首页 > 在线讲章 > 教我们祷告

教我们祷告

作者:道格·巴契勒 牧师日期:2013-05-17 6:10:18浏览数:22748
中文字体:【

中文:

教我们祷告(上)

奇妙真相:福吉谷战役期间,华盛顿带领的革命军在战场上挖壕固守,饥寒交迫。一天,一个住在附近的农夫给部队送来急需的食物。在返回的路上,他听到有人在说话,于是顺着声音来到一片林间空地。在那里,他看见有个人跪在雪中祈祷。农夫匆忙跑回家,激动地对妻子说:“美国人肯定会赢得独立战争!”“你怎么知道?”妻子问。农夫回答说:“我今天听见乔治•华盛顿在林子里大声祷告,上帝肯定会垂听他的祷告,一定会!你可以放心,上帝一定会垂听!”当然,我们都知道战争的结果。

若说美国有一个坚实的建国基础,那无疑便是祈祷。历史修正主义者或许会让你相信,签署《独立宣言》的人要么是泛神论者,要么是自然神论者,要么是没太多时间寻求上帝的不可知论者。如果真是这样,那么当时不可知论者的祷告,一定比今日基督徒的祷告时间还长。例如,美国第一任总统华盛顿每天早晚都要跪在一本打开的圣经前,祈求上帝的引领。或许美国的道德滑坡之所以会日趋严重,原因之一就是上帝的百姓为国家祈祷的时间太少了。

[注:历史修正主义:是指蓄意修改历史的思想和行为。泛神论:是一种将自然界与神等同起来,以强调自然界的至高无上的哲学观点。认为神就存在于自然界一切事物之中,并没有另外的超自然的主宰或精神力量。自然神论:今日的自然神论和最初的自然神论有些不同,今日的自然神思想认为,虽然上帝创造了宇宙和它存在的规则,但是在此之后上帝并不再对这个世界的发展产生影响。不可知论:否认认识世界或彻底认识世界的可能性,他们对基督教神学教义表示怀疑,但又拒绝无神论,从而主张把上帝是否存在这一类问题搁置起来的人。]

然而,我惊讶地发现,就连耶稣也需要祷告。我们很自然地认为耶稣坚定的信心是与生俱来的。但圣经告诉我们,祂总是清晨起来独自祷告。有时祂会彻夜祈祷,如拣选门徒的前一夜。

读完这个故事,我认识到自己祷告得不够,也不好。但祈祷却是至关重要的。实际上,每次的奋兴都源于祈祷。例如,早期教会的门徒同心祷告十天之后,上帝在五旬节赐下了充沛的圣灵。后来,“祷告完了,聚会的地方震动,他们就都被圣灵充满,放胆讲论上帝的道。”(徒4:31)不论是教会还是个人的生活,我们都需要多方祈祷。

第一要务

司布真曾说:“基督徒所有的美德都藏在‘祷告’一词中。”祈祷是基督徒的主要任务之一,以便与上帝有直接的交通。威廉•嘉利是一名布道士,他曾前往缅甸、印度和西印度群岛布道,但他也是个补鞋匠。有时人们批评他花费过多的时间祷告、恳求和感恩,以致“荒废”了正业。嘉利回答说:“修鞋是我的副业;只是为了维持生计的手段而已。祷告才是我真正的事业。”上帝大大地使用嘉利,引领多人悔改。马丁•路德也曾说:“裁缝以制衣为业,基督徒以祈祷为业。”

但我们该如何祈祷呢?很多人问我这个问题,事实上连我本人都要恳求:“主啊,求袮教我祷告。”门徒们看到耶稣从祂祷告的地方回来,就问了同样的问题。耶稣脸上焕发着天上的荣光,整个人也因圣灵的浇灌而精神饱满。难怪门徒们恳求说:“求主教导我们祷告。”(路11:1)然而,这些求问的人一直都在参加会堂和圣殿的敬拜。他们背诵了数以百计的祷告文,又多次听到祭司们大声祈祷。但当他们看见基督之后,深觉自己一定是缺少了什么。不知何故,和我们大多数人一样,他们在自己的“主业”上失败了。

不幸的是,没有多少人知道祷告意味着什么。因此,祈祷或许是最受忽视的机会与特权。但每个基督徒都需要祷告的恩赐,因为那是属灵生命的呼吸。耶稣说:“你们得不着,是因为你们不求。”(雅4:2)祂并不是说我们从不祷告,而是指我们求的太少。那么我们该如何求呢?

我想找到答案的最好方法,是查考救主留给我们的祷告范文,就是我们常说的“主祷文”。当然,这其实是用词不当,因为实际上那并不是耶稣的祷告。耶稣说:“所以,你们祷告要这样说。”(太6:9)这是我们祷告的范本,所以从严格意义上讲,这应是“门徒祷文”。我们来简单地看一看这个祷告模板,以便晓得上帝愿意我们如何就近祂。

祷告文的构成

主祷文由七个恳求句构成,其划分与十条诫命颇为相似。前三句恳求是朝向上帝的,属于上下垂直关系;后四句涉及我们与他人的水平关系。同样,第一条最大的诫命就是爱上帝,第二条最大的诫命是爱你的邻舍。上帝在我们的祈祷中应居首位;祂的忠告与旨意在我们的生活中应具有绝对的优先权。但与此同时,我们也不能忽略人际关系,所以主祷文涉及到这一点。

本课我们先重点来看前三句恳求,下一讲我们将学习为朋友、家人、和邻舍祷告,之后再针对关于祷告的常见问题,寻找符合圣经且实际的答案。

首先,我们来想一想,头三句对上帝的恳求与三一真神的一种特殊的关系。第一句是关于天父的,“我们在天上的父,愿…袮的名。”第二句和“国”有关,其实就是圣子。耶稣设了很多比喻,说明祂将来要作为万王之王得国降临。若不靠着基督,我们根本无法就近天父。第三句是关于“袮的旨意,”是谁引导我们晓得上帝的旨意呢?是圣灵,是祂将上帝的旨意和基督的爱印刻在我们心中;是圣灵赐我们遵从上帝诫命的力量。所以在主祷文的头三句恳求中体现出了圣父、圣子和圣灵。

“我们…的父”

上帝为父,这一主题贯穿整本圣经。祂是一切生命的创造者,是祂儿女的保护者。旧约圣经中记载了祂诸多的名字,其中就包括“奇妙、策士、全能的神、永在的父、和平的君。”(赛9:6)祂大有能力且无所不能,祂还是充充足足的供应者。总而言之,祂确实是位居高天统管宇宙的上帝,但我们却能像就近自己的父亲一样亲近祂。

更令人欣慰的是,“我们…的父”宣告说,我们已被接纳为祂的儿女。“你看父赐给我们是何等的慈爱,使我们得称为上帝的儿女;我们也真是祂的儿女。世人所以不认识我们,是因未曾认识祂。”(约一3:1)上帝愿意接纳我们成为祂家中的一员。多么美好的真理啊!天父说我们可以分享祂通过基督而赐下的产业,成为天上家庭的一员。圣经上说:“你们虽然不好,尚且知道拿好东西给儿女,何况你们在天上的父,岂不更把好东西给求祂的人吗?”(太7:11)我们可以来到天父脚前,向祂恳求,晓得祂为我们存留了最好的礼物。

“我们…的父”这个称谓充满了爱。我们可以本着爱坦然无惧地就近祂,即便在祂管教我们之时也当如此。箴言3章12节记载:“因为耶和华所爱的,祂必责备,正如父亲责备所喜爱的儿子。”诗篇103篇13节补充道:“父亲怎样怜恤他的儿女,耶和华也怎样怜恤敬畏祂的人。”这还意味着我们是一家人,同是弟兄姐妹,共同祈求我们的天父。祂不仅是我的父,也是你的父。

这也让我想起这个祷告文可以作为范文的另一个原因。请注意,整篇主祷文中都没有出现“我”字。在我们的祷告中会频繁使用“我”。但这个祷告中用的是集体代词。在我们的文化中,顺序被颠倒了;先是你,再是你的朋友,最后是上帝。但圣经中的顺序却与此恰恰相反。爱主为至上,其次是你的邻舍,最后才是你。(为了便于记忆,只要想想“J-O-Y”(快乐)一词就行了。即,耶稣(J),他人(O),你(Y)!

