Confident Prayers for an Unknown Future

Lesson 59: Romans 15:30-33


Confident Prayers for an Unknown Future

by Bob Burridge ©2012

When I was in Jr. High I was taught how to play the trumpet by my dad and some other musicians who were happy to help me with my technique. In 7th grade I decided to try out for the school orchestra. When I was awarded my blue sweater with the gold school emblem on it, I was assigned to the second trumpet section.

I reported to my first section practice with excitement and enthusiasm. But it wasn’t a very enjoyable experience. There we were, all of us second-trumpeters in a little practice room playing what seemed to be a meaningless string of notes that had little beauty in them. We spent a good bit of the time just counting and waiting for the next moment to join together with a few seemingly non-melodic sounds.

I was feeling rather discouraged about it. I wanted to play music, not just practice exercises that made no sense. All the practice sessions were the same way. This was what we were going to play in public? Our great first performance, which was sure to be attended by my parents and seen by all the other kids at school, was going to be a horrible embarrassment.

I remember the moment when the whole orchestra first gathered in the orchestra pit in front of the massive stage in the school auditorium. It was our first rehearsal of all the sections together. As I sat there I kept thinking to myself how sad that instead of a real piece of music, we were going to be playing these stupid exercises that didn’t even have a good melody to them. I imagined what it might have been like to have a more musically gifted conductor who would pick better music for us.

Then the moment came. The conductor stepped up onto his platform, made a few friendly remarks to us, then gave us a very serious look, raised his baton, and we all started. The whole orchestra actually started at once. I could hardly believe my ears! This was music! Our little notes filled in around all the parts the other instruments were playing. The blend of individual sounds merged into a wonderful arrangement. All through that session I could hardly wait until I found out how each little passage we had been practicing fit in with the whole sound.

As the rehearsal progressed, we had to stop a few times while certain sections had to go over their part so that it was just right. Then we would play it again as a whole until we ran into another problem that had to be worked out. As the session moved toward the end of the arrangement, and as each individual learned how to do his part just right, it all came together in the most wonderful way.

When the day came for us all to put on our sharp dark blue sweaters, and gather with our freshly polished instruments in front of family and all our school friends, the sweaty palms were not from embarrassment over our own seemingly meaningless notes. They were over the anticipation of doing justice to the great piece of music we were about to present.

There is a similar sense in which we all take part in God’s great plan. We have our individual assignments. They may seem small, unimportant, disconnected, or even rather ugly at times. But together, they are part of an unimaginably wonderful design. There will come a day, when we will see it all blend together in un-anticipated beauty. Until that time, it is our duty to responsibly learn, and carry out our individual parts.

One of those duties is prayer. We often pray concerning things about which we have little knowledge. We never know how God will direct the exact outcome of any situation. Certainly we don’t imagine that we have the responsibility of telling God what’s best for him to do. So how then should we pray? What should we expect as we pray? This next section of Romans is a good example by which we can examine this issue.


Paul asked the Romans for their prayers as he went on to Jerusalem.

Romans 15:30, “Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me,”

Paul did not make a mere mild suggestion for them to pray. He urged them, in no uncertain terms, to battle together with him before God. The word translated as “strive together” is sun-ag-o-NIZ-o-mai (συναγωνιζομαι). It literally means to “fight, combat, contend, or struggle along with someone”. In Paul’s day the root word was often used in a military sense of combat, or of the struggle to win a wrestling match (the Olympic type, not the Smack down type).

Obviously Paul did not view prayer as a mere formal exercise, or simply as a scheduled item for a daily check list. He saw their prayers as their joining with him in his spiritual battle for Christ’s glory.

When Paul wrote to the Ephesian church about the spiritual struggle they were in, he compared the spiritual armor and weapons with implements of war. At the end of the list in Ephesians 6:18, he mentioned the importance of prayer. When we contend with spiritual enemies he said we must do so, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints”

Our Missionaries, Pastors, Elders, and our fellow congregation members, all need prayer support in their daily battle for the Gospel of Christ.

Paul appealed to what bound them together in life and mission.

First: Their prayers were to be made through the Lord Jesus Christ. The wording means that we pray by means of, or on account of our Savior. Unless we pray as people redeemed by grace, we have no right to stand before God, and no authority to speak about our hearts desires with him. There is no promise in all of the Bible that God uses the prayers of unbelievers as a part of his blessings and workings here on earth. Praying “in the name of Jesus” is not just a phrase we plug in that leads up to the “Amen”. It means that we consciously approach God in prayer as a person who knows that he only has access to the holy throne because of the Cross of Jesus.

Second: Their prayers were to be made through the love of the Spirit. Just as we are made acceptable to pray by the work of Christ to redeem us, so also we are stirred to prayer by the love the Holy Spirit implants into our hearts. The Spirit’s love for us emerges in our changed attitude which provokes us to pray out of love for one another. What a marvelous foundation God lays down here as the groundwork for our mutual prayers!


Then Paul asked them to pray very specifically for three matters.

Romans 15:31-32, “that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.”

First: He asked them to pray for his deliverance on his trip to Judea. There were two different groups of Jews in the land of the Judea. There were the Jews who believed in the promises of God. These were the ones who recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Paul calls them the saints at the end of verse 31. There were also those who did not believe. They were the ones who refused to submit to the message of the ancient prophets. They had twisted the law of Moses into a perverted system of salvation by works. They proudly saw themselves as having exclusively earned God’s favor. When they realized how contrary the message of Christ was to their Rabbinic religion, they became more violent persecutors than the pagan Romans.

Generally, the Gentiles had no problem when the Christian messengers came to town. Individuals sometimes caused trouble when their evil businesses were effected. But in most cases, it was the unbelieving Jews who stirred up the crowds against the Christians.

Several times these Jews plotted to have Paul killed. They saw their own traditions and beliefs threatened by the popularity of the gospel. Just before he wrote this letter, his travel plans had been re-routed through Macedonia when the Jews plotted to kill him (Acts 20:3). So Paul asked them to pray for deliverance from them when he got to Jerusalem.

There are often real dangers in bringing the message of God’s judgment against the kingdom of evil. Those who truly hate the truth of God will also hate those who carry his message. There is much more tolerance for the varieties of false religion, even for moral perversions, than there is for the real truth of God.

Fallen hearts hate the idea of a God who is truly Sovereign, and despise a salvation that is by grace alone.

At the root of our fallen souls, we rebel against the fact that there is a God with standards that condemn us. In that inherited depravity from Adam, we want a god who caters to our own whims, one who is ultimately bound by the permission we give him to do his work. That is how depraved our human nature is at its unredeemed root.

That’s why the true gospel message is so disliked and often meets with violent persecution. As long as you just talk about religion and morality in general, people smile, nod in agreement, and assume you are on the same page with them. But, when you get down to the distinctives of real Christianity their toleration fades.

The matters that divide us are these:

1. There is a truly Sovereign God who made all things, and who rules all things absolutely. God is not there just to give us a good time. He made all things for his glory. Our only true joy is in making that our goal in life and in the life to come. This means we have to submit our luxuries and lusts to his holy will.

2. We are depraved in Adam, and can only do good and find salvation by God’s provision. This means that all our rituals, good deeds, and human efforts are stained with sin. It means we cannot take credit for our accomplishments, aside from first acknowledging God as the source of every good. The message of grace alone being extended to unworthy creatures is distasteful to the fallen soul. It rips off its mask and exposes the ugly side that proves we need Christ as our only hope. It means we need regeneration, not just a nurturing of some natural good that resides in all of us.

The fallenness of the creature is most starkly revealed in his refusing absolute subjection to his Creator.

Paul could have just worked with the unbelieving Jews in their common struggle against the political and social abuses of the pagan Roman government. He could have just talked about Moses and the Prophets in generalities that would not have rocked their theological boat. But God called him to tell the truth in love. That created a great danger to him, as it does to us as well.

Paul’s prayer also shows a godly concern for his own life. He was willing, but not careless, to lose it for the Lord. Preservation of life is an important and God honoring concern. Our lives are not just ours for indulging our fantasies or gratifying our comforts. Our lives are an entrustment from God to be enjoyed in serving him and caring for his creation.

The ancient Christian writer Ignatius once asked people to pray that he would be honored with the crown of martyrdom rather than to be preserved from his enemies. What a different attitude the Apostle Paul and the prophets had than Ignatius. They were certainly willing to give their lives for God’s honor and truth rather than deny him. But they neither sought to die, nor were ever careless about preserving their safety. Here Paul shows us that it is right to ask others to pray for our safety as we face dangers.

Next, Paul asked them to pray that his service for Jerusalem would be accepted. The Jews who believed in Jesus as their Messiah, also presented a challenge. Some of them still had a negative attitude toward the Gentile believers. They still considered them as outsiders.

As we saw in the last study, the Jewish believers in Jerusalem were suffering great hardships. Paul was bringing financial help which had been sacrificially given by the Gentile believers in Macedonia and Achaia. Paul wanted the Romans to pray that the relief he was bringing would have a good result. His desire was that it would demonstrate how the fruit of the Holy Spirit was at work in the hearts of the Gentile believers, that it would help the Jews accept them better. If this gift would produce true gratitude among the Jews for the gospel effect in the Gentiles, it might help heal the racial and cultural tension that troubled the church there.

Finally, he asked them to pray that he would find joy and refreshment when he came to them. The refreshment he had in mind was spiritual though, not physical. Paul looked forward to the fellowship he hoped to have at Rome after his rewarding trip to Jerusalem. It is a wonderful thing to be able to be among other believers reflecting together upon God’s Sovereign love and grace at work.

So, how were the Apostle’s prayer requests answered? They did not come to pass in the way he evidently expected.

First: Did God deliver him from the raging anger of the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem? The Jews there persecuted him. They falsely accused him of violating the temple and had him arrested. Some of them took a vow that they would assassinate him. But he was delivered from their fanatical violence. God even used the laws of the pagan Roman Empire to ensure his safety. Prayer answered. His enemies failed to silence God’s messenger, and he was preserved to be able to continue his ministry.

Second: Did he see the Jews accept the Gentile’s kindness? It does not directly tell us. We do see that as time went on the distinctions of Jew and Gentile disappeared in the church. Probably his mission produced some of that healing in the attitude of the believing Jews who were slow in accepting the changes God was making as his promises were fulfilled. There is no reason to doubt that it did.

Third: Did Paul come to Rome with joy and find refreshing rest among the believers there? His arrival there was not under the kind of circumstances in which the world would find reason for rejoicing. At Jerusalem he was falsely accused, arrested, jailed, beaten, his life threatened, bound over to Caesar, shipwrecked on the way to Rome, bitten by a poisonous snake — hardly the way Paul would have foreseen the prayers being answered.

However, God did bring him there with joy. Paul’s expectation and prayer request was that his mission would honor God in the greatest way and bring him to them rejoicing. It did.

Though he arrived as a prisoner, he came with excitement about what God was doing. He was able to bring the Gospel message to Rome personally. He had access to people who otherwise would never have listened to what he had to say. From prison he wrote in Philippians 1:12, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”

He came rejoicing in the Roman’s fellowship and in all that God had done. In many of his prison letters Paul sends greetings from those in Rome, those with whom he found joyful fellowship and encouragement. As he said in his prison letter to Philippi, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)

Those who received this letter in Rome, and who prayed as Paul requested could be pleased to know that God moved them to be part of the advancement of his Kingdom. The Apostle had been kept alive, a step toward unifying the church had taken place, the gospel was taken to some who had not heard it before, and the believers involved found great spiritual refreshment together as they rejoiced with the Apostle.

So, how do we pray concerning the unknown plan of God? We know that since God is unchanging and all powerful, whatever he has decreed cannot, and thankfully should not, be changed. That’s not what godly prayers are designed to accomplish.

Why then should we bother to pray? If nothing changes that God has known for all eternity, then what can our prayers really do? Are they just empty exercises done for our psychological benefit? Or if our prayers could actually change what the Creator originally decreed as best, then do our prayers become the final god over the universe? Absolutely neither of these views is consistent with what the Bible teaches.

God decrees not only the final outcome, but also all the means by which it comes to pass. One of the wonderful tools he uses in carrying out his plan is prayer offered by his redeemed people. Not just the prayers of the great Apostles and Prophets. Not just the prayers of Ministers, Elders and Deacons. God uses the prayers of somewhat immature new converts like those Paul was writing to in Rome. He uses the prayers of the parents, teachers, barbers, sales representatives, plumbers, drivers, cooks, engineers — people at every level of society and skill.

We are all a part of a wonderful plan that never will change since it all first began.
Yes, God could just do it and let us observe; but instead he includes us, and calls us to serve.
When we wrestle in prayer, and ask him to bless;
when we cling to the truth which by grace we confess,
when we hope in the promise, and call in his name;
when we rest in the One who has shouldered our shame,
we are there in the process he decreed at the start;
we are used as loved children, each doing his part.

God commands us to pray, and he tells us that it matters. Rather than philosophizing about things far beyond our knowledge, we should simply rejoice to be a part of the rise and fall of nations, the victories of the gospel as it makes dramatic changes in otherwise hopeless lives, and the wonders performed by surgeons, teachers, pastors, and moms.


Then Paul ends this wonderful section of his letter with a prayer of benediction.

Romans 15:33, “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”

The Apostle’s own prayer is directed toward all who in faith read these words. For him and for his readers in Rome, unsettling times were ahead. They were about to face intense persecutions, wars, divisions, heresies, confusion, and many tragic deaths. Yet through it all, what ever the circumstances, by the prayers of sinners saved by grace the peace of the God who upholds all things was with them. Jesus promised saying, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Paul he seals his benedictory prayer with an “Amen”. It is a confident affirmation that it is truth. What a wonderful way to end our prayers!

