Monday, August 10, 2009

We descend to our own affairs

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ
Chapter 20 - Prayer as exercise of faith and way we receive God's benefits

Sections 44-47 - Lord's Prayer - last three requests
44. In the last half of the prayer, "we descend to our own affairs." "Give us today our daily bread." God's glory deals with food and drink, too - 1 Cor 10:31. We ask here for all "our bodies have need to use [in]... this world." In our sinfulness, we are more concerned about body than soul needs. Even when we entrust our souls to God, we have a hard time doing so with our bodies. We must remember our material needs are met by God, not us - Deut 8:17-18; Lev 26:20. Even if our pantries are full, we should ask for our daily bread - Deut 8:3; Matt 4:4. It is OUR bread only relatively - God gives it. If we have stolen it through any fraud it is not ours in any sense, and must be returned.

45. "Forgive us our debts." Our sins are debts "because we owe penalty for them." Those who look to their own merits forfeit this forgiveness and call for God's judgment instead. "As we forgive our debtors." Only God can forgive sin (Isa 43:25), but we are to put aside "wrath, hatred, desire for revenge, and willingly to banish to oblivion the remembrance of injustice." If we don't and pray this, we are asking God not to forgive our sins. Our forgiveness of others doesn't merit God's forgiveness of us. It is given as a warning to those who won't forgive others, and as comfort of forgiveness to those who do.

46. "Lead us not into temptation" for we need God's grace to withstand. We are often tempted away from God with "things not evil of their own nature" - James 1:2, 14; Matt 4:1, 3. Temptations from favorable things: riches, power; and from unfavorable things: disgrace, affliction, poverty. Either way, we pray God helps us turn either to good. It doesn't matter much if "evil" means Satan or sin. Satan tempts us to destroy -1 Peter 5:8; God does so to build us up, and gives a way out - 1 Cor 10:13; 2 Pet 2:9. "If the Lord did not snatch us from [Satan], we could not help being immediately torn to pieces by his fangs and claws, and swallowed down his throat." But with God's help we conquer - Ps 60:12. When James 1:13 says God doesn't tempt us it means that we can't blame Him for our lust giving in to temptation. He often allows His saints to give in to temptation for "a just but often secret judgment."

47. "For Yours is the kingdom, power and glory forever." Our prayers should be public, in community, as the plural pronouns in the prayer so far suggest. Our faith rests sure, knowing God is sovereign. "Amen." Our sincere desire that this prayer be answered. Dan 9:18-19.

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