What You Really Need (Matthew 6:11-13)
Passage: Matthew 6:11–6:13
I. Defining Our Needs
When I was a kid, there were lots of things I found difficult to do at first: riding a bike, tying my shoes, fractions, whistling, cleaning my room. But as I grew, those things got easier. Sometimes it was just a matter of weeks before I figured something out. Sometimes it was a few years.
But one thing that was hard back then, remains difficult even today. I’m talking about the ability to differentiate between my needs and my wants. What do I really need? What is critical right now? What is necessary for me in terms of living life?
All around us, we’re told that if we’re going to be happy we need the right kind of house, the right kind of spouse, the right kind of car, the right kind of toys, the right kind of job.
We often think we need freedom from pain and trials. We often define our needs, not according to what will make things right, but according to what will make things easier.
And of course, this affects how we pray for ourselves. We pray in light of our perceived needs. And that in turn affects the way we pray for other people. Needs versus wants.
This morning, we return to “The Prayer”, that prayer we traditionally to as the “Lord’s Prayer”. And as we come back one last time, we discover that Jesus wants to teach us, not simply about prayer, but also about our true needs.
Turn with me back to Matthew chapter 6. Let’s look one more time at the prayer recorded for us in verses 9-13…
II. The Passage: “Give Us this Day” (Matthew 6:11-13)
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
This week, I want to conclude our study by exploring the last three petitions of this prayer. Now, last time, we saw that after the opening address, the rest of the prayer can be divided into two sections. First, there are the first three petitions, in verses 9 and 10, all of which contain the term “your”. Second, there are the last three petitions, in verses 11 through 13, all of which contain term “our” OR “us”.
As we focus in on verses 11 through 13 this morning, I think you will quickly notice that as the “ours” indicate, these three requests represent three distinct needs. And if the Lord’s Prayer is what we’ve said it is, a daily discipline that anchors us to God’s priorities on our sea of human tendencies, if it is that, then these three needs represents three priorities that God wants us to live by.
A. Our Needs in Light of “The Great Request”
Now before we explore each of these final three requests, I want you to consider something about the order of the petitions in this prayer.
According to the first three petitions of this prayer, if you are a follower of Jesus, the focus of your life should be summed up by the “Great Request’ that Jesus teaches us to pray in verses 9 ad 10: That His name would be revered, that His rule would be realized, that His will would be done in all things. If that’s our prayer each day, then using Jesus’ words later on in chapter 6, your personal mission statement should be: seek first His Kingdom!
Why is it important we emphasize the order here? Because we need to see that the final three requests here are not simply all you need to live any life; they represent all you need to lead THE life that God desires; the life that is submitted to His rule and working to spread his kingship in this world through the gospel of Christ and the transformation of hearts.
When our goals for this life are not in line with God’s goal, we will see our needs differently. If our life’s purpose is simply to experience physical pleasure, we will define our needs differently. Or if we believe our life’s purpose is simply to achieve success in business, we will again, define our needs differently. But when the purpose of our life is to work for God’s purposes, our needs become defined by that goal.
The everyday needs described in verses 11-13 are what we need to carry out God’s great agenda every day. Jesus wants us to learn what is really necessary to do God’s will on earth, as it is done in heaven.
B. Our Needs According to Jesus
So let’s take a look at these three needs, these three priorities one by one.
1. We Need God’s Provision
First, look back at verse 11:
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
This need is fairly straightforward, isn’t it? WE NEED GOD’S PROVISION.
I think a better translation of this request points out this is a morning prayer. It would go something like this… “Give us today our bread for the coming day.”
But is there more to this request than meets the eye? Is it simply a request for rye, a petition for pumpernickel, a wish for wheat? If we look down toward the end of this same chapter, Jesus talks again about God’s provision. Look at 6:31:
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)
Here Jesus, in talking about provision, moves beyond bread, and talks about drink and clothing as well. He tells us that God knows that we “need all these things”. There’s our word “need”.
So I think we could say that the term “bread” in verse 11 represents all of our basic, physical needs. This is what Paul later described in I Timothy 6 as “food and covering”: for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (I Timothy 6:7, 8)
Now some of us have prayed and are praying this prayer with a clear sense of the need. There are many today who don’t know how this “bread” will be there tomorrow. But there are others who have a difficult time with this request, because their cupboards and closets are full. We might be tempted to think, “Shouldn’t we just come to God for spiritual things?”
