalm 103 we find, I believe, a passage of scripture to dwell on as we enter somewhat of a new year. In the earlier verses of this psalm we are encouraged to remember the Lord, and we are given plenty of examples. But to take it a step further, we are also given scriptures here to dwell on.

You see, the writer David continues in v5-12 by dwelling on who God is and what he has done. In turn he helps us to dwell upon God, naming the character of God alongside the benefits of God.

There is the reminder of God’s work in bringing his people out of Egypt through Moses, which leads to statements of truth about God’s character. David speaks of God’s compassion and grace, his slowness in becoming angry, and his abounding love in v8. This verse, v8, is such a significant refrain in the whole of the OT.

It is referred to in Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 145:8; Joel 2:13; and Jonah 4:2. If you ever want or need a short and succinct answer to the question of who God is, this is the answer, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”

This is God’s covenantal love; his marriage promise to his people encapsulated in one verse.

God’s commitment to his people of the Old Testament and his continued commitment to his people in the New Testament through Christ.

We are reminded here of the incarnation, God coming in the form of a man for the rescue of the world. God has such compassionate love for humanity that he came to be part of our lives. In physical terms this occurred through Jesus of the first century, in spiritual terms this comes to us today through his Spirit. And so when we place our faith in him, recognising our need for God and having that need met through faith in Christ, then we are receiving his compassionate love, his covenantal love, his promised love.

As we walk through 2021 may we dwell on this compassionate love of God knowing the truth of v9-12. Knowing he does not accuse us, he does not hold his anger toward us, he does not treat us as we deserve, he does not repay us for the sins we commit, and nor is he vengeful toward us.

9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Instead, the Lord’s love is as far as the east is from the west, displayed through our Lord Jesus Christ.


This is the second of a three part series on Psalm 103. The first post, ‘Remember The Lord’, can be found here.

Psalm 103: Remember The Lord

In Psalm 103 we come to a psalm of thanksgiving, perhaps better described as a hymn of gratitude, as the writer, King David, moves from heartfelt personal praise to inviting all of Israel and all of God’s people to remember the Lord, dwell on what he has done, and give him praise. 

In v2 we read, “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits…”

I’m not sure about you but it’s very easy to forget things. I would’ve forgotten more of my life than remembered it. I’m sure you are the same. 

I mean, we all like to think we’ve got good memories and can remember a lot, which of course our amazing brains can. But we’re also not all blessed, or perhaps cursed, with a photographic memory. And so we remember many things we’ve done, sights we’ve seen, and words we’ve listened to. But the reality is that we forget more than we remember. Which to me seems like one of the Lord’s graces toward us. 

Who wants to remember those really embarrassing comments we’ve made to colleagues or others we don’t know so well? Who wants to remember that embarrassing experience we had in high school or going through those years of puberty? Who wants to remember the acute grief we experience when a loved one passes away? There is actually plenty in life that we don’t want to remember.

But, there is also the negative side to forgetting things. We find ourselves forgetting names, numbers, faces, people, dates and times. And as we get older this can have repercussions on our quality of life. 

But David’s point in this Psalm is not a negative one, it’s a positive one. It’s the encouragement to remember what the Lord has done, to remember the benefits that come with knowing God. For there are plenty of benefits that the Lord has given us and when we remember these things we are led to praise and gratitude for them and for him. 

This whole Psalm seems to list the benefits available to us, but in v1-6 we read specific benefits of: 

  • The forgiveness of sin
  • The healing of disease
  • The redemption of life from pit
  • The crowning of love and compassion upon us
  • The satisfaction of our desires
  • The righteousness and justice of God

In the busyness of life it is easy to forget the benefits that come with being crowned a child of God. And these are incredible benefits! Even David, considered to be a ‘man after God’s own heart’(Acts 13:22) evidently needs to be reminded of these things. 

And all these benefits we see fulfilled through our Lord Jesus. This baby Jesus we remember at Christmas, this God-child we read of through the Prophets and writings of scripture, this Son of God born to a teenager in a derelict town, is the one who fulfils all these benefits and provides us with all these benefits through his life and death on a cross. 

And so who would want to forget these things?

