Lead Us Not into Temptation

BIBLE READING: Matthew 6:5-15

  As we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we finish by asking that God not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t expect God to lead me into temptation. It seems like I’m more likely to experience temptation when I’m not allowing God to lead me. But remembering that Jesus himself was tempted helps me to remember that God understands what I face and will give me wisdom and strength to withstand it.

Notice that this request comes immediately after asking God to forgive us as we forgive others. Forgiveness is a great gift, but Jesus didn’t come to just bring us forgiveness; when we live fully into our salvation, we also experience transformation. It’s wonderful to know that because of God’s forgiveness, on the day of judgment we will not be condemned and barred from heaven, but our prayer is that we will receive deliverance from the evil and sinfulness within us that threatens our life and our relationships. We need God to lead us out of our pride and our greed into a deeper life of faith. God’s forgiveness is just the starting place.

For God to lead us, we must be willing to follow. And following the Lord’s lead requires faith, just as do all the elements of this prayer. We must believe that God is not leading us into disaster, and that God truly will deliver us from evil—within us in our old nature (Romans 7:14–8:1), and from the evil one who seeks to destroy us.

SONG: Lord, I Need You (Matt Maher)


Published in “Fruit of the Vine

Forgive Us As We Forgive

BIBLE READING: Matthew 6:5-15

  Orthodox Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic tells a story about a monk who neglected his prayers, was lazy, and not at all good at following rules.*

If the monastery had a rule with a story behind it—you can be sure which monk was part of that story, but there was an area where this monk exceeded all others: he neither held grudges nor did he condemn anybody. When this bad monk was on his deathbed, he was attended by one of the brothers, who noticed a big smile on his face. The brother asked: “Why are you smiling?” The bad monk replied: “An accusing angel came with a book that listed every rule I broke. Jesus said to the angel: ‘He never judged anybody, he never held a grudge,’ and the accusing angel responded by ripping up the accusations.”

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we essentially pray that we get to set the standards of our own judgment. Matthew 6:15 tells me that if I do not forgive, God will not forgive me. Jesus wants us to recognize that in this prayer, we expect God to judge us just as we judge others.

When I pray this way, I am forced to ask myself a question: Does the idea that God will be as harsh or as forgiving with me as I am with others bring a smile to my face? When I pray the Lord’s Prayer, it is important to remember to do what the monk who died smiling did; hold no grudges, but instead forgive as I hope to also be forgiven.

SONG: Wonderful Grace of Jesus


*This story can be found in the March 30th reading of the Prologue from Ohrid.

Published in “Fruit of the Vine

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread

BIBLE READING: Matthew 6:5-15

  When the people of Israel left Egypt and wandered in the desert, Moses prayed, and God gave them manna to eat (Exodus 16). The people were ordered to collect only enough for the day, unless it was the Sabbath; and those who collected more than they needed and tried to hoard it found that it went bad and bred worms.

We are praying for the same thing that Moses prayed for—that God will give us enough for our daily needs; this prayer does not allow for selfish hoarding. Like the rest of the Lord’s Prayer, this prayer is a request that God will meet the needs of the community.

If I want someone else to go without so that my stomach can be full, then I lack faith. Our culture teaches us that there is not enough to go around and that we must compete for resources or starve. But this cultural bias does not match reality. Current food production is enough to feed ten billion people—God has given us enough food for everybody, just as we asked.

Much food produced in the United States is wasted. Just like the ancient Israelites in the desert, we hoard because we lack faith that God will provide, and what we hoard rots, becoming no good for anybody. We throw away food even while many go hungry. We pray that God will give us what we need, and God gives in abundance.

SONG: Come, Ye Thankful People, Come


Published in “Fruit of the Vine

Your Kingdom Come

BIBLE READING: Matthew 6:5-15

  Jesus taught us to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I know that it is easy to look forward to God’s kingdom as something that we will not see until after we are also raised from the dead—but we are not praying to remind us to look forward to heaven; we are praying that God’s kingdom will be done here on earth, and that we will obey God just as those in heaven obey God.