Just as their prayers were but a little part of the whole of God’s plan, so also was Paul’s trip to Jerusalem, his arrest, the false charges, the jail time, the plots against his life, and his dangerous trip on the sea. The same is true of our lunch hour, our trip to the store, the good night kiss on the cheeks of our children, the hug after school, the homework paper, the business deal, all we do every day for God’s glory. Much of it might seem mundane, disconnected, even ugly at times when the pieces stand alone. But together, they make up the whole which is the arrangement by God, the orchestrator of the wonderful symphony of everything.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

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Glory Forever


Glory Forever

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 107)
by Bob Burridge ©2012

Sometimes people are not able to deliver what they promise. They might have the best of intentions, but things come up that keep them from following through. We all have to handle the unexpected and deal with things that break down. Sadly, there are also times when people never intend to fulfill their promises.

It hurts when that happens with family and friends. No one likes to be forgotten when someone says they will come by and pick you up to give you a ride. It’s discouraging if someone was going to get something for you at the store, but came home without it.

It can become a more serious problem when national or world leaders fail to deliver on their promises. Voters are commonly skeptical of political campaign promises and commercials. When trust is violated or little is done to accomplish important things, people suffer. Even international treaties, agreements, and sanctions have little impact if they are not enforced responsibly. It makes terrorists and rogue nations more bold in their oppression and attacks. Broken promises or protections that never come cause doubt and mistrust.

It’s one thing to say what you want to do, what ought to be done, or even what you plan to do. However, it is another thing completely to make those things actually happen. We need to be careful not to assume that God’s promises are unreliable that way. God can do all he promises, and he never fails to do so. This is why we pray with great confidence.

The answer to Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 107 is, “The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen, teacheth us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to him; and, in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.”


Some modern translations do not
include this last part of verse 13.

There isn’t a museum or vault where the actual original copies of the Bible books are kept. In God’s wise providence, we no longer have them. There were no printing presses or copy machines at the time of their writing so each copy was done by hand. Very quickly the books of the New Testament spread to Asia Minor, Europe, Asia, and Africa. We have over 5,000 ancient manuscripts that preserve the New Testament text. Some papyrus fragments date back to the first century, about the time of the original writing.

By comparing the copies from different ages and from different parts of the world, the copying errors can be confidently identified and eliminated. Dr. B. B. Warfield counted that about 95% of the variations in the copies are just isolated errors. Most are just misspellings, or a word left out or sometimes duplicated.

Once in a while a marginal note by a commentator was copied into the text of one or two manuscripts. Sometimes in regions like Alexandria exiled heretics tampered with the text in a few places. However, it is not difficult to recognize these changes by comparing with the other copies.

This last part of Matthew 6:13 is found in almost all the Greek texts known. It is found in manuscripts from all regions, including the carefully preserved Byzantine copies. These words are quoted by some of the early church writers so we know they cannot be a late addition.

These words are missing from one old copy from Alexandria, and another from Europe. It is also missing from 6 later copies probably made from the earlier one in Alexandria. A few early translations into Latin and Syriac change the text around some or add words. However, of the thousands of copies available, there is unanimity that these words belong there.

Some modern commentators and translators, based upon this rather thin evidence, leave the words out. Many scholars, myself included, find no reason to doubt their authenticity.

Can we be sure that these are the faithful and true words of God? There is a way to authenticate the truth of these words without having to base our decision upon the study of ancient manuscripts. This is not the only prayer in the Bible where these words occur. They are also found in the prayer of King David in 1 Chronicles 29. Most of the Lord’s prayer seems to be based upon this prayer of David. In verses 10-13 we see all the support we need to pray with confidence, “thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever”. David’s prayer goes this way, “Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name.”

These ideas and words are also found in other portions of Scripture. Paul wrote them in 2 Timothy 4:18, “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”

The same things are said about God in Psalm 145:11-13, “They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, And talk of Your power, To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, And the glorious majesty of His kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.”

These things are obviously true about God, so it is no surprise they appear in these inspired prayers. It makes sense that Jesus would include them in this model prayer he gave us too. It is a proper thing to include in our prayers as well.


This closing doxology is a fitting
end to this model for prayer.

The Lord had just given seven petitions, things we should pray for regularly.

  1. that God’s name will be hallowed, treated with holy awe and respect.
  2. that his Kingdom will advance displaying his Sovereign rule and power.
  3. that God’s revealed will should be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  4. that your daily needs will be provided by God who controls all things.
  5. that you will be forgiven for your sins through the work of Jesus Christ.
  6. that you will not be taken in by temptation to satisfy your needs immorally.
  7. that you will be delivered from the evil one, who wants to see you fail.

The model prayer concludes with confidence that God can deliver on the things we ask him to do. His is the Kingdom where he rules all things. His is the power and the glory. These eternal qualities can never fail, they have no end.

These qualities speak to God’s abilities. If God truly rules as King with infinite power, then there is the wonderful and glorious hope that cannot possibly fail to accomplish all the Creator’s holy will. Our petitions are not in vain. They come to a God who redeems and loves his children. He directly made and sovereignly rules over all things, even over those who defiantly dare to be evil.

We call this type of expression used in these concluding words of the prayer a “doxology”. Literally, it means they are words of glory. They remind us of the wonders of our Lord. David’s prayer honors God in his greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty. It says that he is the source of all riches and honor that any other creature might enjoy. He reigns as King with all power and might.

There are no accidents, no changes in his plans. He is our Sovereign God. He is the one who can actually do what you need him to do, and what he says, he will do. He is not just a theological idea. He is the one and only Living, Sovereign Lord.


God’s Majesty and Glory continue forever.

As it says in the Shorter Catechism, God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable. His kingship, power and glory are as eternal as he is. It is his Nature. It is what he is.

God has no beginning, and will have no end. Through all eternity he remains the same. Psalm 90:2 tells us, “Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”


God’s people have often responded
to his glory by saying, “Amen.”

This is an ancient custom that continues today. When David had the recaptured Ark of the Covenant brought back to the Tabernacle in Jerusalem, he wrote a dedication Psalm which is recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36. It ends this way, ” ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting!’ And all the people said, ‘Amen!’ and praised the Lord. ” When true and good things were said about God, his people showed their agreement by saying “Amen”.

“Amen” is a Hebrew word, amaen (אמן). It means “to confirm, to support, to be firm, to be sure, to be true.” The Greek New Testament writings used this same word, amaen (αμην) but wrote it in their own alphabet. We have brought this Hebrew word into English language unchanged except for the pronunciation.

Since God is truth, amen is often used as a name for God. Deuteronomy 7:9 uses a form of this word when it says the “Faithful God” hael hane-eman (האל הנאמן). Isaiah 65:16 twice speaks of the “God of Truth”, “the God of Amen,” Elohae-amaen (אלהי אמן). In Revelation 3:14 Jesus Christ is called “the Amen,” ho amaen (ὁ αμην).

When you put “Amen” at the end of your prayers, it keeps this same basic meaning. Not all prayers in the Bible end with an “Amen,” but when it is there, it wraps up the prayer by saying the word “truth.”

When you close your prayer that way, you are saying that everything in your prayer is offered sincerely and is true. It is all the honest hope and desire of your heart. It means you are confident that the promises your prayer rests upon are true. They must be because God’s word is a solid and certain foundation, and God cannot lie.

When you consider all the things you should ask for in prayer, all 7 petitions in this model Jesus gave us, and agree that the God you pray to is the all powerful and eternal King, and affirm that in Christ he loves you and redeemed you with an infinitely great price, you speak an amazing truth! God can deliver on all the things you are told to pray for. Prayer should be a thankful time of confidently resting your concerns upon God himself.


Use this prayer as a daily guide.

With confidence bring every need and praise to the Creator all through the day. Make sure you, your children and friends know this model prayer by heart. Make this model prayer a pattern to follow whenever you speak with your Redeemer. It should be a part of everything you do throughout every day. Prayer should be more regular than eating. Three meals a day is enough for basic nourishment, but it is not enough for prayer.

Start the day talking to the one who brought you through the night and who has planned the day ahead. Pray in humble thanksgiving every time you receive his provisions of food, your paycheck, or meet a new friend. Bring your needs to him and those of any others God brings to your mind. Your intercession makes you part of the means by which God powerfully fulfills his promises in the lives of others.

Have family times of worship which include prayer for one another. Teach your children to pray. End the day thanking God for every opportunity, for being your loving Shepherd through the rough times, and for every skill and ability you were called upon to use that day.

Since God ordained prayer as a means by which he unfolds his providential care and plan, it is tragic that some neglect this important duty. They leave it to others.

Are you sometimes too busy to engage in what really makes a difference? Do you not believe that God can and will deliver on the promises he made? Has Satan and your fallen heart pulled the wool over your eyes once again? Never let the evil one have little victories in your life.

Make it a point to pray for your prayer life. Use this awesome model our Lord gave you, expand upon it, fill it out with specifics. Engage the enemy with a power he cannot resist or overcome. Be an active advancer of the Kingdom of Grace right now here on earth.

When you finish your prayer, rest back and consider the certainty behind it all because God is All Mighty! Then, really meaning it, think or say a good hearty, “Amen!”

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Deliver Us From Evil


Deliver Us From Evil

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 106b)
by Bob Burridge ©2012

In our information age it would be hard to ignore the fact that there is real evil in our world. It surrounds us in the news that comes to us by television, radio, newspapers, conversations, magazines, internet, cell phones, and tablets. Evil did not just arrive. It is not isolated in terror camps, inner-cities, or Hollywood film studios. It has been here from the beginning of human history, and it is everywhere.

People lie, covet, and neglect their responsibilities. They show disrespect, use God’s name in vain, break the Sabbath, and worship gods who are products of the imagination. Some commit crimes and try to get their way by using violence.

There are those who want to justify all these things as if there is nothing really wrong with them. They excuse those who do them as if they are just exercising their individuality, or are the products of a cruel society. Those who believe that these things are absolutely sinful are dismissed as bigots or intolerant.

That does not change the fact that what violates God’s ways is simply evil. Many live in open rebellion against God. Others violate his ways by suppressing the moral truth embedded in their hearts. It is not just Satan and his army of fallen spirit beings who do these things. The whole human race fell into the grip of evil in Eden.

In the Lord’s Prayer, there are three levels of dealing with our continuing struggle with sin. We are to ask to be forgiven of our debts against God, not to be led into temptation, and to be delivered from evil.

The answer to Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 106 is, “In the sixth petition, which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.”

The word “evil” is used various ways in our Bibles. That English word was sometimes used to translate the Hebrew word ra (רע). In the Old Testament that word was used when God brought disasters or calamities into the lives of nations and individuals. The word does not mean moral wickedness. It was used for such things as natural disasters, deserved judgments, sicknesses, or even personal injuries. These things are unpleasant, but they are not morally wicked acts. The newer translations usually use English words like “calamity” or “disaster”.

Certainly none of us enjoy calamities. It is obviously right to pray for safety from them. However, we pray in subjection to God’s will. He knows that sometimes we must go through them. This is not the kind of “evil” we are to be delivered from when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. The word “evil” is used here for something wicked and morally wrong.


Moral evil can’t exist on its own.

Moral evil is not a disembodied force or entity that just floats around looking for someone to infect. It always has to do with an evil person.

The Old King James translates it, “Deliver us from evil.” Many more recent translations say, “Deliver us from the evil one” or something to that effect. The New King James Version translates Matthew 6:13, “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”

Technically, both are grammatically possible. In the original Greek text there is a definite article like our word “the”. That means that it is not speaking of evil in a general qualitative sense. It is not the quality of evilness. The article makes it a specific place where evil resides. It can only exist in a person. So we are most accurate say “the evil.” Ursinus, author of the Heidelberg Catechism, says that here it, “comprehending all evils … yea, and the devil himself.”

The influence of evil in our own fallen natures, or in other humans around us, or in Satan can work to damage our walk with Christ. Twice Matthew uses this exact same word to describe Satan in Matthew 13. Here “the evil one” is in the singular, so it probably is a reference to Satan in particular. We need to pray that God will deliver us from evil, from those who shelter it in their hearts.

Our struggle is hard enough, then Satan does his best to complicate it for us. He is the ultimate evil one. He orchestrates evil to damage the display of God’s glory in the world. Since showing God’s work is our job, Satan does all he can to hinder Christians. Peter tells us that the Devil prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. He is a real spirit being who hates God and anybody who promotes his glory. Satan is not passive. He is out to get you.

If you belong to Christ, he wants to make you ineffective. It is amazing that he keeps on promoting evil even though he has been defeated and is doomed. Maybe he just does not believe it. Or maybe he just does not care.

Way back in Eden, God said he would lose his battle to destroy God’s plan. He was soundly defeated by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He was bound by the work of Christ so that he can no longer deceive the Gentiles in this era. Yet he keeps on fighting and deceiving whoever falls for his lies.

Don’t let his lies steal your victory! Reject his lies in favor of the promise of God.


God tells what to do along with
your prayer to be delivered from evil.

God generally answers our prayers by means of things he prescribes for us to be doing. 1 Peter 5:8-9 gives this advice for your battle against the evil one, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”

First, he says you should be sober. The word translated as “sober” is naepho (νηφω). It is not the usual word used in ancient Greek for being literally sober. For someone not under the influence of alcohol a different word was used.

The word Peter uses here means having a sober attitude, being “well balanced”, “self-controlled”, and “free from excesses.” In classical Greek it was often used of athletes to describe their disciplined life-style to stay fit. It is used 6 times in the New Testament and 3 times here in 1 Peter.

In your fight against evil you need to maintain a disciplined daily walk with Christ. There should be a balance in your life so you can keep up with what God recommends.

There should be a daily and consistent use of the means of Grace in your life. There should be some time every day to read God’s word. It keeps you informed about what is right and true. God works by it to comfort and strengthen you.