We take photos to remember the experiences we’ve had and the places we’ve been to. When we look back on photos we’ve taken, our memories take us back to what we’ve done and experienced. We don’t want to forget that sunrise, or that waterfall, or that animal we got up close to. We don’t want to forget that party with friends, or that dinner with family, or that person we met. And so we take a photo as a keepsake, to help us remember. 

This list here is a reminder for us, a keepsake, as is all of scripture, which helps us remember God for who he is and what he has done. 

Deliver Us From The Evil One

What comes to mind most often when I think of deliverance are horror movies that depict the spiritual exorcism of a child or young person. For some reason the narrative always includes a wayward young person who requires a priest to come and exorcise their perceived demons, mostly at the instigation of their parents! The priest comes along with their wooden cross, their garlic, and their special oil seeking to deliver this young person from their wrongful behaviour. And while it might be a good movie, and sadly a reflection on what happens in real life in some places, the truth is this isn’t what Jesus is teaching his disciples in the final line of the Lord’s Prayer.

However, there is something apt in concluding this prayer by asking God for deliverance, for deliverance from the evil one is something we all need. The only way we are delivered from evil is through the Lord. For he has not only provided a way out of the clutches of the evil one, but a person who has compassion and cares deeply for us. Through the power of his Son Jesus the Lord shows his heart for his people. Like a father toward his children he seeks their good. And one aspect of this good is deliverance from the evil one.

As mentioned in my previous post this phrase ‘Deliver us from the evil one’ is strongly linked with the prayer of help in temptation. Temptation and the evil one go hand in hand and we are in need of God’s help for us to remain apart from both.

Deliverance is often associated with something ultra-spiritual or cult like. The movie example is one aspect to that. But the reality is there is a spiritual battle going on that we are often quite unaware of. In our comfortable Western cities and societies we choose to ignore anything that isn’t tangible, that isn’t something we can smell, taste, touch, or feel; physically or emotionally. Even though it isn’t something we think about This, however, doesn’t excuse the reality of the spiritual battle taking place.

Paul the Apostle wrote about this reality in Ephesians 6:12. He writes, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” And so the reality we live in involves the reality of the spiritual realm, a world unseen to our human eyes and only known through the reality of our soul. It is a reality that requires deliverance from the evil one.

When Jesus encourages us to pray this prayer, and remember he is the one who is teaching us to pray here, he highlights the need for us to pray for deliverance. When we are tempted, when we are fearful, when we are in need of comfort, when we sin, then we are able to pray for deliverance. In regard to temptation, when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness in Matthew 4 by the evil one he relied on the Word of God to rebuff such approaches. So too, when we are tempted one helpful way for us to find deliverance from such temptation is to remember and rely on the Word of God. This is also the case when we are fearful, need comfort, or require the reminder of Jesus as our great Saviour from sin. While we may follow the evils of the world this prayer shows our need for God is great, and especially in the battle against the spiritual forces of the evil one.

In his commentary on this particular verse (Matthew 6:13), D.A. Carson writes,

“This petition is a hefty reminder that, just as we ought consciously to depend on God for physical sustenance, so also ought we to sense our dependence on him for moral triumph and spiritual victory. Indeed, to fail in this regard is already to have fallen, for it is part of that ugly effort at independence which refuses to recognise our position as creatures before God. As Christians grow in holy living, they sense their own inherent moral weakness and rejoice that whatever virtue they possess flourishes as the fruit of the Spirit. More and more they recognise the deceptive subtleties of their own hearts, and the malicious cunning of the evil one, and fervently request of the heavenly Father, ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”

And perhaps that is an apt ending to not only this clause within this verse, but of the whole prayer itself.


This concludes our series in the Lord’s Prayer. All the posts in this series can be found at the following:

My Top Posts for 2020

After three years of significant growth the last 12 months has seen a little dip on my blog. I’ve certainly had less capacity for writing, and have slowed down my posting and focus. This has had an impact. But then, hasn’t everyone slowed down and felt unfocussed in some form or another at times this year?

