But how is it then that we do not find this actually mentioned as an item of prayer? Or is it mentioned as an item of prayer? Well, to my mind and to my knowledge, no one has actually ever connected the Lord’s Prayer with the Beatitudes either. Yet, have you ever noticed how many items there are in the Lord’s Prayer? Nine items. Coincidence? No. You see, here we noticed, so far as I know no one has actually connected the fruit of the Spirit with the Beatitudes. And we saw there is a very intimate and internal connection between the two. But as I meditated and prayed about this thing I realized suddenly there was an internal connection - an integral connection - between the two. But as I meditated and prayed about this thing, I realized suddenly that there is an internal connection between the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes, too.
Let us look at the connection. In some of the items, the connections are so obvious that it is amazing that no one, to my knowledge, has ever noticed it. For example, it says right there in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread”. Had we understood the meaning, we would have immediately seen the connection with hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Yet most people have thought of “daily bread” as the literal physical bread. Quite a mistake, of course! Those of you who have heard our exposition on the Lord’s Prayer would remember that we pointed out in that exposition (made some three years ago) that the bread that the Lord is talking about is not the physical bread but the bread of heaven. “I am the bread of life”, the Lord Jesus says. [Jonn 6: 35, 41 & 48] “Labor not for the bread that perishes but for the bread that endures to eternal life”, the Lord Jesus says in Jonn 6:27. Had we understood that point we would already have seen the internal connection between the Beatitudes with the Lord’s Prayer but we did not.
Take the last two which are so obvious. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” What are the last two Beatitudes? The last two are precisely concerned with persecution for righteousness’ sake (which is where temptation comes from) and the last beatitude says, “And they shall say all manner of evil....” “Deliver us from evil....” There we would have seen the connection straightaway. But amazingly so far as I know no expositor that I have heard of has ever seen the connection and yet the connection seems to be staring at us all the time. This is precisely the point. The Lord Jesus makes the Beatitudes the subject for prayer there in what we call the Lord’s Prayer. It is the subject of prayer.
1) ADDRESSING HIM, “OUR FATHER” AND BEING POOR IN SPIRIT
Let us trace the connection on the points which seem to be less obvious. The first item says: “Our Father who art in heaven”. Our Father in heaven - do you see the connection with being poor in spirit? If you were somewhat more familiar with the Lord’s teaching, the connection would have clicked very quickly. How? Take for
18:3. Maybe once you see it, the connection would click in your mind. What
does Matthew 18:3 say? The Lord Jesus says here, “Truly, I say to you, unless you
turn and become....” Like what? “...like children, you will never enter the
kingdom of heaven.” What is the first beatitude? “Blessed are the poor in
spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” For whom is the kingdom of
heaven? The Lord Jesus said that except you become like children, you shall
never enter the kingdom of heaven, for of such are the kingdom of heaven. Of
what? Of little children! Of such are the kingdom of heaven. So the poor in
spirit are the little children - the spiritual children! What does it mean:
spiritual children? Unless you become like a child, a nobody in this world,
utterly dependent upon God as a child is dependent upon his father, you will in
no way enter the example Matthew .
The connection is so clear. “Our Father” - only the poor in spirit, the people
who have become like little children [call Him this]. The children are nobodies
in this world. They possess nothing; they are nobodies. They are poor in the
sense that though they may be heirs, as Paul says in Galatians, “Though the
heir of all things, they are no better off than slaves so long as they are
children”. kingdom of God
Children are people who have no status in this world. They are nobodies. “Unless,” the Lord said to His disciples, “you humble yourself and become the nobodies of this world” (like these little kids running around there that nobody looks at, nobody has any regard for because they are nobodies. They have achieved nothing; they have attained nothing), “unless you become like them, you will in no way enter the
” - unless you become
children, unless you can say, in the poverty of spirit, “My Father, I am
dependent wholly on you. I am nothing. I have nothing. I am simply your child.
Have regard for me.” The connection is so clear. kingdom
How is it that we missed the connection between the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer? “Our Father”! I think nobody can truly say “Our Father” except the person who is truly poor in spirit, who has become a child spiritually, a child in his spirit. In relation to God, he is simply a child dependent upon Him. What does your child do? If you do not go out and work, your child will starve to death because you child cannot earn a living. Your child has not the strength nor the knowledge nor the understanding to do anything. He cannot survive in this world. The child depends on the father so long as he is a child. That is where we stand in relation to God. We become His children. We have no spiritual self-confidence. We do not try to earn our salvation any more than a child can earn his living. He will starve to death.
