My thanks for this lesson to John Underhill, pastor of Valley Fourth Church in Spokane, WA. I have paraphrased his article but the ideas, not to mention the neat alliteration, are his.
Matthew 6:9-15 is the Lord’s Prayer. We repeat the Lord’s Prayer and we are right to do so, but the pattern that He taught us using this prayer is just as important as the prayer itself. Now, must every prayer we pray follow this pattern? No, we are not under the Law. And this prayer is our speaking to God, while we should also listen to God. But I believe that when we settle down to talk to God, this is a great model to follow.
Underhill teaches that there are six crucial elements in the Lord’s Prayer. He calls them Praise, Purpose, Provision, Pardon, Purity, and Protection.
Element #1: Praise: Begin by expressing your love to God
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name. (v. 9)
Start by focusing on God, not us. If we just focus on ourselves we’ll either feel depressed and hopeless and anxious, or we’ll be feeling pretty fine because we’re so darned righteous! Neither one is the right start. Start in silence and focus on God. Some people visualize Christ sitting in the other chair. Feel free to do breathing exercises first, or light a candle if you like, or play some soft meditative music, or take your cup of coffee and sit down on the deck. After our 2’ of snow melts of course.
“Instead of thinking how big my problems are, I’ll go away thinking how big my God is!”
• First, you can praise Him for Who He is—His character. He is glorious!
• Praise Him for what He does—His works. His creation, for you, for your family.
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise. Be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” (Ps. 100:4)
Element #2: Purpose: Commit yourself to God’s purpose and will for your life.
They kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. (v. 10)
This part of the prayer says that I would rather His will be done than mine. Often they are the same when we look closely at the best of us, at our hearts’ true desires. Is my purpose the same as His? What are my purposes, my dreams for my life, family, job, retiremement. Volunteer work, friendships? My purpose or His? Are they aligned?
“Offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.” (Rom. 12:2)
Element #3: Provision: Ask God to provide for your needs.
Give us this day our daily bread. (v. 11)
Pray about all your needs! Even what you think is the “dumb stuff.” Like that twinge in your hip when you move. Or the small disagreement that you’re aware of when you see someone. Or wisdom about a vacation or other expenditure. Whatever. “Here’s a rule of thumb: it it’s big enough for you to worry about, it’s big enough for you to pray about.” Don’t sit there and worry, turn your worries into a prayer list.
“Don’t worry about anything but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6)
“God will supply all of my needs from His riches in glory because of what Christ Jesus has done for us.” (Phi. 4:19)
Element #4: Pardon: Ask God’s forgiveness for your sins.
And forgive us our trespasses (v. 12)
We are under grace, and a good thing too because we can never confess all of our sin to God. We don’t have any idea how far our sin goes in our minds, bodies and spirits. God loves us and can be with us because we have the nature of Christ inside us. Still, we will always sin in this world. Come to Him for forgiveness and renewed strength.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the sin you must seek forgiveness for. Note this is not “every sin” because we have sins of omission that we don’t even know. We are already forgiven, but by coming to God and asking Him to reveal sin in our lives we restore relationship and grow stronger. “Examine me, O God, and know my mind; test me, and discover my thoughts. Find out if there is any evil in me.” (from Ps. 139)
- Confess these revealed sins to God. Proverbs 28:13 “You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins. Confess them and give them up. Then God will show mercy to you.”
- Make restitution to others when necessary. Ask forgiveness, make that call, write that letter, give that hug, start on that project someone else is waiting for. Matthew 5:23-24 “When you remember your brother has something against you, go at once to make peace with him, then come back and offer your gift to God.”
- In faith and joy accept God’s forgiveness. And remember – we are under grace! Don’t be afraid! “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. AND “Dear friends, if our conscience is clear, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive whatever we request because we obey him and do the things that please him.” 1 John 3:21-22
Element #5: Purity: Let go of your grudges and bitterness
“… as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
This means of course to forgive those who have sinned against us. It happens! The ex-husband, the good friend who was cruel or thoughtless, the adult child who has rejected us, the boss who unfairly criticizes. Even the rude woman behind the counter or someone we admire who keeps ignoring us! Psalm 66:18 If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened. 19But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer.
Element #6: Protection: Ask for divine protection.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (13)
We face spiritual battles every day. Don’t worry now – “He who is in us is stronger then he who is in the world!” We may lose a battle here and there but we will win the war. Still, Satan wants to defeat us on a daily basis with temptation and fear. We, as believers, face a spiritual battle every day and Satan wants to defeat us through temptation and fear. Start the day praying for God’s strength – not in fear but like Rocky the wrestler! “Eye of the Tiger!” Pump your fist in the air, do a dance, whatever – you are protected!
But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it. (1 Cor 10:13)
Amen and amen.