Psalm 103: Praise The Lord

It is certainly difficult to go through this Psalm without recognising the call to praise. The beginning and the ending couch this Psalm in words to encourage praise.

Note how personal the writer King David is as he expresses himself.

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits” in v1-2.

And in v20-22,

“Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the Lord, my soul.”

This is something deeply personal, something coming deep from within here. It is like David is willing himself to praise.

There are times, aren’t there, when we have to will ourselves to do something. Whether it is chores around the house to trying to work through our emotions in a lockdown due to a global pandemic. Here David sounds like he is willing himself to praise. Like the marathon runner willing herself to get to the finish line so too David is willing himself to praise.

Often praise, encouragement and thanks don’t come easy. Often we can be so consumed with our own self and all the problems we have to deal with that we soon forget or fall out of habit of praise, of thankfulness, of gratitude. Here we get the sense of David, writing in reflection from years of experience, willing himself to praise God for who he is and what he has done.

For David realises all of what God has done. Not only for him personally, but also for the whole of humanity. He remembers God and all his deeds and dwells on the action of his compassionate God, which in turn draws him to praise.

As we close this three-part series on Psalm 103 I encourage you to remember, dwell, and praise God this week.

It has been a tough 12 months.

You may have taken the opportunity to sit with God and spend more time with him this year. But, in the conversations I’m having with people I suspect the majority have not. And so I wonder whether this might be a good time to spend some time with the Lord.

If you’re one who is in a habit of doing so, I encourage you to keep going.

But, if you’re one who hasn’t sat with God, opened his scriptures, read and thought of the things of God in a while then I encourage you to do so this week.

Take 30-60 minutes. Open a Psalm, maybe even this one. Write down a few things that strike you as you read it. Pray about what is on your heart. Express those fears and worries and anxieties to God. And dwell for a period of time, something we’re not used to, on your compassionate God who is slow to anger and abounding in love.

Because when you do, experience tells me that the Lord will meet you where you are at and will draw you toward praise just as David is here.

It will do your soul and your life much benefit.


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

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. 

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:

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:

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

There comes a point when so much analysis, or in this case, exegesis, can mean you miss the bigger picture. And sure, there is often much to be learnt from studying the detail of a leaf, but it just might mean you miss the overall vision of the tree. This can happen when we study scripture. We can become so narrow in focus that we miss the wider picture of what’s going on. 

As we come to this phrase, ‘On earth as it is in heaven’ we must recognise that this needs to be read in conjunction with the beginning of the sentence,’ Your kingdom come, your will be done’ (Matthew 6:10-11). For the sake of this series on The Lord’s Prayer I have separated these various phrases, but in reality the prayer Jesus is teaching us, and his disciples, means they are intricately connected. As RT France comments,

“The prayer embraces the whole scope of this outworking of God’s purpose, but its focus is not on either present or future, but on God himself, whose glory must be the disciples’ first and deepest concern, before they consider their own needs.

And so one could get caught up in the comparison of earth and heaven. I think it is fair to suggest that the prayer is making a distinction between both places, an actual earth and an actual heaven. But before the questions that naturally arise begin to form it is helpful to remember this is as much about recognising God and his ways before lifting up our own requests. 

Yet this prayer gives us hope. For when we understand ourselves in light of God’s goodness and holiness, when we understand our own need in contrast to who God is, we realise we are in need of more of heaven and less of earth. As people who begin this prayer in worship, recognising God as God, we know that it will not be our action but the action of God that will ultimately bring this prayer into reality. 

And it is the action of God that achieves anything and everything for us. It is the action of God that provides salvation. It is the action of God that shows love. It is the action of God that provides mercy. It is the action of God that brings justice. It is the action of God that grows godliness. And of course, all these things come from the centrepiece of this action–the cross. 

In the Incarnation, Jesus’ coming to earth, we find heaven coming to earth. God comes to humankind in a personal and relational way. And while we continue to live in the ‘now and not yet’ tension–where God’s kingdom is here, but it’s not all here–the action of the Incarnation gives hope and shows a glimpse of what is possible. 

You may well have images of large golden buildings and paths coming down through the sky when you envision heaven coming to earth. This is most certainly a mistaken image. Already God has made clear he does things in ways we humans least expect, such as coming in the form of a baby, birthed in a dirty stable, and found in a small out-of-the-way village.