“在天上”

祷告文还告诉我们主离我们究竟有多远。“我们…的父”传达了一种非常亲密的、紧紧相依的概念,但是“在天上”又让我们感觉祂离我们很遥远。我们与上帝分离了,有时我们会说:“主啊,问题就在于:我们在这儿,袮却在那儿。”看来我们都意识到了这一点,那么究竟是什么导致了这样的分离呢?以赛亚说:“你们的罪孽使你们与上帝隔绝。”(赛59:2)

在伊甸园中,上帝问亚当:“你在哪里?”我们在祷告时要向上帝承认,自己像亚当一样逃避了上帝,以致与祂相离甚远。我们虽已失去乐园,但仍有希望。你知道吗,圣经的前三章讲述了罪如何通过蛇进入世界,以及人类如何与天庭和乐园分离;然而,圣经最后三章告诉我们,蛇被毁灭,乐园恢复,我们要重新和上帝在一起。

我们需要分辨地上肉身的父亲与天父之间的区别,这是圣经称“在天上”的另一个原因。地上的父亲是软弱的、属肉体的、有罪性的人;但天上的上帝却是完全的。我们都有一种与生俱来的、潜意识的倾向,易于把和生父的关系与天父的关系混为一谈。例如,某些被地上的父亲过于溺爱的人认为天父上帝也会一样纵容他们的罪行。而那些父亲过于严厉的人,通常会认为天父是一位严厉苛刻的法官。

这应该引发我们思考。我们需要花大量时间祈祷,祈求上帝纠正我们错误的教育方法。当圣经说“我们在天上的父”时,乃是吩咐我们要审视自己有瑕疵的属世关系,并晓得上帝是我们完全的榜样,我们可以坦然无惧的就近祂。你无需透过自己如破碎眼镜一般的家庭经验去看上帝。

“愿人都尊袮的名为圣”

所以,我们就近上帝乃因祂是我们在天上的父。我们对上帝的第一个恳求就是“愿人都尊袮的名为圣。”在善恶大斗争中,上帝的名是个焦点问题。救赎计划的全部目的旨在维护上帝的荣耀。魔鬼诋毁了上帝的名。你知道吗,有人说:“如果上帝就是爱,那为什么无辜的儿童会死?”保险公司称地震、洪水和其它自然灾害为“上帝的作为。”这对上帝的名誉会造成何等影响呢?魔鬼是污蔑天父品格的高手。他将这位良善、奇妙、慈爱、长久忍耐、充满怜悯的上帝形容为残酷、冷漠、专制、惩罚祂所造之物的暴君。上帝的名被魔鬼亵渎了。

因此,基督徒的宗旨乃是靠着上帝的恩典,尽自己最大的能力维护上帝的名,彰显祂的本像。不幸的是,我们需要祈求“愿人都尊袮的名为圣,”因为我们并不擅长于此。甚至在圣经中,我们看到上帝的百姓比那些彻彻底底的异教徒羞辱上帝的名更甚。从古到今,这一事实并未随着时间的流逝有多少改善。请记住,主祷文在某种程度上是在反照十条诫命。第三诫吩咐我们:“不可妄称耶和华你上帝的名;因为妄称耶和华名的,耶和华必不以他为无罪。”(出20:7)以不敬的言辞使用上帝的名只是违反这条诫命的一小部分。使用上帝的名就像妻子采用丈夫的姓。你受洗成为基督徒时就取了基督的名。倘若采用了基督的名之后,你的行为却像魔鬼,这就是妄用祂的名。谁对基督教的危害更大?是异教徒,还是那些自称是基督徒,却像世人一样生活的人呢?

基督徒应该见证上帝的良善,但在很多情况下,他们比异教徒对上帝名誉的损害更大。在全世界范围内,我们看到一些自称为基督徒之人在攻击或杀害他人,例如在爱尔兰、非洲和克罗地亚。这对上帝的名会造成何等影响呢?耶稣说:“要爱你们的仇敌…要以善胜恶。”(太5:44;罗12:21)基督被诽谤乃是因为那些妄称祂名之人的恶劣行为。所以,“愿人都尊袮的名为圣”是在求上帝帮助我们,在言语和行为上尊荣祂宝贵之名。

“愿袮的国降临”

我们处于两个王国的争战之中。起初,上帝将地球的管辖权交给了亚当和夏娃,但当他们将其拱手相让之后,仇敌就辖制了这个世界。从那时起,上帝百姓的第一要务就是“先求祂的国。”(太6:33)当然,说到上帝的国,我们必须做以区分:属灵的国和真实的国。我们知道上帝属灵的国在当今世界久已存在,因为路加福音17章21节说:“上帝的国就在你们心里。”耶稣受洗后开始传道,祂说:“日期满了,上帝的国近了。”(可1:15)这个属灵的国今日就可获得。只要你把基督接进心里,祂就会开始在你心中作王。保罗说:“不要容罪在你们必死的身上作王,”而是让耶稣作你的王,管辖你的所言所行。(罗6:12)这是我们应首先寻求的国:我们心中的上帝的属灵之国。

但有朝一日,温柔的人将要承受地土,上帝现实中的国将会以一个非常真实、具体的王国来统治这个世界。如果上帝的国已经在地建立,你认为我们需要祈求“愿袮的国降临”吗?在使徒行传第一章耶稣即将升天之时,门徒问:“袮复兴以色列国就在这时候吗?”耶稣回答说:“所定的时候、日期,不是你们可以知道的。”(徒1:6,7)

但以理书的中心信息就是这个世界上所有的王国和偶像,不论它们是金、银、铜、铁、还是泥,都要在万古磐石——上帝的国面前瓦解。“当那列王在位的时候,天上的上帝必另立一国,永不败坏,也不归别国的人,却要打碎灭绝那一切国,这国必存到永远。”(但2:44)

我们现在是另一个王国的大使,要见证那即将充满全地的国。基督说:“我将国赐给你们,正如我父赐给我一样。”(路22:29)十字架上的强盗转向基督并说:“主啊,袮得国降临的时候,求袮纪念我!”(路23:42)他接受了基督作他的王。所以他能进入天国,因为属灵的国已经在他心里了。

在新约圣经中,“上帝的国”总共出现过七十次。为什么?因为有两王在争战,耶稣和魔鬼,魔鬼自称是这世界的王。所以我们依然需要祈求“上帝的国”降临:先降于我们的心,后终有一天我们将身居其中。

“愿袮的旨意行在地上,如同行在天上”

与流行的看法不同,上帝的旨意并非总能“行在地上”。恕我不能同意这样的观点:所有事情的发生都符合创造主的旨意。当某些糟糕的事情发生时,比如龙卷风,你难免会听到有人说:“哦,这一定是上帝的旨意。”我不相信这是圣经的教训,如果是真的,为什么上帝还要我们祈祷祂的旨意能成全呢?

