In 1 Peter 2:2–3, the Apostles Peter compares his readers to infants. Imagine yourself as a spiritual infant. You are helpless and need to be cared for. You are loved, and yet you cry often and need to be coddled. You need to be dressed, fed, and changed. You are not strong and independent, you are weak and dependent. Can you picture yourself as a helpless, weak, and dependent infant as you relate to your heavenly Father?
Too often we feel self-sufficient like the superhero that needs to perform for himself or herself and everyone else. They have the power and they need to use it. We may prefer the superhero version of ourselves, but that’s not the imagery Peter used. Peter chose a helpless, weak, and dependent newborn child. He said: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Peter pictures believers as newborn infants, not necessarily because they are spiritually immature, but because a newborn infant craves being fed milk which strengthens, sustains, and grows them. Infants hunger for the milk of their mothers. By it, they grow up to be healthy and strong. In the same way, we as God’s children, are weak and dependent and need to be fed, not elementary teachings per se, but pure teachings rich in truth. Different from Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:1, Peter is talking about faithful, deep, rich, and sustaining truths from God’s holy Word. Through the Word of God our heavenly Father feeds and nourishes us so that we grow healthy and strong in Christ. How do we grow as believers? It’s quite simple really. The Holy Spirit works through the preaching and teaching of the Word, and as we consume the truth of God’s Word by true faith, we grow healthy and strong in Christ. God gives you ministers of the gospel so that He can feed you through them.
Now, what does this have to do with the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer? While picturing yourself as God’s beloved infant child who craves pure spiritual milk, Heidelberg 127 asks this: “What is the sixth petition?” It answers: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Jesus taught us to pray this. What’s going on when we pray this? Heidelberg 127 continues, “That is: In ourselves, we are so weak that we cannot stand even for a moment.” Can an infant stand apart from the loving hands of his father or mother? No. They can only stand if their father or mother holds them up. Why not? They are weak.
We pray the line “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” or “from evil” from a position of weakness and dependence. Self-sufficient people don’t pray, they feel no need to pray. They trust themselves. Weak and dependent people pray. In fact, weak and dependent people crave the power of the gospel and God’s Word. They want to hear from God through the preaching and teaching ministry of their local church, and they want to grow healthy and strong. The strength comes from their feeding on the pure spiritual milk God provides them primarily through the ministry of their local church. How will they be delivered from evil if they are not made strong? How are they made strong if not by feeding regularly on God’s Word?
As believers, not only are we weak and unable to stand apart from our God, Heidelberg 127 says, “Moreover, our sworn enemies—the devil, the world, and our own flesh—do not cease to attack us.” Every day we are attacked. That’s not an overstatement. The attack comes in many forms. The devil attacks us with his sinister plots. The world attacks us with promises of pleasure in godlessness. Our flesh attacks us with carnal appetites for sin. Sometimes the attacks are subtle and feel less like attacks and more like satisfying pursuits. So we are weak, dependent, and we get attacked every day by our enemies. No wonder we need to pray, right?
Jesus knows all about the spiritual war we are in. He knows all about our weaknesses. He knows all about our dependence. He knows all about our enemies and how they ceaselessly attack us. So he taught us how to pray, how to ask God for help. The words Jesus chose are important. They communicate truths about ourselves and truths about God’s provision. When we pray “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” we are effectively praying, as Heidelberg 127 explains:
Will You, therefore, uphold and strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that in this spiritual war, we may not go down to defeat but always firmly resist our enemies until we finally obtain the complete victory.
There is a lie Satan wants you to believe. Satan wants you to believe that you can handle things on your own. He wants you to feel quite comfortable, quite satisfied, apart from the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word. He wants you to believe you will be satisfied, content, and strong apart from nursing on God’s pure milk. He wants you to be blind to the spiritual war you’re living in the midst of, like a blind and deaf man in the middle of Germany’s Blitz against England in 1940. He’ll do anything he can to keep you out of Lord’s Day worship. Soccer, cricket, football, work, family schedules, homework, social outings, you name it. Satan doesn’t want you to feed of God’s milk. The world will entice you. Your flesh will pull you away.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are asking our heavenly Father to strengthen us in the spiritual war. Why? We don’t want to lose. We want to win. We want to dominate our enemies. We don’t want to go down to defeat but to instead strongly resist the attack of our enemies. We pray from a position of weakness so that we can receive strength in the battle in order to fight until complete victory is ours.
One big temptation for us believers is to feel like we are losing ground, that God is not helping us win, and that quitting is the only option. Friends, sanctification is a process that only begins in this life and concludes with our death or the return of Christ. We fight in this life to gain ground, but complete victory comes at death or the return of Christ. We need to be comforted by this. The war against the Devil, the world, and the flesh continues. We must keep fighting. But we will not keep fighting unless we are nursing upon the life-sustaining nourishment of our heavenly Father. We must long for and nurse upon the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word through the ministry of our local church. Then, we will have the strength and fortitude to fight until we finally win. Press on dear ones in the fight. Merry Christmas.
Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021).
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.