Learning to Pray: Part Five
The Steward’s Courage
We are on a five-week journey reflecting on Jesus’s instructions to His disciples on how they should pray – what we know as The Lord’s Prayer. We are considering how The Lord’s Prayer reflects the journey of the faithful steward, and to do so we are breaking it down into five sections:
- The Steward’s Cry – Our Father, hallowed be your name
- The Steward’s Commitment – your kingdom come, your will be done
- The Steward’s Confidence – our daily bread
- The Steward’s Confession – forgive us as we forgive
- The Steward’s Courage – deliver us
We are using the text from Matthew 6 from the New International Version, and today we will meditate on the following words, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
My hope is to share with you the wonderful blessing I’ve received as the Spirit has been teaching me how our commitment to be faithful stewards is beautifully woven into this way of praying. While that shouldn’t surprise us, it has revolutionized my prayer life, and I hope there is a substantial blessing for you in this as well.
The Steward’s Courage
When we first read His prayer from Matthew 6, it may seem odd that Jesus would end on what seems such a negative note. Why would talk of temptation and the enemy be the last words of this beautiful prayer? Perhaps that is why the early church saw fit to add the doxology, “for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.” We will come back to this in a moment, but for now we must take seriously the prayer as Jesus taught it. And that means seeking to understand why He would end it in this way.
I believe if we stay true to our steward theology, this is the perfect ending for the Lord’s prayer as seen through the lens of the faithful steward. All through the Lord’s prayer we are invited into the freedom of the abundant life Jesus promised us. In the first phrase, we are set free to live as stewards, understanding that God owns everything. He is the Lord of the universe, reigning in heaven and worthy of our praise. In the second, we are set free from the need to control by surrendering our will to God’s, praying that His kingdom would be made known to us. In the third, we are set free from the need to worry about the things we depend on each day, trusting that God will provide us our daily bread. And in the fourth, we are set free to love ourselves with clean hearts that come through confession, and to love our neighbor with open hearts made possible through forgiveness.
After all these victories that have opened to us the life of freedom and joy as His faithful stewards, Jesus reminds us of the danger of being tempted to fall back into our forsaken but not forgotten bondages. We have been invited through this prayer to let the chains of bondage fall from our shoulders. Jesus ends this prayer reminding us that we need the daily power and presence of the Holy Spirit to keep us from picking them up and placing them back on again.
And so we pray, “Lord, keep us from the temptation of returning to our old ownership, two-kingdom, controlling ways.” Paul’s admonition should ring true to us here, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
Jesus is the lover of our souls. How fitting that He would end His prayer encouraging us to trust in Him to hold fast to the life that offers cleansing and freedom for our souls.
To this, Jesus add a final admonition, “deliver us from the evil one.” Here Jesus tells us that following Him will place us in the center of spiritual warfare. Our prayer that we be delivered from the evil one, only makes sense if we believe, 1) that there is a real and true enemy of our soul, 2) that our life as followers of Jesus includes daily spiritual warfare with this enemy, and 3) that Jesus overcame this enemy, and has the power to deliver us if we will pray and believe. Because Jesus ends His prayer this way, we must reject every notion that either there is no real enemy, or that our lives as stewards will not involve this daily, spiritual battle.
This last phrase teaches us that the life of the faithful steward requires courage. Not our own, pride-based sense of invincibility, but a surrendered, humble admission of our need. Into such a steward’s heart God can pour his Spirit of power. Our courage comes not when we launch out in our own strength, but when we are strong in the Lord and His power. So, Paul encourages us to, “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:10-13)
This is the image Jesus leaves us with at the end of His teaching on how to pray. The Lord’s prayer begins with the sovereignty of God and ends with the defeat of the enemy. It begins by calling us to be stewards in relationship to the loving owner, and ends by reminding us that the one who owns all things has also been victorious over death and will equip us daily for the abundant life. But this abundant life is ours only to the extent that we die to ourselves, surrender our ownership attitudes back to Him, and trust Him to be our Provider, Sustainer, Redeemer and Victor. Only He is to be hallowed. Only His will is to be done. Only His kingdom will endure. Only He will provide us our daily bread. Only He can forgive us. Only He can enable us to forgive others. Only He can deliver us from temptation. Only He has overcome the evil one.
With this great truth ringing in our hearts, perhaps we can understand why the church chose to end this prayer with a return to praise and adoration. And so, to this great and loving God we proclaim, “yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever!”
And let all God’s stewards say, “Amen, and Amen!”