You should talk to God in prayer every day and throughout every day. This is your source of power in your battle with evil. Keep in touch with him to thank and honor him for his good promises and comfort. Bring you needs to him, and ask him for strength and ability to do things well. Pray often for others whenever God brings them into your mind.

You need to be regularly involved in the work of Christ’s Church. The evil one does not like it when you respect the spiritual leaders in your church, when you are faithful in attending worship, and in partaking of the sacraments. Your family members in your local church are here to encourage and help one another. When you stand together like that, you resist the attacks of evil. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”

Satan will try to cut you off from these means of spiritual victory. He tries to get you to neglect God’s word, prayer, and the work of Christ’s church. As you pray to be delivered from the evil one, keep these good things in balance, be sober.

Peter also tells you to be alert. The Greek word here is graegoreo (γρηγορεω) , which means be watchful, vigilant, alert. It is used 23 times in the New Testament. In resisting the evil one you need to watch out! Keep your eyes open for his attacks and stay on the alert.

I injured my right leg awhile ago. Every night before bed I go out to our garage to empty a bucket that catches water that drips from the overflow pan in our air conditioner’s air handler. I had the bucket in one hand while I pushed the door open with the other. I step out onto the little cement slab to secure the door before I dump the bucket. But this time my foot came down on something else — there was an armadillo sitting there, taking a break from tearing up my back lawn. My bare foot came down right on that little creatures back. I’m sure we were both pretty shocked. He took off into the darkness and I twisted and turned trying not to fall or dump the bucket all over me. I guess my leg tensed in such a way that I tore some of the muscles in my right thigh. It healed well, but now I never step out that door without looking at what’s there first.

We have to be on the alert for the unexpected in the spiritual battle too. The evil one looks for moments when you are off guard or vulnerable. Then he strikes. It is important that you know the Bible well so that you do not underestimate your enemy. Satan is not a comic book demon with a red suit, horns, and a pointy tail. He does not prod you with a pitchfork. He is a spiritual being that God says is wise, calculating, and crafty. His goal is to damage God’s glory, and to get his people to disobey God’s ways.

Stay alert. Don’t step on those armadillos that lay in wait where you least expect them. Most importantly, keep your eyes on God’s promises and his work of grace and love. Remind yourself all through the day that you are here for a very specific reason. You are here to glorify God and to obediently enjoy all that he gives you. In James 4:7-8 resisting the devil is closely connected with drawing near to God.

When King David was fleeing for his life from the armies of Absalom, he wrote Psalm 3, “Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’ Selah. But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”

Satan would like you to look enviously at the enticements of sin, and the fake satisfaction it promises. In those weak moments, he hopes to catch you with your protection down. He wants you to give in.

Refuse to get your attention fixed on things like that. Identify them, pray, repent from any sin regarding them, then — turn away. When the enemy attacks, minds filled with God’s promises will be delivered from evil. Psalm 5:11, “But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.”

The Bible says we are more than conquerors in Christ. It also tells us to be sober and alert. The enemy attacks when we are least prepared, and often in ways we least suspect.


When you pray to be delivered from evil,
you call upon God for spiritual victories.

The victories are those he has promised in Christ, and secured by the his work on the Cross.

We pray that God will not let evil overcome us, that evil will not take us captive, but that we will be delivered from its deception. We pray that the Creator will restrain every effort of evil against us.

Look to Jesus. Keep your eyes off the discouragements and enticements of sin. Fix your heart upon the things of God which set you free by the power of the Cross. Pray that God will turn your encounters with evil into times of growth and victory.

Pray that God will one day fully and perfectly deliver you totally from evil in the life to come. That is the assurance you have in Christ, a final and complete deliverance from evil forever. All that opposes God will be cast away eternally into the lake of fire.

Until then, watch and pray, trust and obey. As the hymn says, “there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus.”

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Lead Us Not Into Temptation


Lead Us Not Into Temptation

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 106a)
by Bob Burridge ©2012

From the way advertisers promote things you would think that temptation is not such a bad thing. You would wonder why Jesus told us to pray not to be led into it.

They put the word “Temptation” in the name of colognes, popular perfumes, singing groups, and songs. The Temptation restaurant at the Atlantis Casino on St. Maarten in the Caribbean advertises itself as “sophisticated, elegant, romantic: awaken your senses.” Temptation was also a popular game show in Australia where contestants are tempted by trips to Hawaii, Jewelry, cars and other expensive luxuries. Temptation Island was a reality TV show where couples tempt one another on purpose to see how strong or weak the already immoral relationships are.

We live on the battle field of an often ignored spiritual cosmic war. We should expect the coordinator of the war against God’s ways to do exactly what we see happening. An open attack would be too obvious. It would be seen for what it is. So he trivializes or even glorifies things that openly offend and dishonor God. He makes them seem unimportant, sometimes even appealing. The tragic thing is that even Christians become desensitized to sin and excuse it as normal and accepted behavior.

Jesus explained that this is not the way God’s creation ought to be. In Matthew 6:13 he taught us to pray,

“And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”

We will deal with the second part of this sixth petition in the next lesson.

The answer to Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 106 is, “In the sixth petition (of the Lord’s Prayer), which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.”

Jesus had just told us to pray that God would forgive us of our sins. So this next request follows very logically. If you are sincere about wanting to be forgiven for your sins, then you should also want to be delivered from actually sinning again. If it was possible, you would be happy and willing to have your opportunities for sinning taken away.


First we need to rule out
what we are not asking God to do.

The original word for “temptation” in this verse is peirasmon (πειρασμον). The root idea is simply “to test”, or “to prove something by testing”. We give tests to see how well something has been learned or done. We give math tests to see how well students have learned some particular concept, and how effectively they can put it to use in practical situations. It is not given with any wicked desire to make a student fail. It is simply a test. We test stress points on buildings and bridges to see if they can hold up safely. Sometimes it exposes a weak point that needs to be fixed.

Often the testing is about something moral. In our fallen estate the occasion offering the opportunity to sin becomes an inward desire which pulls us to so something God forbids, or to neglect something he commands.

Testing itself does not have an evil element. This same word was used in Luke 4 to describe how Jesus was “tempted” by the Devil in the wilderness. While he was asked to do something evil, he was certainly not enticed inwardly to do evil. It was a “test” to demonstrate the authority of our Savior, and to be an example to us of how we should deal with moral tests as they come along.

Jesus is not telling you to pray that you would never be tested. Testing is a good and necessary thing in this earthly part of your life. It can prove how much you trust God. It can improve your patience and faithfulness. It can also expose areas of weakness that humble you and make you work harder to improve by the power of the risen Christ. James 1:3 says, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

In Genesis 22 the Lord tested Abraham asking him to sacrifice Isaac. The test was to designed prove his faith, not to make him sin. These tests are good for you. They can show you how strong the Lord is in your life, or where your weaknesses are. They make you call upon him for strength. They can also humble you and drive you to come to him for forgiveness and deliverance.

The word translated “lead” in most of our translations is a form of the Greek word eisphero (εἰσφέρω). It is a compound word where the prefix for “in/into” is attached to the ordinary word “to carry”. The word is used in the New Testament for bearing someone disabled on a stretcher (Luke 5:18,19), of bringing things into a situation (1 Timothy 6:7, Acts 17:20, Hebrews 13:11), and of being led into a location (Luke 12:11).

You should not ask to be exempted from all situations that test you. However, you do not want to be enticed to the point where you actually fall into sin. We should pray that we will not be taken in by the moral tests. We ask for God’s power that we will not be carried by situations into where we fail to honor God by our thoughts, words, or deeds.

God might put you in situations that test you, but the desire to respond in a sinful way comes from your own heart. James 1:13-14 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”

James uses the same Greek root word as in Matthew 6:13. God certainly tests you at times, but he never causes you to be enticed to sin. He might send calamities, or permit Satan to test you (he did that with Job, Jesus and others), but God never causes you to sin.

He may bring tests to show an unbeliever his need for Christ. He might test a believer to show where he needs to depend more upon Christ, or to help him see where God has already strengthened him by grace. When a person gives in and sins, it is always his own fault, not God’s. Our evil desires do not come from Satan. He might urge you on, but if you do wrong, you cannot say “the devil made me do it.” It is your own fallen desires that entice you to sin.

Every moral choice is a test. It is an opportunity either to sin, or to do what is right. When God brings them, the tests are no more motivated to make you sin than a math test is motivated to make you fail. When those tests come along, you can only give one of two answers: either, “No, I will not give in to evil,” or, “Ok, I’ll give in and do the thing God forbids.” In every choice that comes along you either prevail or fail.

God tests his children for many reasons, but it is always to strengthen them. David was given opportunity to sin with Bathsheba and to kill her husband Uriah (2 Samuel 11). He failed horribly, and he grieved deeply for his choices. He bore pain that tormented him the rest of his life. There were, however, good results as we read in Psalm 52. David repented. He better understood his own unworthiness and the awesome grace of God. He learned to walk more closely with God.

Peter was tested three times about his readiness to stand for Jesus. He tragically denied the Savior each time that night his Lord was betrayed and arrested (Luke 22). Though he failed, there were good results. He was humbled to repentance and taught to depend more upon Christ as we see in his life after the resurrection of Jesus.

Our prayer then is this, “Lord, though you may test me, do not let me fall into the grip of temptation so that I sin. If I fall, forgive me by your grace, and deliver me from doing it again.”


All the natural human desires which God created in us
can be satisfied in morally good ways.

When you get hungry or thirsty, you have the sense of taste to enjoy satisfying those needs in moderate ways. If you eat foolishly or drink irresponsibly you give in to dangerous temptations. The consequences bring tragic results to your health.

You need friends to satisfy your need for companionship. It is not wise to surround yourself with people who have values that tempt you to do wrong things. Of course you need to be with unbelievers to influence them for Christ. To them, and to poorly taught believers, you need to be light and salt as Jesus taught us. However, that should not be where you look for your encouragement and regular fellowship. God calls you to take advantage of your times together with like-minded believers. Friends can either build you up or bring you down. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” You need to be a friend for other believers, and make positive friendships for yourself.

The world has become very open about wrong ways to satisfy sexual desires. God made men and women to be attractive to one another so they would enjoyably build families and have children. When sexual desires are sought to be satisfied outside of marriage, the imagery God intended by it is confused and distorted. The family was designed by our Creator to teach us about his relationship with his church. It is no wonder that as marriage is trivialized we also see a decline in churches. There can be no real satisfaction to the whole person in the confusion of immoral sexual relationships. God provides for what we really need in that area of our lives. It is found only in marriage as he defines it in his word.

Natural desires themselves are not wicked. It is the wrong ways of trying to satisfy them that are evil. Wrong remedies for our desires are no real remedies at all. They only make people less content, and alienate them from God’s ways which alone give true pleasure. What is even worse is that these things offend God. They are truly evil because God forbids them.

When we ask not to be led into temptation, we should not be expecting that God would take away our normal and good desires, but that he will strengthen us to resist trying to satisfy them in wrong ways.


As we would expect, God’s enemies urge
deceptive ways of dealing with temptation.

One strategy of evil is to tangle us up in ways bound to fail. Our fallen nature is very willing to be taken in by remedies that appear to remove the problem. In reality they do nothing to help us avoid being carried off into sin.

Some try to resist temptation by turning against their natural desires. These ascetics make the mistake of thinking that by avoiding all pleasure they can avoid sin. The writings of the monks in the monasteries show that though they denied themselves pleasures, temptation followed them into their cubicles, into their retreats, and into the deepest thoughts of their hearts.

It is not necessary to retreat into a monastery to be an ascetic. Some make lists of common pleasures from which they choose to abstain in their quest of a more pure life. They might even consider the things on their list to be sin. They retreat from the culture in which God calls them to minister. They create isolated sub-cultures hiding their light under a basket when it ought to be on a lampstand shining God’s truth out to the lost world. Such people live with a crippling fear that they might enjoy something.

Wrongly satisfying our normal urges come from our fallen souls. It does not come from our natural needs themselves, or from the good things God made. Avoiding enjoyment will not keep you from lusting or coveting. Denying basic human desires denies what God made humans to be.

Avoiding the pleasures of God’s creation is no answer. There is no victory when the armies run from the battle. That is only giving in to another kind of temptation, the kind that is quick to condemn everyone else, and lay blame upon innocent things God has made. It excuses the person for neglecting his duties as God’s representative on earth.

We are to bring the Gospel of Redemption in Christ to those around us while we enjoy and work to subdue the earth and its inhabitants for God’s glory. Psalm 24:1 tells us, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.”

The other extreme, quite the opposite of the ascetic, finds ways to embrace things God calls sin. Evil can brilliantly use of the minds God created in us to come up with irrational alternatives to the obvious.

Some openly reject God’s moral commandments respectfully dismissing them imagining that they no longer apply. Placing an expiration date on eternal moral principles is the strange logic used in many churches today. It appeals to the immature Christian if you tell him he doesn’t need to worry about obedience since he is “saved,” and that he can safely ignore what God revealed about himself before the time of Jesus Christ.

Some try to down-play the seriousness of sin. Like the serpent in Eden, they offer lies like, “God is all loving. He understands how hard it is for us, so he is not very upset about our sins.” Or they say, “God will not judge us just for trying to satisfy our natural desires, even if we do not always satisfy them in exactly the right way.” They reason that, “Everybody sins, certainly our common sins cannot make us as evil as real criminals.”

That is exactly the opposite of what God tells us in his word. Any sin demands an infinitely horrible price. It was so serious that Jesus had to die and to suffer that infinite disgrace to redeem us. Jesus wept when he saw the unfaithful hearts of those who said they were God’s people.

Then there are the open Hedonists who meet temptation with open arms. They indulge themselves with things God forbids and neglect what he commands. Usually these do not join with Bible believing churches so their threat is more to society than to believers.