I have certainly written less in the past 12 months, less that I have in the last five years. Both my public and private writing has suffered, and as a result I feel like I’ve suffered because of it too. This is not to be dramatic, but it is a result of decreasing in a habit that I find great joy and satisfaction in. Since writing less I have found myself to be less reflective, and in turn less reflective on my heart and soul. You see, there is something about writing that causes us to slow down, to reflect, to take stock, to gather thoughts, and to be precise about what we think and say. Writing enables better thought-processes–all things I have had little capacity for these past 12 months and wish to get into once again.

Having said this, while posting less may have meant less people have wandered over to my part of the internet I am still very thankful that people do read what I’ve written. It surprises me how many people wish to read something I’ve written, and who may even post a comment about it on my social channels. And so I’m very grateful that I get to share something of my life and faith through this site.

Aside from the statistics there is a particular satisfaction I have in writing and publishing posts. Reading posts I wrote a number of years ago is like going back and looking at sermons you’ve written, a harrowing and embarrassing experience. To see the quality of my writing increase in these last few years has been pleasing. And this is reflected in the top posts for the year 2020, which you can read below.

Like any pursuit, creative or otherwise, there is a certain satisfaction in finishing a post and seeing it ‘out there’ on the inter-webs. It is an accomplishment and and encouragement at the same time. As with life and faith, which this blog is all about, writing and blogging require me to plod along. The quality of these things are built on small steps and increases in habits each day, week, month, and year.

So, here’s to another year of writing, hopefully a bit more consistently, and with something that might be of value to you!

Top Posts for 2020:

  1. The Grieving of the (Non) Gathering of God’s People (published 2020)
  2. Your Will Be Done (published 2020)
  3. Make The Bible Project Your Bible Reading Plan for 2018
  4. Martin Luther on Complete Forgiveness In Christ
  5. God’s Love Expressed: Through The Cross

[Top posts for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015]

And Do Not Bring Us Into Temptation

I am often tempted to eat more than I should. I like food, and it is a temptation for me. I have been around far too many special church morning teas where there are so many good things on offer that my eyes are bigger than my stomach. The same occurs when there are big family gatherings, or Christmas celebrations. And there’s always the story of over-indulging in dumplings from a few years ago. But there are consequences when I over indulge, either in weight increases or general after-effects on the body. It is a delight to my eyes, to my tastebuds, and to my stomach, but I need to watch myself.

Temptations arise within us and surround us all the time. Whether it is the use of our time, the things we have, the purchases we make, or the people we spend time with. We are tempted by the expert marketers who sell us products and services we apparently need. We are tempted by the lusts of our age. And I think it is fair to say that the greatest temptation for men and women today is pornography. The search for gratification through sex and sexuality is highly publicised, talked about freely, and openly available to anyone who wishes to pursue this. There are real temptations which lead to real issues in our lives, which affect our relationships with others and our own wellbeing.

In v13 of the Lord’s Prayer, which we have been exploring for a number of weeks now (see below for a list of posts), Jesus guides us to pray against being led into temptation.

It is important to realise this is the first half of a sentence which ends, ‘but deliver us from the evil one’. The entire idea in this verse is that we need God’s help in overcoming our own sinfulness and fallenness, we need his help in staying righteous and on the path of godliness. The evil one is seeking to lead us down the wrong path, a path of destruction and temptation. Therefore, to pray that we may not be led into temptation is highlighting how we need help in order to avoid falling into the evil one’s snares.

To avoid temptation is an act of wisdom and godliness. To place boundaries or rails in our life to make sure we are adhering to the ways of God is something that falls under the category of wisdom. Sure, there are plenty of situations that will be different for different people, and there are plenty of temptations that are different for different people. And many a time this has been used to a negative or legalistic effect (one can think of the so-called ‘Billy Graham Rule’ here). But recognising and being self-aware enough of these things in our lives is helpful for us. With this in mind, here are three ways we might go about helping ourselves with respect to temptation.

1. Understand what you are tempted by and when.
Take time to reflect on what temptations to sin you are more prone to fall to. I believe all of us have different propensities for this. If we know that when we’re tired and up late with no one around that we’ll end up being tempted to flick onto porn then that’s a start. If we know that after a couple of drinks we will be more flirtatious with others then that’s good to know. If we know that when we’re bored we just pick up the phone and are tempted to start secretly putting money on the horses then recognise it. If we are going to a big party and know we might over-indulge in the food then recognise that. If we’re with certain people and we know we’re going to end up gossiping, then remember this when entering conversations with them.