What we all need to remember is that when we pray “Give us today our bread for the coming day”, we are not simply praying for what God will give, but we are also acknowledging what he has given, AND the simple fact that He is the Giver.
You see, our daily prayer for bread should ultimately be, with extreme gratefulness, a daily confession of our dependence upon the hand of God. Our cupboards and closets are full because God has filled them!
God made your brain, God gives you talents, God protects you from becoming a vegetable, God maintains civil order, God gives rain for our food and protection from pestilence, and there are a million more examples of God’s provision that we simply take for granted.
As someone once said, the request in verse 11 is for “our needs, not our greeds”. God will provide everything our bodies need to accomplish everything He desires. And when it comes right down to it, we don’t need very much. Look at Jesus. Look at Paul.
This doesn’t mean God does not bless some with other resources to be used in the work of extending His influence. It simply means that our desires need to be tempered by the reality of what we really need to accomplish our mission.
Each day, in order to do His work, the Lord’s Prayer should drive us to a deeper dependence on, and a greater contentment with, God’s perfect provision. And remember, when we pray, we are praying with the pronoun “our”. And so when we pray, we are also praying for God’s perfect provision and this perspective for our brothers and sisters in Christ!
2. We Need God’s Pardon
But let’s keep going here. Look again at verse 12: …and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Now at first, this request seems to be concerned with our financial burdens. But if we look at the parallel prayer preserved for us in Luke’s Gospel, it reads “and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” (Luke 11:4)
You see, in Jesus’ culture the term “debt” was just another way of talking about sin. The praise and obedience that we fail to give to God results is a spiritual ‘debt’. In the same way, those who have failed to treat us in a way that honors God make themselves “our debtors”.
And so we might say, “And forgive us of our sin-debts, as we also have forgiven those who are sin-indebted to us.”
So, very clearly, this request reminds us that WE NEED GOD’S PARDON.
I love the word “pardon” because it always reminds me of a governor or president’s ability to grant a pardon, even in the final minutes before an execution. The word of God confirms that, apart from Christ, we too are on the verge of execution for our wrongdoing, for our sin. But it also confirms that, through Christ, we too can be pardoned by the King of heaven.
As the Scriptures define it, the heart of sin is “attempting to live a me-centered life in a God-centered universe”. And so, when you prayer the “Lord’s Prayer” as a daily discipline, you are providing yourself with a course correction. You are reminding yourself that even though you’ve prayed for God’s will to be done, you have also failed to do God’s will in terms of your thoughts, words, and actions. Therefore, we you are reminding yourself that you are in daily need of God’s forgiveness. You are reminding yourself that you only stand by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
But notice the last half of the request: “as we also have forgiven our deborts [or “those who are sin-indebted to us…those who have sinned against us.”
Our need for God’s forgiveness is inextricably linked to our need to forgive others. To drive this point home, Jesus immediately comments on this concept at the end of the prayer. Look at verse 14:
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,  but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Now what exactly does this mean? Is Jesus teaching that God’s forgiveness must be earned by our forgiveness? No, not at all. Notice that Jesus continues to use the word “Father” here. That’s reminder that the forgiveness being talked about here is not the forgiveness a judge offers to a guilty felon. No, it’s the forgiveness a Father grants his beloved child.
You see, God loves us too much to allow us to remain in the prison of unforgiveness. And so He disciplines us by withholding the experience of His peace until we realize that everything is not okay. He wants to drive us to forgive, just as He has forgiven us in Christ.
And this daily prayer reminds us of the critical importance, not only of God’s pardon to us, but also God’s pardon through us. You see, as Jesus taught, the two are connected. As one commentator expressed it:
“Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offence against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely trifling. If, on the other hand, we have an exaggerated view of the offences of others, it proves that we have minimized our own.” (John Stott)
This is an important anchor for us, isn’t it? When it comes to troubling circumstances in our life, our tendency is to pray that others would change this or that, or that others would own up to their sins. But God wants us to be primarily concerned about our sins. On a daily basis, He wants us to recognize and confess all the ways that we have failed.
Each day, the Lord’s Prayer should humble us as we are reminded that, to do His work, we need God’s forgiveness, and we need to demonstrate God’s forgiveness to those around us.
3. We Need God’s Protection
Take a look at the next verse, verse 13: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
We could say that this final request reflects the fact that WE NEED GOD’S PROTECTION.