This is the subtlety and deception of sin. It draws people either to despise the way God gave us to satisfy our needs the right way, or to despise God’s revealed ways so that sin can be freely embraced. Neither those who abstain from good things, nor those who indulge in forbidden things are ever truly satisfied.

There is a far better way.


Bible is filled with God’s help about
how you should deal with temptation.

Ephesians 6:14-18 tells about our spiritual armor in the battle against the enemies of God. It says, “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”

Before you can expect to overcome temptation, you need to be enabled by regeneration. The unredeemed only frustrate themselves because they cannot be victorious on their own.

To protect against the attacks of evil you need to have on that breastplate of righteousness. That is the righteousness Jesus earned for you by dying in your place. His work provides the helmet of salvation that protects your head, that vital part of your body, against attacks. If your sins are forgiven in Christ, there is no barrier between you and God’s care. The power to battle temptation rises to a new level in you.

Your weaponry in the battle against temptation is God’s word. The soldier’s belt holds his tunic in place, and holds the sheath for his sword. In our battle against temptation, that belt, the anchoring point, is God’s revealed truth. Truth is given to us in the Bible, the sword of the Spirit.

Jesus constantly quoted the Bible in his temptation in the wilderness. In Matthew 4:4 he did not allow Satan’s lie to stand. He corrected him from the Scriptures. He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”

Jesus was quoting from Moses in Deuteronomy 8:3. The manna God sent for Israel in the wilderness was not what really sustained them. It was God’s faithfulness to provide what they truly needed. He gave them his word of promise, his Covenant. His power is what made the manna fall. God promised and provided all they needed.

The Bible is a powerful weapon against evil and temptation. It teaches the right ways to satisfy our natural needs, the ways God designed, the ways that really work. Living outside the boundaries of what God approves will only stir up less satisfaction. We need to draw that sword of the Spirit and battle off temptation with the weapon of real truth. Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.”

God’s word does more than just inform us about sin. It is a living word that actually keeps us from falling into sin. It is there to protect us from the enemy’s weapons that tempt us. We need to deploy the shield of faith, trust in the revealed words of God. Temptation can only be battled successfully by the power of the Holy Spirit. By trusting in that power we have a power that no worldly counselor can offer as help in guiding us to overcome what tempts us. In Matthew 26:41 Jesus said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Call upon the Creator Himself for strength and guidance. This is why the last spiritual weapon in Ephesians 6 is prayer. Psalm 139 is a good model prayer to offer sincerely as each day begins. It says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”

When temptation comes along, we need to draw alongside the cross. Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. When he ministers to us by his Spirit, his living word takes on all enemies and defeats them.

When Ephesians 6 tells the spiritual soldier to sandal his feet with the gospel of peace, it means to be ready to go to others to represent God’s ways to them too. Together we can battle against temptation by practicing and promoting God’s ways.

Therefore, when you pray, “lead us not into temptation”, remember what 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Forgive Us Our Debts


Forgive Us Our Debts

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 105)
by Bob Burridge ©2012

One of the hard lessons we have to learn as children is to know when it is right and good to forgive people who do hurtful things. It does not get much easier when we get older. We have a sense that bad things should not be ignored. There should be consequences. On the other hand we know that there are times when we have to end our grudges and anger. It is often not easy for us to do it.

God created us and this world in which we live to show a balance between Justice and Mercy. When we forgive someone, that act of mercy should never violate the principle of justice.

God is the perfect balance of justice and mercy. He both punishes and forgives. Since we were created in God’s image, we need to balance these things too. But God’s image in us is distorted and confused because of our fallen nature. We inherited corrupted souls from Adam. To complicate that, we grow up in a sea of fallen humanity that has distorted views and values. Fear or personal guilt can make it hard to hold others responsible for the harm they cause. Selfish cruelty can make people want others to suffer beyond what they deserve.

Distorted ideas about Justice can make people unmerciful. Justice can become a word used to justify a vengeful love for cruelty. It can make you refuse to forgive in situations where you should forgive.

Mercy can be distorted too. It can be twisted to where it promotes injustice. A twisted view of mercy might let criminals go free to hurt others. It can enable the wicked to continue doing evil without consequences. It can make you forgive where you have no right to do so.

Because of these imperfections we are sometimes conflicted inwardly about what to do. When people hurt us we want justice to be done, but we also know we need to show mercy. We pray for God’s mercy even though we know we are not innocent. Justice demands that our sins and guilt should be punished forever, yet God promises to forgive some, and to make them his dearly loved children.

Both Justice and Mercy are good things. God is both just and merciful. Therefore they cannot truly be in conflict with one another.

We need to get rid of the distortions and bring these two qualities together. We need to understand about God’s forgiveness to us, and about when we ought to forgive others.


Jesus taught us to pray about forgiveness
in the model we call the Lord’s Prayer.

In Matthew 6:12 Jesus said, “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” In Luke 11:4 Jesus put it this way, “And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. …”

After the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 Jesus immediately expanded on that point. He said in verses 14-15, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” the NASB has “transgressions” instead of “trespasses.”

Together, these verses help us understand what we should mean when we pray for forgiveness.

The answer to Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 105 is, “In the fifth petition, which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, we pray that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.”


First, we need to understand what
things are being forgiven.

There are three different words used in these verses: “debt”, “sins”, and “trespasses”. They all clearly refer to the same basic thing, but each bring unique meanings to the situation. They are offenses that become barriers to our fellowship with God or with others.

The word “debt” in Matthew 6:12 is a translation of the Greek word opheilaema (ὀφείλημα). This is the usual word used for a debt, owing something to somebody. You are a debtor to God because you have disobeyed your moral obligations to him. Your sin obligates you to its penalty, an infinite debt you can never pay off on your own. People become debtors to others when they mistreat them, or owe them something. They are obligated to make things right if they borrow, hurt, inconvenience, or harm someone.

The word “sin” in Luke 11:4 is the Greek word hamartia (ἁμαρτία). It comes from an ancient Greek root meaning “to miss what you aim at.” It came to be the usual world for sin. It was used pretty much the way we use the word sin today. We sin against God when we miss the target of what he tells us is right and good. Sin is when we do things we should not do, or when we neglect doing what we should do.

The word “trespasses” in Matthew 6:14-15 is the Greek word paraptoma (παράπτωμα). It means taking a wrong step, going where you should not go. A transgression of God’s law is when you do what he forbids or neglect what he commands. People trespass against us when they do bad things against us. They violate our safety, take what belongs to us, lie about us, cheat us, break agreements, show disrespect, or violate our trust.

These three words have a common theme and share the same basic meaning. They are violations of an obligation to someone. They create a barrier of offense. These are the kinds of things Jesus says should be forgiven by us toward others.


But what does it mean to forgive these things?

The true forgiveness Jesus was talking about is a mercy that respects the demands of justice. When we pray “forgive us our debts …” we are asking for God’s mercy to settle what we owe.

First we need to understand what needs to be forgiven. There is a deep offense that separates us from God. It is the infinite and impenetrable barrier of guilt from sin. Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death.”

This moral debt we owe is far greater than most people realize. Sin has real consequences. As sinners we all fall short of what God expects of us. We inherit Adam’s fallen nature and guilt, and we add to that by our own sins. This guilt condemns us to spiritual death. That means total separation from God’s fellowship for all eternity. It is a debt we all owe as members of the fallen human race.

God’s mercy had to deal with the demands of Justice. Jesus was the promised Messiah. He came to redeem his people from their debt. In his perfect life, and in his death and resurrection, he represented all those given to him by the Father. He paid their debt by dying in their place satisfying all the demands of God’s justice. He removed the offense that separated them from their holy Creator.

To simply forgive us by overlooking our sins would contradict part of God’s own nature. Divine justice demands that our moral debt against God must be paid, not just set aside. So Jesus paid the debt.

Those who put their hope in Christ, and renounce any other imagined way to innocence, show evidence that their debt is paid in full. The barrier of offense is removed, and their fellowship with God is restored. The life produced by that work in them changes their attitudes and moral values. It convicts them of sin, stirs them to sincerely repent, enables them to trust in the gospel promise, and starts them growing in their desire to obey God’s moral principles.

Forgiveness is not just forgetting about sins, it is about dealing with them. We are forgiven when the sin and guilt is washed away in Christ. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So, God does not forgive us just as an act of kindness by overlooking our debt of sin. He pays for our sins with the awesome price of his own suffering in our place. Only the perfectly holy and Sovereign God could make that kind of substitution. It was not just a kind thing to do as an example to us. It was necessary if we were to be redeemed without violating divine justice.

Jesus said in Matthew 26:28, “for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

God’s mercy never ignores or violates the demands of justice. It satisfies those demands.


In a similar way, we should forgive one another.

First we need to clear up a common error. Some misread what Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount. He did not say, “… forgive us our debts because we forgive others.” He said, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive others.” That is, “in the same way”

God is not waiting for us to forgive others before he forgives us. We are not the cause of God’s mercy. His love that sent our Savior to the cross is why we are forgiven. It is not because of what we do.

Those forgiven ought to be forgiving people. There is a way in which we forgive that is a model of what God does for us. That is exactly what Paul taught when he wrote to the churches. in Colossians 3:13 he said, “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” In Ephesians 4:32 to 5:1 Paul wrote, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.”

There should be forgiveness that emerges in those who are forgiven. They are changed people. But how can we satisfy justice for someone else so that we can be merciful? Obviously we cannot do what only the Savior could do. We are not able to be substitutes paying the judicial debt of others.

However, there is another sense in which the word forgiveness is used in Scripture. What Jesus did for us provided for a “judicial forgiveness”. Beyond that, and upon the basis of that, God treats us as his own children. This is “personal forgiveness”.

The Judicial kind of forgiveness is about our legal standing before the law. A person is forgiven legally for a crime when the penalty is paid or when he is pardoned. That removes the legal penalty the person deserved.

The Personal kind of forgiveness has to do with our attitude toward another person. It removes the grudge we might hold against an offender. We do not have the right personally to declare the person innocent before the law, but we can treat the person with kindness and forgive the offense we feel against us.

Forgiving someone cannot mean that you declare them innocent of what they did. If someone murders, God’s justice demands they pay the penalty required by civil law. We have no right to forgive them and set them free. That would not be mercy, it would be a horrible injustice. If someone steals, God requires that they make full restitution to the victim. We have no right to forgive them from meeting the demands of God’s law. Again, that would not be mercy, it would be injustice.

But, there is another part of forgiveness in Scripture. Once we are reconciled to God by the death of Christ, he treats us as his family. We cannot remove an offender’s guilt, but we can treat him with kindness and compassion.

As redeemed people we are told to show the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23 lists these characteristics, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

The first of these qualities is love. It does not only apply to those who treat us well. Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

We are not to ignore what God demands. The State ought to execute convicted murderers, force criminals to pay their debts, and use deadly force when necessary to defend our safety, liberty, and land. The church is told to bar the unrepentant and contentious from the sacraments. It is not mercy to neglect these things, it is injustice. We are not to punish the guilty with a sense of personal vengeance or anger. We should treat all life with respect, though with contempt that a life created to declare God’s glory has been used immorally.

Only those properly authorized by God’s word can carry out his justice here on earth. As individuals, we have a different attitude than the world’s. When it is not criminal, but a personal offense, we should show the fruit of the Holy Spirit toward the offender.

We forgive others because we are forgiven. The renewed heart should want to forgive others. If we are sons of God, we should be becoming more like our Father. If we are regenerated this is one of the changes that should be growing in us.

When you personally forgive it means you do not hold a grudge against others. You treat them with understanding and mercy. They, like you, are merely sinners. If a person is redeemed, it is by God’s grace alone. When the work of grace is applied to us, our hearts are changed. One thing implanted in that renewed heart is that sense of forgiveness. Changed hearts should be learning to forgive others as Christ forgives them.


The true state of the heart is
betrayed by its ability to forgive or not.

Just as forgiveness emerges from a redeemed heart, persisting unforgiveness warns of an unregenerated one. To be able to fulfill your duty in forgiving others, you need to be sure that God has forgiven you for your sin and guilt. God’s law shows us that when there are tensions between people, even if someone has done something directly against you, you are obligated as a Christian to demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Let the civil authorities deal with crimes. On the personal side, show compassion for fellow sinners in need of Christ.

Exodus 23:4-5 gives an application to a particular case, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.”

What God tells us to do teaches us about what God is and does. God forgives, and we should forgive others too. We have a responsibility to treat everyone kindly, patiently, humbly, gently, and meekly.

I saw a moving example on television several years ago. A mother was testifying in court in a sentencing hearing. A man who showed no remorse had been convicted of brutally murdering her child. She said that as a Christian she must, and did, forgive him. But then she pleaded for the court to hand out the maximum sentence for the sake of justice, and to protect others from the unremorseful criminal. Though not a theologian, she had an amazingly good grasp of this biblical principle.

This is not something that can be found or conjured up in an unredeemed heart. God redeemed you to be different. You’re to be a light in the world, not just someone who talks about light. But shining is not easy. This is why you should pray “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”.

When you pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer you are calling upon God in Christ to wash away your sins and keep your heart pure in its renewed estate. You are begging for the innocence Christ provided by grace alone. You are confessing that you have no other claim to innocence, but that he paid your debt. And you are asking for help in forgiving those who are debtors to you. You cannot do it on your own, but in Christ you can. As Paul said for our benefit in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Never let hatred and unforgiveness eat away at your heart and add pain to others. Attack the poisonous grudges that go beyond what justice demands, and stir up more hatred. Make the places where you live good places for others to be. Forgive others as Christ has forgiven you.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Our Daily Bread


Our Daily Bread

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 104)
by Bob Burridge ©2012


As humans we have three most basic survival cravings.
We need oxygen, water, and food.

The most powerful is our craving for Oxygen. When it is cut off we start gasping and struggling for air. We can only last a few minutes without it. After that the brain cells and other body parts stop functioning, and will not be able to recover.

