The Lord’s Prayer: The order of the final three petitions: body, mind, spirit.

Class Outline:

Tuesday January 3, 2023


MAT 6:9-13

"Pray, then, in this way:


'Our Father who is 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 do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.


The first three petitions are adoration and worship of God for His Person, love, gifts, works, and wisdom.


For example:

REV 11:15-18

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,


"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." 16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying,


"We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18 And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth."


There is something to be said for the truth that in order to really understand the words of our Lord’s Prayer, we simply have to pray them and while doing so, consider them.


“Any man who attempts to preach on the Lord’s Prayer must surely find himself in great difficulties. There is a sense in which it is almost presumption to preach on it at all. One should simply repeat these phrases and meditate upon them and consider them from the heart. For they themselves say everything, and the more I study this prayer the more I believe that if only one used these phrases as our Lord intended them to be used, there is really nothing more to be said. But, on the other hand, we are all frail and fallible, we are sinful creatures, and the result is that we need to have these things analyzed and enforced.” [Lloyd-Jones; Studies in the Sermon on the Mount]


Because of our frailty, we have overlooked the prayer, and because of our study of the entire Bible, we are forced to look upon the words again and hopefully see them for what they are.


The last three petitions have reference to our own needs and desires. They summarize our whole earthly life.


What makes the prayer so utterly amazing is that in these three short petitions, our whole life is summarized. The Lord could see life so clearly that He could take millions of seemingly different circumstances and events and classify them all into three simple things.


Give us our bread: physical needs.

Forgive us our debts: mental needs.

Lead us not into temptation: spiritual needs.


We might call it a whole person in body, soul, and spirit.  Our whole life is found those three petitions. In such a small compass our Lord has covered the whole life of the believer in every respect.


“Think of all the activities going on in the world at this moment, the organizing, the planning, the legislation and all the other things; they are for the most part concerned with nothing but the body of man, his life and existence in this world of time.” [Lloyd-Jones]


But what else can governments and planners do? You cannot legislate anything other than the physical. For example, progressive policy makers attempted to legislate charity (new deal). It has never worked. No one, not even God, can make a person love, be charitable, or have temperance.


Mankind needs more than his physical needs met. Communism and socialism try to ignore this, though they likely understand it. The mental needs and spiritual needs of mankind can only be provided by God. And, the physical needs supplied by governments are God’s provisions. No nation could make bread out of nothing.


This is the only petition where we state “Give us.” It is remarkable, that the only use of the words “Give us” is for that which we are most inclined to think may be gotten by our own exertions. Spiritual things and miracles we know come from God, but do we remember that bread does as well? The maintenance of our bodies is a gift from God. And we are to use our bodies for His glory; His will (petition #3), and we will see tomorrow that contentment is closely linked to our self-control.


We have to be impressed by the all-inclusiveness of these petitions in light of how few they are and how simple. They are headings, each of which would cover many details in their own category. The Lord gave us the headings that cover all of our life and He allows us to fill in the details.


The order of the final three:


After the high exaltation of God in the first three, on earth as it is in heaven, we would expect the first order of business would be the spiritual needs of man, but we find the opposite. Since the first half of the prayer has an obvious order, we expect the second part to have one also. The Lord doesn’t explain the order, and so He leaves it to us.


The order doesn’t always have to be adhered to, but at some point in the day, it must. For instance, in the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord got right to the point in prayer, “Let this cup pass from Me, if it is Your will.” At least that is what is recorded for us. However, as we have seen, if we focus our prayer first on praising and thanking the Father for His Person, kingdom, and will and seeking these, then our petitions concerning our problems and issues are altered in a very good way. All of us are simply going to have to pray daily and determine the importance of things like order, amount of time, frequency, etc.


If our sins are the forefront on our minds, or an important decision (6th petition), we can get to that right away, but it does mean that we must at some time during the day get to the order of the whole prayer, not neglecting any part, and keeping the Lord’s order. We don’t know better than Him. He gave us an order and we have no place, position, or reason to alter it.


Each of us will understand the prayer more as we pray it. I can offer my own attempt at understanding the order, and all of us will discover as we go. If we don’t pray the prayer, we will not discover anything about it.


We must know that our physical and mental needs are met by God, relieving all anxiety, and then we can focus on our spiritual needs.


MAT 6:25

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.”


