Exalting the Lord’s Kingdom, Power, and Glory

“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.”

– 1 Chronicles 29:11

Scholars of religion often distinguish between “high church” and “low church” Protestant traditions. High-church traditions are those that have retained a more formal liturgy (order of worship) and various elements such as clerical vestments, processionals, and the observance of the church calendar in their worship. Low-church traditions, on the other hand, tend to be far less formal. Their liturgies will be simpler, and their worship will often include a few hymns or songs, a sermon, and prayer but not the more formal elements of the high-church traditions. On the extreme end of low-church Protestantism there are even churches that have no real plan for worship other than gathering and “letting the Spirit move.” By way of example, Anglicans and Lutherans would typically fall under the category of highchurch Protestantism, while many Baptist denominations and the Pentecostal movement would be part of low-church Protestantism. Presbyterians and the Dutch Reformed typically land somewhere between the two poles of the spectrum, depending on the specific church.

No matter where a church falls on the spectrum of high church or low church, it has a liturgy, an order of service, of some kind. It may be highly organized, formal, and written down, or it may be informal and unspoken. But every church has a liturgy.

Over the centuries, churches from almost every tradition have adopted specific biblical texts into their worship, sometimes adding other texts to them or reshaping them to make them more fit for use in worship while retaining their meaning. The Lord’s Prayer is one such example of the church’s adaptation, for the following line or some variation thereof is often added to the end of the prayer as it appears in Matthew 6 and Luke 11: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”

It is an appropriate addition, reflecting such biblical texts as 1 Chronicles 29:11. It also serves to close the prayer with a reminder of who God is and who we are. We pray rightly for ourselves, but we always entrust ourselves finally into the hands of the One who rules over all, who has the power to meet our every need, and whose glory is our highest goal and most satisfying reward. We conclude the Lord’s Prayer with this line, thereby reorienting ourselves back to our Creator, upon whom we depend for all things.

Coram Deo

  • In its liturgical form, the Lord’s Prayer begins and ends with God’s holy name, His kingdom, and His glory. The church has been wise in this, and we can learn from the saints who have gone before us that we should begin and end our prayers by praying for the coming of God’s holy, powerful, and glorious kingdom. Let us pray for that today.

Passages for Further Study

  • 2 Chronicles 20:6
  • Daniel 7:13–14
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:11–12

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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Praying for God’s Protection

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

– Matthew 6:13

The Lord’s Prayer includes three petitions that we pray for ourselves and our loved ones. First, we ask God to supply our “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), that is, to supply our physical needs. Second, we ask God to forgive us our sins (v. 12), which is a petition for our Lord to meet our spiritual need for forgiveness. Today’s passage is the final petition in the Lord’s Prayer in which we ask Him to meet one of our specific needs. We ask Him for spiritual protection when we pray that He “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (v. 13).

When we ask God not to lead us into temptation, we are not saying, “God, please do not tempt us to sin.” James 1:13 tells us that “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” Our Creator is morally incapable of being an agent of temptation. The world, the flesh, and the devil are all sources of direct temptation for us, but God is not a tempter. He sovereignly permits the world, the flesh, and the devil to tempt us, thereby establishing in His sovereign decree that temptation will come. But He is not the tempter and is never morally blameworthy for evil or sin.

God does not tempt people to sin. However, in permitting our temptation, He does test us. The Lord established a test for Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden when He forbade them from eating of the forbidden tree, but He did not tempt our first parents. Satan did (Gen. 3). Similarly, the Lord tested Job by allowing Satan to interfere in his life and tempt him to curse God, but our Maker did not introduce temptation into Job’s life.

When we acknowledge the reality that God tempts no one and look at the grammatical structure of today’s passage, then we understand what the petition for protection in the Lord’s Prayer is asking. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13) exhibits synonymous parallelism, a grammatical convention frequently used by the Jews. In a synonymous parallel, two lines express the same truth but in slightly different ways. So, “deliver us from evil” tells us what it means for God not to lead us into temptation. As many English translations recognize, the line is better translated as “deliver us from the evil one,” that is, Satan. Essentially, the petition is asking the Lord to preserve us from a time of testing, to keep us safe from the temptations of the devil.

Coram Deo

  • God will not allow Satan to snatch any of His children out of His hand, and one of the ways by which He keeps us in His hand is in our prayers for perseverance. We pray for the Lord to protect us from Satan so that we may do God’s will and so that we will press on and remain faithful to Him in all times of testing. Let us pray daily for protection from the devil and for the grace to remain faithful to Christ.

Passages for Further Study

  • Ecclesiastes 3:16–22
  • Matthew 26:41
  • Luke 11:4
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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Praying for God’s Forgiveness

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

– Matthew 6:12

In prayer, we are not informing God of anything new. He is omniscient—all knowing—so whatever we tell Him in prayer, He already knows. The Lord wants us to pray for our needs, but our “Father knows [our] needs before [we] ask” (v. 8). In some measure, prayer is more about us than it is about God. He wants us to understand and confess our utter reliance on Him, and prayer is the vehicle for that. Regular prayer reminds us of our dependence on the Lord, which cannot help but move us to be more self-consciously dependent upon Him.

