Thoughts on ‘The Disciples’ Prayer’ and the Temptation of the Lord Jesus in the Wi
Howard Coles, Coleford, England
The Disciples’ Prayer
In New Testament times it was quite common for rabbis to teach their disciples a prayer. John the Baptist gave his disciples a prayer, Luke 11. 1, which led Jesus’ disciples to also ask for one. When He gave His disciples their prayer, Matt. 6. 9-13; Luke 11. 2-4, it was not a lofty prayer having nothing to do with their earthly existence; rather it was a prayer that was born out of personal experience. During His earthly journey, the incarnate Logos experienced things that He had not experienced prior to His incarnation. For example, He did not know what it was to be tired, John 4. 6; to be thirsty, John 4. 7; 19. 28; to weep, John 11. 35; to sleep, Luke 8. 23; or even to live in a human body. He never had to contend with the devil in the wilderness. He confined Himself to the limitations of time and space as He had taken to Himself human flesh.
The temptations were a part of the war between the Lord and Satan that ended with Satan’s defeat shown in Jesus’ shout of triumph at the cross, ‘Finished’! John 19. 30. Immediately following His baptism, the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil, Mark 1. 12; Matt. 4. 1; Luke 4. 1. Satan’s first salvo - the temptation to turn stones into bread – was on a number of levels. Firstly, it was aimed at Jesus’ physical condition, who, after forty days of fasting, was hungry, Matt. 4. 2; Luke 4. 2. Secondly, it was questioning the genuineness of His sonship, ‘If thou be the Son of God‘, Matt. 4. 3. Thirdly, it was questioning the goodness of the Father. Was the Father going to give His Son a stone for bread? Matt. 7. 9. If Jesus had turned stones into bread, He would not have proved His sonship, He would have denied it; He would no longer have been dependent on the Father for all things. He would have become independent of the Father, the very thing that Adam did. It would have shown that the Son did not fully trust the Father for all things.
Within the context of our subject, our minds must be taken to the phrase in the disciples’ prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. The sense of this is that the disciples were to pray for their daily needs. Doing this shows a dependence on a Father who looks after His children and does not give them a stone for bread. The One who provided the children of Israel with manna in the wilderness will also provide for our daily needs. Jesus can tell His disciples to pray in this fashion because He has experienced hunger Himself. He has demonstrated His reliance on the Father to provide all His daily needs, even in the midst of temptation.
The second assault in the on-going war between the Lord and Satan was His being taken to Jerusalem and set on the pinnacle of the temple. Here Satan tempted Him to throw Himself off the pinnacle to see if God would keep His promise and care for His Son, Matt. 4. 5-7. This temptation again questioned His Sonship, His obedience to and reliance upon the Father. This was a recurring temptation, not only here but also at the cross, where there is the taunt, ‘If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross’, Matt 27. 40.
The Son proved His Sonship by the way of humiliation, walking the path of perfect obedience that led to the cross. He did not come down from the cross to prove His Sonship, but rather, He rose from the grave to prove it! Rom. 1. 4. The Father’s will was for His Son to be the Servant-King. We see this in the Father’s public declaration at Jesus’ baptism, ‘Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased‘, Mark 1. 11. This declaration has echoes of Psalm 2 verse 7 and Isaiah chapter 42 verse 1. In Psalm 2 verse 6, we see the Son as the King, and in Isaiah chapter 42 verse 1 we see Him as the Servant of the Lord. The Father’s will was for the Son to go to the cross. We see this in the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed, ‘Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done‘, Luke 22. 42. There was no other way for our salvation, other than the way of the cross. This was the Father’s will.
In the disciples’ prayer, the phrase, ‘Thy will be done in earth‘ is exactly what the Lord Jesus did. He did the Father’s will on earth. He spoke from a life of doing the Father’s will on earth. He could say, ‘My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work’, John 4. 34; ‘I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do’, John 17. 4; and, ‘Finished‘, John 19. 30. The words ‘as it is in heaven’ are also words spoken from Jesus’ personal experience and knowledge of heaven. This was not the only occasion in His earthly ministry that He showed His pre-incarnation knowledge of heaven. He showed it in His high-priestly prayer when He prayed, ‘And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was‘, John 17. 5.
Satan’s third attack was one of offering the Lord power and authority over the kingdoms of the earth on condition that Jesus would worship Him, Matt. 4. 8-10. Here, there is no subtlety in the temptation. It was a brazen offer of power over the kingdoms of the earth. The One who had come proclaiming ‘the kingdom of God is at hand’, Mark 1. 15 was also the One who ‘went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return’, Luke 19. 12. The offer of the kingdoms of earth was a poor exchange for the Kingdom of God. Satan’s so-called offer was a way for the designated King of the kingdom of God to have a kingdom without the cross. A kingdom without the cross implies that there is no sin to be judged, no propitiation to be made and no wrath of God against sin. It was by the way of the cross that Jesus was ‘given a name above every name’, Phil. 2. 9. Now, Jesus, the exalted One, is ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords’, Rev. 17. 14; 19. 16; 1 Tim. 6. 15.
The condition was to offer Satan worship. To this Jesus replied, ‘It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve’, Matt. 4. 10. No created being is worthy of worship.
The opening lines of the disciples’ prayer reminds us who is being addressed and where He is, ‘Our Father . . . in heaven’. By using the words ‘hallowed be thy name’, Jesus was teaching His disciples that it is God who is to be worshipped and God alone. This should be clear from the Ten Commandments, the first four of which have to do with the character and person of God, Exod. 20. 1-17.
In dealing with the offer of power and influence, the disciples are taught to pray for the Father’s kingdom, ‘Thy kingdom come’. This is clearly an antidote for any disciple who may be attracted by thoughts of power and influence in place of God’s kingdom. In God’s kingdom, it is the servants who are the greatest, see Luke 22. 26. Jesus had as a priority the kingdom of God; He tells us, His disciples, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness’, Matt. 6. 33. God’s kingdom is to be our priority as well.
Finally, in the disciples’ prayer, there is the supplication, ‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’, or ‘the evil one’. Clearly, Jesus, through His personal experience, knew the force of temptation. He knew the subtlety of the Tempter. He faced the Tempter and temptation squarely, and was triumphant. From the words of the disciples’ prayer, we can see that ‘we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin’, Heb. 4. 15.