A Safeguard Against Selfishness

Lou Lotz

READ : Matthew 6:9-15

Our Father in heaven. (v. 9)

Jesus spoke often of “my Father,” but he taught us to pray “our Father.” My mother grew up in a large, poor family during the Depression. I remember her talking about how, as a child, she had seen a doll in a department store window around Christmas time. The doll had real eyelashes and pink cheeks, and when you moved the doll’s head her blue eyes opened and closed. My mother wanted to ask her father for that doll as a Christmas present, but she dared not ask because the doll was expensive. If she were given the doll, there wouldn’t be enough money to buy presents for her siblings. Growing up in a large family, you learn that there are things you cannot ask your father to do.

In one sense prayer is boundless. “Ask whatever you wish,” said Jesus (John 15:7). But in another sense there are limits to prayer. I cannot ask for a personal advantage that will come at the expense of another of God’s children.

There are in the Lord’s Prayer safeguards against selfishness. I need bread, but so does everyone else, so “give us this day our daily bread.” I need forgiveness, but I want you to experience forgiveness too, so “forgive us our debts.” I need strength when tempted, but so do you, so “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” All the pronouns are plural. The Lord’s Prayer is not for me. It’s for us. God is not my private father. God is our father.


The Lord’s Prayer