The Lord’s Prayer is part of the Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, Jesus asks very difficult things of those who listen: Jesus asks for radical forgiveness, reckless faith, and a singular devotion to God. It is easy to read the Sermon on the Mount, and to respond that the world does not work this way or to say that this is what heaven will be like someday. But we live here now; the Lord’s prayer makes it impossible to delay kingdom living.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray not only that God’s kingdom will come, but that God will be obeyed on earth as well as in heaven. We are praying that all this hard stuff will be done on earth—and if that is our prayer, we don’t have the luxury of dismissing it as impractical. Whether we like it or not, obedience starts with us, and we are praying that we will obey God’s will on earth just like we would (and will!) in heaven.

SONG: Trust and Obey


Published in “Fruit of the Vine

Lord’s Prayer: Hallowed Be Your Name

BIBLE READING: Matthew 6:5-15

  Only after addressing God as Father does Jesus clarify who we are praying to—the One whose name is sacred. The people who were taught this prayer would have known exactly what this means. They knew that Torah teaches that we must not use God’s sacred name in vain. We should consider what the sacred name meant to those who were listening.

When Jews read the Torah, and they come across God’s name, they do not read what is written, but instead offer a substitute word, Adonai, which is translated Lord. The tradition extends to writing, so that they do not write out God’s name unless it is to create a full Torah scroll. Quotes and commentary that do not make the written substitution also do not spell out God’s name.

While Jesus started with “Our Father,” he followed this with, “Your name is sacred.” We start with the personal relationship, but we don’t forget that we are praying to the almighty God, creator of the universe, king of all creation. The reverence given to the sacred name, the name that is alluded to, but left unspoken, is much more significant than all the titles that I’ve sung and prayed. What is more awesome than a name that is so holy that you can only allude to it, but never speak it? Who would imagine that we would address the bearer of that name as our Father, as Jesus teaches us.

SONG: Holy, Holy, Holy


Published in “Fruit of the Vine

Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in Heaven

BIBLE READING: Luke 11:1-12

  Thinking of the prayers that I have known and prayed since my youth, I notice that they often start by appealing to “Mighty God,” “Creator of the Universe,” “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,” or “The Lord, the Almighty, King of Creation.” The theology we sing is one that sticks with us, and the theology I sang focused on God’s power, eternalness, and sovereignty. This is good theology, but it is not how Jesus taught us to pray—Jesus taught us to pray to our Father.

This is important because in these prayers we are naming relationships. There is a significant difference in the relationship between a mighty king and his subjects, and between a father and his children. A king’s subjects work for the glory, wealth, and power of the king; many kings have no direct interest in their subjects’ wellbeing. A parent has a relationship that implies an interest. In Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus expands on the lesson of the prayer by saying: “If your son asks you for a fish, will [you] give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will [you] give him a scorpion?” He goes on to say that our heavenly Father is a better father than any of us.

When we pray to our Father, we must remember that we are appealing to a relationship. This prayer is a reminder that while God is the almighty king of creation, this is not the relationship we are appealing to—we are appealing to a parent who wants what is best for us and who will give us good things instead of being cruel, cold, or indifferent.

SONG: Lead Me Gently Home, Father


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Lord’s Prayer: Community

Reading: Matthew 6:5-15

What we call the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, is found in Matthew 6 as part of the Sermon on the Mount. A similar prayer is found in Luke 11, when a disciple asks Jesus to teach him how to pray. Because this is the prayer that Jesus taught, most of us have it memorized. One problem with things that are memorized is that it is easy to recite without thinking about what the words mean. It is easy to speak the prayer and not consider what the prayer says. Sometimes when something is familiar, I need to stop, listen, and focus on the familiar to see what it has to teach me. If we believe that Jesus intended us to pray this way, then it is worthwhile to stop and listen to his teaching.

The first thing that stands out as I listen is that after telling me to go into a private room and shut the door, to make the prayer personal and secret, the next words are plural. I pray to our Father, and I ask our Father to give us our daily food. I ask that we are forgiven just as we forgive others. Jesus tells me to pray by myself so that nobody sees me, but as I pray alone, I am not only praying for myself, I am praying as part of a community. Community is an important part of our faith; important enough that Jesus taught me to pray as a member of the community, even behind closed doors and by myself.

SONG: Blessed Be the Tie that Binds

PRAYER SUGGESTION: Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13)

This reflection was published in the Summer 2020 edition of Fruit of the Vine.