So in our prayer ‘on earth as it is in heaven’, it might be better to understand that in heaven God’s will is perfect, there is no bad thing to hinder it. Heaven is God’s will perfected. And when we pray these words, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’, we are hoping for similar circumstances here on earth. And given the current state of our world, it might be time to pray this more fervently than we have done before. 


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

Your Will Be Done

No one likes to think they are under authority. We live in a world where we are constantly told that we are free. That we can do what we want if we put in the effort. That we control our own destiny. That the decisions we make are ours, and we are free to make them. This is certainly part of the cultural milieu of Western society. Although it is somewhat ironic to say this during 2020, the year of the global pandemic, particularly when living in Melbourne. In the last few months we’ve all come to realise that we aren’t in control of much, and whatever we thought we were in control of we probably never have been. 

As Jesus teaches his disciples about prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, as he outlines a prayer to pray, we come across this phrase, “Your will be done”. And in essence, this is a phrase that is about giving up control and sitting under the authority of God. 

There are certain prayers that are dangerous. Perhaps all prayer is dangerous, because the act of prayer is an act of giving up control and authority itself. But prayers can be dangerous because they can change us and they can change the world. And when we come to God in prayer, expressly saying to him ‘your will be done’, then we are praying a dangerous prayer for at least three reasons.

First, we are acknowledging his power and sovereignty over all. 

Through the act of prayer we are acknowledging that God is greater. In prayer we lift our praise and requests to God, and we come to him because he is God and we are not. He is the one with all power and wisdom to rule the world. He is the one who has created this world and given everything in it life. He is the one who is all-knowing of past, present, and future. And so we come to God in prayer as beings who rely on his power and sovereign rule, to act in our lives and in the lives of people we know. 

As John Frame puts it

“The sovereignty of God is the fact that he is the Lord over creation; as sovereign, he exercises his rule. This rule is exercised through God’s authority as king, his control over all things, and his presence with his covenantal people and throughout his creation…Because God is tri-personal, however, his sovereign control is not impersonal or mechanical, but is the loving and gracious oversight of the king of creation and redemption.”

And this is the God we pray to. This is the God we are able to come to in times of need and hardship or in joy and happiness. And so when we come to him in prayer this is the God we bow down to and to whom we acknowledge our need.

Second, we are acknowledging that we need help and lack control.

In prayer we are doing the exact opposite to what we like to believe, that we are in control. In prayer we are acknowledging that we need help, that we can’t do it all by ourselves. Sure, we can do a lot by ourselves, and we can become very successful at life and work and relationships by doing it all ourselves. But in the end, we know there is little that we do actually control. 

There is little that we can do when we are sick will severe illness, there is little we can do when a global pandemic hits, there is little we can do when our employer tells us it’s time to move on, there is little we can do when supposed friends no longer wish to be friends, there is little we can do when a child is diagnosed with cancer, or when a friend loses their spouse suddenly. 

There is little one can do. 

And so prayer becomes dangerous because it is the realisation that we have so little we can control. Yet having little control is not something to be afraid of, rather we pray to a God who is in control and knows what he is doing. So despite not being in control we can still have peace and a sense of assurance. With the Psalmist we can affirm, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears”. (Psalm 34:4)

Third, we are acknowledging that we wish to do what God wants rather than what we want. 

And maybe this is where the prayer-rubber hits the roads. When we come to God in prayer we are handing over our own wants and needs and being open to have God have his way. 

Think about the phrase, ‘your will be done’. This is affirming to God that we want him to rule and have authority in our lives and in what we do. It isn’t about our own will and desires and wants–it is about God’s. 

Often this is taken out of our hands, as I have alluded to above. But at other times we may need to make a decision that requires going against the grain. It might be making a stand of conviction, a choice about the future, or making the call to stay or leave. As Jesus teaches his disciples this Lord’s Prayer we realise that it isn’t some nice, wafty, feel-good prayer that will wash over us and then we will be on our way. No, it means that we affirm truths about God and hand over our lives to him. 

Another way of putting this may be thinking about the cost of prayer. We know that there is a cost in becoming a disciples of Jesus, to hand the Lordship of our lives over to him. In the same way, through prayer we are handing over our prayers and our wills to him and asking him to guide us. 

I wonder, for God’s will to be done in your life right now, what is it you need to hand over to him? 


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