Be reflective, be self-aware, and then be intentional.

2. Formulate a strategy on what you will do when temptation hits.
To be plan-less against temptation will more than likely lead to you falling into temptation. It’s been my experience, I’m sure it’s yours too. It is frequently recommended that having a close friend you can talk with, call, or text about your temptation/s will help. They can pray for you not only in the moment, but also on an ongoing basis. Furthermore, they can be someone who asks you some hard questions about your lifestyle, decisions, and general discipleship. And that speaks to the larger issue, it’s an issue of discipleship.

A difficulty here is often the call or text to a friend to pray is often left too late or not at all. There does need to be a commitment to this. But by telling someone about our temptation, and what we’re walking into in the coming days or weeks, we can lessen the power of the temptation. Of course, pray about the situation you face. Avoid the situation if it is possible. Staying up late, tired, and bored never really leaves one in a good frame of mind. Even the excuse, ‘I need to wind down a bit’, is helpful only if the actions are helpful. Sometimes just going to bed is the best thing, even if our mind is racing.

The point is, what strategy are you putting into place? What actions are you committing yourself to? What habits are you trying to build?

3. Remember that it is what you do in the lead up to situations that will form the way you operate when temptation hits.
You can’t rely on your own self-will when temptation hits. Saying, “She’ll be right mate” may be very Aussie of you but it’s a terrible plan for when temptation presents itself. However, in the days and weeks and months prior we are building up our own godliness, self-control, and patience by the actions we put in place.

Proverbs 7 warns against falling into temptations. In this case the point is centred on lust and sexual desire. In v25 the writer of Proverbs says, ‘Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths.’ And this is the case with temptation, we are not to let our hearts turn toward whatever the temptations are. Instead, we build up our capacity in being able to deal with this, not simply by putting in wise and understanding strategies and habits, but ultimately recognising that we need God’s help in doing so.

I’m currently reading through Dane Ortlund’s book, Gentle and Lowly, and chapter 4 talks about Christ’s ability to sympathise with us in our temptation. When we do fall into temptation we have a Saviour who knows what it is like to be tempted and who is still accessible even when we feel the shame of wrongdoing. Ortlund writes:

“The real scandal of Hebrews 4:15, though, is what we are told about why Jesus is so close and with his people in their pain. He has been “tempted” (or “tested,” as the word can also denote) “as we are”—not only that, but “in every respect” as we are. The reason that Jesus is in such close solidarity with us is that the difficult path we are on is not unique to us. He has journeyed on it himself. It is not only that Jesus can relieve us from our troubles, like a doctor prescribing medicine; it is also that, before any relief comes, he is with us in our troubles, like a doctor who has endured the same disease.”


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts in this series can be found at the following:

My Top Books for 2020

I’m getting in early this year by releasing my list of top reads a few weeks before we see the back of 2020. For the last six years I’ve posted about what I’ve read each year and I might as well continue the tradition into a seventh. 

I’m not sure whether it was because of what 2020 became but I have smashed any reading goals I had this year. Each year I aim to read, on average, one book per fortnight, that’s 26 books per year. By the end of May I had reached that goal. What this meant was that I had plenty of time to read more over the coming months, and as it stands today I’ve read 53 books for the year. This is really pleasing and definitely my best reading year ever. 

Throughout I’ve read a range of genres – sport biography, missions history, theology, politics, church leadership, fiction, biblical theology and commentaries, a couple of books my daughter is into, and more. There is a sense my reading this year was a bit more balanced than other years, which was also pleasing. 

So, without any further ado, I present below a list of books I thought were 5 out of 5 stars. And if you’re interested in reading my top reads from previous years you can do so here too: 20142015201620172018, 2019). 

Enjoy. 

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

I started off the year wishing for more rest, space, and slowness in my life. This book articulated the importance of rhythms and rest and Sabbath, and many other spiritual practices that help ground us in life in God. I found this an excellent book, and it’s probably time to read it again. As I look at my bookshelves I do notice it missing so it evidently was kept by someone who borrowed it! Good books always disappear. In any case, this is a helpful book that gives rise to habits and systems in life that contribute to sustaining a life-long, well-paced, Christian life.

