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Christian Living

Give Us Our Daily Bread

Give Us Our Daily Bread

Carefully Consider What You Ask of God Each Day When You Pray

When Jesus’s disciples asked him to teach them how the pray, he gave them a prayer (Luke 11:1-4). Though many people recite this prayer exactly as the Bible records it (also see Matthew 6:9-13), a better approach is to use this prayer—often called the Lord’s prayer—as a model to inform our own communication with God.

One line is “give us our daily bread.” This is a curious phrase that many people stumble over. Two thousand years ago having enough to eat—even having something to eat—was a daily concern for most people. Hunger was something they knew too well, so they would easily resonate with Jesus’s prayer to ask God to provide them with food for the day.

Some people in our world today struggle with getting enough to eat. They’ll do well to ask God to “give us our daily bread.” Some euphemistically call this need for enough to eat as “food insecurity.” Sorry, it’s called hunger. It leads to starvation and death. Don’t minimize the lack of this basic need of life by giving it a nice sounding label.

Yet much of the world gives little thought to where their next meal will come from. Most have plenty of food stockpiled in their homes, with nearby stores selling more.

For these people—myself included—does it make sense to ask God for something he’s already provided? I think not. In fact, I suspect that thoughtlessly asking him for what he’s already given stands as an insult to his generosity.

Instead, we should consider how to adapt the phrase “give us our daily bread” to our situation today. One thought, which I followed for many years, is to ask God to “provide us with what we need for today.” For me this became a generic request to give me the basics things I needed for the day. Instead of asking for my daily bread, I asked for the essentials for my daily life.

This focus became me asking God each morning to supply just what I needed for the day. Oh, how this limited him. It’s as if I were asking for just enough to live another day, when he was standing by, ready to do all that and much more. All I needed to do was ask.

Consider how to apply the phrase “give us our daily bread” to your prayers each morning. Click To Tweet

What if we begin each day by asking God to provide for us from the bounty of his limitless resources?

We could make a generic request for him to provide for us in his sovereign wisdom. Or better yet we could ask for specifics, requesting God’s supernatural intervention in particular situations or to meet certain needs. These items could relate to health, finances, work, relationships, safety, favor, or any number of other things.

For some people asking God for their daily bread is a wise, necessary, and proper request. But for the rest of us, it’s time to stop saying this out of rote repetition and start making specific requests to God each day.

Consider how to apply the phrase “give us our daily bread” to your prayers each morning. Then do it.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Deliver Us from Evil

Pray That God Will Protect Us from Harm

Do you ever ask God to protect you from evil? You can. It’s biblical. It’s part of my morning routine, and based on what I’m about to share, I want to be more intentional about making this request each day. There are two key prayers in the Bible that offer scriptural support for asking God to deliver us from evil.

The Lord’s Prayer

What we commonly refer to as the Lord’s Prayer—because it came from Jesus, our Lord—we should more appropriately call the disciple’s prayer—because it’s for his disciples, and for us. This stands as the most significant prayer in the Bible. First, because Jesus taught it. Second, because he gave it to us as a model to follow.

Consider the line in Matthew 6:13 from this prayer. In most translations, it says “deliver us from the evil one,” or simply “deliver us from evil.” Some versions use the word rescue, save, or free, but deliver is the most common translation.

Jesus gave us this prayer is a model to use, so we should follow it and pray that he will deliver us from evil.

The Prayer of Jabez

Another biblical prayer that I find significant is the lesser-known prayer of Jabez. (There’s even a book written about it.) Aside from the Lord’s Prayer, I call Jabez’s prayer my favorite prayer in the Bible. Why is this? Because after Jabez prays, Scripture records God’s response. It says that God granted his request.

This means that God accepted Jabez’s petition and answered his prayer. Oh, how this encourages me when I pray.

One line in Jabez’s prayer is that God would “keep me from evil1 Chronicles 4:10). Though some translations use the word harm or pain instead of evil, most say evil.

Two Prayers to Deliver Us from Evil

It should be enough that Jesus tells us to ask God to deliver us from evil. But the Bible gives us a second example through Jabez, along with God’s confirmation that he answered Jabez’s prayer when he asked for the same thing.

When we ask God to deliver us from evil, he will do just that. Click To Tweet

This should encourage us that when we ask God to keep and deliver us from evil, he will do just that.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Omission or Addition in the Bible?

After prior discussions about adding to or taking away from the Bible, it gives one pause in considering footnotes in some translations, which effectively note that a certain phrase or verse is “not found in all manuscripts.”