相反,并不是所有看似好的事情都出于上帝。有时魔鬼也会使一个人顺利富足,但这是为了使其渴慕上帝的心冷淡或偏离正轨。你我都不晓得属灵幕布后的实情,所以我们必须要祈求:“愿袮的旨意行在地上,如同行在天上。”

肉体的欲望自然会歪曲或混淆我们的意志。我们需要祈求上帝的恩典和祂的灵引导我们的意志与祂的意志相和谐。并且,我们还需要认识到,祂的旨意都是为了我们的益处,上帝的道就是祂旨意最好的表达。对于初信的人来说,上帝旨意最简单的形式就是十条诫命。“我的上帝啊,我乐意照袮的旨意行,袮的律法在我心里。”(诗40:8)所以,当我们祷告“愿袮的旨意行(成全)”时,其实是在恳求祂的旨意通过我们的降服与顺从而成就在我们身上。

当然,耶稣是这世上遵行上帝旨意的最完美榜样。祂在约翰福音6章38节宣称:“因为我从天上降下来,不是要按自己的意思行,乃是要按那差我来者的意思行。”在客西马尼园,基督面临与天父分离,祂三次恳求天父说:“不要成就我的意思,只要成就袮的意思。”(路22:42)行上帝的旨意总是很容易吗?不。倘若那对于耶稣都是一个巨大的挣扎,我们也需要祈求:“愿袮的旨意成全。”

一个更加伟大的旨意

上帝创造万物时,祂说有就有。但创造亚当时,祂却从地上取土,亲手塑造成型,并将生气吹在他里面。祂从尘土中造人。所以当我们祷告:“愿袮的旨意行在地上,如同行在天上”时,也是在承认自己不过是尘土。“在地上(原文也可译为:在尘土中)”也表示在我们里面。我们在上帝面前自卑,承认自己的意志因为反叛而堕落了。当我们祈求“愿袮的旨意成全”时,就是允许上帝按照祂的意思使用我们。

主决不会将祂的旨意强加给你,因为祂赐给人以“自由”这份宝贵的礼物。祂不会强迫你去向祂祈求:“愿袮的旨意成就。”你必须主动祈求,将你的意志降服于祂,作祂的仆人,允许祂在你的生活中彰显其大能并实行祂的计划。明白这个秘密之后,你便会打开天上能力的宝库。

但我意识到通过另一条途径也可奏效。我们当中有许多人被魔鬼所困扰,因为我们将自己的意志交给了他。你必须选择自己的主人。当我们不断屈从魔鬼摆在人生道路上的试探时,便是增加他在我们生活中施行其愿望的能力。奇怪的是,当我们运用自由去屈从魔鬼时,便是在逐渐丧失自由。魔鬼占据了我们的本性,而我们变成了他的奴隶。

然而我们完全有可能被上帝的灵充满。你愿意有那样的经验吗?大多数人总在顺从圣灵和软弱的肉体之间挣扎,但当你理解了这一点并选择说:“主啊,我愿袮作我的上帝,作我的主。我将自己的意志降服于袮,将自己献给袮。我自己无能为力。”这时上帝便可将祂的旨意“行在地上”,行在你的生活之中了。上帝在等待,但祂不会强迫你。所以在祈祷时,别忘了说:“愿袮的旨意行在地上,如同行在天上。”

教我们祷告(下)

道格•巴契勒 牧师

奇妙真相:二战期间,有人发现一名英国士兵从前线阵地悄悄撤回来。他所在的部队抓住他,并控告他通敌,因为他未经允许就擅离职守。这名士兵坦承:“我一直在林子里祷告。”战友们开始嘲笑他,并要求他立刻提供证据。他说他是独自去祷告,除了祈祷,什么都没做。抓他的人威胁要以叛国罪控告他:“除非你现在就用祷告说服我们你真的只是去祷告,否则将被处死。”这名士兵随即跪下祷告,他的祷词真诚且颇具说服力,仿佛要去拜见自己的创造主一般。祷告结束时,司令说这个人可以无罪释放了。“我相信你说的话,若是不曾花大量时间操练,你绝不会在检阅中表现得如此出色。”又补充道:“从祈祷的方式上看,你平时一定有与上帝倾谈的习惯。”

我们应当常常祷告,且养成习惯。但更重要的是,祷告内容不应以自我为中心。我发现自己祷告时常以“给我”开头:“亲爱的主啊,给我这,给我那,”将近结束再会加上一句:“上帝啊,我称颂袮的名。”与主祷文的模板相对照,完全是本末倒置了。上一课已经强调过这一点,但有必要再重复一遍。上帝使我认识到我的祷告太自私了,祈祷时,上帝和他人应居首位,而非自己。

尽管下文要重点讲述为自己祷告,但在探究这些祈祷的必要方面之前,我们需要确保头脑中有正确的祈祷顺序。显然,我们应该为自己的需要祷告,但根据耶稣的教导,祷告时当首先承认上帝的圣名、旨意和祂的国,这一点要高于一切。我们要依照上帝的旨意来审视自己一切的需要。有了这个提醒,我们才可继续学习,并且当我们求问:“主啊,教我们祷告”时,其结果也会显明。

“今日赐给我们”

饼(饮食)在圣经中代表很多东西。首先,“日用的饮食(饼)”意味着每天维持生命的必需品。当然,这是一个祷告范文,所以它并不意味着你不能为水、衣服或其它的需用祷告。当我们为日用的饮食祷告时,实际上是在求上帝满足我们日常生活的基本需要。(一个人衣满柜、粮满仓还用祈求“我们日用的饮食,今日赐给我们”吗?当然用。不要把上帝赐给你的任何东西看作是理所当然的。请记得,约伯的财物一日之内全丧失了。)

上帝指示我们当满怀信心来到祂面前,求祂满足我们的需要。当然,在祈求之前祂就已晓得你的需要,但祂想让我们明白是祂提供了我们一切的所需。例如,当以色列人在旷野行走时,他们祈求粮食,上帝就从天上降下吗哪,这显明了祂持续不断的、慈爱的供应。不要害怕,也不要羞愧,只管去求,上帝希望你寻求祂!

请记住,尽管我们祈求“我们日用的饮食,今日赐给我们”,但那并不意味着上帝希望我们不劳而获。有些人认为他们只要背诵主祷文,然后无所事事地在家坐等上帝的回答就够了。主从天上降下吗哪,但以色列人必须要出去收集。他们并不是躺在床上张着嘴,等吗哪掉入口中。再者,请注意吗哪是降在营地之外,而不是降在他们的帐篷上面。

犹太人为要获得日用的饮食,必须出去收集。之后,还须把吗哪揉捏成某种形状,烘烤成饼;他们必须工作才能享用日用的饮食。同样,我们也必须尽自己的本分,不能因有主的赐福就变得懒惰。不要忘记,赐给我们日用的饮食还包含一个告诫:“六日要劳碌作你一切的工。”

“我们日用的饮食”

“日用的饮食”仅仅包含食物吗?正如圣经中许多教训所讲的,“我们日用的饮食”有着非常重要的属灵含义。耶稣在马太福音4章4节教训说:“人活着,不是单靠食物,乃是靠上帝口里所出的一切话。”祂用“食物”一词来代表人类在世上的一切需要。

最重要的是,耶稣后来说:“我就是生命的粮,”(约6:35)基督并不是单指我们肉体的需要,而是在教导我们每天邀请上帝住在心里。粮代表耶稣——属灵的食物要比世上满足肉体的粮食远为重要,也更能使我们饱足。

我们多久需要一次灵粮的喂养呢?圣经中的圣言屡屡提及每日的祈祷。“我要晚上、早晨、晌午哀声悲叹[原文作:祷告]。”(诗55:17)日用的饮食——与主每日的交通——应为我们的当务之急。我们为什么不说:“主啊,给我一口吃的?”大多数人不会因为冰箱一天天变空而感到烦恼,所以我们往往不能理解每天祈求日用饮食的意义。尽管那些经历过大萧条的人或许能理解这个概念,但今天生活在物质极为丰富之社会的美国人,却少有人真正每天为寻找一点食物而奋斗。实际上,有些人的储藏室里存放着数月的食物。