Now, this request has traditionally raised several questions: “Is this request teaching us that God tempts us to sin? Is this request teaching us to ask that we never be tempted again? If so, isn’t that impossible? Even Jesus was tempted!”
I think the key to understanding this request lies in two basic ideas:
First, Jesus, along with His original Jewish audience, believed that God is in control of all things, even the affairs of men. Solomon expressed this idea when he wrote in Proverbs 16: In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Solomon was confirming that God leads us according to His sovereign purposes.
Second, “being tempted” and “being brought into temptation” are two different things. Remember what happens at the end of this Gospel in the Garden of Gethsemane? Matthew writes, And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40, 41)
Clearly here, falling into temptation is not simply being tempted, it is yielding to the power of evil. As Augustine wrote:
“We should pray then not that we may not be tempted, which is impossible, but that we may not be brought under the power of temptation, which happens to them who are caught and captured by it.”
So when we take these two basic ideas together, we see that this prayer is a prayer for protection from the power of evil. This is confirmed by the second half of the request where the converse of this request is stated:
“DON’T bring us under the power of temptation, but DO deliver us from evil.” Or we could say, “Do not deliver us over to the power of temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Though the request is often translated, “Deliver us from evil”, I think the translation “the evil one” is more consistent with the other occurrences of this phrase in Matthew’s Gospel.
Each day we should be reminded that not only is evil is insidious, it is also intelligent. There is a force of wickedness that moves, not randomly, by intentionally, with deliberation. The doing of God’s will is attempting to be undone by what Paul called: “the rulers…the authorities…the cosmic powers over this present darkness…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12)
The Scriptures teaches us that, even when we belong to Christ, the evil one, the Devil, also called Satan, and his spiritual allies, they remain bent on attacking us individually. As Paul told the Corinthians, he sought to reconcile with them, “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (II Corinthians 2:11)
You see, each day, through “The Prayer”, Jesus wants to remind us that we are engaged in a spiritual battle, not ultimately conflicts with this or that person, or this or that institution, or this or that circumstance. No, this is a spiritual battle with a cunning enemy who will stop at nothing to derail God’s Kingdom agenda in this world, and in each of our lives individually.
And each day, God wants us to be prepared for the fight and eager to pass the tests that will undoubtedly come. But above all of this, He wants to remind us that our preparedness and our protection rest in His hands.
Our ability to face the trials of life with faith, to respond to temptation with obedience is not the result our spiritual maturity or mastery over this or that sin. Our faith and obedience are always a result of God’s protection and deliverance.
God not only delivered us at the Cross, He delivers us each day because of the cross!
Each day, the Lord’s Prayer should remind us that we are in a spiritual battle, one that requires spiritual tactics. Therefore, to do God’s work, we desperately need His protection from the power of temptation and deliverance from the attacks of our Enemy.
III. Graciously Given All Things
When we think about our real needs, and we pray for those real needs, we need to always keep in mind what Paul wrote in Romans 8:31, 32. He asked…
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32 ESV)
As we’ve talked about before, “The Prayer”, the “Lord’s Prayer” is powered by the gospel, by the “good news” of Jesus’ death for sinners and His resurrection from the dead. Because of what Jesus did, because “He paid a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay”, because of Christ, we can be assured that God will meet all of our needs.
His provision for our needs right now, His pardon for our failures now past, and His protection for our battles yet to come.
You see, the blessings of “The Prayer” are two-fold: first, God is faithful to answer this prayer and meet our needs. But, second, through this prayer, God reminds us about what is most important…He daily corrects our perspective and guides us in His ways.
As you know, we've talked about two goals for this past month: First, I was hoping and praying that you would pray this very prayer every morning this month. Well, whether you did or did not pray, I hope you will let this prayer be a daily discipline for the weeks and months to come.
And second, I was hoping and praying that you would deepen in your understanding of this prayer so that each morning, your time in prayer would increasingly deepen, and God would in turn be deepening you. I hope this study has helped you in this regard. But keep going. Keep allowing God to fill up this prayer with all that He has revealed in His word.
And may this prayer always bring us back to the One who taught us this prayer, the One who made it possible for us to experience the depths of this prayer. May “The Prayer’ always bring us back to the gospel and to Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray that God would help us to see what we really need, and will comfort our hearts through the promise of His provision because of Jesus.