By Brad Andres
Give us and forgive us are two phrases which rely completely upon the grace and mercy of our Father in Heaven. There is nothing we can do to merit a give us request, nor is there anything which we can do to gain forgiveness from God.
It seems Jesus meant more than mere bread when he taught the disciples this phrase. He also seems to list a type of requirement for gaining forgiveness which can really twist our thinking on salvation.
Prayer for daily bread was not new to the disciples, nor to any other Jewish man in the first century. Proverbs taught the Hebrews to pray for daily sustenance and to only ask God for what one needs that day.
Couched within this prayer in the book of Proverbs is the idea of daily dependence upon God for all of ones needs in life. Receiving only what we need for our day keeps us dependent upon God. It establishes a barrier of sorts against dishonoring God as a result of having too much stuff or not enough supply to live. It is important understand that this daily bread is not merely enough to survive, to keep us from starving, but our daily bread is to give our bodies and souls nourishment to support growth.
Jesus, however, had a unique understanding of daily bread. Before Jesus started His public ministry, He was tempted by the devil. In particular, Jesus was fasting for forty days, and the devil tempted Him to turn stone into bread. Jesus responded by quoting from the book of Deuteronomy saying, “man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4 NIV, Deut. 4:3 NIV).
Jesus makes it clear that God gives us life. Bread gives our bodies physical strength, but ultimately, God is the giver of that bread, and therefore, of life. In addition, God gives us the spiritual vitality to live in peace with Him for eternity. Only God can provide this grace, which He does so through forgiving us of our sins.
In the Lord’s Prayer, the word debt is used to explain and resemble sin. Our transgressions against God’s law put us into a type of creditor / debtor relationship. In first century Israel, there was a practice which was intended to remind the Jews of the ultimate release from sin provided by God. Every seven and fifty years, all debts were forgiven and wiped away.
This practice foreshadowed the idea of God setting us free from sin through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. God put up payment for our sins against His law through the sacrifice of Jesus. The problem with this idea was that the release of debts is bad for business. Thus, some ancient Jews found ways to get around the releasing of debts.
Forgiveness is linked directly with our forgiving others who have become indebted to us. Undoubtedly, this referenced the practices of release every seven and fifty years. Furthermore, it also refers to the condition of our hearts. One cannot have the love of God dwelling inside of them who desires to see their neighbor suffer. God is granting freedom from eternal oppression, therefore we are to grant freedom to our fellow people from temporal oppression here on earth.
Jesus lets us know through this phrase, that our prayer, our faith, involves action. Faith in God mixed with living life results in a change of heart.
This section of our prayer with God that Jesus sets forward deals with our actions and attitudes. We are to remember that God gives all life. We are to keep in mind that a change in heart walks hand in hand with forgiveness.
God - Help us to love. Help us to forgive. Give us what we need and forgive us for our sins. Keep us on the upright path.
This post is part of a traveling series on The Lord’s Prayer. You can find the other posts below:
4) You are here.
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