但我们许多人内心所储备的灵粮,还不够几分钟的消耗。哪种粮食更重要,肉体的还是属灵的?我们中间有多少人储备了一个月的灵粮?我们需要每天都收集一些。明天不能只靠今天收集的这点食物过活。有人储存了少量的“卡路里”,记住一些经文,很快就会派上用场。然而,倘若你想让自己的基督徒经验充满活力,就必须每天有灵修的生活,必须出去收集属灵的吗哪。

最后一点:圣经并没有说:“我日用的饮食,今日赐给我。”耶稣乃是教我们这样祷告:“我们日用的饮食,今日赐给我们。”那是我们的饮食,不是我的饮食。我们应像关注自己的需要那样去关心别人的需要,甚至要超过对自己的关心。经上教训说:“你们各人的重担要互相担当。”(加6:2)我们应该“互相担当”肉体的需要,供给贫乏之人日用的饮食,用我们的力量去帮助软弱的人。在属灵的事上也当如此行,我们要藉着祈祷“互相担当”,将彼此的恳求呈到天父面前,且须日日如此,坚持不懈。“上帝的选民昼夜呼吁祂,祂纵然为他们忍了多时,岂不终久给他们伸冤吗?”(路18:7)

“免我们的债,如同我们免了人的债。”

你知道吗?关于主祷文,耶稣只做过一次直接的评注。在马太福音,耶稣教门徒祷告之后,祂补充道:“你们饶恕人的过犯,你们的天父也必饶恕你们的过犯;你们不饶恕人的过犯,你们的天父也必不饶恕你们的过犯。”(太6:14, 15)恰好在主祷文的中间,基督用这句话显示出垂直和水平两种关系之间的联系。或许我们应该听一听!

上帝是不是在说:“我和你们做个交易:你们全都彼此饶恕,不再有苦毒,不再有怨恨,不再谈论彼此之间的伤害,这样,我就饶恕你们”呢?这是上帝的意思吗?是福音吗?不,这并不是我们得蒙上帝饶恕的原因。

我们并不是靠自己的行为得救。相反,福音告诉我们要按自己目前的状况就近上帝,祂会赦免我们。然而,上帝说:“既然你们蒙了赦免,愿你们也能彼此饶恕。”尽管你并非靠自己的行为得救,但若继续生活在不敬之中,就会灭亡,因为你已显明自己并没有真正跟从耶稣。

一个怀抱苦毒和不饶恕之精神的心灵,无法培养上帝的怜悯与仁慈。你曾被朋友出卖过吗?有人诽谤过你吗?我们全都受过伤害。我们往往会变得充满戒备并开始以狭隘的眼光去看待那个人,甚至想设法揭露对方的丑闻,以图报复,让“双方扯平”。耶稣“被骂并不还口,”以恶报恶是耶稣的精神吗?

圣经说,当我们认识到基督为赦免我们而付上的巨大代价时,就比较容易彼此饶恕了。“你们各人若不从心里饶恕你的弟兄,我天父也要这样待你们了。”(太18:35)我们需要甘心乐意地彼此饶恕,上帝反复在圣经中指出这一点,“你们站着祷告的时候,若想起有人得罪你们,就当饶恕他,好叫你们在天上的父,也饶恕你们的过犯;你们若不饶恕人,你们在天上的父,也不饶恕你们的过犯。”(可11:25, 26)

你能从理智上饶恕一个人吗?尽管你可能并不想这样做。是的,这就好比你能接受饶恕,却或许感觉自己并没有得到饶恕一样。这是靠信心达成的。你可以选择去饶恕那些伤害过你的人。尽管你还不能忘却曾经发生的事,却可以说:“主啊,靠着袮的恩典,我要饶恕他们。”先主动做出这样的选择,上帝的恩典便会随之而来。

当你接受上帝的赦免时,祂的恩典会随之而来。你必须先相信上帝会帮助你饶恕别人。“怜恤人的人有福了,因为他们必蒙怜恤。”(太5:7)如果我们不肯彼此饶恕,上帝也不能赦免我们。因为我们不肯打开心门去饶恕或接受饶恕。这很严肃,不是吗?要想做到这一点,我们需要恩典,需要奇迹。

“不叫我们遇见试探”

这是最容易被误解的一句恳求。乍看上去,仿佛是在说:我们要恳求上帝不要试探我们。似乎是在说:“哦,主啊,求袮了,我们知道袮不想试探我们。但是如果我不求袮别试探我,袮就会试探我。”这真是一个荒唐的解释。事实上,雅各书1章13节说:“人被试探,不可说:‘我是被上帝试探’;因为上帝不能被恶试探,祂也不试探人。”

我们并不是在求:“主啊,请不要试探我。”那么这句话究竟是在说什么呢?因为人生来就容易走向试探,我们是在求上帝引导我们远离试探。更准确地说,这句恳求应该是:“主啊,求你领我们远离自己屈从试探的本性。”

我们需要这样祷告吗?当然了!我们太容易与试探周旋了。有一位牧师曾说:“当主说迅速远离试探时,我们往往慢腾腾地向前爬行,似乎是希望能被试探追上抓住。仿佛是心中的引力牵引着我们朝罪恶驶去一般。”因此,我们必须恳求上帝帮助抵挡这股力量。

魔鬼喜欢看到我们慢腾腾地爬行,这样他就可以用小小的妥协抓住我们。间谍奥德李奇•埃姆斯被判刑之后说,一天,他还没有起床就心想:“我要做一名间谍,把自己掌握的情报卖给俄罗斯人。”结果某天,他遇见一个俄罗斯人,这人问他:“能给我一个电话簿吗?我会付给你一大笔钱。”开始只是一本电话目录而已,但一点一点地,埃姆斯给他们的东西越来越多,直到有一天把核机密卖给了他们。这就是魔鬼运用试探的特点,一点一点地妥协。大卫王与拔士巴犯了奸淫的罪,杀了乌利亚,还欺骗百姓。但这一切都源于一个小小的驻足和色欲的一瞥。我们应该祈求:“主啊,引领我远离试探,哪怕只是一些看似微不足道的小事,因为千里之堤,溃于蚁穴。”

“救我们脱离凶恶”

我非常喜欢第七句恳求:“救我们脱离凶恶。”我们生活在一个充满阴暗与邪恶的世界。唯一能够给予基督徒长久希望的,就是上帝应许事情必不永远如此。我们期待最终的拯救,当求“救我们”的时候,其实是在谈论基督骑着白马降临,作为万王之王、万主之主来建立祂的国,并除尽世上一切罪恶的痕迹。

“救我们”乃是带我们远离邪恶,与其永远分离。这句话也可以这样讲:“救我们脱离那恶者。”我们不仅要求上帝救我们脱离试探,也要求祂救我们的弟兄,因为魔鬼奸诈狡猾且有能力,我们靠自己的力量远不是他的对手。这便是我们极需上帝引领的原因。

基督论到祂的第二次降临说:“常常祈求。”(路21:36)我并不确定这个“常常”是多高的频率,但要检查自己的祷告生活是否符合标准。这节经文说:“常常祈求,使你们能逃避这一切要来的事,得以站立在人子面前。”你常常祷告吗?耶稣还说:“你们应当祈求,叫你们逃走的时候,不遇见冬天或是安息日。”(太24:20)你为此祷告了吗?每一天,每一时,我们都应该祈求能脱离凶恶,好逃脱将要临到世界的事。祈求主使我们最终能得救,得以脱离心中以及身边的罪恶。要先求主救你脱离内心的罪恶,否则决不能蒙救脱离这个邪恶的世界。