MAT 6:32

“your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”


The obvious implication is that God is going to provide these things. Knowing this in light of God’s sovereignty, the first two of the three petitions give us contentment. Contentment will be the subject of tomorrow’s lesson.


The fourth petition, “Give us today our daily (necessary) bread,” forces us to ask the question, “Do I choose a life that best serves myself and then hope for some opportunities to serve God, or do I choose a life that serves God according to His will and His path given to me, and then know that all I need (bread) will be given to me?”


Php 4:11-13

Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.


We must rest in the fact that our physical and mental needs are met before we can truly explore and discover our spiritual needs. People who are fearful for their supply of food and water and shelter (Mat 6), are anxious for their physical lives and therefore occupied with those needs and have no time for spiritual things. Remember John 4 where our Lord, who had not eaten, told the disciples that His food was to do the will of the Father who sent Him. Remember the Exodus who after the Red Sea crossing was filled with fear over the seeming shortage of water. Just before they had sung a very spiritual song to God, but all thought of the spiritual, of God (other than complaining to Him), was gone when the water jug levels were getting low. Even in times of want, God wants us to be focused on Him.


Can we see how this petition connected seamlessly with the first three completely annihilates any monetary lust? I have seen Christians who claim to know the dangers of monetary of material lust, but who threw their lot into it nonetheless.


Some Christians think happiness is still in earthly treasure, and they are fooled into thinking that if the treasure comes from God, then it is a legitimate form of happiness. This is not true. The only form of God’s joy is found in doing His will alone. Bread is sufficient for this.


We might ask, “Why then would God ever allow us to be in want or have any problems in our physical / material lives?” The plain reason is that God wants us to seek Him when it is difficult as well as easy. We glorify Him when we have faith in His providence when all evidence points to our continuous want. The Father was more glorified when His Son went 40 days in the desert without food than He would have if He went one day or a week.


So, with no worry about our physical needs, we then find that we have mental needs.


Mental need: no shame or guilt from sin; no bitterness towards others. Forgiveness and not allowing sin to rule.


Life is more than physical survival. People who have their needs met do not automatically find peace and fulfillment. The drug companies take full advantage by selling medicines that dull the mind or remove its anxiety in a physical way. Recreational drugs, other vices that distract the mind (internet, social media, etc.) are ways in which people cope and delay or allay psychosis. The Lord gives our mental needs the heading of forgiveness of sins. We’ll explore this some more when we look at each petition. The Lord therefore knows that shame and guilt over sins and failures are prisons for our minds. Also, the sins that others commit against us are also prisons. We must know and rest in our own forgiveness from God and forgive others who sin against us and are therefore in debt to us. But it is not just forgiveness alone, for if we continue in sin, our minds will not prosper. Sin is not only a spiritual cancer, but also a physical one. Sins of addiction slowly and surely destroy the body; but also, sins like jealousy, bitterness, anger, revenge, worry, fear, etc., do the same. The speed at which sins destroy the body may vary, but they all eventually do it, and often times the damage is irreversible. Remember David’s sin with Bathsheba. He never fully recovered from it.


Still, and we should be encouraged, that though some damage from sin is irreversible, we can still overcome the weakness it imparts to us.


PRO 3:1-2

My son, do not forget my teaching,

But let your heart keep my commandments;

2 For length of days and years of life,

And peace they will add to you.


Let’s look at the third petition a little more closely.


MAT 6:11

“Give us this day our daily bread.”


τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον·


“Give us today (ton epiousion?) our bread.”


Epiousios is only found in the Lord’s prayer and in other Christian writing only in connection with the Lord’s prayer. It is found (so far) in only one other place outside the Bible in a list of expenses. The list has chickpeas, straw, material, etc., and ends with a “1/2 obol for epiousi.” It seems to be a compound made from epi (on, upon, against, on the basis of) and eimi (the verb “to be”). Therefore, one possible definition is “necessary for existence.”


Other options are: “for the current day, for today,” and “for the following day,” (based on the word epiousa [non-biblical], which means “the next day”). We can leave the debate to the linguists.


Whether the Lord meant “Give us today our bread … for tomorrow / for today / necessary for life,” none of the three give us confusion. The petition is for physical sustenance, which we should never forget is given to us courtesy of the grace of God and that we should be grateful for however much we have or is coming to us today and tomorrow.