The next strongest survival craving is for Water. It makes up about 62% of the body’s mass. It is needed for the chemical processes our bodies perform every minute. Water gets used up in these reactions, and some evaporates. If it is not replaced in time, we dehydrate and die. That is why thirst is such a powerful craving.

The third most important need is Food. Depending upon our health, we can probably go a few days without it. During that time the electrolytes in the body’s system start to run short and we feel weak. After our bodies use up the stored fats, they begin getting nutrients from more vital tissues. Some organs are weakened and shut down. When the body can no longer keep up with the energy demands, it dies from starvation.

When I was in Scouts I liked taking long hikes with friends in the forest-hills of Western New York. We each took a canteen of water, and learned how to get safe water out in the wild. To keep up our energy on long hikes we learned some helpful hints from the native Americans of long ago. My friend Gary and I would make up a batch of Pemmican. It is made from dried meat, rendered fat, and seeds, nuts, or berries depending upon your preferred taste. We wrapped individual servings in waxed paper were it would not spoil for weeks. One Chippewayan Indian guide’s recipe reportedly would last for several years. We were never thirsty or hungry and could explore the woods for days.

God did not just give us cravings. He also gave us a commission to labor for our provisions. He enables us to work for what we have. We also need to remember that without his provision of the basic materials and his care for us, we would have nothing. So Jesus reminded us in his model prayer that we should pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 104 asks, “What do we pray for in the fourth petition?” The answer it gives is, “In the fourth petition, which is, Give us this day our daily bread, we pray that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.”


When we pray “Give us this day our daily bread”
we ask God to provide for our regular physical needs.

The word bread is not just limited to what we make by baking ground-up grain. The Hebrew word is lekhem (לחם). It is a general word commonly used for “food”. Bread is so basic in our diets that it is often used in that more general way. In the time of Jesus, Greek was the common language. Their word for bread is, artos (αρτος). It was often used the same way. We sometimes call someone who works to support a family the “bread winner.”

In this model prayer, Jesus teaches that we should pray for our basic daily needs. But what about praying for specific kinds of provisions? There is a danger here. We should not become dissatisfied with what God provides to meet our needs. This prayer should not become an expression of covetousness for getting the best, or for expecting luxuries.

When Israel became dissatisfied with manna and asked for better food, it was treated as rebellion against the Lord in Numbers 11:6. We need to ask that our needs will be met. If God blesses you with more, be extra humbly thankful. This is what Proverbs 30:8 teaches. The wise call out saying, “… Give me neither poverty nor riches — Feed me with the food allotted to me;” While it is proper to ask to have our daily needs met, we should never become covetous of what the Lord has not chosen to give us.

This does not mean that luxuries are evil. God in his sovereign pleasure may provide you with abundance and rich material blessings. However, to covet that, and not to be willing to simply have your needs met, is very wrong.

Psalm 62:10 gives advice to those who are blessed with riches. It says, “… If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them.”

This is one of the dangers that have plagued the rich all through history. If you become covetous rather than humbly thankful, you forget that God is the source of every blessing. No one should say grace at meals, then live pridefully as if what you have was deserved aside from God’s care and mercy. That would reveal a horrible hypocrisy in your giving of thanks. No one should expect that he deserves more than others. We should not let our blessings make us look down upon the less fortunate, or to become arrogant.

Pray for your food and daily needs, but enjoy and appreciate whatever the Lord provides. All God gives you beyond your actual needs should be managed responsibly for his glory.

The real issue is the attitude of the heart. Whether you have inferior or superior things, remember that (assuming you have worked faithfully) what is alloted to you is God’s gift to be thankfully received and used well for his glory. Dissatisfaction or pride expose an unthankful and unsubmissive heart. As Job said in
Job 1:21 “… The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Paul reminded Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:8, “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”

Sometimes God might withhold some things we are convinced we need. However, we know that God is all wise and always good. He knows what is best for us to have at each moment, and when it is best to go without.

There are times when there is a good purpose in not having all we think we need. Our duty in those times, is to work hard for our provisions, but to trust that the Lord does what is best for us and for those we love.

By this we learn contentment in God as our Provider. Even in prison Paul could write in Philippians 4:11 “… I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”

Therefore, this is how we should pray for God to provide us with our regular physical needs.


When we pray “Give us this day our daily bread”
we confess that our provisions come only from God.

We should keep in mind that he provides for our needs through ordinary means. Asking God for bread does not mean that we should wait for it to magically appear on our door step. There were a few special provisions in ancient times where God provided supernaturally.

  • God miraculously provided manna and quail in the wilderness (Exodus 16:4 Numbers 11:31)
  • He fed Elijah by sending food by Ravens at Cherith (1 Kings 17:2-6)
  • At Zarephath miraculously increased the flour and oil for Elijah (1 Kings 17:10-16)
  • The Lord increased the widow’s oil to pay her debts (2 Kings 4:1-7)

These were exceptions. Even in biblical days, such special provisions were very rare and unusual events. The prophets and people did not expect their provisions to come that way.

Supernatural provisions were part of God’s special revelation. They took place, like all the physical miracles, at specific times to teach lessons about God. Now that the Scriptures are completed there is no need for special revelation like that.

God ordinarily and regularly provides for his children in natural ways. Even before the fall into sin, God did not give Adam his food by miracles. The Lord created things in nature to be his food. God told Adam to subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28), and to cultivate and care for his garden (Genesis 2:15).

God’s diet for us includes: vegetables, fruits, grains, and the milk and meats of various animals. We are to grow the plants and tend to the animals. God calls some of us to other kinds of work to provide for other needs beyond just food. We use what we earn to pay those who produce the food for us.

We are created to work for our daily bread. Work is honorable and good. Sin did not make work necessary, it made work difficult.

We are also commissioned to care for the true needs of others who are not able to work. Ephesians 4:28 says, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”

God provides opportunities to work, but he is the one who blesses our efforts. It is good to begin all your work with prayer. Ask God to help you to do your best. Keep this in mind when you pray, “give us this day our daily bread.”


There is a work ethic which God built into the world.

Working to the best of our ability, and for God’s glory, is a moral obligation. It is part of the way things were created so that God’s nature and love are displayed in us to the world.

Everything is God’s. Ownership is the responsibility to personally manage some piece of God’s world he has providetially given to you. There are three particular ways by which we humans get to own things:

  • You own what you earn by legitimate labor, and by the use of your talents.
  • You own what you inherit. What families earn remains theirs from generation to generation.
  • You own what you are given as gifts, or as benevolences in your times of need.

In each case someone worked, or gave what they earned to someone else.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 challenges Christians to practice this work ethic. “that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.”

There’s a sobering warning in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “… If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” This doesn’t say that those who are not able to work should starve. It means that those who refuse to work should not be supported in an irresponsible life-style.


Fallen human hearts held in the chains of sin
will pervert God’s principles.

In that fallen condition people try to get things in other ways than what God provides. Theft and fraud are obvious violations of God’s moral law. If you take something God has entrusted to somebody else, that does not make it yours. It makes you and open rebel against God’s care and wise provision for others.

Another violation of this principle is entitlementism. This is where people feel specially privileged, and believe they should not have to work. Sometimes people who are very wealthy get the idea that work is beneath them. Rather than care for God’s world and work to make it better, they expect others to make the sacrifices of time and energy in their place.

At the other end of the economic scale some of the poor believe others should support them. Many people go through struggles at one time or another. Some want to work but are unable. However, no one should ever become content to be lazy and let others do the work. They should not let support from others rob them of their incentive to work, or take away their God-given drive to be a part of the working world when they are able.

Some try to get more things by gambling. They risk some of the provisions God gave them, hoping to get things they didn’t work for. The word gambling is a little undefined because it could include legitimate investment risks, and the rewards or prizes of innocent recreations. However, it violates biblical ethics when the risks become an expression of coveting things not earned. Tragically some have become a burden to society and to friends because they foolishly risk what God entrusted to them, buying lottery tickets, betting on races, or games of chance, hoping to gain more things without having to earn them by working. In most cases gambling has a greater likelihood of losing what you have, than of getting more. There is a real danger if it is an attempt to gain things in ways God has not set up for gaining ownership.

Lawsuits have become another way people try to get around God’s work ethic. There are times when legal action should be taken to hold people responsible for damage they do. For some it becomes a business, or a way of taking things from others. They sue to get huge financial rewards, sometimes for their own negligence. Frivolous law suits cost society by raising insurance costs and strangling legitimate business.

We’re all familiar with case of the woman who spilled hot coffee in her lap and sued McDonalds for $2million. There is that wrongful death lawsuit of an oil company for simply giving out free tickets to the Great White concert where pyrotechnics caused a deadly fire. The courts should not take money from those who earned it, and give it to those who did not, unless there is real evidence that something criminally irresponsible was done.

Illegitimate ways of getting things cannot make a person the rightful owner of what he gets. They mark him as a thief who takes what is not properly his. A person only become a rightful owner of something by earning it, inheriting it, or by receiving it as a gift.


Prayer is commanded as part of how
you get your regular needs.

God made prayer to be one of the means by which he provides for his people. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you.” Also, here in the Lord’s Prayer we are told to pray for our daily bread.

We pray because we know that we depend upon God for every blessing. We should never forget that, or take what he give us for granted. As Moses warned in Deuteronomy 8:17-18 you should never say in your heart, ” ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

Prayer should be offered with the humble awareness that everything good comes from God. He provides all the opportunities and abilities we have. He makes the food to grow, and makes it available to us.

Every day we need to confess to God in prayer that our provisions come only from him. We ought to show that we are sincere by obeying his rules for managing what he gives us.

  • We should understand the difference between the things we truly need, and the extras he blesses us with.

  • We need to manage as a faithful and responsible child all our Father entrusts to our care.
  • We should not use his blessings for things that displease him.
  • The tithe or our earnings which we bring to the church is never ours to spend. That is God’s budget for his children so that his kingdom on earth can do its work.
  • We need to look for ways to use that 90% that is ours, so that after our basic needs are met we can responsibly help others who might not be able to meet their needs at the moment.

In all things, we need to show our trust and gratitude to the Lord for our daily bread. Our duty is to work to the best of our ability, to pray for God’s blessing upon our labors, and to manage responsibly all our Lord gives us so that it maximizes the Glory of Jesus Christ and advances his Kingdom.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

The Coming of God’s Kingdom


The Coming of God’s Kingdom

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 102)
by Bob Burridge ©2012

God created everything to work best with an organized authority structure. Our homes, churches, places of work, and communities were set up by our Creator to reveal his Kingship over all he made.

When sin was introduced into God’s universe there were those who challenged the King of Glory’s rightful authority and power to rule all things. He lost none of his sovereignty, but it became obscured in the eyes of the fallen beholders.

As hard as it may be for us finite creatures to understand, the challengers were part of the eternal plan. Their rebellion came as no surprise to the one who decreed it to reveal his justice and grace.

The great power struggle in this spiritual battle is led by Satan, the great deceiver and enemy of us all. His impossible ambition is to be free of the kingship of God the Creator. In the temptation of Adam the whole human race was brought into that conflict. We struggle today on the current battle-field of that cosmic war. Evil strives to suppress God’s display of glory in every area of human life. The confusion over who is King, over who is Lord of all and of your own life personally is a more serious concern than most people realize.


The second petition in the Lord’s Prayer is, “… Thy kingdom come … “

God’s Kingship and Kingdom are major themes in Scripture. The Old Testament is filled with promises about God establishing his kingdom. In the New Testament the word “kingdom” is used about 160 times. In the Book of Acts the Apostle’s Message is called the preaching of the Kingdom six times. God obviously considered it to be a very important thing for us to know about.

The kingdom idea is hard for us to understand today. Our modern political and social systems are nothing like the ancient ones. Most of us have grown up without a king of any kind. In my country our leaders are chosen by elections, and pledge to preserve the constitution which was designed to limit the authority and power of those who hold office. When they fail to do well they can be voted out of office. If leaders break laws they can be charged, tried, and if found guilty put in jail.

Even the Kings and Queens we know from our more recent English heritage are constitutional monarchs. They are limited by law, and by elected representatives who actually make the laws and set the policies for their nation.

The ancient concept of kings and kingdoms was very different. The king was totally sovereign over his subjects. His word was law, and there was no appeal. What he said was right simply because he said it. Individuals were thought to exist for the King. He controlled the military and the police to restrain his enemies and lawbreakers. God’s rule over the universe and over his church is not like that of our modern states. In his providence he permitted that ancient system to develop so that he might used it to reveal his kingship over all that is.

As Creator, he rules with absolute Sovereign authority over all things and all other beings. His word is law simply because he made things to be a certain way. Everything exists for Him. His glory is always the highest good. He alone has infinite power to preserve his kingdom and to protect his people.

When we pray, “Thy kingdom come” we are not asking for it to arrive because it has not yet come. God is absolutely sovereign now, always was, and always will be. He is not waiting to become king. His Kingship, and therefore his Kingdom, has always been totally everywhere. There is only one true Kingdom, because there is but one true King, one Sovereignty, one Dominion that is over all.

Because God allowed sin into his creation, his Kingdom is not always clearly perceived or understood here on earth. Sin distorts God’s Kingship in the eyes of fallen creatures. The result is the acceptance of false ideas about his Kingdom, and the rise of a Kingdom of Deception.

The Head of State of that Kingdom of Satan is not really sovereign at all. His words are not law in any true sense of the word. His power is limited by the one higher than himself, the one who made him. Satan cannot preserve and protect his people. He cannot deliver on his promises to his followers. He only deceives, abuses, and dooms them.

History is filled with rivals to the thrones of Kingdoms. Bible history is filled with stories about usurpers in Israel and the other ancient nations. Even King David had to deal with his son Absolom who tried to take over the kingdom from his father by using spies, deceit, and military force.