“因为国度、权柄、荣耀全是袮的,直到永远。”

只有马太福音中记载了这个动人的高潮,这句话备受人的关注。我们正处于善恶的大斗争之中。魔鬼自称是世界合法的王,且他也有能力。然而基督在升天之前奠定了自己崇高的地位,“天上地下所有的权柄都赐给我了。”(太28:18)这句祷辞强调了我们决不应忘记谁在掌管这个宇宙。它并不是指:“国度将是袮的,”而是说:“国度是袮的。”的确,主祷文中所有的恳求都能实现,因为基督有权柄。如今是祂掌管着万有。

魔鬼度着一种骄傲的、荣耀自己的生活。而基督徒的动机是要将荣耀归于上帝,使祂得尊荣。撒但之所以渴望成为神,是因为他想获得本不属于自己的荣耀。主祷文的末句向我们清晰地阐明了这一切,当向上帝陈明,我们晓得祂的品格和良善很快就要得到维护与辩白。

“阿们”

耶稣说:“祷告要这样说。”这不是祂的祷告,而是我们的,也是那些想要跟从祂之人的祷告。这也是为什么祷告必须要出自一颗真诚悔改之心。“阿们”应成为你精神与态度的一个定义。一位作家这样说:

“如果我只是为自己活着,就不能说‘我们’;

如果我不是每天努力让自己的行为像祂的孩子,就不能称呼祂为‘天父’;

如果我没有积存财宝在天上,就不能说‘在天上的’;

如果不努力追求圣洁,就不能说‘愿人都尊袮的名为圣’;

如果我不催促这有福的盼望——基督再临,就不能说‘愿袮的国降临’;

如果我不顺从,我就不能说‘愿袮的旨意成全’;如果没有在此时此刻事奉祂,我就不能说‘行在地上,如同行在天上’;

如果我自私地为自己积攒财宝,就不能说‘我们日用的饮食,今日赐给我们’;

如果我心中怀存对别人的敌意,就不能说‘免我们的债’;

如果我故意招惹试探,就不能说‘不叫我们遇见试探’;

如果我不渴望圣洁,就不能说‘救我们脱离凶恶’;

如果我不让耶稣在我心中作王,就不能说‘国度…是袮的’;

如果我害怕人的作为,就不能将‘权柄’归给袮;

如果我寻求自己的荣耀,就不能将‘荣耀’归给袮;

如果我只为地上这暂时的报赏而生活,就不能说‘直到永远’。”

当我们照着主祷文祈求之时,必须怀着完全顺服的精神。倘若我们要预备好自己迎接耶稣的再临,就需要学习照着耶稣所教导的样式祈祷。祷告的实质就是全心全意爱上帝,倘若我们还未认识祂,就不能真正地爱祂。如果不与祂交流,不将自己的忧伤与欢乐,甚至心底最深处的秘密告诉祂,我们怎能爱祂呢?

我恳劝你花更多的时间跪下祷告,如果无法跪下,也要祷告。要知道认真对待个人或集体的祷告以及灵修生活,珍惜与基督在一起的时光尤为重要。如此你的生命便会发生改变,从而荣耀上帝。要利用上帝的话语这“日用的饮食,”也当向上帝倾诉你的愿望,求主将你的自私变为无私。愿我们将彼此代祷视为当务之急!愿我们联合起来,扬声呼求,上达于天,好使我们在基督里联结为更加亲密的弟兄姐妹。

就像那个英国士兵的祷告使他获得自由一样,我们很快要接受天上元帅的检阅。我们需要花时间练习祷告,为最后的大事做准备。当说:“主啊,教我们祷告。”祂已教导我们如何祈祷,愿我们务必以此为范本。我希望你每次看到这篇主祷文都能悟出新的道理。

英文字体:【

英文:

Teach Us to Pray, Part 1

By Pastor Doug Batchelor


An Amazing Fact: During the battle of Valley Forge, revolutionary troops were entrenched on the battlefield, freezing and starving. One day, a farmer who lived nearby brought much-needed provisions to the troops, and on his way back through the woods, he heard someone speaking. He tracked the voice until he came to a clearing, where he saw a man on his knees, praying in the snow. The farmer rushed home and excitedly told his wife, "The Americans will secure their independence!" His wife asked, "What makes you say that?" The farmer replied, "I heard George Washington pray out in the woods today, and the Lord will surely hear his prayer. He will! Thee may rest assured, He will." The rest, of course, is history.

This country was built on prayer--a strong foundation if there ever was one. Revisionists would have you believe that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were all pantheists, deists, or agnostics who didn t have a lot of time for God.If that s true, then agnostics back then surely prayed a lot more than Christians do today. For instance, both morning and evening, our first President knelt before an open Bible to pray for God s leading. Perhaps one reason this nation is faltering morally is because God s people don t spend much time praying for her.

What I find especially fascinating, however, is that Jesus also needed prayer. Naturally, we assume that His faith was inherently strong, but the Bible tells us Jesus would arise early in the morning and go off by Himself to pray. Sometimes He would pray all night, as He did before choosing His apostles.

After reading that story, I realized that I don t pray enough and I don t pray very well. Yet prayer is so important. Indeed, every revival comes on the heels of prayer. For instance, God poured out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost after His new church was on its knees together for 10 days. And later, "When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 4:31 NKJV). We need to pray more as a church and in our own lives.

The Principal Business
Charles Spurgeon said, "All the Christian virtues are locked up in the word â˜prayer. " One of the main tasks of the Christian is prayer, to have direct communion with God. William Kerry was a missionary to Burma, India, and the West Indies, but he was also a shoe cobbler. People sometimes criticized him for "neglecting" his trade because he spent so much time in prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. Kerry answered, "Cobbling shoes is a sideline; it helps me pay expenses. Prayer is my real business." And God used him mightily to convert many. Martin Luther added, "As it is the business of tailors to make clothes, so it is the business of Christians to pray."

But how do we pray? I am asked this question a lot, but the truth is, even I have to ask, "Lord, teach me to pray." The disciples asked Christ this question when they saw Him coming from a session of prayer. His face was beaming with the light of heaven and energized by the Holy Spirit. No wonder they pleaded, "Lord, teach us to pray." Still, these men had been going to church, the temple, all of their lives. They had recited hundreds of prayers and had heard the priests pray out loud. Yet when they saw Christ, they knew they were missing something. Somehow they, like most of us, failed in their principal business.

Sadly, not very many know what it means to pray, and thus it is probably the most neglected opportunity and privilege we have. Yet every Christian needs the gift of prayer because it s the breath of the soul. Jesus said, "You do not have because you do not ask" (James 4:2 NKJV). He wasn t saying we never pray, but that we ask poorly. So how do we ask?

I think the best way to find out is to first look at the pattern our Lord gave us, which is commonly called the "Lord s Prayer." Of course, that s really a misnomer, because it wasn t actually Jesus prayer. Jesus said, "After this manner therefore pray ye" (Matthew 6:9). It s a pattern for us to pray, so technically it s really a disciple s prayer. Let s briefly look at this blueprint for prayer to learn how God wants us to come to Him.

The Makeup of Prayer
The Lord s Prayer is comprised of seven petitions, which are divided up very much like the Ten Commandments. The first three petitions are God-ward, vertical, and the last four petitions deal with the horizontal relationships we have with others. Likewise, the first great commandment is to love the Lord, and the second great commandment is to love your neighbor. God should come first in our prayers; His counsel and will should be the great priority in our lives. But we must also not neglect our relationships on earth, which is why Jesus model includes those around us.