My little girl often talks to me and I would ask her, “What would you do when you grow up?” Well, it is hard enough to think what job she could do at this stage. She cannot even sweep the floor properly. What can you do? What are you going to do to earn a living? A child has no means of survival in this world apart from the pity and compassion of grownups, especially the parents. There is no way to survive. In the same way we cannot survive spiritually. We are totally dependent upon God for our spiritual survival. Totally dependent! We have no other way. So only when we recognize our dependence [can we call Him Father]. Sometimes a child does not even realize his dependence. He thinks, “I can do it!” Just let him go ahead and try. You will see what he will do. He cannot do it and yet sometimes the child imagines it can. So when we realize our true state, our actual condition, and we become poor in spirit before God, then and only then can we say, “Our Father, who is in heaven....” The connection is so obvious, isn’t it? But obvious only when it is expounded. So now what about the other points? All the other points follow in the same way. In fact I can trace the connection through to so many places but our time will not avail for this.
I can show you, for example, that the Beatitudes can be found everywhere in Paul’s teaching. Paul’s teaching is simply saturated with every item of the Beatitudes which shows how much the Beatitudes were in Paul’s thinking. In fact his whole doctrine of salvation is based exactly on this basis of poverty of spirit - that we cannot save ourselves through the keeping of the law and through our own efforts, that we, like children, are completely dependent upon God. It is the Spirit of God (Paul says) that is sent into our hearts that enables us in our poverty of spirit to cry out, “Abba! Father!” [Galatians 4:6] This is the whole foundation of Paul’s theology. It is all based right there. Paul understood the Lord’s teaching so well and so perfectly. Everywhere, item by item of the Beatitudes, you will find throughout Paul’s teaching. In fact you can find it even in just one letter - in Paul’s biographical letter, Philippians, the letter that I call the biographical letter. You can find every item of the Beatitudes right in there. For example he speaks about having suffered the loss of all things. When you have suffered the loss of all things, you are poor. Paul counts them as rubbish. There is the poverty of spirit! He regards all these things as not dear to himself that he may have Christ.
2) HALLOWING HIS NAME AND BEING PURE IN HEART
Well, let us look at the second connection. Here I notice a transposition, a change of order, and this is quite important. The second item here is holy, “Hallowed be Thy name.” When I compared this to the Beatitudes, I found that the only one that is likely to fit in with it is the item “pure in heart”. Who is pure in heart but he who seeks to hallow God’s name, to make God’s name holy both in my life and in the life of others, that God’s name is exalted and glorified. The pure in heart! Now we will see a reason for this. This is the only one of the later items in the Lord’s Prayer in which you find this kind of transference: the sixth item (“pure in heart”) being transposed to the first item of petition. That is very interesting. But you can see immediately how “Blessed are the pure in heart” and “holy be your name” are internally connected. That is very easy to see and requires no great exposition.
3) “YOUR KINGDOM COME” AND “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN”
Or take the next item, “Your kingdom come”. Again if you are at all familiar with the scriptural teaching of the OT you will see how it coincides immediately with those who mourn. Who are those who desire God’s kingdom to come but those who mourn because of the present state of sin in the world, who mourn because of sin in their own life, who mourn because of sin in the church, who mourn because of sin generally. They long for “Thy kingdom come”. If you do not mourn for sin, you cannot say from your heart, “Your kingdom come” because you are very satisfied with things as they are. Sin does not disturb you; it does not bother you. I do not see many Christians very anxious that God’s kingdom should come, that the Lord Jesus should come again, because I do not see that much concern for righteousness, for holiness. I do not see that much grief over sin. I do not really see it. If we grieved so intensely about sin, we would constantly be longing: “Your kingdom come”, your salvation come, deliver us from this sin, this bondage of sin that we are in. As Paul says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” [Romans 7:24] Who shall deliver me? He knows of his sin. “Wretched man that I am!” he says in Romans 7. And then he looks forward to God’s salvation, to the coming of God’s kingdom: “Thanks be to God”. Christ will give us the victory. He longs with earnest expectation, with outstretched neck for the coming of God’s kingdom. That is what the Greek word means. “Thy kingdom come”. Paul longs for the kingdom because he mourns over sin. He speaks of himself as wretched man - he in this body is still under bondage to sin.
There the connection is clear. If you go into the OT, it is equally clear. In Psalm 80:5 the psalmist speaks of tears, mourning over sin. In v.2 he says, “Come to me! Oh, God! Save me! Let your salvation come! Come and save us!” Or in Psalm 6:6&7 we see the same thing. We read of the mourning and weeping over sin, of grief over sin. In v.4 we find there:
“Turn, O Lord”, and save us. Turn and save us. Turn back. Come back to me. Save me. This longing for God to come. For the coming of the
is God’s own coming. It is
Jesus’ coming. So you see this constant connection between the mourning over
sin and the longing that God should come and save. kingdom
4) “THY WILL BE DONE” AND “BLESSED ARE THE MEEK”
The next passage as we press forward is, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” “Your will be done on earth” - who speaks of this kind of a prayer but the meek? The meek shall inherit what? The earth. Your will be done on earth as in heaven. In both cases you have there the word ‘earth’. Very interesting! Who desires that God’s will be done? Who says “Your will be done” but the meek? The meek are those who desire God’s will to be done. “Not my will, O Lord, but yours be done.” That is the language of the meek. It is the proud who says, “My will be done. I want it this way.” The meek says, “Thy will be done! As perfectly as it is done in heaven, so let Your will be completely done on earth.”