Anyone can call himself a king, but is not what makes him one. Satan, from the beginning, has envied God’s power and authority. He has deceived people’s hearts, and lured nations into his anti-god ways. He feeds a culture of immorality, addictions, violence, and perverted religion.

He also knows the importance of God’s kingdom in the lives of God’s children. He knows that a right understanding of it brings comfort and encouragement, and weakens his claim to power. So he promotes a distorted view of all the world, and of God. He wants to confuse you, and make people believe him, and fear his false claims.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes what this prayer petition means in question 102. It answers this way:

“In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.”

The answer breaks down into three parts. When we say “Thy Kingdom come”,
1. we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed;
2. we pray that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it;
3. we pray that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.


Satan is a liar from the beginning.

His kingdom is a deception. He has no real power over us. We should not believe his lies, or be taken in by his deceptions about what he claims to be able to do.

In human wars, the enemy tries to make it look like he is winning, even when he is not. He hopes the fear factor will dishearten the brave and empower the critics of the war. That kind of propaganda has been used in wars as long as history has been written. The same tactic is used by the forces of Satan in the cosmic battle here on earth.

God’s Kingdom has been progressively destroying the false kingdom all through history. The first attack on the human race was in Eden. It was a tragic attack, but it was quickly answered. God revealed why he allowed Adam and Eve to be taken in by deceit. He announced his plan to use a child born of a woman to totally defeat Satan and evil. The amazing plan of redemption, the reality of grace and mercy, and the power of his divine love were suddenly displayed in a way the enemy had not anticipated. The gospel promise was a devastating blow to the enemy after his first human attack.

Though the attacks that followed were fierce, at each stage the Kingship of God was made more clear. The depravity in the time of Noah was answered by a great flood, but Noah was saved by grace. When the nations of the earth drifted off into paganism, by grace God blessed one tribe of his choosing, the family of Abraham. When all seemed lost after hundreds of years of captivity and enslavement in Egypt, when Israel no longer bore any resemblance of a nation, God raised up Moses. The victory at the Red Sea and in the law being given at Sinai proved without any doubt, God still ruled as Sovereign Lord in a Kingdom emerging little by little through the ages.

The Kings of Israel showed what a mess we make of God’s kingdom when human greed takes over and tries to usurp the power and glory of God. Each time God raised up his Prophets to point out the hard to admit but indisputable reality: God was king, and this is his kingdom both to those who like that fact, and to those who do not.

Then Jesus came, the promised Messiah, God himself in real human flesh. He went to the cross innocently to suffer for all the guilt of all his people. The promise of Eden was completed on that hill just outside Jerusalem. Satan’s doom and ultimate defeat was sealed by the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior.

Then the church was born. It expanded from a group of cast out Jews to become a major force in the world. It has been infiltrated, its name and reputation compromised, perverted, and confused. However, the true church lives on declaring God’s Kingdom, and rescuing lost souls.


We fight in that continuing battle
against the Kingdom of Deception.

It is the job of this church, of you and me, of all true believers in all faithful churches, to continue to declare God’s kingship and glory. Not just that he is king over the elements, natural laws, and nations, but also as the loving Redeemer-King who rules wisely, and blesses his covenant people.

First, do your best to expose the lies. You have God’s truth in your Bible. It is your duty to keep improving your understanding of what is says there. You also have the Holy Spirit enable those you talk with to understand the message. Stay active in prayer to the King of kings asking for his transforming power to work in you and in others. Tell people what you know God said, and help them become a part of the true Kingdom. The lies cannot stand up when exposed to the truth.

Second, do not let sin run things in God’s Creation and Kingdom. Do not let it rule in society in general, or in his church where his kingship is specially seen. Impose God’s principles wherever you can to restrain the workings of sin. That means being a responsible citizen and a good neighbor. Support and vote for leaders who are most likely to persevere and promote God’s principles. Do not be taken in by the promises of politicians that they will give you personal privileges or material advantages.

Third, let people know that Satan is a defeated enemy. Tell about the victory of Jesus over Satan at the Cross. This is a fact, even though the critics of God’s kingdom make it look as if it was not the victory it is.

In Matthew 12:28-29 Jesus assured us that his miracles proved that God’s Kingdom had come to them. There he said, “if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.”

God’s Kingdom had come to his listeners already in the special way promised by the prophets. If that was not true, he would not be commanding the demons. But he was. The Kingdom of Messiah had come in this special way during the earthly ministry of Jesus.

Satan was being bound by Jesus at that time, not at some future time. He was the “strong man” Jesus spoke of. His deceptive kingdom was being plundered even then, and it continues to be plundered now. Captive souls were and are being set free. In John 12:31 Jesus told us that Satan was already being dethroned. He said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.”

This was something happening at that time, “now” as Jesus put it. Satan was being cast out of the throne he falsely claimed. In the verses that follow Jesus connected this victory with his coming death on Calvary.

Though the final Judgment is yet future, the defeat of Satan is a past fact of history. The Apostle Paul told us about this disarming of the enemy in Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

It is an accomplished fact. God’s promise in Eden was fulfilled by Jesus Christ on the cross. The seed of the woman had come in Bethlehem. Though he suffered, he crushed the head of that old serpent the Devil. However, Satan is still active in the death throws of an imagined but impossible take-over.

John explained this bondage of Satan in Revelation 20:1-3. He describes God’s angel coming down with the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. It says in verse 2, “He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;”

Verse 3 describes this bound condition of the enemy of God in this church age, “and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. …”

How is it that Satan is bound now but still obviously very active? This verse explains it very clearly and directly. It says he is no longer able to deceive the nations, the gentiles. After the Cross, when this Deceiver King was defeated and bound, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church at Pentecost. The Gentile age had begun. No longer would only the Jews be God’s people. God was taking back his world from the defeated enemy.

The term “thousand years” is regularly used in the Bible to represent the whole of something. For example, Psalm 50:10 tells us that God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills.” There are many times more hills in this world. Many more than that in Israel alone. His is not telling us that on all those other hills God has no control of the cattle. It uses that number as was common in the Hebrew language as a term meaning “the whole of all the hills.” There are many examples of this representative use of that number: Deuteronomy 7:9, Psalm 90:4, Psalm 91:7 to cite a few.

In this case it means this entire age of the Christian Church on earth, the whole time Satan’s power to deceive the nations is taken away. In that way he remains bound. The Kingdom promise to Abraham was fulfilled. God had told him that through his descendants (one of whom was Jesus) all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3).

Though that Devil will be loosed again at the end of this age, he is doomed. For now, his powers are more limited than at any other age in history. The gospel has no national limits and is advancing until all God’s people are saved.

Tear the lie to pieces. Leave nothing left of it in the hearts of those you love. Jesus completed the promises. Satan was dethroned. The evil powers were disarmed, and Satan was bound. One day he will be utterly and completely silenced. Satan is doomed. His lies about what makes life fun and what gets you what you want are exposed.

So the Fourth duty is to rescue captive souls through the gospel of Christ. This leads us into the next part of the Catechism answer, “… that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.”

My dad fought in World War II as an Army paratrooper and medic. He fought in several campaigns including the Rhine Crossing and the Battle of the Bulge where he was decorated with the Bronze Star. His stories of it are captivating.

Wars are hard and horrible things. Sometimes an enemy becomes so threatening and deadly that he has to be stopped by force. After the battle, when the evil aggressors are out of power, there has to be rebuilding. If not, the devastated country becomes a breeding ground for more violence. We also can help the people oppressed by former regimes to get back to their lives.

My dad also served in the occupation forces in Germany trying to build an orderly ally where there was once a dedicated enemy. Some of the stories he tells of the confrontations he faced there are as interesting as the war stories.

We have seen how difficult reconstruction can be in defeated countries where terrorism flourished. Some have not wanted to be stabilized. This was also true at first in Berlin, in Tokyo, and in other countries that were once vicious enemies. The reconstruction work in some of those cases took many years or even decades.

What is true in our human wars is also true in the great cosmic war in which we all serve soldiers. Reconstruction is not just to change outward structures. In the case of God’s Kingdom, we have an advantage. Christ changes the hearts of those rescued from the enemy. He places in them a desire to conform to the ways of their Savior. Yet we are not to leave them unattended. We are to guide and help one another to grow spiritually by the use of the means of grace God has entrusted to us.

We are to advance the true Kingdom as we take the ground held by the enemy. We need to be building up the Kingdom of God’s special Covenant with his people. Once someone is rescued from spiritual death and bondage, they need to learn to be free and to become part of the Lord’s army to promote his good ways.


The Kingdom of Grace is where God
specially rules among his Covenant People.

God’s kingship is more than just his sovereignty and power over people and things. There is a special way that God is king. He redeems his people from sin and makes them his adopted children. By his Covenant Promises he bind them together into a spiritual nation, a Kingdom of God. This Covenant Kingship is only realized in those redeemed out of the Kingdom of Satan.

There is only one way to become part of this covenant kingdom. We enter by an act of God’s grace. Grace is the undeserved redeeming love of God for his people. Becoming a Christian is never something you earn. If you do good things it is because you were changed by Christ’s unmerited love. Grace alone has always been the way into the Kingdom of the Redeemed. The Bible says repeatedly that nobody is justified by his own deeds or efforts.

In Genesis 6:8 how was it that Noah obeyed God when others did not? It says, “He found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Abraham became father of God’s nation because God chose him when he was nothing. He is the prime example in the New Testament books of Romans, Galatians and Hebrews to prove that it is not what men do, but what God does, that redeems a person. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 7 that God chose his people by his lovingkindness, by grace alone. David many times wrote about how all the good he ever did, was by God’s lovingkindness to him. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “… Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

When a person is rescued from the grips of Satan’s Kingdom of Destruction, he is naturalized into this Kingdom of God by grace alone. In that new citizenship he begins to see God for the Loving King that he is.

Those who trust in themselves or in the intercession of the church for their salvation, may imagine they are true children of God, but biblically they cannot be. It is only by grace, evidenced by faith in Christ alone, that anyone can be assured that he’s a citizen of God’s spiritual Kingdom. Only by grace can a person come to appreciate the covenant promises and the King’s unfailing care.


The Kingdom of Grace is an advancing kingdom.

Lives have been rebuilt out of the rubble of Satan’s Kingdom all through history. God turned the fall of mankind in Eden into a stage for revealing the greatest promise ever. He showed that Satan did not succeed in his attempt to destroy the human race. Instead Satan became an unwilling participant in the display of God’s glory, in the demonstration of the Creator’s justice, mercy, and love.

God rebuilt a judgment destroyed world, repopulating it through Noah’s family. He rebuilt the shattered life of a man named Moses. In the desert in his old age, God transformed him into a leader of the Kingdom of Grace. Through him, God took a humiliated population of slaves, and made them his Covenant Nation. Later, when her Kings rebelled, God sent Prophets to point the way to spiritual reconstruction.

The Kingdom of Grace advanced even more though the coming of Jesus Christ. He carried out what was promised from the beginning, and only hoped for until then. In his holy life and by his death on the cross Jesus paid the ransom for all his people. He became King over his Covenant People in a more visible and open way than before. He came to reign forever over the house of Jacob in a kingdom that would have no end. Hebrews 1:8 tells us that in Psalm 45:6 it was describing Jesus when the Psalmist wrote, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”

When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church at Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter explained that this was all part of the advance of the Kingdom. He said that this resurrected Jesus now rules on David’s throne. Within a generation, in 70 AD, judgment fell upon apostate Israel and the desecrated Temple. A new form of the Kingdom of Grace advanced to greater glory here on earth.

All through the history of that church, this Kingdom has been advancing. More are brought in day-by-day, one-by-one, as God’s plan unfolds.

This doesn’t mean that every year the number of Christians alive on earth is greater. There are times when true Christianity has been a small minority on earth. But always, every day, a greater percentage of the total elect are brought in. In the time of the Apostles only a small part of the Kingdom had been extended. There were yet millions of Christians to be born and believe.

Where are we now? Are there millions more? or is the total of the elect almost all brought in? We cannot know. Maybe 99.99% of all those chosen by grace are already saved, or maybe billions are yet to be set free from sin’s bondage.

Maybe there are more tragedies to come before then, to show the horrors of sin, and to demonstrate that the Kingdom of Satan cannot deliver the things it offers in its lies. As you see evil in its throws of death in desperation doing horrible things around you, remember that evil is defeated and is squirming in futility to be free of God’s grip. But evil is doomed. Reconstruction is underway in God’s territory.

Now and then stories are published in the local news about how it seems that US Highway 19 is never complete. I moved to this area of Florida in 1963. This road has been under some type of repair ever since then. Locals have said that it is not as much a road, as it is a construction site. As one reconstruction area is completed, needs crop up in ones repaired in the past. The job seems never to come to an end.

That is not that way it is with the Kingdom of Grace. How much longer before the reconstruction is complete? We don’t know. But until the Lord appears in all his glory and judgment, we have work to do here and now. We are the occupation army put here to rebuild out of the rubble.

When our house was destroyed by a tornado in 1992 the people of our church showed up with boxes, pick-up trucks, and black plastic bags. We sifted through the rubble to retrieve what we could, then the bulldozers came to get rid of the rest.

When the church I pastored was damaged with fire in 2004 there was a day when we all came here to clear out what we could salvage. Then the demolition of the damaged parts took place so we could rebuild. The result was a better building than we had before.

God’s Kingdom advances similarly. By his grace we see the rubble cleared away which had been left in us by the damage of sin left in the wake of its former rule in our lives. By his work in us, we strive to demolition all that remains of the ugly ways of wickedness. In its place we rebuild according to God’s plan. Transformed hearts show their gratitude and love of the Savior by putting on the ways of the new relationship we have as redeemed children. (Colossians 3:5-10)

Like US-19, it may appear that the job is never going to be finished. But there will come a time when your life and the lives of those you love in Christ will be finished, matured in glory, and the plans completed. It’s with that great expectation that we pray anticipating that the Kingdom of Grace will be advancing as it fulfills God’s promises in each believer, and in the larger plan for all of creation. God tells us that our prayers are effective. He uses them in completing his will on earth.