For the Christian, divine omniscience is a comforting truth. Because God already knows everything, trying to hide something from Him is pointless. We can be brutally honest about ourselves, for the Lord already knows us and what we have done even prior to our praying to Him. In fact, He knows us better than we know ourselves (Ps. 139:1). Thus, there is no point in attempting to conceal our sin when we come before Him in prayer. We are to ask our Father in heaven to forgive us our debts, to pardon us for our sins (Matt. 6:12).

Note that there is a qualifier in Matthew 6:12. We ask God to forgive our debts “as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This establishes a link between the Lord’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others. It is not that our forgiveness of others merits God’s forgiveness of us; that would deny that our salvation is by grace alone. Jesus’ point, rather, is to underscore how we always stand in the presence of our Creator as forgiven sinners and to make us aware that with God’s forgiveness of us comes our responsibility to forgive others. Our Savior warns us that those who are unwilling to forgive others have not understood the free grace of the Lord and therefore may not be true disciples (Matt. 18:21–35). Our forgiveness of others shows that we understand the Lord’s grace and mercy and that we should be as generous with our mercy as He has been with His. If we do not forgive those who ask us to forgive them for sinning against us, we are demanding something of them that the Lord does not demand of us. We have sinned so much more egregiously against God than anyone has ever sinned against us and yet God is willing to forgive us. How, then, can we not be willing to forgive those who sin against us?

Coram Deo

  • When others come to us for forgiveness and ask for our pardon, we must forgive them. We cannot continue to hold their sin against them or harbor bitterness in our hearts toward them. Insofar as we are able, we are to pursue reconciliation. But we are not to do this by ignoring justice. Forgiving others and seeking justice for them if they have harmed others are not incompatible.

Passages for Further Study

  • Psalm 103:1–5
  • Jeremiah 33:8
  • Luke 6:37
  • Colossians 3:12–13

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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Holy Hatred

“Hate evil, you who love the Lord” (Ps. 97:10).

God’s hatred for evil is an extension of His love.

“Holy hatred” will sound like a contradiction in terms to those who view all hatred as evil. But love and hate are inseparable. You can’t truly love something and be complacent about the things that oppose or threaten it.

If you love your spouse, you hate anything that would defile or injure him or her. If you love your children, you hate anything that would harm them. If you love good, you hate evil. If you love unity, you hate discord. If you love God, you hate Satan. That’s why Scripture says, “Hate evil, you who love the Lord” (Ps. 97:10) and, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I [God personified] hate” (Prov. 8:13).

Unquestionably God is a God of love. First John 4 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. . . . And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (vv. 7-8, 11, 16).

How are we to respond to that love? The psalmist wrote, “From Thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. . . . I hate those who are double-minded, but I love Thy law. . . . I esteem right all Thy precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way. . . . I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Thy law” (Ps. 119:104, 113, 128, 163).

Is that your prayer? Do you hate the things that oppose God? Are you offended by what offends Him? Remember, holy hatred is as much a part of godly love as any of its other characteristics. If you love God, you must necessarily hate evil.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to increase your love for Him and your hatred for evil.

For Further Study

  • Meditate on Psalm 119:101-104 and commit it to memory.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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The Triumph of Love

“[Love] endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

Love triumphs over opposition.

Endurance is the final characteristic of love that Paul mentions in this passage. The Greek word translated “endures” in verse 7 is a military term that speaks of being positioned in the middle of a violent battle. It refers not to withstanding minor annoyances, but incredible opposition. Love does that without ceasing to love.

Stephen is a good example of enduring love. He preached God’s message without compromise, but his enemies stoned him to death. His last act was to fall on his knees, crying out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:59). A lesser man might have hated his tormentors, but not Stephen. He forgave them and beseeched God to do likewise, following the example of his Lord, who on the cross prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). That’s the endurance of godly love.

Love bears all hurts, sins, and disappointments. It never broadcasts them but makes every attempt to reconcile and restore sinners. Love believes the best about others and is never cynical or suspicious. Even when it’s under severe attack, it forgives and clings to the hope of God’s power and promises. That kind of love should characterize every believer.

Your love may not be perfect, but it should be obvious. If you’re struggling with implementing love in some area of your life, remember these five keys:

  1. Acknowledge that love is a command (Rom. 13:8-10).
  2. Agree that you have the spiritual resources to love others as God loves you (Rom. 5:5).
  3. Understand that loving others is normal Christian behavior (1 John 4:7-10).
  4. Realize that love is the Spirit’s work (Gal. 5:22).
  5. Be fervent in your love for others (1 Pet. 1:22; 4:8).

Godly love should be your highest purpose and greatest joy (Matt. 22:36-40). As you love others, you glorify Christ and make Him known to the world.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Review the fifteen characteristics of love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, asking God to increase each of them in your life.