Along Came A Spider by James Patterson

The best fiction book I’ve read, this year at least and possibly ever; although who can top The Partner by John Grisham–I digress. This is a serial killer crime thriller, one of Patterson’s first ever novels published in 1983. The suspense and the build up is terrific, and there’s a great twist at the end which gets you. It’s violent and disturbing, but what do you expect from this kind of genre? Top shelf fiction. 

On Being A Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg

Improving in my vocation and my particular role as pastor is always high on the priority list each year. And this book was certainly a big help in doing so this year. I really appreciate everything Alistair Begg shares, his sermons, conference messages, and witings. Here he partners up with his former mentor-pastor Derek Prime and they take you through the theological and practical of operating as a pastor. I found this immensely helpful to think about in my role and in developing others in the ministry. It also provided many tips to help in areas of preaching, pastoral care, time management, and the like. This along with some broader chapters dealing with calling and vocation as a whole were useful. 

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

Once we got into lockdown for a second time I became obsessed about re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia. Since finishing the series again I have been listening to the theatrical audio series produced by the BBC and others. I’ve been listening to them as audiobooks while in the car and doing chores, and they were easily found on YouTube. They’re so good. Anyway, a particular shout out to The Horse and His Boy and also The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (my favourite of the series). If you’ve never read this series of seven short books that detail the story of Narnia then do yourself a favour. Lewis is such a good writer and his illusions to the Christian life are throughout. 

The Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

I’ll admit, there was a theme in my reading regarding spiritual practices. This was another of at least 3-4 I read overall this year. Warren really writes in an engaging way, she’s so good. And here in The Liturgy of the Ordinary she writes in the intersection of ordinary life and the Christian faith. She takes big theological understandings and helps us see their relevance in the mundane everyday practices and rhythms of life. Whether it is waking up and making your bed, to preparing food and eating with others, or doing the dishes after a meal, each has relevance to the Christian life and at times it’s a mindblow. I highly recommend getting your hands on this, I even borrowed it from the local library! 

Owen on The Christian Life by Matthew Barrett and Michael Haykin

Each year I usually read a few biographies and this year I landed on John Owen. Owen is a Puritan from the 17th century, and extremely influential in the Reformed and Presbyterian church. This book details his life alongside the theological contributions he has made to the faith. Owen is well-known for his writings and sermons, particularly around the doctrines of the Trinity, communion with God, and sin and sanctification. For example, when writing about communion with God he says:

“When the believer has a taste of this communion with his Savior, sin is bitter on the tongue. Furthermore, says Owen, the believer is on guard against sin, lest it should interrupt and disrupt this sweet communion he enjoys so much with his Savior. Owen writes: When once the soul of a believer hath obtained sweet and real communion with Christ, it looks about him, watcheth all temptations, all ways whereby sin might approach, to disturb him in his enjoyment of his dear Lord and Saviour, his rest and desire. How doth it charge itself not to omit any thing, nor to do any thing that may interrupt the communion obtained!”

Great book. Have a read. 

The Sermon on the Mount by DA Carson

I hung out reading the Sermon on The Mount for most of the year. It goes hand in hand with the themes of spiritual disciplines and grounding faith in action, among other things. And so to help understand the various sections of the sermon I read Carson’s commentary on it alongside. Carson is always clear, concise, and compelling. He’s one of the best commentators in the world and is highly regarded. This was originally a series of lectures turned into a brief commentary. Whether devotionally like me, or for preaching and teaching, I’d recommend dipping into this one. 

Anyway, there’s my list for this year. Let me know what you read and enjoyed this year, I’ll add it to my list!

As We Also Have Forgiven Our Debtors

In her fascinating longform essay, ‘Letting Go’, Amy Westervelt writes about the study of forgiveness in academia. And much of it aligns with what Christians have known for many centuries – that it’s good for us but that it’s incredibly hard. 

