We are looking at the pattern for prayer that the Lord taught his disciples in his Sermon on the Mount. This is not the only occasion in which Jesus taught this prayer. Later, when His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He again gave them this model prayer:
Luke 11:1-4 (NKJV) Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." 2 So He said to them, "When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one."
He taught them about the importance of persistence, faith, and humility in prayer:
Luke 11:5-13 (NKJV) And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 'for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; 7 "and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'? 8 "I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. 9 "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 "If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 "Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
Luke 18:1-2 (NKJV) Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,
So, how is your prayer life? Do you always pray and not lose heart? Are you persistent in your prayers? Do you come boldly to the throne of grace?
I received an e-mail this week that demonstrates the power of prayer from a man who receives our tapes. He wrote:
In December of 99 God opened my eyes to all the scriptures of what had happened to me in my failed marriages. I have learned that he has good reasons for telling us not to marry unbelievers, so Proverbs 5 really hit home with me after this third marriage, and I made a commitment to God that if he wanted me to have a wife, he would have to pick her for I will not ever have premarital sex again and will not even hold hands with a women, for I know how weak the flesh is. Do you know how hard it is to find someone who believes like this? Well, after 2 years I was really getting depressed. It was Oct. of 2001, and as I was at work on the night shift one night, Chris, a brother in the Lord, said, 'What is wrong brother? Are you depressed because you don't have a wife to share your life with?' I said, 'Yes, that is right.' He said, 'Have you asked God for one?' As I thought about this question, I realized I had not but just said to God if you want me to have one, you will have to pick her. Then I replied,'No'. He said, 'We have not because we ask not.' Now, Chris has only been a Christian for about three years, and I have been knowing this all my life, yet he was right. I had not asked God, in fact, I had not asked God on any of my past marriages, nor did I acknowledge God's hand in them as it was not God who put me with them but my own sinful nature. I pondered this as it is written what God has joined together let no man put asunder. Anyway, Chris said, 'Let me pray for God to send you a virtuous woman.' I told him to wait just a minute. First of all I want a woman who will believe that premarital sex is wrong, and who will put Jesus first in her life. Someone who will study the Bible with me and seek God in all our ways. Who will not let money rule her and think that if it is not a name brand, then it is no good; someone who will submit to her husband as I am lead by God as I acknowledge him in all my ways and will follow him, where ever he leads me. I want someone who is either a doctor or a lawyer, so then I will know she is not marrying me just for the money. And I want her to never have been married nor have any children. Chris said, 'Do you care if she is Asian' I said, 'I do not care where she comes from as long as God is the one who picks her.' I wanted her to be petite. And someone who will not withhold herself from me nor I her unless by mutual consent. Then Chris and I went to God in prayer and asked him for this person. His wife also was praying for me as well.
OK, I know this is like looking for a needle in a hay stack, but last March, a man at work said I should get a computer and look in the dating services for there are many women who put ads in there, and I might find someone... We had only had the PC for 3 days when I found out of hundreds of ads the words,'I am looking for a born again Christian man.' I told Dad she is the one. As he was so much a part of my life, he knew what was going on with me. I sent Mimi the first email in March, 2002, and as I did not tell her what I had asked God for yet, I knew from what she had been e-mailing me she was the one. David, she met every one of them. She is a doctor, was living in the Philippines, had never been married for she believed that she was to only marry once, and there was no second chances; divorce is not an option. Loves God and loves to study and pray. We committed over the net in April, and I flew over to Bangkok, Thailand in July, and in October, 2002 were married here in Arizona, and are now expecting a baby.
If that letter strikes you a little strange, it's because you doubt the power of prayer.
Proverbs 18:22 (NKJV) He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the LORD.
The more specific we are in our prayers, the more glory God gets when he answers them. James said, "...you do not have because you do not ask." Believers, if you are lacking something in your life, maybe it's time you started praying for it, because God hears and answers prayers.
Let's move on to our next petition:
Matthew 6:11 (NKJV) Give us this day our daily bread.
This fourth petition is amazing in that the natural mind cannot fathom how the Almighty, Holy, and lofty God and King could concern Himself with our daily bread. But notice what David said:
Psalms 8:3-4 (NKJV) When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?
David asks the question, "What is man?" The Hebrew word for "man" is enowsh, it means: "mortal man." The word "visit" that is used in Hebrews 2:6, where the writer quotes this Psalm, is the Greek word episkeptomai. It means: "to visit in order to care for." The Psalmist asks what there is about man that the great God should stoop to help him.
This is a wonder that a human mind has trouble comprehending. Not only does God take notice of man, but He takes notice of man and his needs, and He wants to supply them. Think of the wonder of it! He not only grants believers eternal life, but he provides for us food in a general sense, and the comforts of life, but He also takes notice of our daily, insignificant needs. He looks after our daily bread. This gives us an insight into the magnitude of the God we serve.
Matthew 6:11 (NKJV) Give us this day our daily bread.
Is this prayer for us? Do we, as 21 century Americans, need to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread"? I said that we shouldn't pray, "Your kingdom come," because it has already come, we live in the consummated kingdom of God. Well we also have plenty of bread, don't we? So, why pray for it?
