Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Lord's Prayer, Petitions 4-6

Today's reading ended up being significantly longer than yesterday's. Calvin had much more to say about these three petitions. I drank almost two cups of half-caff during today's reading instead of just one cup (do two half-caffs equal one cup of real?).

Petition 4: "Give us this day our daily bread"
This begins the second half of the Lord's Prayer where we ask for things for our own benefit. In asking for our daily bread, we are asking for physical nourishment, whereas the next two petitions we are asking for spiritual nourishment. In everything that we ask for ourselves, we should seek His glory in all, "for nothing is more fitting than that we live and die for him." We are not just asking for food in this petition, but for all of our physical needs in this life. However, the word "daily" has some special implications, namely, that we are only asking for what we truly need and we are not asking for frivolous or excessive things (That means praying to win the lottery is out of the question). We should only ask that he provides what is sufficient for today because, "our Heavenly Father nourishes us today, he will not fail us tomorrow."

Petition 5: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors"
In these last two petitions rests the salvation of the church. We begin with the forgiveness of sins. Calvin addresses the use of the word "debts." Calvin writes, "He calls sins 'debts' because we owe penalty for them, and we could in no way satisfy it unless we were released by this forgiveness. This pardon comes of his free mercy, by which he himself generously wipes out these debts, exacting no payment from us but making satisfaction to himself by his own mercy in Christ, who once for all gave himself as a ransom." Calvin addresses those who think that they can earn forgiveness through merit and/or penance saying that not only do they run counter to true doctrine but are calling God's wrath upon themselves. The hardest part of this petition is asking God to forgive in the manner in which we forgive others. We have no power of true forgiveness, because that is God's department alone. However, our forgiveness of others consists in "willingly to cast from the mind wrath, hatred, desire for revenge, and willing to banish to oblivion the remembrance of injustice." We should not attempt to attain forgiveness from God of our own sins until we have dealt with forgiving others.

Petition 6: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil"
We are asking for the help of the Spirit in two ways: "By this we are instructed that we need not only the grace of the Spirit, to soften our hearts within and to bend and direct them to obey God, but also his aid, to render us invincible against both all the stratagems and all the violent assaults of Satan." Calvin discusses the varieties of temptations. He distinguishes between temptations that arise from our own desires and those where the devil prompts us. He distinguishes between the temptations of prosperity versus the temptations of poverty. Interestingly, Calvin writes that we are not asking to be totally free from temptation, because that would lead to sluggishness and we should always remain alert. We are asking for the strength to resist temptation. He makes it clear that there is no need to concern ourselves with whether the original text reads "from evil" or "from the evil one" since Satan is the author of sin, they mean virtually the same thing. Calvin states that this is our plea, "that we may not be vanquished or overwhelmed by any temptations but may stand fast by the Lord's power against all hostile powers that attack us." One final note he makes in this section. God does not tempt us because to tempt is against His nature. For His own secret plan, God may turn us over to Satan for a time, who will tempt us. But God would never tempt us to sin.

Calvin points out that Christian prayers should be public, not in the way that Jesus warned against in the Sermon on the Mount. We all need our daily bread, forgiveness of sins, and not to be led into temptation.

In earlier New Testament manuscripts, the doxology "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever" is not included. Calvin defends the inclusion of this for a couple of reasons. It tells us why we should be bold enough to ask and confident we will receive. Also, God's kingdom, power, and glory are an everlasting basis for our own assurance. Finally, the word "amen" expresses "the warmth of desire to obtain what we have asked of God." By saying "amen," we are in effect saying "Do, O Lord, for thy name's sake, not on account of us or our righteousness."

Tomorrow's reading: 3.20.48-3.20.52

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