And in the continuation of our series on the Lord’s Prayer we come to one of the more challenging phrases in the prayer itself. After asking for forgiveness from God for our own individual debts, or sins, we now find ourselves stating to God that we are forgiving the debts of others. 

There are no two ways around this. The gospel calls on us to trust in our own forgiveness through Christ on the cross. Colossians 1:13-14 remind us, “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” But in turn, the gospel calls us to action; the forgiveness of others for their wrongdoing against us. 

And so “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” has to be the hardest phrase of this prayer, the hardest action to put into practice. 

Who can so easily forgive those who have wronged us? 

Degrees of Forgiveness

In our world, like the justice system we operate by, we recognise there are degrees of wrongdoing and therefore find justification to argue for degrees of forgiveness to give. The person who calls us names in high school does not require the ‘same level’ of forgiveness as the spouse who commits adultery, or the sexual abuser of children, or the murderer? We would say, our humanity would say, that forgiveness for one over the other is dependent on the wrongdoing against us. Forgiveness may be easy or hard to give, but we often find ourselves doing so as long as justice has been metered out correctly. 

This is not to conflate justice into forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer doesn’t make allowance for various levels of wrongdoing, nor does it speak of justice here either. Rather, it is a direct call to forgive others and encapsulates all types of wrongdoing in the process. We are to extend forgiveness to everyone. And of course, this is always a process. For some the giving of forgiveness will take longer than others, it isn’t easy reaching a place in your heart to forgive someone who has wronged us. Certain things are quick to forgive, other things seem to linger. 

Forgiving From The Heart

A particularly salient point this phrase brings up is the challenge of how quickly and how good we are at forgiveness. It sets forgiveness in the context of a spiritual practice, a spiritual discipline. Forgiveness is not something that means the person who wronged us gets away with everything they have done. No, there are still consequences for any wrongdoing. But whatever the case may be, forgiveness is an act of the heart.

And this is why following Jesus is often harder than first appears. For who forgives everybody who has wrong us from the heart? As Westervelt’s article affirms, forgiveness is a ‘change of heart’, a very apt definition in light of this prayer and what God has done for us. Yet so often the hurt and the pain has a long tail. Part of our nature is to hold onto hurts and wrongs and slights in a way that often leads to bitterness. And not only bitterness, but actual power. For when we hold onto the wrongdoing of others against us we give them power over us. They shape our thoughts and may even guide our actions. In the act of forgiveness we actually release the power others have over us because of their wrongdoing toward us.

Forgiveness is not easy, particularly if the wrong is significant or life altering. Yet, the good news is that we are able to be forgiven by God through Christ and as a result are shown the way of forgiveness.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

And Forgive Us Our Debts

Forgiveness is an issue central to the Christian faith. After all, Jesus’ primary mission through his life, death, and resurrection, was to bring forgiveness; a forgiveness that would repair the relationship between humanity and God. 

In the Lord’s Prayer of Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus teaches us how to pray, and in doing so teaches us to ask for forgiveness from God. After asking for ‘our daily bread’, that is, our needs, we are also taught to ask for God to ‘forgive us our debts’. 

To be clear, what Jesus is not teaching us here is that God will forgive our financial debts. So often we use the term ‘debt’ in a financial sense. This is the way the word is typically used today. Perhaps unfortunately for you, after praying this prayer you will still have your financial debts to pay. The mortgage will still be there, the car loan still needs to be paid this month, and the credit card bill continues to stack up. 

But this idea of financial debt gives us an illustration of the position we find ourselves in. We are in debt to God. 

We may ask, why am I in debt to God? 

Well, the Bible teaches us that we are in debt to God because of what is called ‘sin’. Essentially, we have disobeyed, fallen short, and rejected God in our lives. In doing so we find ourselves in debt to God. As Romans 3:23-24 says, 

“The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Here we find the Apostle Paul highlighting how great our sin is, therefore how great a debt we have, but also how great a God we have who freely gives his grace to those who believe.

I am well aware this is not easy teaching to accept. To understand our need for forgiveness means we need to understand and accept our own wrongdoing toward God. And considering the hardness of life and injustice in our world there are times we are tempted to blame that on God himself. 