5) "GIVEN US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD" AND "HUNGERING FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS"
The next parallel is already so obvious. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Who would pray such a prayer but those who hunger and thirst for righteousness? They are the ones who hunger for the bread of life. For where is righteousness but in the bread of life? Everywhere the connection is so obvious.
6) “FORGIVE US OUR SINS” AND “BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL”
Notice the connection in the next item: “Forgive us our sins.” Who are those who long for that forgiveness? Those who have their sins forgiven! They are the merciful. In fact in the Lord’s teaching, mercy and forgiveness of sins are parallel in meaning. What does it mean to be merciful? It is to forgive sins. Why do we forgive sin? Because we ourselves have been forgiven. The connection between mercy and forgiveness, the Lord Jesus has made explicit in Matthew 18:32&33. In v.33 it speaks of having mercy and in v.32 it speaks of forgiveness. Mercy and forgiveness are identical terms in the Lord’s teaching.
7) “AS WE FORGIVE” AND “BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS”
Look at the next one in the same way. “As we forgive those who trespass against us”. Who speaks such language but peacemakers? Only those who desire peace, who make peace, readily forgive the offense against them. It is the attitude of a peacemaker that he does not hold offense against you, that does not bear a grudge. If you bear a grudge, if you refuse to forgive, how can you be a peacemaker? A peacemaker is one who does not hold another person’s sin against him. A peacemaker is one who immediately seeks a reconciliation. He does not say, “We are not on speaking terms anymore. Forget it! If you say you are a Christian, forget it. I am not talking to the likes of you again.” The peacemaker is one who says, “Okay, okay. There is an offense against me but I hold this not against you.” Freely forgive! In Ephessians 4:32 Paul says, “as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” [KJV], so you forgive one another. Forgive one another! A peacemaker is the one who freely forgives because he himself has been forgiven too. So you find there is an inseparable connection between the merciful and the peacemaker. No wonder they follow each other closely.
8) “LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION” AND “BLESSED ARE THE PERSECUTED”
Let us come to the eighth item: “lead us not into temptation”. As we have already seen, there the connections are so obvious that it hardly requires any kind of exposition. “Lead us not....” When do we face the most severe temptation? Certainly under persecution for those who have turned away from sin. Have you not often thought to yourself, “Will I be able to survive under persecution?” Even those of you who are training in the Lord’s work, how many times have you thought to yourself, “What would happen if I am severely persecuted for the faith? Would I survive this test, this trial, this temptation?” As you know, in Greek, the words ‘trial’ and ‘temptation’ are the same word. There is no distinction in meaning. “Lead us not into temptation”. Would I be able to survive it? By God’s grace!
But then here also we do not put ourselves in a position of temptation. We do not seek temptation. Even though we love God, we do not go and look for it. The prayer is a caution against looking for trouble. There is enough trouble coming to you without your going to look for it. It reminds us of early Christians. Some of them, in their untutored zeal, went and tempted the Tempter. They looked for trouble. When the Roman emperor gave an edict of persecution against Christians (as you know from church history, i.e., those of you who have read some church history), the governor found a whole crowd of Christians in front of his office saying, “Here I am.” The emperor had said that Christians are to be persecuted. [So this group said,] “We are Christians. Get on with it!” Do not look for trouble! “Lead us not into temptation.” He will not lead us and you do not go and look for it. But temptations and trials will come. And above all, of course, the greatest concern is the concern of the temptation, the supreme temptation of apostasy, which we face under pressure. That is, above all things, what we seek to be delivered from.
9) “DELIVER US FROM EVIL” AND “BLESSED ARE YOU WHEN REVILED AND PERSECUTED”
Notice then also the last item in the Lord’s Prayer which is so clear, so plain to us. What does the last beatitude say? Read the words very carefully. “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my own account” (notice the word evil against you falsely) and “deliver us from evil.” That is exactly what we pray for - “deliver us from evil.” There the internal connection is so obvious that it hardly requires exposition.