For Further Study

  • Reread each reference in the five keys for implementing love in your life, and commit at least one to memory.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Praying for Our Needs

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

– Matthew 6:11

Prayer allows us the inestimable privilege of communing with the omniscient Creator of the universe. Given that privileges bring with them new responsibilities, we want to make sure that we are fulfilling our responsibility to pray as we ought. According to the model that Jesus gives us in the Lord’s Prayer, our first concern as we pray is to be for the expansion of God’s holy kingdom. To that end, we pray for God’s name to be hallowed, God’s kingdom to come, and God’s will to be done (Matt. 6:9–10; Luke 11:1–2). Having oriented ourselves in prayer with a proper focus on the kingdom, we are then free to ask the Lord to supply our needs (Matt. 6:11; Luke 11:3).

Jesus tells us to pray that God would “give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). The first thing to note here is that our requests are first and foremost to be for actual necessities. It is not wrong to ask the Lord to give us things that are not true needs, as long as those things are not sinful, but the emphasis is on making sure that we focus on God’s sustenance of all that we need to stay alive. The Lord does not promise to give us everything we have ever wanted, but He does pledge to meet the needs of His children. Paul says that “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19), so we are to trust Him to provide for us all that we need.

Note also that we pray for our “daily bread” when we ask the Lord to meet our needs (Matt. 6:11). The adjective “daily” reminds us that we depend on the Lord moment upon moment for our very existence. God does not guarantee what tomorrow will bring; He pledges to sustain us today. Praying for our “daily bread” reminds us not to presume upon the Almighty for the future. Any plans we make should be held onto loosely, for we do not know what lies ahead and God may work things out contrary to our plans.

The Lord has blessed many of us in the world today with technologies that make us able to grow large amounts of food and store it for long periods of time. As such, we may not have the same sense of dependence on God for our daily needs as those who do not know where their next meal is coming from. Let us be grateful for the Lord’s blessing, but let us also not lose sight of the fact that it is the Lord and not our technologies that feed us. Praying for our daily bread will help us do just that.

Coram Deo

  • As sinners, we are not owed anything by the Lord, not even the bread we eat every day. Asking God to provide us with our daily bread helps us remember His grace not only in saving us from sin but also in meeting our physical needs. May we ever be aware of the Lord’s sustaining hand, and may we seek Him daily for every need.

Passages for Further Study

  • Isaiah 30:18–33
  • 2 Corinthians 9:10

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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Praying for God’s Will to Be Done

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

– Matthew 6:10b

In the third petition of the Lord’s prayer, Jesus instructs us to pray for God’s will to be done. This request flows from the petition for God’s kingdom to come, for the Lord’s kingdom is present where we find righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Such fruits are possible only as we do the will of God.

Yet, it might seem strange to pray for God’s will to be done. Scripture is quite clear that God’s will, at least in some sense, is always done. Ephesians 1:1, for instance, explains that the Lord “works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Psalm 115:3 adds that “our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Such passages refer to what is commonly called the decretive will of God. In keeping with Deuteronomy 29:29, which tells us there are some things the Lord has revealed and some things He has not, Reformed theologians distinguish between the decretive and preceptive wills of God. The decretive will refers to God’s sovereign decree of whatsoever comes to pass. For the most part, this will is hidden from us, but it includes everything that actually happens in creation. If God ordains something in His decretive will, it will certainly come to pass.

Our Creator’s preceptive will, on the other hand, refers to those things that He finds morally pleasing in themselves. Think of the Ten Commandments—the positive things they enjoin such as the preservation of life, chastity, contentment, and so forth are pleasing to God. It is His will that such things be done because He approves of them. However, we know that God’s preceptive will is routinely broken. People violate the commandments; they go against His preceptive will. Yet, in such cases, we note that they are not going against His decretive will. For the sake of some greater good, God decrees some things that are in themselves detestable—sin—and that violate His preceptive will. Christ’s crucifixion is a good example of this. God ordained that those who murdered His Son would do their evil deed. Considered in itself, He hates that act of injustice (Acts 2:23). Those men who had Christ killed violated God’s preceptive will against murder. Even so, God decreed the crucifixion for a greater final good, namely, our salvation and His glory (see Rom. 8:28).

To pray for God’s will to be done is to pray for His preceptive will to be kept. Yet, it is more than that. It is to ask that people would do this will not merely out of duty but because they want to serve God with all their hearts.

Coram Deo

  • It is not wrong to do God’s will because it is our duty to obey Him. However, God wants us to be content with His will, to seek to do His will not merely out of duty but because we are delighted to follow His commandments. By His grace, over the course of our lives, He makes us increasingly willing to obey Him even when it is hard. Let us pray that He would make us willing to do His will this day.

Passages for Further Study

  • Deuteronomy 5:1–21
  • Psalm 51:12
  • Mark 3:31–35
  • Luke 22:39–46

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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