In this study, we ll concentrate on those first three petitions, and in the next issue, we ll look at our prayers concerning our friends, family, and neighbors, and then find some biblical and practical answers to common questions about prayer.

First, let s consider that these first three petitions to God have a unique relationship to the Godhead. The first petition deals with the Father, "Our Father, thy name." The second petition deals with the "kingdom;" that s the Son. Jesus spoke many parables about the Son going to receive a kingdom, and coming back as the King of kings. Without Him, we couldn t even come to the Father. And concerning "your will," who is it that leads us into God s will? The Spirit, the one who impresses on us the will of God and the love for Christ. It is the Spirit who gives us the power to follow God s commandments. And so you have the Father, the Son, and the Spirit represented in the first three petitions of the Lord s Prayer.

"Our Father"
God as a father is a theme that runs through the entire Bible. He is the creator of all life, and the protector of His children. In the Old Testament, His list of names include "Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father" (Isaiah 9:6). He is powerful and omnipotent, yet He is also the all-sufficient provider. Taken together, He surely is the God of the universe ruling from heaven, but we can still approach Him personally as our Father.

Even better, "Our Father" tells us that we are received as children of God. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1). God is willing to adopt us into His family. What a beautiful truth! "Our Father" says we can share in the inheritance He gave through Christ, that we are a part of the heavenly family. The Bible says, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father ... give good things to them that ask Him?" (Matthew 7:11). We can go to our Father knowing that He has the very best gifts in store for us.

The very phrase "Our Father" is clothed with love. He s someone who we can safely approach with love, even when He disciplines us. Proverbs 3:12 records, "For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights" (NKJV). Psalm 103:13 adds, "Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him" (NASV). This also means that we are a family of brothers of sisters, praying to our Father. He s not just my Father; He s your Father too.

This brings to mind another reason why this prayer is such a great pattern for us. Notice the word "I" doesn t appear in the entire prayer! We all typically pray frequently using "I" or "me," but in this prayer, it s a collective. In our culture, we get the equation upside down; it s you, then your friends, and then God. In the Bible, the priority is reversed. Love the Lord, then your neighbor, and then you. (If you need an easy way to remember, just think of J-O-Y. That s Jesus, Others, and You!)

"Which Art in Heaven"
Our pattern of prayer also tells us how near and how far our Lord really is from us. "Our Father" is a very intimate, up-close idea, but "in heaven" gives us a sense of His distance from us. We are separated from God, and we re acknowledging that by saying, "There s a problem: We re here; You are there." What s caused this separation? Isaiah says, "Your iniquities [sins] have separated you from your God" (59:2).

In the garden, God asked Adam, "Where are you?" In our prayer, we re confessing to God that we are far away from Him in the same way that Adam ran from God. We ve been separated from paradise. But we have hope. Did you know that the first three chapters in the Bible tell how sin came in through the serpent and that we ve been separated from heaven and paradise; however, the last three chapters of the Bible tell how the serpent is destroyed, paradise is restored, and we re once again together with God?

Another reason the Bible says "which art in heaven" is because we need to make a distinction between our earthly fathers and our heavenly Father. Our earthly fathers are frail, carnal, and sinners by nature of being human, but the God in heaven is perfect. All of us have a natural, subconscious tendency to superimpose on God our relationship with our earthly father. For instance, those who have earthly fathers that are overly indulgent end up thinking that God the heavenly Father is also permissive. Those who have earthly fathers that are stern generally have a picture of the heavenly Father as an exacting judge.

That ought to make us think. We need to spend a lot of time in prayer asking God to overrule the mistakes we have made with our children. Yet when the Bible says, "Our Father which art in heaven," it s telling us we need to look past our flawed earthly relationships and know that He is our perfect model and that we can approach Him directly. You don t have to see God through the broken glasses of your family experience.

"Hallowed Be Thy Name"
So we have approached God because He s our Father in heaven. And our first petition to our God is "hallowed be Thy name." Now the name of God is a central issue in the great controversy between good and evil. The whole purpose of the plan of salvation is to defend the glory of God. The devil has slandered God s name. Do you know someone who has said, "If God is love, then why do innocent children die?" Insurance companies call earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters "acts of God." What kind of reputation does that give God? The devil is a master at smearing the character of our Father. He has God, the good, wonderful, loving, longsuffering, merciful One, portrayed as a cruel, indifferent tyrant arbitrarily punishing His creatures. God s name has been defiled by the devil.

Thus the purpose of the Christian, by God s grace, is to defend the name of God as much as we can, to reveal who He really is. Unfortunately, we need to pray "hallowed be thy name" because we re not very good at it. Even in the Bible, we see God s own people do more to dishonor His name than the full-fledged pagans. And times really haven t changed much since antiquity. Remember, we said the Lord s Prayer somewhat mirrors the Ten Commandments. The third one commands, "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain" (Exodus 20:7). Using God s name in profanity is only one small part of breaking this commandment. But taking God s name is like a wife taking her husband s last name. When you re a baptized Christian, you take the name of Christ, but if you live like the devil after you ve taken Christ s name, you re taking His name in vain. Who does more harm to the Christian cause, the pagans or professed Christians who live like the world?

Christians should be advertising for the goodness of God, but in many cases Christians do more harm. Instead, all around the world, we see professed Christians are attacking and killing others, such as in Ireland, Africa, and Croatia. What does that do to God s name? Jesus says, "Love your enemies ... overcome evil with good" (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:21). Christ is slandered because of the bad behavior of those who take His name in vain. So "hallowed be thy name" is asking God to help us, in word and deed, honor His precious name.

"Thy Kingdom Come"
We are in the middle of a battle between two kingdoms. An enemy kidnapped the world when Adam and Eve surrendered the dominion that God had given them over the earth. Ever since, the priority of God s children has been to "seek ye first the kingdom of God" (Matthew 6:33). Of course, we must make two distinctions when we speak of God s kingdom - the spiritual and the physical. We know that the spiritual kingdom of God is very much alive in the world today, because Luke 17:21 says, "The kingdom of God is within you." When Jesus began preaching after His baptism, He said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15). This aspect of the kingdom is available now. If you have accepted Christ into your heart, then He reigns from His throne in your heart. Paul says, "Let not sin ... reign in your mortal body," but rather let Jesus be your King and rule over all that you do (Romans 6:12). That s the first kingdom we should seek for: God s spiritual kingdom within our hearts.

But someday the meek will inherit the earth and God s literal kingdom is going to rule over this world with a very real and physical kingdom. Do you think we would need to pray, "Thy kingdom come," if God s kingdom were already established? When Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, as recorded in Acts 1, the disciples asked, "Will You at this time restore the kingdom?" Jesus answered, "It is not for you to know times or seasons" (Acts 1:6, 7 NKJV).

The central message in the book of Daniel is that all the kingdoms and idols of the world, whether they are made of gold, silver, bronze, or clay will all disintegrate before the Rock of Ages, the kingdom of God. "The God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel 2:44 NKJV).

For the time being, we are ambassadors of another empire, advertising for a kingdom that will someday fill the earth. Christ said, "I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me" (Luke 22:29 NKJV). When the thief on the cross turned to Christ and said, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom," he accepted Christ as his King (Luke 23:42 NKJV). That s why he ll be in the kingdom, because he had the spiritual kingdom that begins in your heart.

The phrase "the kingdom of God" is found 70 times in the New Testament. Why? Because there are two kings at war, Jesus and the devil, who says he s the prince of this world. That s why we still need to pray that His kingdom will come: first within us, then someday around us.

"Thy Will Be Done in Earth as It Is in Heaven."
Contrary to popular belief, God s will in this world is not always being done. I respectfully disagree with the notion that everything that happens is in accordance with the Creator s will. When something bad happens, like a tornado, you inevitably hear someone say, "Well, it must have been the will of God." I don t believe that s what the Bible teaches, and if that s really true, why would God have us pray that His will be done?