THE LORD’S PRAYER DRAWS OUT THE INTERNAL ESSENCE OF THE BEATITUDES
I would like you to bear in mind then that the Lord in His supreme wisdom has shown us what He has done. He has taken the Beatitudes right there, at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, and turned it into a subject for prayer and yet turned it in such a way as to draw out the internal essence of it. Oh, the Lord’s teaching is so supreme in its wonder, in the beauty of its construction, in the depth of spiritual quality and insight. Can you see now the connection? Do you now know what you are doing when you pray the Lord’s Prayer? You are simply praying, in fact, the content of the Beatitudes. I trust you will never again pray the Lord’s Prayer without realizing what it is you are saying. When you say “Our Father”, you are praying, “Lord, make me to be poor in spirit.” On the other hand, if you are not poor in spirit, you cannot pray meaningfully the words “Our Father”. You are not rightly using those words. You are using them without understanding and you are just using the words in vain. You now realize how you should pray the Lord’s Prayer. You pray the Lord’s Prayer in an attitude of poverty of spirit. You realize what kind of people can say “Our Father”. Only the people who are poor in spirit can rightfully say, “Our Father who art in heaven”. Then you realize you need to be pure in heart in order to be able to truly say “hallowed be Your name”, because if you are not pure in heart and you say, “hallowed be Your name”, you are simply being hypocritical. You are being a hypocrite. How can you say, “hallowed be Your name” when you are impure in heart? I shudder to think of all these people who mumble [the Lord’s Prayer] every day, and in many church services they finish the service by saying, “Our Father”. They do not even know what they are saying. Do we know what we are saying?
I was brought up in a Roman Catholic school. One of the first prayers I ever learned is “Our Father which art in heaven” and I did not even know what I was saying. Everyday I knelt on my bed [and prayed this] until the time when I finally finished with Christianity and no longer prayed and no longer thought about church and Christians. Many years later the Lord brought me back again and brought me into His eternal kingdom. Yet in that Catholic school, like all other children, you simply repeat what you are told. I simply knelt on my bed and said, “Our Father which art in heaven”, and mumbled and mumbled. I would think, “That is a bit too fast.” So, I thought I had better go through it a second time. So, I mumbled another “Our Father....” It is pathetic to think that there are people in the churches today who use a rosary to count how many times they say, “Our Father.” In fact, sometimes if you go to a priest to confess your sins, the priest will say to you, “Okay, seeing that you have confessed your sins, I pronounce on you absolution, but you will say 20 “Our Fathers”. So the fellow goes there and he kneels down and says, “Our Father...”. The faster you go, the quicker you get it over with.” (You press one bead in the rosary and then the next one to keep count how many times you have said it.) It is absolutely revolting! It is simply terrible that people should be made to do things that they do not even know what they are doing. We must pray these things if we are to pray rightly at all, only with the understanding of the Beatitudes in our heart, i.e., only if we rightly understand what it is we are doing.
PURITY OF HEART - A MATTER OF SURVIVAL!
Finally I mentioned also that there is one significant change in the order [of the Beatitudes]. So far only one change in the order and that is, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” The sixth beatitude is moved forward to become the first petition after “Our Father”. This is very important. The Danish theologian-philosopher, Søren Kirkegaard wrote the book with the title: Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing. He was quite right! He rightly understood the Lord’s teaching on that point. Purity of heart means you do not serve two masters. You do not serve God and mammon. Purity of heart is that you will one thing, that is, you serve only God with your whole heart, your whole being. Purity of heart means there is no impurity in it. There is no other interest, no other master being served. You serve God and Him alone. It is remarkable that this particular beatitude is moved forward. There is certainly no coincidence that in the Lord’s Prayer it is moved forward. This purity of heart is the single most important thing we must pray for in order to remain faithful to God. In the next item of the Lord’s teaching, you will see it becomes the matter of spiritual survival. That is very important in the Lord’s Prayer - spiritual progress, but first spiritual survival. So from now on I trust that you will be able to pray the Lord’s Prayer meaningfully, and not just to repeat that prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer, as we mentioned when we were expounding it, is a model prayer. That is to say that the Lord did not say, “Just repeat these words”, but rather, “Make it the subject of your prayer, make it a pattern for prayer. Model your prayer upon this model prayer.” That is, when you pray other prayers, you make this, as it were, a starting point, a focal point for each item of your prayer. And each time you go through the Lord’s Prayer, you will have covered every beatitude. That truly is wonderful. May God truly enable us to truly enter into the spirit of the Lord’s Prayer by understanding ever more deeply and ever more clearly the Beatitudes. Keep meditating on it. And as I said right at the beginning, make the Beatitudes an item for prayer just as the Lord taught us to do in what we call the Lord’s Prayer.
Written by Eric Chang: http://www.christiandc.org/content/10-beatitudes-and-lords-prayer
Edited by Bruce Lyon: thefaithofjesus.blogspot.com
Edited by Bruce Lyon: thefaithofjesus.blogspot.com