Consider the Lord’s Prayer. The end is one such example: “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” (Matthew 6:9-13).

Or when the disciples can’t cast out a demon and Jesus says, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” The footnote adds “…and fasting” (Mark 9:29). Which is it? Prayer or prayer and fasting?

The largest such passage is the conclusion to Mark’s gospel, where the last twelve (Mark 16:8–20 ) verses are not included in all manuscripts.

So is it an error to include them or an error to exclude them? In these, and all other instances, I think that it is wise to include them. Here is why.

As a writer, I often revise my own work to improve it, such as adding something that I forgot or to correct imprecise wording. Sometimes this occurs after it its initial publication. It’s likely that biblical writers did the same.

As an editor I sometimes change a writer’s words to clarify what is unclear or confusing. Scribes who made copies of the Bible may have done the same, albeit with much more care and consideration.

So I’m not concerned with minor differences between the ancient manuscripts. The overall message remains unaltered and the additional text adds clarity and fullness.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Mark 8-10, and today’s post is on Mark 9:29.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

 

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52 Churches

Attending Mass (Visiting Church #5)

When I tell people we’re visiting Christian churches, they often assume Protestant and are surprised our plan includes Catholic gatherings. That’s where we head today, to our first Mass.

The most noticeable difference is an ornate crucifix in the sanctuary. I’m pleased to see many lay people helping lead the service. There’s a nice range of ages present, including children who remain with us the entire time.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

I struggle to follow along. There’s many times for the congregation to respond, but we don’t know what to say. Their service is not friendly to the uninitiated.

Music

The lone musical instrument is a keyboard and the keyboardist leads the singing. There’s also a choir. Both the singers and musician are behind us. Removing our focus from them, makes it less like a performance and more worshipful.

The priest leads us in the Apostle’s Creed. I thought this was a Protestant proclamation, but obviously not. We also pray the Lord’s Prayer. I’m aware Catholics don’t say the final line that Protestants do, but I almost say it anyway.

Message

The priest begins his Mother’s Day message with a series of anecdotes about moms, segueing into love: reciprocal love, romantic love, and love-your-enemies as exemplified by Jesus. I wonder how a priest can address the complexities of romantic love, but he does a great job at it.

I also appreciate him mentioning Jesus’s death as a love-your-enemies example.

The message is short, followed by communion, what many refer to as the celebration of the Eucharist. The priest calls it “a memorial service” for Jesus. We don’t partake, and I attempt to spend this time in quiet contemplation of Jesus’ sacrifice. However, I’m too distracted to do so.

The priest announces Mass is over. The service lasted one hour, and we head home with much to contemplate.

[Read about Church #4 and Church #6, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #5.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

The Most Dangerous Prayer in the Bible

Forgiveness Is a Serious Thing, and We’re Well Advised to Never Withhold It

You’re probably familiar with the Lord’s prayer, sometimes informally called by its opening line as the Our Father. It’s a well-known passage in the Bible and many Christian traditions recite it as part of their Sunday worship service.

Growing up in a church that prayed this prayer in unison every Sunday, I quickly memorized it and could mumble it by rote, without thinking about the words I said. I suspect I knew the Lord’s Prayer before I could count or say the alphabet.

Now, however, I seriously consider the words I say when I quote this prayer. One line alarms me. In fact, it fills me with fear. It’s dangerous, eternally so.

What is this dangerous line?

It says, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Some translations of the Bible use the word sins, as in “forgive us our sins.” Others use the word trespasses or wrongs. But most say debts.

Forgive Us

In this prayer, we’re asking God to forgive us. What’s wrong with that?

Yes, this is true. In this common prayer, we ask God to forgive us. But we’re also asking him to place limits on the extent to which he can forgive us.

What?

Read it again. Read it carefully.

Check out how God’s Word Translation (GW) renders this line: “Forgive us as we forgive others.”

Don’t Withhold Forgiveness

We’re asking God to forgive us to the degree that we forgive others. This implies that if we withhold forgiveness from other people, we’re letting God know that he can withhold forgiveness from us. So, if we forgive other people 75 percent of the time, we’re asking God to forgive us 75 percent of the time too.

This thought makes me tremble. My spirit quakes in trepidation.

It also encourages me to forgive quickly and to forgive fully.

Though I want to believe that God won’t do what this prayer requests of him and thereby withhold forgiveness of us in proportion to our unforgiveness of others, I do wonder.