Conversely, not everything that appears to be good is from God s storehouse either. Sometimes the devil may even cast prosperity in someone s path to stall or derail their longing for God. You and I have no idea what s going on behind the spiritual veil, which is why we have to pray, "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven."

You and I naturally have our wills twisted and confused by our carnal desires. We need to pray that God s grace and His Spirit will guide our wills into conformity with His. We also need to learn what His will is for us, and we find the best expression of that in the Word. For beginners, the simplest form of God s will is called the Ten Commandments. "I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart" (Psalm 40:8 NKJV). So when we pray "Thy will be done," we re really praying that His will be done in us through submission and obedience.

Of course, Jesus is the perfect example of doing God s will here on the earth. In John 6:38, He proclaims, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (NKJV). In the garden of Gethsemane, facing separation from the Father, Christ petitioned God three times with, "Not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). Is it always easy to do God s will? No. If it was a tremendous struggle for Jesus, we will also need to pray, "Thy will be done."

A Greater Will
When God created most things, He merely spoke them into existence. But when He made Adam, He took dust from the ground, formed it with His hands, and breathed life into it. He made humanity from the earth. So when we pray, "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven," we re also admitting we re really just clay. "In earth" also means in us. We re humbling ourselves before God, recognizing that in our rebellion, our wills are perverted. When we pray "Thy will be done," we re giving Him permission to use us according to His purpose.

The Lord will never force His will on you because of the precious gift of freedom. He s not going to force you to pray, "Thy will be done." You have to choose to do it, to surrender your will, to be His servant, and give Him permission to activate His power and plan in your life. When you understand that secret, you ll unlock the storehouses of heaven s power.

But be advised, it works the other way too. Many of us are harassed by the devil because we give the devil our will. You may choose who your master is. And when we through constant surrender comply with the temptations that the devil puts in our path, we start giving him increased power to activate his desires in our lives. And ironically, when we exercise our freedom to submit to the devil, we, inch by inch, lose our freedom! The devil possesses our natures, and we become his slave.

Yet it is possible to be filled by God s Spirit. Would you like that experience? Most of us are struggling somewhere between the willing spirit and weak flesh, but when you understand that by you choosing and saying, "Lord, I want you to be my God. I want you to take control. I surrender my will. I m giving myself to you. I am powerless on my own," you are then giving Him the power to release His will in your life. He s waiting, but He can t force it on you. So remember that when you pray, don t forget to say, "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven."

Teach Us to Pray, Part 2

By Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: In World War II, a British soldier was spotted creeping back in from the front lines. He was captured by his army and accused of conspiring with the enemy as he had not been given permission to leave. He confessed, "I have been out in the woods praying." His fellow soldiers mocked him and immediately ordered him to offer up some evidence. He told them he was by himself and that he just needed to pray. His captors threatened to charge him as a traitor, saying, "You re going to be executed unless you pray right now and convince us that you were really praying." The private then fell on his knees and began to offer an eloquent, heartfelt prayer as one who was about to meet his Maker. But by the end of the prayer, the commander in charge said he was free to go. "I believe your story," he said. "If you had not spent so much time at drill, you would not have performed so well during review." He then added, "I can tell, from the way you prayed, you are on regular speaking terms with God."

The times of our prayers should be frequent and regular, but even more important, the content should be outward. I frequently catch myself beginning with "gimme" prayers: "Dear Lord, give me this and give me that," and near the end, I add, "God, I praise your name." According to the pattern Christ gave us, that s backward. I underscored this point in part one, but it s worth repeating. God has convicted me that my prayers are too selfish, and I need to keep Him and others first in mind when I pray.

Although we re about to focus on prayer for ourselves, I feel that before we delve into these absolutely necessary facets of prayer, we need to make sure we have the right order of prayer in mind. Obviously, we should pray for our needs, but as Jesus indicated, when we pray, we want to acknowledge God s holy name, His purposes, and His kingdom before all other things. And all of our needs must be viewed in the context of His will. With that careful reminder, we can continue our study and discover what happens when we ask the Lord, "Teach us to pray!"

"Give Us This Day ..." 
Bread represents many things in the Bible. First, "daily bread" means the provisions necessary for sustaining life from day to day. Of course, this is a pattern of prayer, so it doesn t mean that you can t also pray for water, clothing, and other needs. When we pray for our daily bread, we re really asking God to supply the basic necessities of our everyday lives. (Should a person with their cupboards full still pray, "Give us this day our daily bread"? Yes, absolutely. Never take anything God has given you for granted. Remember, Job s full barns were all lost in one day.)

God is telling us that we should feel confident to come before our Lord, asking Him to fulfill our needs. Of course, He is already well aware of these needs, but He wants us to know that it is He who provides all good things for His children. For instance, when the Jews went through the wilderness, they prayed for food, and God rained manna from heaven, showing His continual, loving provision. Don t be afraid or ashamed to ask--He wants you to!

Remember, though, that when we pray, "Give us ... our daily bread," it doesn t mean that God expects us not to go out and earn it. Some people think they can pray the Lord s Prayer and then sit back and do nothing, expecting Him to answer. When the Lord rained down manna, the Jews went out to collect it. They didn t lie back with their mouths open, waiting for it to fall directly into their mouths. Notice too that the manna fell outside the camp; it didn t rain on their tents.

Part of getting the bread is going out and harvesting it where we work. After that, the Jews had to knead the manna and bake it; only after working could they consume their daily bread. We must likewise invest ourselves in the process and not become lazy with the Lord s blessings. Don t forget that giving us our bread day by day also includes this understood caveat: "Six days shalt thou labor."

"... Our Daily Bread" 
Is food all that is entailed in "daily bread"? As with most lessons in the Bible, "our daily bread" has a very important spiritual application. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus teaches, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" using the word "bread" to describe all the temporal needs of humanity.

Most important, He would later say, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35). Christ was not speaking only of our physical needs, but instructing us to invite God into our hearts every day. The bread represents Jesus, our spiritual food, which is far greater and more fulfilling than any physical bread on earth.

How often do we need to be spiritually fed? All through its sacred pages, the Bible speaks of praying daily. "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray" (Psalm 55:17). Daily bread, daily communion with the Lord, should be our top priority. Why do we not say, "Lord, give me a month s supply"? Most of us don t fret from day to day that the refrigerator is going to be empty, so we don t often appreciate the implications of praying for daily bread. Although those who lived through the Depression may understand such a concept, few Americans today, living in a society of such massive abundance, have ever really struggled from day to day searching for something to eat. In fact, some of us have months of food in the pantry.

But many of us don t have even a few minutes of spiritual food stored up in our hearts and minds. Which bread is more important, the physical or the spiritual? How many of us have a month s supply of spiritual bread? We need to collect some every day. You cannot live tomorrow solely on what you ve collected today. Some have a few calories stored up, having memorized Scripture, and it s going to come in handy, but if you want your Christian experience to be vital and full of life, you must have daily devotions. You ve got to go out and gather that spiritual manna.

One final thought: The Bible doesn t say, "Give me this day my daily bread. Rather, Jesus teaches us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." It s our bread. It s not my bread. We ought to be as concerned about the needs of others as much as, or more than, our own needs. Scripture teaches, "Bear ye one another s burdens" (Galatians 6:2). We should be doing that physically, assisting the weak by offering our resources and our strength to help them. We should also do it spiritually, by lifting each other up in prayer, offering one another s petitions on our knees. And we must do this daily, persistently. "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?" (Luke 18:7).

