The Lord's Prayer
Spiritual Warfare (Mt. 6:9-13)
by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith
With the NATO military campaign in the news daily, it is impossible
not to reminded that we have been called by God to be spiritual warriors.
The Lord's Prayer presupposes our spiritual battle with Satan and includes
a prayer for deliverance from him (vs. 13). When the entire prayer is
considered from the perspective of spiritual battle, it becomes clear
how this prayer is both objectively and subjectively important for our
One of the most fundamental questions any soldier has is, "What
am I fighting for?" When the purpose of the battle is unclear,
or is strictly mercenary, soldiers do not fight well. Good men do not
kill for no reason and even wicked men who are willing to kill for money
fight better when they are fighting for a cause they believe is right.
A defensive war has an easily comprehended purpose and one that men
can believe in; men will fight hard to protect their families, their
land, and the things they hold dear. Wars of conquest, however, must
The Christian is fighting a war of world conquest. Jesus commanded
us to disciple every nation in the world, teaching them to obey His
commandments. The justification of our cause is easy. God has the rights
of the Creator over all that He has made. When we fight for Him, therefore,
we are fighting for righteousness. Moreover, though the battle to which
He has called us is for His glory and kingdom, it is a unique form of
aggression, for it frees the defeated men from the curse and brings
them into everlasting blessing. We take nothing from our foe that they
truly need and give them infinitely more than they can imagine. To war
for His glory and kingdom is to war for the blessing of man, the glory
of man and the salvation of both individual and society, for God's glorious
kingdom is the kingdom of love and light for man.
In the Lord's Prayer, we are also taught the meaning of our warfare
in concrete terms; our goals is that God's will may be done on earth
as it is in heaven. This necessarily means that the objective warfare
with the world outside of us and the subjective warfare we fight against
our own sinfulness are related, or, stated more properly, are one warfare.
For it is just as essential to our conquest to bring our own hearts
and lives into subjection unto God as it is for us to work for the society
and world to submit to Him. Moreover, we only have influence on the
world around us to the degree that we ourselves learn to cheerfully
do His will.
Closely related to the notion of the goal of a battle is the definition
of victory. When will we know that the war is over, that we have won,
or lost, and should go home? In a war of defense the definition of victory
is the preservation of one's land intact. In a war of conquest, the
definition of victory is the possession of the land one seeks.
The definition of victory for the Christian war is clear. When God's
will is done on earth as it is in heaven, we have won the war. On the
one hand, this goal is perfectly realizable. The power of the Gospel
and the work of the Holy Spirit in men's hearts can and will lead to
the accomplishment of this goal. On the other hand, this will not be
wholly realized in history, for doing God's will in the deepest sense
is a goal that we will never be able to attain until we are with the
Lord. The conquest of the world and the conquest of our own sinfulness
are parallel. Just as our own salvation proceeds from a definitive through
a progressive unto a final state, so, too, the salvation of the world.
As individuals, we are taught to strive for perfection, though we will
not actually reach it until we go to be with Christ. The goal, however,
is none the less essential. If we were to strive for something less
than perfection, we would not really fighting the spiritual battle at
all. Or, if we were to assume that we had attained perfection, we would
betray the Lord's cause even more deeply. The work of the Church in
history is essentially the same. She strives for the total mastery of
the Gospel in every area of life, for the Lordship of Christ to be manifest
in every realm. Her work is not done until every enemy is defeated.
It is a war of total conquest that tolerates no compromise with sin.
The Lord's Prayer seeks total conquest and teaches us to labor for it.
It is commonly said that it was their discipline that made the soldiers
of the British empire great. More than for their bravery, technology,
or strategy, the British were soldiers known for their obedience to
orders. Discipline is the backbone of any army. In ancient Israel, in
contrast to the British, the greatest problem that Moses faced in the
wilderness was not a shortage of food or water, but the lack of discipline
among the people. They would not trust God. They would not bow their
knees or hearts to Him (cf. Ps. 78).
By daily praying the Lord's prayer, we are being disciplined to seek
the kingdom of God on earth in at least three ways. First, prayer is
discipline because it forces us on our knees before God and demands
that we acknowledge that every good thing we have is from Him. This
is only to confess what is true. But the discipline of confessing the
truth is good for one's soul. Fighting by prayer is first of all fighting
by submission. We bow before God and pray that he will give us the victory.
This is the Christian way to fight. Second, the Lord's Prayer is discipline
because it forces upon us a realization of the meaning and purpose of
our lives here in this world. We are taught daily what it means that
we live not for ourselves, but His kingdom and glory. Third, the discipline
of prayer is evident in these words of the Lord's prayer: "Give
us this day our daily bread." It is a humble petition. By this,
we are taught not to ask for riches or ease, but for our basic material
needs. "Daily bread" includes all that we need to live and
fight the Lord's battle for the day. Each and every day, we must repeat
this prayer for daily bread and learn to trust in God's provision. Like
Israel in the wilderness waiting for the mana to fall, we learn to walk
by faith in God's provision, not by sight.
The prayer for forgiveness has a profound meaning for the Christian
soldier, just as it does also for the man who fights for his country.
In every war, the men who drop bombs and shot guns make mistakes. Every
war has tragic stories of men and women killed accidentally, like Stonewall
Jackson, the great American general from the South, who was wounded
by his own soldiers who mistook him for an enemy and later died of complications
from the wound. Men who make mistakes in matters of life and death must
be able to obtain forgiveness, or they cannot go on. Since all men make
mistakes, soldiers must be able to forgive one another and keep their
focus on the goal, or they will be at war with each other.
In the Christian war, we make mistakes, too. And mistakes can be extremely
costly. People may turn away from God or refuse to hear the Gospel because
of our foolishness or sin. The sins of a single man like Diotrephes
(3 Jn. 9-10) can ruin a whole church. Furthermore, in every church,
there is sin that must be dealt with, as is evident when Christ visits
the churches in Asia (Rv. 2-3).
How can we go on when we sin and cause so much harm in the kingdom
of God? We pray for forgiveness daily and practice forgiveness toward
one another. Each of us has been forgiven by God more than any other
person knows, and even more than we know ourselves. But if we remember
His forgiveness, we are able to forgive one another so that we can maintain
our focus on the war for His kingdom.
Men at war often turn and run when it becomes clear they have no chance
to win. Although there are many exceptions to the rule that win our
respect for the bravery of the men who sacrificed their lives, it remains
all the same a rule that a man who is sure to lose does not fight to
win. We pray for protection from our internal weakness and folly --
"lead us not into temptation" -- and for protection from our
external foe -- "deliver us from the evil one." Christ watches
over and protects us from the evil one. And since the power, glory,
and kingdom belong to our God, He is able to save us. Whatever power
Satan or his emissaries may now have comes from the permission of God,
by whose will even His enemies are bound. It is sinful, then, for us
to fear. We cannot lose the war, even if we are not infrequently defeated
Jesus promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the
assault of His church (Mt. 16:18). By praying the Lord's Prayer daily
and working that God's will may be done in the sphere of our own influence,
we fight the good fight. If we are faithful, will see the growth of
the kingdom by the grace of God.
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