Yet, what God has done is actually grace. And that grace comes through the person and work of Jesus Christ. You see, forgiveness is achieved because Jesus has paid the debt we couldn’t pay. His death on the cross was the payment for our debt and covers all sin–past, present, and future. It is not through saying this prayer that brings forgiveness, through prayer we come recognising what has already been done for us–God has forgiven our debts through the death of his Son. 

In preaching on Ephesians 4:32, Charles Spurgeon remarks about forgiveness,

“[God] not only forgave us at the first all our sins, but he continues daily to forgive, for the act of forgiveness is a continuous one. I have sometimes heard it said that we were so forgiven when we first believed that there is no need to ask for further forgiveness; to which I reply—We were so completely forgiven when we first believed that we ought continually to ask for the perpetuity of that one far-reaching act, that the Lord may continue to exert towards us that fulness of forgiving grace which absolved us perfectly at the first, that we may continue to walk before him with a sense of that complete forgiveness, clear and unquestioned. I know I was forgiven when first I believed in Christ; and I am equally sure of it now: the one absolution continues to ring in my ears like joy-bells which never cease. Pardon once given continues to be given. When through doubt and anxiety I was not sure of my pardon, yet it was still true; for he that believeth on him is not condemned, even though he may write bitter things against himself. Beloved friend, catch hold of that, and do not let it go. Divine pardon is a continuous act.”

It is hard to understand the need for forgiveness from God if we don’t recognise our own brokenness and sin. And it is hard to understand grace because it is so undeserved. But amazingly, it is done. The call for us is to believe. 

And so when we pray this prayer, when we pray for God to forgive us our debts, we are to come with a humble heart, being self-aware enough to know our own brokenness and need for God.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread 2.0

Last week I did a little explaining about the verse in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11). And while it was accurate enough, there are further implications worth noting. The Lord’s Prayer gives us a terrific model for communing with God, I suppose that goes without saying considering it is our Lord who gives it to us! But as we scratch more deeply at how we might pray we learn, particularly in the realm of asking God for our needs, Jesus teaching us how to live.

With this in mind, here are some further reflections that I pray go well with you.

(1) Our needs include the physical and the spiritual.

There are some in the Christian church who believe that this body we have here on earth is simply a temporary vessel. They minimise the body and the physical in our world and over-emphasise the spiritual or the life to come. At times this has led to people and groups toward asceticism and a drawing away from others toward cultic practices. At other times this has led to abuses and sacrifices of the body. Neither of these are particularly biblical, and contradict scripture and the example of Jesus. We notice that in the life and ministry of Jesus he is concerned not only for the spiritual condition of the people but also for their physical needs. 

As James Montgomery Boice comments, 

“We can see what God thinks of our human bodies, when we remember that he Himself in Jesus Christ took that body upon Him. It is not simply a soul salvation, it is whole salvation, the salvation of body, mind and spirit, at which Christianity aims.

(2) We are reminded to take it one day at a time.

If you’ve ever heard a player or a coach of a sporting team be interviewed, then you’ll be familiar with the phrase, “we’re just taking it one game at a time”. For us believers, it is right to be taking life one day at a time.

It is important to recognise that Jesus is teaching us to pray for each day and reminding us of our need for God. It is important to understand that our dependence on God and needs from God are given to us each day. Therefore, there is intentionality in coming to God daily in prayer as we recognise our needs and dependence on him. As we petition God, as we come before him with the requests that we have, the needs that we lift to him, we show our daily dependence on him.

The whole act of prayer is an act of dependence. 

(3) Our request for daily bread points us to our need for spiritual nourishment. 

I presume you know that glorious taste of fresh bread. Sometimes there is nothing better than a fresh ham and salad roll for lunch. And who are we kidding, it’s always more than one when the rolls are at their freshest. 

While it sounds odd to say that we need to feed on Christ, that we need to feed spiritually on God, the only other place in the entire Bible where a request to ‘give us bread’ is spoken by Jesus while he gives a sermon on spiritual bread in John 6. Jesus said, 

“I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” They answered, “From now on give us this bread.’ Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:32–35) 

In context, the people he was speaking to were thinking of physical bread, but Jesus turned them away from these physical things to himself as the One who could satisfy the far greater hunger of the soul.