I strive to never hold grudges and to fully forgive people as quickly as possible. Click To Tweet

Forgive Seventy Times Seven

When Jesus tells Peter that we should forgive others, not just a generous seven times, but seventy times seven (literally 490 times), we get a sense that God’s forgiveness of us extends without limit.

But after Jesus tells Peter to not stop forgiving, Jesus launches into a parable about unforgiveness. In this story, the man who refuses to forgive his debtors is given over to torture until he can repay his debt.

Jesus ends this parable with a stern warning: if we don’t sincerely forgive others, God will punish us in the same way.

That’s why I strive to never hold grudges and to fully forgive people as quickly as possible.

If we don’t forgive others, our future might be at risk.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Is God’s Forgiveness Conditional?

Jesus wants us to fully forgive others so that we may be fully forgiven

In asking the simple question, “Is God’s forgiveness conditional?” the answer seems obvious: “No! God’s forgiveness is unconditional.”

I was taught that if I followed Jesus, he would forgive me. It was a fact. Forgiveness was unconditional. It made sense, and it comforted me.

However, Jesus’s instruction in today’s passage seems to question this assumption.

Jesus teaches about prayer. He says that when we pray, if we think of someone holding something against us, we must forgive them “so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25, NIV).

Does this mean that if we withhold forgiveness from others that God will withhold forgiveness from us?

I think so.

Recall the Lord’s Prayer. One phrase says, “Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12, NIV). This phrase flows from our mouths with ease.

On the surface these words offer us assurance of forgiveness. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus means by this simple expression. He seems to be saying that to the degree we forgive others, God will then forgive us.

To the degree we forgive others, God will forgive us. Click To Tweet

Stated another way, the extent to which we withhold forgiveness, will be the extent to which God withholds our forgiveness.

What a terrifying thought.

Between what Jesus instructs us through the Lord’s Prayer and what he teaches in today’s text, we get the real feeling that the degree to which we can receive God’s forgiveness hinges on the degree to which we extend forgiveness to others.

This is a sobering thought.

May we always forgive fully, so that we may be fully forgiven.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Mark 11-13, and today’s post is on Mark 11:25.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Should We Pray “If It’s Your Will?”

We can learn to pray by following Jesus’s example, as long as we don’t misapply it

When it comes to praying, there is no better teacher than Jesus. Perhaps that’s why many of his followers memorize the prayer he taught his disciples and why many churches include this prayer in their church services.

We commonly call this The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). This prayer serves as our model.

Another one of Jesus’s instructive prayers occurs in John’s biography of Jesus. In the most lengthy of Jesus’s prayers in the Bible, we see three themes.

First, Jesus prays that his death will glorify his father. Next, he prays for his disciples. And last, he prays for his future followers: us (John 17). This final section of his prayer shows us what Jesus expects of us, which should inform how we pray.

A third prayer of Jesus stands as his most passionate. As he prepares himself to become the ultimate sacrifice, he asks his father for a reprieve, perhaps thinking of when God kept Abraham from sacrificing Isaac by providing an alternate option (Genesis 22:1-19).

Yet after making his bold request, Jesus quickly confirms he will obey his Father and do his will (Luke 22:42, Matthew 26:39).

Most translations of the Bible (32 times out of 56) use the phrase “if you are willing” in recording the opening to this prayer of Jesus.

Should we do the same?

Yes. By including this phrase, we follow Jesus’s example by acknowledging God’s sovereignty, that is, his supreme authority and power over us and everything that is.

We admit his plan is far better than our wishes and narrow perspective. We concede he is in control and we are not. Affirming God’s will in this way, confirms his character.

It’s right to pray “if it’s your will” as long as this reminds us of God’s sovereignty. Click To Tweet

Yet, this phrase can also give our faith an out, an escape hatch. If we make an audacious request of God and then tack on an “if it’s your will” at the end, we provide ourselves a feeble rationalization should God not answer our request the way we hope.

For example, if we pray for a miraculous healing, but it doesn’t occur, we can shrug and say, “I guess it wasn’t God’s will.” This helps stave off disappointment. It also keeps our faith intact.

Taken to an unhealthy extreme, this phrase can even remove faith completely from our prayers, along with the expectation of the answer we long for. Praying “if it’s your will” could turn our prayers into weak, meaningless requests of an all-powerful God. May it never be.

It is right for us to pray “if it’s your will” as long as this reminds us of God’s sovereignty and character. But if this phrase effectively removes faith and expectation from our prayers and renders them powerless, then it might be wise to avoid it.

The key is that God wants us to pray. He wants us to talk to him. The words we say aren’t as important as our intent behind them.