"And Forgive Us Our Debts, as We Forgive Our Debtors."
Did you know Jesus makes only one direct commentary on the Lord s Prayer? In Matthew, when He finishes teaching the prayer, He adds, "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (6:14, 15). Right in the middle of the Lord s Prayer, Christ reveals a connection between the vertical and the horizontal relationship. Perhaps we should listen!

Is God saying, "I ll make you a deal: You all forgive each other--no bitterness, no grudges, no more talking about the bad things you did to each other--and I ll forgive you"? Is that what God means? Is that the gospel? No, that s not what leads to our forgiveness. We re not saved by the basis of our works. Instead, the gospel says that we are to come just as we are to God, and He will forgive us. However, God says, "Now that you re forgiven, I expect you to forgive each other." However, although you re not saved by your works, if you continue to live in defiance, you will be lost because it s evidence that you re not serious about following Jesus. The mercy and grace of God cannot be cultivated in a heart that s embracing a bitter and unforgiving spirit. Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? Has someone ever talked badly about you? We ve all been hurt. And often, we become defensive and start viewing that person narrowly, and we may even wonder if we can dig up a little dirt to even the score. Is that the spirit of Jesus, "who when he was reviled he reviled not again"?

The Bible says that when we realize the high price Christ has paid for our forgiveness, it makes it easier for us to forgive one another. "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (Matthew 18:35). We need to be willing to forgive one another, and God points this out to us repeatedly in Scripture. "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses" (Mark 11:25, 26 NKJV).

Can you mentally forgive a person even though you may not feel like it? Yes, just like you can accept forgiveness even though you might not feel forgiven. It s done by faith. You can choose to forgive others who have harmed you. Even though you may not be able to forget what happened, you can say, "Lord, by your grace I am going to forgive them." You make that conscious choice, then God s grace follows.

When you accept the forgiveness of God, His grace naturally follows. You must first have faith that God is going to help you forgive. "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7). If we can t forgive each other, God can t forgive us, because our hearts are not open either to give or receive forgiveness. That s serious, isn t it? It s going to require an act of grace, a miracle, for us to be able to do that.

"And Lead Us Not Into Temptation" 
This particular petition is the one that is most misunderstood. At a glance, it almost seems as though we re begging God not to tempt us. "Please, Lord, we know you don t want to tempt us. Yet if I don t ask you not to tempt me, you re going to tempt me." That s a really poor translation. In fact, James 1:13 says, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man."

We re not pleading, "Lord, please don t tempt me." So what is this really saying? Well, because we are naturally prone to walk toward temptation, we re asking God to lead us away from it. Translated more precisely, the prayer would go more like this: "Lead us away from our natural bent to temptation."

Do we need to pray that prayer? You bet! We are prone to playing too close to the edge. One minister said that when the Lord says to flee temptation, we often crawl away hoping it catches up with us. It s like gravity inside our hearts, pulling us toward sin. So we have to plead with God to help us resist that force.

The devil likes it when we crawl, because it s easier to catch us with those little compromises. The convicted spy Aldrich Ames said that he didn t wake up one day and say, "I think I m going to be a spy. I think I m going to turn everything over to the Russians for money." One day, very innocuously, he met a Russian who asked, "Could you give me a phone directory? I ll give you a lot of money." It was just a phone directory, but then little by little, he gave them more and more until one day he sold them nuclear secrets. This is how the devil works with temptation--little compromises. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered Uriah, and lied to his people. And it began with a small, lingering, lustful look. We should pray, "Lord, lead me away from even the little things, because that s how the big things start."

"But Deliver Us From Evil"
I really like the seventh petition, which says, "but deliver us from evil." We live in a world drowning in the murky blackness of sin. The only thing that really gives Christians long-term hope is that God promises things aren t always going to be this way. We re looking for ultimate deliverance, and when we utter "deliver us," we re talking about Christ coming on the white steed--the King of kings and the Lord of lords establishing His kingdom and wiping out every last vestige of evil reigning in the world today.

"Deliver us" takes us away from evil and separates us from it eternally. Another way to phrase it is, "deliver us from the evil one." And we ought to be praying not only that God keeps us from temptation, but that He also delivers our brothers, because the devil is powerful and cunning, far greater than we are by ourselves. That s why we so desperately need God to lead us.

In speaking of the second coming, Christ said, "Pray always" (Luke 21:36). I m not sure how often that really means, but look at your own prayer life and see if it measures up. The full text reads, "Pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." Are you praying always? Jesus also said that we ought to pray that our flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day (Matthew 24:20). Have you prayed that prayer? Every day, every hour, we should be praying to be delivered from evil so that we can escape what is about to happen in this world. Pray that we will be ultimately delivered and saved from evil within and around us. You can t be saved from an evil world until you re first saved from an evil heart.

"For Thine Is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, for Ever." 
This powerful culmination is found only in Matthew, and what it speaks about is riveting. We are in the midst of a great controversy. The devil says he is the rightful king and that he has the power. Yet Christ, before He ascended to heaven, established His pre-eminence: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18). This prayer reinforces that we should never forget who is in charge of this universe. The prayer doesn t say, "Thine will be the kingdom," rather "Thine is the kingdom." Indeed, all the petitions in the Lord s Prayer are possible only because Christ is the power. He has control over all things now.

The devil lives for pride, to bring glory to himself. The Christian s motive is to bring honor to God, to give Him the glory. That s why Satan hungers to be a god, because he wants the glory he doesn t deserve. The end of this prayer sets the record straight in our own minds and hearts, confessing before God that we know His character and goodness will be soon vindicated.

"Amen"
Jesus said, "In this manner pray." It s not so much His prayer, but our prayer. It s the prayer of those who want to follow Him. That s also why this prayer must be something that flows from a truly converted heart. It ought to be a definition of your spirit and attitude. One author put it this way:

"I cannot say our if I live only for myself. I cannot say Father if I do not endeavor each day to act like his child. I cannot say who art in heaven if I m laying up no treasures there. I cannot say hallowed be thy name if I am not striving for holiness. I cannot say thy kingdom come if I m not seeking to hasten the blessed hope. I cannot say thy will be done if I am disobedient. ... I cannot say in earth as it is in heaven if I ll not serve him here and now. I cannot say give us this day our daily bread if I am selfishly hoarding for the future. I cannot say forgive us our debts if I harbor a grudge against anyone. I cannot say lead us not into temptation if I deliberately place myself in its path. I cannot say deliver us from evil if I do not long for holiness. I cannot say thine is the kingdom if I do not give Jesus the throne of my heart. I cannot attribute to him the power if I fear what men may do. I cannot ascribe to him the glory if I m seeking for my own honor. I cannot say forever if I m living only for temporary earthly rewards."

When we pray the Lord s Prayer, it must be in a spirit of complete surrender. And if we re going to be ready when Jesus comes, we need to learn to pray the way Jesus taught. The essence of prayer is bound up in loving God with all our hearts, for we cannot really love Him if we aren t getting to know Him. If we re not communicating our sorrows and our joys, even our most intimate secrets, how can we love Him?

I urge you to invest more time on your knees, but if you can t be on your knees, I urge you to just pray. Recognize that it is essential to spend quality time with Christ in your personal and corporate prayers and devotions, so you can implement those changes in your life to glorify God. Take advantage of the "daily bread" of God s Word, and communicate to God your desire to be transformed from selfish to selfless. Let s pray for one another more than anything else. Let s stand together and lift our voices to heaven so that we are more united in the brotherhood and sisterhood of Jesus.

Like the British soldier whose prayer set him free, we re soon going to be reviewed by our Commander in heaven. We need to spend time in drill practice, preparing for the main event. We need to say, "Lord, teach us to pray." He s given us the pattern in His Word, so let s be sure to abide in it. My hope is that you will never see this prayer the same way again.