and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12, ESV)
Jesus calls for his followers to pray daily for forgiveness. But some may wonder why. Doesn't scripture make it clear that we have already been forgiven through Christ (Eph 1:7-8; Col 2:13-15; 1 John 2:1-2)? So why should we daily pray for forgiveness?
The words of J.I. Packer are helpful:
A problem arises here. If Christ’s death atoned for all sins, past, present, and future (as it did), and if God’s verdict justifying the believer (“I accept you as righteous for Jesus’ sake”) is eternally valid (as it is), why need the Christian mention his daily sins to God at all? The answer lies in distinguishing between God as Judge and as Father, and between being a justified sinner and an adopted son. The Lord’s Prayer is the family prayer, in which God’s adopted children address their Father, and though their daily failures do not overthrow their justification, things will not be right between them and their Father till they have said “sorry” and asked him to overlook the ways they have let him down. Unless Christians come to God each time as returning prodigals, their prayer will be as unreal as was that of the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable. (Growing in Christ. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994.)
When we daily come to God broken and humble repent of our sins, we have the confidence of His forgiveness (1 John 1:9) and the joy of renewed fellowship with him.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, ESV)
Faith is essential to the Christian life. The above verse reminds us we cannot please God without it.
And yet, our faith falters sometimes. It's definitely very mustard seed-ish. Maybe even smaller. It seems so simple to say, "Just believe the promises of God." And it is simple. But it's not. Because life is difficult and the trials we face can be daunting.
There was once a dad who had a demon-possessed son (no, this is not a joke about hormonal teenagers). The situation was so dire that the demon had nearly killed the boy. The father and son encounter Jesus and in a moment of desparation the father cries out, "If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22–24).
Can anyone else resonate with that dad?
Help my unbelief.
It may be matters big or matters small, but if we're honest we, too, struggle to believe. Like this broken, honest dad, we need God to infuse our floundering faith with hope and courage. We need him to come along-side to encourage us and remind us of his promises and history of faithfulness.
Last Sunday, I found myself struggling to believe. The power went out just a few moments before our worship service was to begin. Our music team did a great job improvising on the fly and lead a beautiful time of quiet acoustic praise. As I stood there singing, I sensed the Spirit leading me to hold my message on the fifth petition of the Lord's Prayer for next week. Rather than preach a sermon, I sensed him saying, "You've been preaching on prayer. I've gone ahead and made things nice and quiet for you. Let my people pray together."
I began to make excuses in my mind as to why that wouldn't work.
It's too quiet. People won't be able to hear. No one's going to want to pray in front of all these people. They didn't have any notice or warning. We didn't put any planning into this. I will look silly if I open it up and get nothing but crickets. The heat's off and people are going to be cold. I should just let them go home. What if no one prays? How will this reflect on me as a leader (see how self-centered I can be?)?
But yet I knew it's what God wanted us to do.
Help my unbelief.
And you know what happened? People prayed. And they prayed. And it was beautiful.
What are you struggling to trust him for today?
And ask him to help your unbelief.
Give us this day our daily bread, (Matthew 6:11, ESV)
Think about it for just a moment: God cares about your needs.
In a prayer that is centered on worship and requests regarding spiritual needs, Jesus wants us to be sure to come to God for the daily requirements of life. Martin Luther said this petition applies to "everything necessary for the preservation of this life." That includes a lot of stuff!
This means that our needs are important to God. Do you believe that? That your needs matter to him? Not just that super-spiritual guy you sit next to at church or that saint who prays for 7 1/2 hours a day. But your needs. Because you matter to God.
Not convinced? Check out these passages:
The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. (Psalm 34:10)
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. … (Mt. 6:25-34)
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19)
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Mt. 7:7-8)
For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
God longs to meet your needs -- won't you take time to cry out to him today?
O THOU GIVING GOD,
My heart is drawn out in thankfulness
for thy amazing grace and condescension
in influences and assistances of thy Spirit,
for special help in prayer,
for the sweetness of Christian service,
for the thoughts of arriving in heaven,
for always sending me needful supplies,
for raising me to new life when I am
like one dead.
I want not the favour of man to lean upon
for thy favour is infinitely better.
Thou art eternal wisdom in dispensations
and it matters not when, nor where, nor how
I serve thee,
nor what trials I am exercised with,
if I might but be prepared for thy work and will.
No poor creature stands in need of divine grace
more than I do,
And yet none abuses it more than I have done,
and still do.
How heartless and dull I am!
Humble me in the dust for not loving thee more.
Every time I exercise any grace renewedly
I am renewedly indebted to thee,
the God of all grace, for special assistance.
I cannot boast when I think how dependent
I am upon thee for the being and every act
I never do anything else but depart from thee,
and if ever I get to heaven it will be because
thou willest it, and for no reason beside.
I love, as a feeble, afflicted, despised creature,
to cast myself on thy infinite grace and goodness,
hoping for no happiness but from thee;
Give me special grace to fit me for special services,
and keep me calm and resigned at all times,
humble, solemn, mortified,
and conformed to thy will.
-The Valley of Vision