May our prayers always serve to connect us to our Father.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Do We Need to Rethink How We Pray?

Whether we pray often or seldom, we have likely fallen into unexamined habits

How do you begin your prayers?

What is your common salutation? It might be “Heavenly Father . . .” or perhaps “Father God . . . ” or maybe “Dear God . . . ”  (How about, “Hey, God. It’s me again.”) The Lord’s Prayer opens with “Our Father in heaven,” which is a good model to follow (Matthew 6:9).

Some people open with “Dear Jesus . . . ” Have you ever addressed your prayers to the Holy Spirit? He is part of the triune God, after all.

When you finish praying, how do you conclude?

Some traditions end with “In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.” This aligns with what Jesus taught us (John 14:13). Other traditions take their cue from Matthew 28:19 and wrap up with “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.”

Some use the shortcut of just “Amen.” (What about just saying “Bye” or “Catch you later,” which is how we talk to other people. Prayer, after all, is a conversation.)

What does amen mean, anyway?

The Amplified Bible suggests it implies “So be it” or May it be so.” Saying one of these declarations to end our prayers may get us out of the rut of concluding with a rote “Amen,” but it usually confounds anyone listening to us.

Try praying to specific parts of the godhead according to their character or role. Click To Tweet

And what should we say in the middle portion of our prayers?

Sometimes I direct my communications with God to specific parts of the godhead according to the character or role of each. For example, I can praise Father for creating me, Jesus for saving me, and Holy Spirit for guiding me.

Or I can ask Papa to bless me, the Son to be with me, and the Spirit to inspire me. Doing this helps me see God in fresh, new ways; it enables me to better connect and be more real in my communications with God.

But what if I error and address the wrong aspect of God? It’s happened, but I don’t think it matters to God because Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all the same God, the great three in one (consider 1 John 5:7).

The point is to stop praying words out of habit and think about why we say what we say when we talk to God. He deserves our full attention, so we should avoid using thoughtless words.

So be it.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Should We Recite the Lord’s Prayer?

Last week I blogged about saying the Lord’s Prayer each Sunday in church as a kid and my apprehension for doing so. I cited my reason as the phrase “vain repetitions” (KJV) found in Jesus’s warning about how not to pray. The NIV is more colorful in its rendering: “babbling like pagans.”

Though I didn’t get it as a kid, I now know that not all repetition need be in vain. I suppose that just as we can have vain repetition, we can likewise have worthwhile repetition.

So is repeating the Lord’s Prayer vain or worthwhile? I suppose that depends on the person doing the reciting. For some the repetition may be in vain and for others it may be worthwhile.

What I do know is that just a couple verses after Jesus warns against vain repetition and babbling like the pagans when we pray, he teaches us the Lord’s Prayer.

This gives me pause, for it seems like he tells us not to do something and then teaches us how to do what we’re not supposed to do. Is this another of the Bible’s paradoxes?

However, I don’t think Jesus intends us to recite his prayer. I suspect he gives it to us as a model to guide us, not a passage to memorize. That’s what I use the Lord’s Prayer for, not a form to follow verbatim, but an example to steer my words when I communicate with God.

So, yes, I do use the Lord’s Prayer when I pray. I follow it as an outline to inform my prayers, not a refrain to repeat. For if I recite it verbatim, it would indeed become vain repetition—at least for me.

Is repeating the Lord’s Prayer vain repetition or worthwhile repetition? Click To Tweet

How do you use the Lord’s Prayer? What steps to you take to avoid falling into vain repetition? 

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What Does Jesus Want Us to Forgive?

In my post Be Careful What You Pray I mention a line in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Different groups have different wording for this line. There are some I’ve run into:

Debts

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” The word debt, conjures up thoughts of loans and money. That limits what Jesus meant and isn’t helpful.

Forgive us for the wrongs we have done, as we have forgiven those who have wronged us. Click To Tweet

Trespasses

“Forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The word trespass evokes walking uninvited on someone6s property. That’s not helpful either. (However, the dictionary gives a broader understanding for both these words.)

Sins

“Forgive our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” To me, sin is the word that conveys the full impact of this phrase, but I understand some people are put off by that word.

Wrongs

I recently heard a fourth version, which I like for its clarity:

“Forgive us for the wrongs we have done, as we have forgiven those who have wronged us.”

That connects with me. I hope one of these four versions connects with you. Now we just need to pray it—and do it.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Matthew 5-7, and today’s post is on Matthew 6:12.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.