In Matthew 13 Jesus made some simple comparisons to help us understand this truth. He likened the Kingdom to a mustard seed. It begins very small, but grows to be immense (13:31-32). He also said it is like leaven. Just a small piece expands the whole batch of dough (13:33).

The Kingdom of Grace advances until all God’s children are brought in, meanwhile individuals grow spiritually to appreciate it more, and we work together as a family to increase its influence on everything and everyone you know. While you labor for Christ to the best of your ability, empowered by God through Christ, pray, “Thy Kingdom come.”

This Kingdom is still imperfect. We still struggle with sin and fail to fully appreciate God’s sovereign glory.
But there will come a yet greater and complete revealing of God’s Kingship at Christ’s return.


Therefore, you should also pray that
the Kingdom of Glory will be hastened.

The Kingdom of Glory is God’s Kingdom when all the promises are fulfilled perfectly. It’s that time when all sin will be eradicated, when the Kingdom of Satan will no longer exist as a viable enemy. It will be when all God’s people are united by Christ into the Spiritual family of their Heavenly Father.

It comes at the end of this age when Jesus Christ returns in final judgment. The ones he graciously redeemed will be taken into eternal glory. The rest will receive what we all deserve if it was not for our Savior’s death in our place.

But how long until he comes? No one knows. The time is fixed unalterably in the perfect plan of God.

So then why should you pray for the hastening of this Kingdom of Glory? You certainly would not want God to change his perfect and wise plan to speed up the cosmic calendar. If he has decreed that it would be best not to come yet, only a fool would want to make it come sooner.

God uses his people’s prayers not as a way to change his plans, but to carry them out. When you pray for this final day to come, you show your excited hope and expectation by faith of the coming age of glory. You show how much you confidently long for God’s Kingdom to reach its fullest visibility and perfection.


This is what Jesus meant when
he taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come …”.

God uses your prayers and obedience as his means of carrying out his plan.
1. Pray for the destruction of Satan’s Kingdom. Be busy exposing its lies, and telling God’s truth. Limit sin’s acceptance by those around you through the encouragement of God’s ways. Treat Satan as a defeated enemy who is on the run. Expect to be used by our Savior in rescuing captive souls from their spiritual bondage

2. Pray for the advance of God’s Kingdom of Grace in the world today. Build up God’s Kingdom by diligent faithfulness to God as your King. Tell others about God’s saving grace. Bring the lost to church, and explain the gospel individually. Romans 10 tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Humbly and prayerfully attack the remains of sin in your life and in the world around you by the power of the Risen Savior. Improve people’s understanding of God as the Sovereign King over everything. In place of the rubble left in people’s lives by the rule of sin and Satan, help them build a new life centered on Christ and God’s word.

3. Pray that the perfect and eternal Kingdom of Glory would be hastened. Jesus is going to return. That is a fact. We cannot know when it will happen. When he comes, everything God promised and warned about for our era will be completed. Be ready for that moment. Missionary Jim Elliot died as a martyr bringing the gospel to people in sin’s bondage. In 1951 he wrote this in his journal, “When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die.” Do not be in a position of having issues that would make you pray to delay his coming. That would be exactly the opposite of what Jesus teaches you to do.

One day your prayers will be ancient history. The redeemed will look back upon the dim memory of this earthly life, and will enjoy the daily reality of the Kingdom of Glory. Make your citizenship there sure. Be a good patriot of God’s Kingdom by hastening its perfection by your prayers and thankful obedience.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Hallowing God’s Name


Hallowing God’s Name

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 101)
by Bob Burridge ©2012

The first petition in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9) asks for our Heavenly Father’s name to be hallowed. “Hallowed” is one of those words few of you use much in general conversations unless you’re talking about the Lord’s Prayer. Although it’s an archaic word in English that only shows up now and then in some old writings, we need to know what it means because here it is in the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer.

When you hallow something, you mark it out as special in a good and honorable way. In this case, Jesus tells us that when you pray you should ask that God’s name be hallowed.

The Greek word in the original text of Matthew is hagiasthaeto (ἁγιασθητω). It’s based upon the word hagios (ἁγιος), usually translated by the word “holy”. When something is holy it is set aside or marked out as special in a good way. We hallow it.

God is holy. He is more unique and special than all else that exist. He is the most unique of all unique things. 1 Samuel 2:2, “No one is holy like the Lord, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.”

We can translate this part of the Lord’s Prayer, “… let your name be specially honored.”

It’s neither telling us to pray that his name should become holy, as if it wasn’t already, nor that we want him to become more holy. His uniqueness is already perfect in every good way. It means that we want his name be recognized for what it is. Our desire is that it would be treated in a most holy way as a testimony to our respect for the one who bears that name.

We should not come to God with casual familiarity. We should come solemnly to this absolutely glorious God, the one who made all things, sustains all things, and who redeemed the lost in gracious love.


The thing that we hallow in prayer
is the Name of God, our Father in heaven.

But what’s in a name? Isn’t is just a word? Shakespeare put it this way in the well known words of Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”

She meant that her family name and Romeo’s were not going to define them. Though the Montagues and Capulets were violent enemies, they were not going to let mere words or labels stand in the way of their love.

But they were more than just words. The names represent realities and histories. Romeo and Juliet suffered and tragically died because of what those names represented.

God’s name is more than a word. It represents what he is and what he tells us about himself. We need to know what we mean when we make reference to God.

The Bible uses many different words to refer to God. The Old Testament uses a long list of Hebrew names. The New Testament gives us Greek words which were used to represent those ancient names, and to further identify him. We either translate the meanings of those words into English, or simply write them using our English alphabet.

The basic words for God in the Bible are el (אל) or elohim (אלוהים) in the Old Testament, and theos (θεος) in the New. It sometimes calls him Lord, King, Father, Savior, Judge, Creator, Sustainer and many others descriptive titles. When God revealed his covenant name to Moses he called himself YHVH (יהוה), which is usually brought over into English using the word Jehovah.

It’s not the words themselves that are important, or that need to be hallowed. It is what these names represent. In Exodus 34:6-7 God explains his own name, YHVH which is translated there as Lord, “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.’ then in verse 8 it says, ‘So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.’ ”

Moses was humbled and moved to worship when he was reminded of all that God is. We reverence the words because of what they mean. God’s name is to be hallowed because he is uniquely unique above all else that is.


The negative side was given in the Third Commandment.

Exodus 20:7,”You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

When God’s name is used, or any of the words that describe his perfections and divine work, there should be a solemn awareness of what it means. To use his name in vain means to use it casually without really meaning what we say.

Most obviously we offend God when his name is used as an expletive to express emotions. People use his names to show frustration, surprise, or anger. They use the words “God,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” or even “Jehovah” as vain expressions. When people throw words like “Oh God,” or “Good Lord” into conversations they are quick to point out that they don’t really mean anything by it. That’s exactly what the word “vain” means.

The names of God identify him with all his unique divine attributes. He is the one who is Just, Holy, Gracious, and Merciful. When we use words like those in a vain or in a profane way, we violate this commandment. These words are used at times as names of God in Scripture.

One of the names used for God in the Bible is “Holy.” He is the perfection of holiness. All other holiness must come from him. To speak of holy cows and such things trivializes this characteristic of God.

Only God can condemn someone to eternal punishment. To use words like “hell” and “damn” in a profane way is to trivialize the very serious acts of God’s judgment. Sin and it’s eternal penalty are not trivial. They are a tragic reality. The application of them must always be God’s own prerogative.

To use words about what God is and does, but without really meaning what they stand for, is to vainly take up these words. The enemy of our soul is quick to get us to use high and holy words in ways that corrupt them and numb us to their meaning. One of the greatest joys to Satan and evil is to get God’s people to take God lightly, to make him an object of our humor and careless expressions, to diminish his holiness and trivialize his glory.

All this may seem innocent, unimportant, and trivial, but God made the honoring of his name the Third Commandment.

Some even violate the Third Commandment during worship. They let their minds wander off to other things while they sing his name, repeat creeds, hear scripture read and expounded, and when they pray. If while doing these good things your minds are not thinking of God when you say his name, you take it up without meaning and use it in vain.


In the Lord’s Prayer we have the
positive side of this moral principle.

The Third Commandment tells us how not to treat God’s name. Here Jesus tells us how his name ought be treated.

One of the first goals of our prayers is to ask that God’s name should be hallowed. It should be used with special awareness of all that God is. Pray that you will hallow the names of God. You might avoid the vain use of his name by just not mentioning him much, but the duty you have is to glorify him and to promote that glory.

Talk about him and his truths in a natural and respectful way. Don’t let people assume that God has become unimportant in this world. You can change that perception by speaking naturally about him in your daily conversations, by hallowing his name. Don’t be satisfied with the general words about God which are so confused and watered down today. Clarify why God is so important to you. Honor the name of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, as Shepherd and Comforter. Avoid trivial expressions about him, but do not keep silent.

Psalm 96:2-3 tells us, “Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.”

Pray that God will make you grow to more appreciate his absolute uniqueness over all that is. When you see his glory you will not have to work hard to let it show to others. Ask God to teach you about his own special nature. Study his word to learn more about him. Ask him to give you the humility to know how far short you fall of his perfections.

Let the names of God remind you that you owe him for all your skills, ideas, and abilities. Thank him for the faith he put in your heart, for the spiritual strength you draw from him, and for the grace that richly blesses you because of his perfect and undeserved love. Learn to rest in his perfect sufficiency and promises.

Pray that God would stir you to conform your whole life, all your thoughts, words and deeds, to that perfect moral standard, the unique holiness of God.

Pray that others will hallow the names of God too. Do all you can to help them come to understand God’s absolute uniqueness and perfection.

For the lost to become able to hallow God’s name, they need to become believers. Not just accepting some list of facts, or theological ideas. Not just making a personal decision, or reaching some emotional conviction. They need to rest in Christ alone for all that he is and has done. Only by his work on the Cross can anyone understand the real holiness of God and hallow his name. Tell them about the wonderful gospel that can really change their lives. Help them join with God’s people for worship, instruction, and encouragement.

This is how we hallow his name. It is what we expect our prayer to accomplish.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Directing Our Prayers to God


Directing Our Prayers to God

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 100)
by Bob Burridge ©2012

Prayer in one form or another is part of nearly every religion. We are all created with a need to communicate with God. The problem is our fallen nature. Sin confuses things and prayer is no exception.

Some become enemies of prayer. They admit to no need for it. In trying to push God out of their conscience they would ban it from every public place if they could. They are not content to refuse to pray on their own, they do not want to see others doing it either.

Some confuse prayer by treating it as if it was little more than a magical incantation. They imagine that the speaking of certain words have a power of their own to make things happen the way they want.

Some think of prayer as a way to advise God about what they believe is really best. They think that if they could just get God to listen to their advice, things will work out better than if God decided on his own what was best.

Some pray to God just to get what they want. To them it’s like making a wish list. People register for wedding and shower gifts at their favorite stores and websites, so they figure that prayer works about the same way. They think of God as a business that dispenses blessings when ever they are applied for, as long as we ask in just the right way.

There are also those who approach God casually as if he was their equal, or someone who owes them a favor. However, that’s not at all what prayer is about. We need to know what God says it is, and how it should be done.


Jesus gave us a model to teach us the right way to pray.

In Matthew 6:9 Jesus introduced his model prayer by saying, “In this manner, therefore, pray: …” A good accurate translation of the first part of verse 9 is, “Therefore you should pray this way:” The Greek words are houtos oun proseuchesthe humeis (Οὕτως οὖν προσεύχεσθε ὑμεῖς·) .

The “therefore” [oun (οὖν)] builds upon the warnings against hypocrisy in the section just before this. Prayer is not a way to display piety, to impress people, or to draw attention to yourself. It’s a humble way to really communicate to God. It therefore needs to honor and please the one you are addressing in your prayer.

Here in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gives us an example to teach us how to pray. We usually call it The Lord’s Prayer. The first part tells us about the one to whom we direct our prayers.


We come to God as “our Father”

The Bible tells us that God is not everybody’s Father in the same way. As Creator, all creatures owe their existence to him as their Father in the limited sense of giving them existence and life. Even those who are his most determined enemies, live and are cared for by his provisions. All our abilities and opportunities are his gifts. He sustains all of nature by upholding what we call natural laws. In this very limited sense God is the Father of all creation. It is this that all the more condemns the lost who fail to give him the glory for all they have.

There is yet another way he is the Father of some but not of others. He is specially the Father of his spiritually adopted children. Out of the unworthy human race, God chose some to be his spiritual family. He did not choose them because they were better in any way. They were chosen by grace alone. God promised by covenant to pay for their sins, and to adopt them as his own children. Throughout the Bible God is specially called the Father of his covenant people.

To Israel Moses said in Deuteronomy 32:6 “… Is He not your Father, who bought you? …” The prophet in Isaiah 63:16 cried out on behalf of Israel, “… You, O Lord, are our Father; …” In Isaiah 64:8 it was said, “But now, O Lord, You are our Father; …”

Paul wrote to the church in Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ ” And here in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray to God as our Father.

God is not the Father of all people in that special way. The sin of Adam and our own sins alienate us from God. Only those redeemed by the death of Jesus are adopted into his family. He did not pay the debt for all, but for only some chosen by grace. If you trust in Jesus alone for your salvation, and you are truly sorry for your sins, it is not your doing. There is no reason for pride. Your faith and conviction should make you humbly thankful for a blessing you could never deserve.