So, what does it mean to feed on Christ? 

It means that he is the source of all our spiritual life and as we grow in him and come close to him we are nourished, contented, and satisfied in him alone. The hunger and yearning we feel within our hearts for our Creator is fulfilled through Christ as the bread of life. 

As we hunger for achievement, or for love, or for happiness we recognise these are good in themselves when used as God intends. But at the heart of our faith, and at the heart of this prayer, is the realisation that it is only Christ who satisfies, it is only him who fulfils our deep hunger and need.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread 1.0

Well, I wonder whether you’ve ever signed a petition? 

I suspect you know what petitions are. A petition is where you put your name down in support of something. Perhaps it is asking for policy change in government, for better conditions in the workplace, or for support behind a particular injustice in the world. Whatever it may be, and whether it is done online or on an actual piece of paper, petitions are a way of showing your support for a particular cause.

There are also parts of everyday life where we petition others, where we ask people for something we would like or need. Perhaps it is a student petitioning their teacher for an extension in the assignment. Or a child petitioning a parent for ice-cream after dinner. And in a similar way, when we come to God in prayer and lift up our needs to him we petition him. We ask him for things. We ask him for our wants and needs. 

In Matthew 6:11, in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus continues to teach his disciples about prayer through this particular phrase, ‘give us this day our daily bread’. And in similar fashion to previous posts (see below) it is worth reflecting a little on what Jesus is teaching us. 

First, when Jesus says, ‘give us this day our daily bread’ he is talking about depending on God daily. 

As Christians we recognise that we are living a day at a time. It sounds cliche, but we do not know when we will die, and we do not know what will happen tomorrow. 

This requires us to depend on God. 

When we depend on ourselves or on others then we will be let down, but with God we have a solid foundation. A God who rules and reigns, and who is always faithful and dependable. And so a mark of a follower of Jesus is their dependence on him for their needs. We come with a posture of dependence on him. 

To depend on God is to fully trust in his care for us. That despite our circumstances–in happiness or in hardship–we continue to have a posture of dependence on God.

As Leon Morris writes in his commentary on Matthew about this verse, 

The prayer encourages a continuing dependence on God; it does not countenance a situation in which the disciple asks God for a supply for a lengthy period, after which prayer he can go on for some time in forgetfulness of God. He depends on God constantly, and this dependence is expressed in this prayer.

Dependence on God is not simply a once off occurrence. It is something that is required of us daily. It is a practice, a discipline, to continually depend on God. 

Yet, there is also a cautionary reflection here worth noting. 

When we are comfortable. When we have everything we need. When we don’t need to depend on God for as much as we used to then it is common to let this dependence slide. We must be careful not to fall into this trap, not to change our posture from one of dependence to independence. 

Second, when Jesus says, ‘give us this day our daily bread’ he is talking about asking for our needs.

Whenever we pray we are generally asking God for something. And this gets to the heart of petition. Petition is that word that defines prayer as asking God for stuff. Stuff that may include inner comfort and strength, to physical needs like food or finances, to wisdom and discernment. 

And don’t hear me saying this is necessarily wrong. God encourages us to come to him with everything, and in all things. 

In fact, as I’ve read over this Lord’s Prayer I’ve noticed just how much asking there is of God. In fact, everything from v10-13 is really a prayer of petition. We find ourselves asking for: 

  1. his kingdom to come, 
  2. his will to be done, 
  3. our daily bread, 
  4. our debts to be forgiven, 
  5. not to be led into temptation, and
  6. to be delivered from evil. 

By my reckoning there are six requests, six items of petition to God in this prayer. 

And when Jesus specifically prays the petition of ‘give us this day our daily bread’ he wishes us to pray for the needs that we have, the needs necessary for life. 

Martin Luther, the great Reformer of the 16th century wrote that this use of ‘bread’ was symbolic of ‘everything necessary for the preservation of this life, like food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, husband or wife, children, good government and peace’. In essence Luther was saying these are the necessities of life, rather than the luxuries, of which a couple here and there may be debatable.

Whatever the case, here in Matthew 6:11, in this petition given to us by our Lord, we find an aspect of our prayer life that involves asking for our needs.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following: