Please feel free to use this in your personal or public Worship.

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Creator God, you have given us everything we have, including our very selves. Yet we have refused to receive what we have as gifts, because we reject you as the Giver. We are ungrateful. We boast as if we were self-made and self-sufficient. We hoard what we have, not believing in your future generosity. We gratify ourselves and consume as much as we can without sharing. We withhold ourselves from you and others, because we do not delight in giving like you do. But you live forever as Giver, Gift, and Given, and you have even given yourself to us. In your mercy, forgive us. In your grace, fill us with your Gift-life. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

“I am Yahweh your God… You shall have no other gods before my face” (Exodus 20:2-3).

This commandment is the one. It is foundational to the whole Decalogue (“Ten Words”). If you truly kept this commandment, you would have kept all the rest. If you broke any of the other commandments, fundamentally you would have broken this one first. If Yahweh—and Yahweh alone—were truly your God, then you would love him, exalt him, follow him, listen to him, believe him, and obey all his words. This corresponds with Christ’s summary commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30; cf. Deuteronomy 6:5). If you were doing that in the first place, you would never sin in any way.

Yahweh says, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9; cf. 45:5, 18, 22). Objectively speaking, there is only one true God: Yahweh, the Triune God of love, the God known in Jesus Christ. The Father is the only God; the Son is the only God; the Holy Spirit is the only God; the One Being in Three Persons is the only God. Anything else that goes by the designation “god” is false, counterfeit, and cannot possibly be anything like Yahweh, the real God. He has no rivals but in our imaginations.

The claim of this commandment is comprehensive: you belong to Yahweh, and your whole life is meant to be lived in response to him and unto him, on his terms. He alone will be the source of your life, your truth, your identity, your security, your glory. He alone is to be worshiped. Idolatry is a personal offense against Yahweh, telling him that he is not your God, that you prefer some other god-that-is-no-god to him.

When you parade and flaunt false gods before Yahweh’s face it provokes him, because he loves you. And, because he loves you, he will be your God, even though you haven’t kept this commandment. The one true God in the flesh—Jesus Christ—has perfectly kept this commandment (and therefore all commandments!) on our behalf, and has suffered to forgive our transgression of this commandment. Jesus has given us his Spirit to fulfill the promise: “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules… and you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:27–28). Thank Yahweh, that he is God and there is no other!

What does it say about Yahweh, that this is his first commandment? Does it mean he is self-absorbed and has an unhealthy need for your adoration? How does knowing God as Triune address that last question? What objections do unbelievers raise against this commandment? How is this commandment good? Why is this commandment the key to all the others? Can you describe each commandment with reference to this first one? How is this commandment foundational to the ones about our relationships with other people, when God isn’t explicitly mentioned in most of those? When you think of the Ten Commandments in general, do you primarily think of this first one as representative, or do you tend to give priority of attention to other commandments? John Calvin called the human heart “an idol factory”—what are some common idols in our society? What are some idols your heart cranks out? What do you do when you realize you have had other gods before Yahweh’s face? Are there ways in which you have begun to keep this commandment through faith in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit?

“God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery'” (Exodus 20:1-2).

The “Ten Words” (Exodus 34:28) or Ten Commandments are worth knowing by heart and keeping, because of the God who spoke them. These are not just “wise rules for good living.” They are God’s words to his people. This is reason enough to listen and obey. And this is the only good reason to listen and obey. The most important thing about these words is that they come from this God. That’s why a transgression of any single one of them is a transgression of the whole lot: because it is a personal offense against the God who spoke them all (see James 2:10-11).

This God has not left us to our imaginations when it comes to his identity. He has revealed himself to us, and this “preface” refers us to who he is and to our relationship with him as the foundation of our keeping his words. He is Yahweh, “the LORD,” the God who has made covenant promises, even by this early point in the Scriptures. He is not just the God, the only true God—he is “your God,” the God who has committed and given himself to his people for personal relationship. He has not only promised salvation by grace (Exodus 6:6), he has accomplished it through wonders and judgments that have revealed his character, righteousness, faithfulness, and power to save. He is a God who sets his people free from their self-inflicted slavery, because he loves them. For the original hearers of these words this meant deliverance from Egyptian slavery, the great paradigm for salvation until the coming of the Messiah. Now, this same God has set us free from slavery to sin through the gracious salvation that is found in Jesus Christ (John 8:34-36).

Keeping the words of this God is always a response to his gracious salvation; it is never an attempt to secure his favor. Only those who already know this God truly and personally to be their Savior can even begin to keep his words as he intended. Apart from a relationship with him by his grace—ultimately revealed through Jesus—any attempt to keep his words will be vanity, hypocrisy, a mockery of his words.

Why did God speak these words to his people? In what ways do you reject his words (licentiousness)? In what ways do you abuse his words (legalism)? What are some reasons you might try to keep God’s words? What resources do you look to in order to try to keep God’s words? Do you live as if God’s merely having spoken these words is reason enough to keep them? Why or why not? Why and how did Jesus keep all God’s words? What significance does that have for you? Why is it “vanity, hypocrisy, a mockery of his words” to try to keep his words apart from knowing him as your Savior? (Why isn’t it just “a well-intentioned impossibility”?)

These two lines of the Lord’s Prayer really are one petition, each line informing the meaning of the other, rather than being two consecutive petitions. The concern of the one who prays as Jesus teaches is not mainly to be spared from evil done to us by others. When we ask God to deliver us from evil, we’re asking him to save us from our own participation in evil, from our own self-centered desires (James 1:14), from our own proclivity to succumb to temptation, and from the self-deception that infects our hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). You cannot trust your own heart to withstand temptation. If you think you can, it is because you, being a sinner, have deceived yourself. “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). We need to be delivered from ourselves.

It is true that the second line in this petition can be translated, “deliver us from the Evil One,” that is, from the devil. But the Evil One cannot truly harm us except by tempting us to sin, appealing to our own desires, enticing us to commit spiritual suicide. The real evil from which we need deliverance is when we make ourselves willing subjects of the devil’s domain and accomplices in his war against God. “Whoever implores the assistance of God to overcome temptations acknowledges that, unless God deliver him, he will be constantly falling” (John Calvin). Thus far in the Lord’s Prayer we have already confessed our need for God’s forgiveness of our sins. So it shouldn’t be hard to confess that, apart from God’s intervention, we continue to be “inclined toward all evil” (Heidelberg Catechism #60), and to confess our need for God to “lead us not into temptation.”

This is the kind of leading we really need. Often we pray for God’s “direction, guidance, leading” through life. Our true need is for God to lead us in such a way that, whatever circumstances we face, we would know them as opportunities for relationship with God (even if they are difficult tests or trials) rather than hindrances to that relationship (temptations that culminate in sin). James uses the same language (Greek: peirasmos/peirazo) to talk about both tests or trials that result in spiritual good (James 1:2, 12) and evil temptations that result in sin and death (vv. 13-14), because the same circumstances can result in either. The good result depends not on us or on our circumstances, but on God’s intervention in our hearts by his Spirit. The one who prays this petition asks God to enable him to love God more than he loves the alternative—sin—into which he has a tendency to drift. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O take and seal it…” (“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”). If God is with us as our Savior, leading us into deeper relationship with himself, keeping our attention on Jesus, making our hearts responsive to him by his Spirit, then wherever we find ourselves, we will be delivered from evil. And that means delivered into glorious communion in the life of the Triune God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!

Biblically, what is the opposite of temptation/sin/evil? What are some common temptations for you, that you’re aware of? To what temptations might you be blind, self-deceived? Do you believe that you cannot trust your own heart to withstand temptation to sin? How do you feel about the idea that you deceive yourself? How do you pray against self-deception? How often do you find yourself praying for your circumstances to change, versus praying for God to keep you close to himself through any circumstances? What does it mean that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1)? How does that Gospel truth help us in our temptations? How does Jesus’ instruction to pray this way relate to several biblical commands to “flee” such things as “sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18), “idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14), the “desire to be rich” (1 Timothy 6:9-11), and “youthful passions” (2 Timothy 2:22)?

This is an important petition. After Jesus instructs his disciples how to pray, he immediately follows with this rationale: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others your trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). Forgiveness is a vital part of our relationships with God and with each other. If we are truly to live in real relationships at all, God must forgive us and we must forgive each other. In the church there is no shortage of opportunities to forgive one another! One time Peter asked Jesus whether we could limit our forgiveness to brothers who sin against us. Jesus’ response with the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is definitive—someone who wants to limit forgiveness doesn’t understand forgiveness and will receive no forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35). “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13; cf. Ephesians 4:32). It would be sinful not to forgive when God has told us that we must. Your forgiveness of others is not a prerequisite for God’s forgiveness of you, but it is a necessary consequence of having actually received God’s forgiveness.

Notice that Jesus does not teach us to pray, “I’m sorry,” to apologize, to give excuses, or to promise to make up for our sins. He teaches us to place ourselves at God’s mercy and ask him to forgive us. Forgiveness is costly and painful to the one who forgives. The one who asks for forgiveness asks the offended party to bear the burden of the brokenness of the relationship without retaliation or retribution, without extracting the debt of justice from the offender. The one who asks for forgiveness has no right to do so—no one deserves forgiveness. We owe God all the love of our whole heart, mind, and strength. We owe him our lives in complete devotion. When we sin in any way, we have withheld our love from him, and therefore have a debt we cannot repay. When we ask him to forgive us, we ask him to pay our debt for us so that we can live in relationship together. In his gracious and merciful love, God took the initiative to do this before we even asked for it. He paid our debt, took responsibility for us and accounted for our violation of love, at the cross of Christ. He has “forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). At the cross, Jesus became our debt, and was wiped out so that we could live with God. Someone who has begun to know the magnitude of God’s mercy in Christ will begin to extend that same mercy. It’s one of the main ways God’s name is hallowed and his kingdom advances in the world.

Why is it difficult to pray and ask God to forgive your sins? What sins do you need God to forgive you? Can you remember them all? Will God forgive sins you haven’t remembered to ask him to forgive? How can God forgive you—not extract the debt of justice from you—and still be just? Why do we need to pray this petition more than just once at the beginning of our relationship with God? Is it ever appropriate to speak of forgiving God? What are some instances where you have forgiven brothers and sisters in the church for their sins against you? Why is it difficult to forgive in such instances? How have you been able to do it? Why is it sinful not to forgive? What are some beautiful stories of forgiveness that you know, and why are they beautiful?

This is the most mundane petition of the Lord’s Prayer. As such, it teaches us that there is no aspect of our earthly lives too basic to bother God about. Even the bare necessities for life are opportunities for us to relate to God in prayer. This is not presumptuous on our part; it is his idea, his command, his invitation to pray and to ask him for everything we need, because he wants us to live, and he wants us to live with him. Implicit here is the acknowledgement that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who can truly provide for our life—we are absolutely dependent on him and thankful to him. “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

We understand that many things essential to human life are assumed into this petition: food to eat, water to drink, air to breathe, clothing, shelter, some wealth, physical and emotional health, stable relationships, safe socio-political conditions, and so forth. Since we are asking our Father for our bread, it isn’t just a selfish request but one that is good for all those who pray in the name of Jesus Christ. We are not told to ask for our daily hunter-gatherer findings such as fish or berries, but for food that is a cultural product, a product of our labor together. We ask for the ability for all to work together to provide for the needs of all. “It is [God] who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18). “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). This is not contradictory to the idea of receiving our bread as a gift from God; it is the privilege of participating in the life and image of the God who is the Creator and Provider and Giver of all good gifts.

Ultimately, then, we’re asking to participate in the divine life as God intended for humanity. When Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6), he was announcing the reality of God’s gracious provision of everything we need for our life together with him as his people (2 Peter 1:3). As we pray this petition in Christ, then, and in its place in the Lord’s Prayer, we pray not merely for moment-by-moment survival but for eternal life in God’s presence so that we may always live to hallow God’s name, seek his kingdom, and desire his will to be done in and through us.

Relative to the rest of the Lord’s Prayer, is this the most frequent kind of request you make of God? Do you feel guilty or grateful when you pray this petition, and why? Do you pray this petition in light of the fuller instruction of Jesus on prayer? How might your prayers for daily bread change if they were shaped more by the first half of the Lord’s Prayer? Do you usually pray this prayer by yourself for yourself, or with others and on their behalf? What does it mean when God’s people pray for their daily bread and actually go hungry for lack of food? Does it mean that God doesn’t hear us, doesn’t love us, or can’t do anything to help us? Are you thankful for Christ as the Bread of Life?

As a phrase that refines the previous petitions, and not itself a petition, it can be easy to overlook the significance of these few words. But they make a considerable contribution to the substance of the Lord’s Prayer. In fact, they express something important of the whole shape of our hope for salvation. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, he saw it all, “and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). But, since sin and death entered the world, the earth is no longer like heaven, not the way it’s supposed to be. The main way this is true is with regard to our relationships with God and each other, though the whole earth suffers the effects of sin and “waits with eager longing” for things to be set back right and perfected once and for all (Romans 8:19).

Heaven is the “place” in God’s creation where the presence of God is the defining reality. God makes it clear that the same should be true also of the earth. This is what he wants and is working toward (and this is the very thing sinners reject). Christians aren’t escapists, thinking a disembodied heaven is the ultimate ideal, wishing we could be free from the shackles of this material realm. Following God’s lead, we want earth to be like heaven. Our hope is that this material world will be perfected in God’s presence, characterized by what characterizes heaven. The Gospel guarantees this hope. Heaven came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. He himself is God with humanity, in the flesh. After his death and resurrection, he ascended into heaven, where his continuing presence means that God and humanity live in communion, which is the way all God’s creation is supposed to be. One day Jesus will return, bringing all of heaven with him. Heaven and earth will become one, and everything that’s right with heaven will also be right with the earth, forever.

Until then, what characterizes heaven may characterize the earth wherever God is with his people. God’s name may be hallowed, his kingdom may come, and his will may be done on earth wherever his presence is the defining reality, where we have communion with the Father in the name of Jesus Christ, where the Holy Spirit bears his fruit in us. In other words, the church filled with the love of God is where the earth is most like heaven.

Does the church strike you as a taste of heaven on earth? Why or why not? How do you pray for the church? Do you look forward to heaven because God’s presence defines it, even though it means separation from your earthly life (2 Corinthians 5:8)? Or do you look forward to heaven for some other reason? Do you look forward to the New Heavens and the New Earth as perfected in God’s presence? In what ways do you long for the earth to become more like heaven now?

“‘Thy will be done.’ But a great deal of it is to be done by God’s creatures; including me. The petition, then, is not merely that I may patiently suffer God’s will but also that I may vigorously do it. I must be an agent as well as a patient. I am asking that I may be enabled to do it.” (C. S. Lewis)

Lewis sees a helpful distinction between two kinds of obedience: active and passive. These two kinds of obedience correspond to two expressions of God’s will. One actively (responsively) obeys God’s revealed will (a.k.a., his moral or declarative will). For example, when God commands us to love one another, then our love is the active obedience to his command. On the other hand, one passively (receptively) obeys God’s secret will (a.k.a., his providential or decretal will). For example, when it is God’s will that we suffer hardship for the sake of discipline, then our submissive acceptance of our circumstances is passive obedience. Jesus alone is perfect in both active and passive obedience; he has always and fully kept all his Father’s commandments, and he submitted himself entirely to his Father’s will even when it meant his death on the cross.

When we pray, “Your will be done,” it is both a submission of our own wills to God (passive obedience) and a request for our further sanctification (active obedience). In this petition is an implicit confession: we do not want what God wants. We are not, by sinful nature, given to obeying God. We pray this way because, somehow, at some level, we want to want what God’s wants. Somehow, we’re acknowledging that his will is better than ours. We don’t do his will, but we want to do it, because we trust that it is good. We don’t just want to do his will reluctantly, but happily, vigorously. If we are to delight in doing God’s will, he is going to have to grant it as an answer to this prayer. He is going to have to realign our wills with his own. So we look for those points where his will feels like a contradiction to our wills, and we pray for him to enable us to submit to him at those points. We are praying against our own nature as sinners opposed to his will. The fact that we would pray this way at all is a miraculous work of God’s Spirit—and a bit paradoxical!

How is this petition connected to Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42)? How is this petition connected to our repentance? Do you believe that God’s moral will is good? His providential will? Always better than your own? Why should you believe that God’s will is good? Why would we think God’s will is good, and ask for it to be done, yet still struggle to submit to it? What are some particular points in your own life where you wrestle with God’s moral or providential will, and need God to answer this petition? Are you discouraged or encouraged by the reality of this struggle in your life, and why?

“The kingdom of God is a matter of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). God’s kingdom exists where he is present in peace. In eternity, before the creation, this kingdom was the Persons of the Triune God himself dwelling in interpersonal harmony: God’s Being, in perfect accord with his true reality, in peace. His rule is characterized by divine love and mutual service. The kingdom exists where God rules through his Word and is present in his Spirit, where relationship with God in accordance with his reality has centrality in and supremacy over all things.

At the creation, on the seventh day, God was present in peace in all his creation, both in heaven and on earth. And humanity, created in his image, was invited to join him, to be present in peace with him, to rule with him in his kingdom with his own rule of love and service. But humanity came to doubt the goodness of God’s rule and rejected his presence. We corrupted the very nature of rule, grabbing for self-centered power and autonomy from God. We upset the peaceful kingdom of God in his creation, tearing heaven and earth apart. Now, heaven is the “place” in his creation where his kingdom is; earth is where his kingdom is coming.

In his coming to earth, Jesus taught that the kingdom had come near (Mark 1:15). He is the very Word through which God rules, become flesh through the Spirit. Jesus embodies the kingdom that has come from God and is returning to God (1 Corinthians 15:24). Jesus is where God is present in peace as a human, in one Person both restoring God’s rule in the world and fulfilling humanity’s calling to rule with God’s own rule. In Jesus we see the divine rule of love and service; he has authority to lay down his life and to take it up again on behalf of his people (John 10:18). Jesus reunites God and humanity in peace, and he has come to dwell in his people through the presence of the Spirit, increasing the rule of God’s kingdom on earth. One day his kingdom will come in fullness, and the heavens and earth will be made new, ruled by the power of his Word and restored to peace in his presence. Relationship with God in accordance with his reality will have centrality in and supremacy over all things, and his people will rule with him in his kingdom with his own rule, forever.

Jesus teaches us that we should want this kingdom to come, that it is good and desirable. He teaches us to ask it of the Father, which means that God wants to give us his kingdom and that there is no other way to have it than as an answer to Jesus’ prayer here. Our autonomy broke the world, so we cannot fix it through more autonomy. We must submit ourselves to the rule of God through his Word, through his Christ. Apart from Jesus, this prayer would not be answered, nor would we even pray it. The first thing we’re asking with this petition, then, is for our own submission to his rule. Thankfully, when we look at Jesus, we know that God is the kind of king who makes us want to pray, “Your kingdom come!”

Why is God’s kingdom better than our autonomy? Are you suspicious of God’s rule as your king? Why or why not? In what ways are you prone to project your fallen/earthly ideas of kingdom and authority on to God and his kingdom? Can you believe that God has invited you to rule with him over his own kingdom with his own rule? What do you think that is supposed to look like? When you pray, “Your kingdom come,” what do you imagine the answer to that prayer to be like in your life? What did Jesus mean by saying his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36)? What does it mean that, at the end, Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24)?

The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, the primary request made by those who are familiar with God, the chief thing we ask of the one who has made us to know him as Father through our Lord Jesus Christ, is: “Hallowed be your name.” This is the foundational petition of Jesus’ and our prayer; all following petitions are properly interpreted only in light of this one. If you would ask anything of God outside the scope of this petition, it is not, strictly speaking, prayer as Jesus teaches it.

A name is for personal identification and knowing. When you give your name to others, you give something of yourself to them, you invite them to know you in relationship. God’s name is his introduction of himself to others. It’s how we know him. It’s the true disclosure of his identity and character to us for a real relationship with him. God opens himself up to us in his self-revelation. In asking God to hallow his name, we are asking God to make us to know him and love him as he truly is, as he has revealed himself to us. We are asking God to change us and others, so that we would regard him as holy, in accord with reality. We are asking God to make holy to us the knowledge of him in all his fullness. With this petition we are asking God’s help to be able to keep the first three of his Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-7). We pray this way because we recognize in ourselves and others that we don’t trust God, we don’t know him, we don’t love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength—but we want to. This is our first prayer because this is most important to our life. This is our prayer because only God can make himself known and make us able to respond appropriately.

God has given us his name in the Scriptures, through the history of his relationship with his people: Yahweh (“I Am Who I Am”), Immanuel (“God With Us”), Jesus (“Yahweh Saves”). He has made himself known as the God whose eternal being is love, who has bound himself to us forever in his Incarnation, who opens his own life to us. He has made himself known especially in the Cross, in the love of Christ who was willing to die to forgive our sins. We have God’s name proclaimed to us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we come to love his name by the work of his Spirit in us. To pray, “Hallowed be your name,” is to ask that the Gospel would be clearly proclaimed and that we would hear it with faith. It is a prayer against unbelief, against any conception of God contrary to his self-revelation in Jesus. It is to ask God for the help of his Word and his Spirit in knowing him and relating to him. It is to ask God to introduce himself to others for relationship in ways that cause them to hold his name as sacred. It is to ask God for the privilege of participating in making him known in the world, and it is to rest confidently in the trust that, ultimately, he is the one who will hallow his name.

Why is this a petition and not a declaration of intent? Is this petition related to prayer “in Jesus’ name”? If so, how? Can you relate this petition to each of the first three of the Ten Commandments? Can you think of similar prayers by Jesus or others in the Bible? What happened in response to these prayers? What indication, if any, do we have that God is interested in answering this petition? In what ways might the answer to this petition look differently for different people at different points in their lives? Do you think it would be good for you if God answered this petition? In other words, do you pray this petition? Can you think of ways in which God has answered this petition despite your not praying it earnestly… or at all? If God answers this petition whether or not we pray it, what’s the point of praying it?