This is one of the most denied, most disliked, yet most clear messages of the Bible. In Ephesians 1:3-5 Paul explained it this way, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,”

Jesus had a very different message than what the Pharisees believed about their relationship with God as their Father. In John 8:44 he told them, “You are of your father the devil, …”

In First John 3:1 it says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”

God’s special redeeming love is not universal according to the Bible. The Universalists reject the Bible because they are not able to accept that fact. They teach that all humans are God’s children in that special way. They deny that man is separated from God by sin. Their idea of the “Brotherhood of Men and the Fatherhood of God” appeals to the lost heart. The problem is, it’s simply not true. It’s like telling a seriously ill patient that he’s not really sick. He might like to hear that kind of news, but if it makes him ignore treatment the results are tragic. Jesus said in John 14:6, “… No one comes to the Father except through me.”

It is understandable that those still blinded by sin would prefer what is not true. This is exactly how Paul explained it in 2 Thessalonians 2:11, “And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,” In the first chapter of Romans he said that they, “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” … and “exchanged the truth of God for a lie.”

God’s people have a wonderful promise in calling God their Father. He is the perfect father no human could ever be. Even the best of human parents are imperfect. They could always learn to love and to care for their children with more patience, compassion, and skill. When human parents try to control all that happens to their children, it only leads to their own frustration, and to their children’s exasperation. But as God’s children we pray to a Father who cares for us perfectly. He knows what is really best for us, and he has the power to see that it happens. When he allows things into our lives that are painful or that we don’t understand, it’s not because he overlooked something or that he doesn’t love us. We must remember that we don’t yet understand how it all fits into his loving plan. In our uncertainties, we can still rest in his perfect love and power. God never fails us. He gave us life, redeems us, and provides peace, comfort and hope for his children. So we come to him with a deep sense of humble gratitude. We honor him and stand in awe of him.

This does not mean that all our prayers have to begin with the words “Our Father.” This is a model prayer. Jesus is not just giving us words to be repeated. It’s the meaning that’s important. There are many prayers in the Bible that do not begin that way. For example, in Acts 1:24 the prayer begins with “You, O Lord …”. In Acts 4:24 the people prayed, “Lord, you are God …”

The first Christians were students of the Bible. Their prayers usually follow the patterns in the Psalms. They understood that they were God’s children by grace through Christ, so they thought of God as their Father in that special sense. Sometimes Biblical prayers are directed to Jesus Christ as God the Son, our Mediator. In Revelation 22:20 John’s brief closing prayer is “Come, Lord Jesus!” The Holy Spirit is not the usual object of direct prayer. Mediating with God’s children is primarily the Son’s work. The Holy Spirit ministers as sent to us by the Father and the Son.

All our prayers are to be directed to God only. It is a horrible sin to pray to angels, or to or through dead humans, even specially saintly ones. Angels are spirit beings who may carry out the Father’s instructions, but they do not follow our instructions, and they never act on their own. No direct appeal to angels is ever approved in Scripture. Biblically, it is a serious sin against God and a violation of the First Commandment to pray to or through any created being, be they humans or angels.


When we pray to our Father we
understand that he is “… in heaven …”

The most literal reading is “… the one who is in the heavens” ho en tois ouranois (ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς·)

The children’s catechism wisely tells us that “God is everywhere”. In 1 Kings 8:27 it says, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” That means that God cannot be located in just one particular place. We call this his Ubiquity – “God is everywhere.”

He is never in one place more than he is in any other place. He is altogether completely everywhere. We call this God’s Immensity – “God fills all space”. Jeremiah 23:24 says, ” ‘Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?’ says the Lord; ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the Lord.”

God is also what we call Omnipresent – “He is there in everyplace personally all the time.” Psalm 139:7-10 describes this amazing quality of God, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.”

No one can escape the presence of God. That means that his children can never become lost from him. When we pray, he is right there by our side. When we are not praying, his is still completely there, even when we are not thinking about him, even when we do things that offend him.

Children might fool their parents for awhile by hiding stashes of junk food from them, or by keeping certain misbehaviors a secret. But nothing can be hidden from God our Heavenly Father. He not only sees, he is there. With modern technology people are so worried that “Big Brother is watching,” when they should be more aware that our Heavenly Father is watching, and always has been!

So then, if God is everywhere, why direct our prayers to God “in heaven”?

Thinking of heaven as a physical place is not very helpful. It cannot be located on star charts, or with coordinates in light years from some fixed spot in the universe. People point upwards as if heaven was above them. If someone in Australia is pointing up at the same time as someone in New York City, he’s pointing out into space in nearly the opposite direction. At noon you point up toward the sun. At midnight pointing up is away from the sun.

One of the early Russian Cosmonauts said he didn’t see God or heaven in space. That did not trouble real Christians because for us heaven is not a castle floating above the clouds.

There is good Scriptural evidence that heaven is best thought of as existing in a dimension other than what we perceive in our three dimensional world of space. Mathematical multidimensional models are common today in our attempts to understand the motion of objects in the universe our God created. Heaven may not be physical in the way we experience locations and places, but it is very real, as are the angels and God who have no physical bodies.

So why pray to God “in heaven” if he is everywhere? Heaven is where God specially shows his glory and majesty. When the Bible said that God is in his Temple, it meant that he showed his glory and majesty there, not that he was more there than in other places. When it says that God is with his people in worship, it means he specially shows himself there as their Redeemer and Lord. We do not mean that he exists more in worship than any place else. Similarly he is not in heaven more than his is in every other place in his creation.

When we pray to “our Father in heaven” we focus on his majesty and glory.


Your attitude and thoughts when
praying to God are very important.

Prayer should never be done without a sincere and solemn awareness that you are speaking to the one who made all things, rules all things, and who loved you so much though you were unworthy that he made you his own dear child. When you pray, remember that he made everything you enjoy, have, and hope for. Keep in mind that he provided a costly substitute for your sins in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Think of the wonders of his sovereign majesty and holy glory.

These high thoughts should drive you to constant and confident prayer, the pouring out of your heart to your Heavenly Father.

Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 100: What doth the preface of the Lord’s Prayer teach us?

Answer: The preface of the Lord’s Prayer, which is, Our Father which art in heaven, teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism

A Plan for Prayer


A Plan for Prayer

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 98-99)
by Bob Burridge ©2012

Have you ever heard someone say, “One of these days I really need to get organized”? You might hear that after a long search for a recipe in the kitchen, for a tool in the garage, or for lost phone numbers and addresses. Sometimes it’s when homework or projects pile up, or the to-do-list gets to where it could be bound into a book. It might even be when closets are so full you have to post warning signs about falling objects for the unwary who dare to open the doors too fast. We know that the only answer is to get organized with a plan to handle things better as they come along.

Planning sessions are absolutely necessary for our military and for a successful business. War is never something we want to rush into without careful organization and planning. Companies that make things but never plan how to market them end up with serious storage problems and bills that can’t be paid. Even our vacation trips have to be planned so we don’t end up running out of gasoline in some desolate area with no motels, stores, or gas stations.

We need practical planning for our spiritual lives too. God tells us what we ought to be doing to grow in Christ and as a spiritual family. The means of his grace become neglected if there’s no plan for using them. Prayer gets postponed or completely neglected if it isn’t figured into our busy schedules. Bibles tend to remain unread if there is no plan to read and study them. We tend to be late for worship or not show up at all, if preparations wait until the last minute. If we respond to people’s needs without thinking ahead we might offend those we want to help. If we live in the world without a thought for our duties as God’s people, we will probably effect it very little for the Kingdom of Christ. We become part of the problem instead of being part of the solution.

If the means of God’s grace are approached casually or in a disorderly manner they won’t benefit us or anyone else touched by our lives. When we have no plans, we generally accomplish little for our Lord’s glory.

Westminster Shorter Catechism questions 98-99 introduce us to the Lord’s Prayer. To make prayer an effective tool in our spiritual lives we need to follow the principles given to us in God’s word as we put together a good plan.

Question 98 asks, “What is prayer?” The answer is, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.”


Prayer is vitally important for every Christian.

Prayer is needed for our growth and for our effective participation in God’s kingdom. The prayerful Christian is quite a contrast to the insecurities and anxieties of the world around us. In Philippians 4:6 the Apostle Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;”

Our prayers are not made to change God’s plan. When we pray we are engaged in that plan. God uses the prayers of his children as he moves in grace and judgment. He uses them to help the needy and to comfort the grieving. By our prayers God holds back the flood of evil, and enables us to do our work skillfully. He uses our prayers to strengthen our children and other loved ones, and to give us peace even in the midst of our tensions and anxieties.

It is amazing that a duty so important and so useful for God’s people requires such simple and ordinary skills. The simplest believer with no special experience or training, even one who doesn’t communicate well, can be extremely helpful to the church by simple diligence, fervency, and sincerity in calling out to God on behalf of his spiritual family.

We have this assurance in James 5:16, “… The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Dr. Martin-Lloyd Jones has said, “Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God.”

Prayer is that means given to us from our loving and sovereign God by which we grow in grace, and participate in the daily unfolding of Divine providence, and in the work of redemptive grace.


It helps to have a regular plan for when to pray.

When we get busy, things without a set time on our daily agenda usually get overlooked or forgotten. We schedule time for our favorite TV shows, regular shopping for groceries, plan to be free for important football or basketball games, make sure we stop work when it’s time for lunch, or when it’s time to go home at night. Yet the same people often never put things God commands on their schedules.

If something is not placed on our calendar or schedule, it usually doesn’t happen. Of course we should pray during the day whenever the desire or need arises in our hearts. However, it should also take place regularly as God’s word shows us by its many examples.

It’s good to begin and end each day with prayer. There are many biblical references to regular morning prayer. Among them are some classic passages.

King David wrote In Psalm 5:1-3, “Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my meditation. Give heed to the voice of my cry, My King and my God, For to You I will pray. My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up.”

In Psalm 88:13, Haman the Ezrahite wrote, “But to You I have cried out, O LORD, And in the morning my prayer comes before You.”

There are also examples of God’s people praying in the evening as the day ends. Jesus and others in Scripture show us that it is proper and right to pray before we receive meals, or when we leave our homes to go to conduct business or to travel. Certainly we should pray throughout every day, as we think about God’s blessings, or as needs come to our attention.

The Bible reminds us of the importance of prayer as we read or study God’s word. Psalm 119:18 is a helpful guide as we open the Scriptures, “Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.”

It is important to pray as we prepare for worship, particularly as we ready ourselves to receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Paul warns us to examine ourselves before we come to partake of that Sacrament. In 1 Corinthians 11:28 he wrote, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” Psalm 139 shows us that this examination begins with prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”

Set these regular times of prayer on your daily schedule. Be aware of your need to pray as God brings needs and blessings to mind.

We keep records and files of our important business transactions, of good recipes or collections. It is reasonable to do the same with our prayers. Keep a list. Pray from it daily. Review it often and praise God when you see him at work and requests are completed. When you set aside times for prayer let nothing interfere with those times.


It’s good to have a plan for what to say when you pray.

Question 99 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer?”
Answer: “The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord’s Prayer.”

The model prayer Jesus gave us in Matthew 6:9-13 is a valuable guide. The remaining questions of the Shorter Catechism are about each of the parts of that prayer. Jesus teaches us to pray that God’s name would be treated with the highest respect, that his kingship would be displayed in a greater way, that what he reveals as right would be done, that our daily needs will be provided, that we will be forgiven and kept from temptation and evil. We should praise God as Lord of his kingdom, the all-powerful God, as the one to whom glory is due forever.

In John 14:13 we are reminded that our prayers should be offered in the name of Christ, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

This does not mean just adding the words “in Christ’s name” to our prayers. It means that we pray as those who trust in what Jesus Christ is, and who are resting their eternal hope upon all that he has done and promised to us. We pray as those clothed in his righteousness, not our own. Everyone resting in the work of Christ prays with that foundation, spoken or not. In fact, while it is a good practice to add those words, few New Testament prayers actually use those words. Yet all New Testament prayers are made through Christ. That is what it means.

Prayer must be made for only those things that are pleasing to God. The Apostle John explains in 1 John 5:14-15, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Prayers for things God has not promised or approved have no foundation for confidence. This is why prayer must be informed by God’s word, and consistent with what it says is good. It should never be to get our personal wishes or ways. James 4:3 warns, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

If we pray according to God’s revealed will (for things that fit within his promises and which promote his glory) then our prayers will be answered. This is what we do when we pray in the name of Christ. We pray as those united with him by God’s grace, and who therefore love and desire his ways. So in John 14:14 Jesus could say, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

So our regular prayers should begin with God’s wonder. Praise him for his glory, his promises, and the blessings he gives. Then consider your need by repenting of your sins and failure to honor him as he deserves. Return again to praise God for your salvation in Christ. That he died in your place, forgives your sins, and enables you in your battle to become more like him in thought, word and deed. Then bring your needs to him; for yourself, your family, friends, church, those you work with, and for the world and its leaders. Learn from God’s word how to pray from the examples and teachings God has preserved for us there.


Put the plan into practice.

It is even good to pray about praying. Ask God to help you do it better.

Once your plan for prayer is worked out, make a copy of the plan and put it where you can see it, where it can remind you about it. You might put it in your daily planner, post the plan on your refrigerator door, or on a bulletin board where you keep your jobs listed. However you remember things, put your prayer plan there.

Encourage one another to pray. Bring it up with your family and friends in conversations. Remember to be kind, supportive, and tactful if someone keeps forgetting to pray. The goal is to help one another improve, not to catch each other doing something wrong. Paul warns us in Galatians 6:1-2, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Prayer is a great responsibility and a wonderful privilege. If we expect to grow in Christ, we need the nourishment of all the means of grace. Prayer is one of those means. It is vitally important. If prayer is neglected, your whole spiritual life will suffer. We should not expect to grow spiritually without it.

Like a good meal that keeps your body healthy, your spirit grows healthy when you pray regularly. This is God’s promise to his children.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Index of Lessons in the Westminster Shorter Catechism