By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
We’ve recently been studying how communication between God and man happens. We all want to hear from God and know his will for our lives, but we’re unsure how that happens or even if it happens. I want you to be certain of this: God wants you to know him! He wants a relationship with you, and all relationships require time and communication.
The primary way God communicates to us is through the Scriptures. Spend time studying what God has said about himself, about humanity, and about his mission of reconciliation. Study deeply and intentionally. The second way God communicates with us is through prayer. We have recently been studying the model prayer (the Lord’s prayer) and have come to the point where we make petitions; that is, we ask God for specific things. But what should ask for?
“Give us this day our daily bread.” The book of Joshua records the conquest of the promised land by the nation of Israel as they moved from slavery in Egypt to a land known for its abundant resources. Such a drastic change in station certainly requires spiritual preparation, and that is precisely what we see in the 40 years they spent wandering in the wilderness prior to the conquest of the land of Canaan. Take a moment right now and read Deuteronomy 8:2-11 to see what God reminded his people of as they were completing their spiritual preparation for the land that flows with milk and honey. God wanted to remind his people that they are not independent or self-sufficient. No! Yahweh was their provider, protector, and conqueror; Israel had been completely dependent upon the goodness of God to survive those 40 years, and just because they were now entering a land of plenty did not mean they could forget their dependence or his provision. God is the one who provided the promised land. Each and every day, we should depend on God to provide the resources we need to live and serve him. Just as the Israelites in the wilderness, we can find God faithful to provide what we need, maybe not in abundance or excess, but certainly enough for this day.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” One of the greatest sins those who follow Christ commit is the sin of forgetfulness. We are quick to forget the immense mercy and grace that assures us of our salvation, so when we are wronged, we respond with anger and wrath. Read Matthew 18:23-33. This wicked servant had been forgiven a debt that was so great he couldn’t be expected to pay it back in 10 lifetimes, yet when one of his fellow servants owed him a debt he could pay back over three to five years, the wicked servant choked him and threw him in prison. We who have been forgiven such a great debt against such a holy God should be quick to forgive others who have wronged us. Pray daily to remember the forgiveness you’ve received, for no one gives grace better than the one who is truly convinced of his own need for it.
“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” Praying in this manner acknowledges three important truths. First, there is One who has ultimate authority and knows what is good and right for you to do and what you should not do. Regardless of who you are in your community, your church, or this world there is One to whom you must bow. Second, the One who has ultimate authority has revealed his moral will.
There are clearly defined boundaries in which believers should live. We do not make our own determinations of good and bad, right and wrong. Third, we live in a world full of temptation where we have an enemy whose method of destroying us is to persuade us to accomplish our own demise through the pursuit of things that keep us from experiencing God’s kingdom rule.
In Numbers 22-24, Balak king of Moab was fearful of the Israelites who were conquering kingdoms on their way toward him. He contracted a pagan priest named Balaam to curse Israel so that he might defeat them. However, God prevented Balaam’s cursing; no outside force was great enough to withstand Israel as they followed God’s command (You should read these chapters; a talking donkey is worth the time!). But in the 25th chapter, it is reported that the Israelite men pursued sexual relationships with Moabite women who led them into idolatry. This compromise of morality that led to idolatry caused a plague that claimed 24,000 Israelite lives. Though they could not be destroyed by the curses of their foes, they might quickly be overcome when they compromised their loyalty to God and his commands. God’s boundaries and requirements for our lives are for our own good and the good of our faith community!
Take note of Numbers 25:7-8; the plague was stopped when Phinehas took decisive action against the idolators by killing one of them and his Moabite mistress. You tell me: is it important that we hold the members of our faith community to moral standards, or should we compromise to avoid hurting someone’s feelings?
There are three things Jesus asked for in this model prayer. First, he asked for daily provision. God knows our needs and is willing and able to provide if we simply recognize our dependence on him. It might actually be a win at the rodeo because the finances or the confidence it gives is what we really need that week. It might be the struggle of a continued losing streak because how we grow from it is what we really need. Second, he asked that we would be forgiven as we are forgiving. Sin is a part of our experience in this life and recognizing our own need for grace will result in the extension of grace to others when they sin against us. It is by grace that we have peace with God, and it is by grace that we will have peace with others. Third, we live in a world of things that can tempt us to wander from the path God has set before us. The problem is not so much the things outside of us as it is the desire for sin inside of us. James 4:1 and following reminds us of this truth: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
As you pray, ask God to provide for you needs today. Ask him to forgive you of your sin and from that grace empower you to be forgiving toward others. Finally, ask him to keep you from the things your sinful heart is drawn toward and from the tactful lies of the enemy of your soul.