When you awoke this morning, did any of you have the slightest doubt if you would be able to eat today? Most of the time, our major concern is what we will eat, not whether we will eat. Shall we have the chicken or the beef? Shall we have the fish or the pork? Shall we have the potato or the pasta. These are the major problems that most of us face concerning food.
We have a very hard time relating to those who really have no idea where they will find their next meal. It is hard for us to even conceive that there are such people. Occasionally, we get a glimpse of them on the nightly news. We might bump into a homeless person on the street in a major city. Even then, however, we have a difficult time identifying with the day-to-day existence of such people.
Because of this, we tend to miss the true significance of a petition like "Give us this day our daily bread." Most of us have enough bread for weeks or months, if not years. We certainly have the resources to get enough.
This, however, was not the case with many of those listening to Jesus on the mountain side that day. Some truly did live one day at a time. They understood full well what Jesus meant. In Matthew 20 we have the parable of the workers in the vineyard. They are paid that day for one day's wages.
This prayer is still relevant for us today. We are a needy people. And here Jesus is teaching us how to pray for what we need.
It is interesting that the first petition for ourselves in this model prayer comes after we have prayed for God's name to be hallowed, and His will to be done. You see, we can only pray effectively for ourselves after gaining the perspective that worship and praise provides. Then, and only then, can we ask for what we need.
When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he taught them that praise should precede petition:
Philippians 4:6 (NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Paul tells the Philippians that the attitude of prayer is, "With thanksgiving" - in the Greek this is "meta eucharistia." We could translate: "after gratitude." Now listen carefully, meta and the genitive means: "with", but this is meta and the accusative, which never means: "with", it means: "after". "AFTER GRATITUDE, MAKE YOUR REQUEST KNOWN. " What Paul is saying here is, "Instead of crying out to God in your difficulty; with doubt, questioning, dissatisfaction, discontentment, or blaming God; cry out to God after thanksgiving." Why? If you have a grateful heart, your prayers will be right.
So, after we have prayed for God's glory, and His will to be done on earth, we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." Our need is for bread. Now, as I have already pointed out, most of us do not worry about our daily bread. But the fact remains that we all still need our daily bread. We may have a store of it. But we must use it day by day.
Bread certainly refers to the physical food that we all need. But it is also symbolic of all the needs that we have. Each day we need provision for that day. And we need it daily. This is how we live, one day at a time. It is impossible for us to live in the future. We may attempt to provide for the future, but there is no guarantee that there will be a future for any of us. All we know we have is now. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't plan. We should. But it means that we have no guarantee that our plan will be sufficient to take care of the needs we will face, even if we have a future.
Our lives must be replenished daily with fresh provision in so many areas. Food is an excellent example of this. We do not simply eat our fill of food and never have to eat again. We eat everyday. You can certainly skip a meal. You can even skip an entire day. Some of us could skip a number of days. But the healthiest way to live is to eat several meals a day every single day.
So it is with so many things in our lives. We need fresh provision for each day. When God provided for the Israelites in the desert, they were commanded to gather enough food for each day. If they gathered more than they needed, it would spoil over night. He was teaching them the lesson that He could be trusted to provide for their needs every day.
God designed His creation to have a dependency upon Him. Even in the ordinary decisions of a day, we need to depend on God for wisdom and direction. The Fall itself was precipitated when man sought to live independently of God, and this human independence continues at the heart of sinful rebellion today.
God wants us, as His children, to always be aware of our need of Him in our lives. God often takes us through difficult situations in order that we might realize how much we need Him.
"Give us this day our daily bread" is a cry of humility. "Give us" is beggar's language. We ask help for that which we lack of ourselves. When we cry out to God, "Give us...", we are asking for something we have no way of obtaining by our own merit. We have no right or title to it. We can only ask it of mercy. God is the giver, the source of all life and blessing.
We live in a truly blessed nation. Think of all we have. We live in huge homes that are climate controlled. We simply turn a dial, and our house gets warmer or colder. We have bathrooms with hot and cold running water, several of them. We have refrigerators and pantries filled with every kind of food you can want. And if we run out, all we have to do is get in our air-conditioned/heated cars and drive to the supermarket where we can buy every kind of food imaginable. We also have fast food places and restaurants on just about every corner. Many of our restaurants have buffets where we can eat until we can't move. Most the time, we eat not to sustain life but for entertainment.
The problem with all of this prosperity is that it creates a great spiritual danger. In our abundance, there is a tendency to forget God - to begin to think that we are independent of Him, and act as if we don't need Him.
In Deuteronomy 8, there is a warning to Israel about the danger of prosperity, and the spirit of independence that it can cause. Let's look at it:
Deuteronomy 8:1-3 (NKJV) "Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers. 2 "And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.
God led the Israelites into the desert where they had no alternative but to trust Him. He deliberately brought them to the end of themselves:
Psalms 107:4-6 (NKJV) They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; They found no city to dwell in. 5 Hungry and thirsty, Their soul fainted in them. 6 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, And He delivered them out of their distresses.
God wanted them to be aware of the fact that He was the one feeding them; they were dependent on His provision. Think about that: they had no food and no water. They had to depend on God to provide what they needed each and every day. There were no faucets to get a drink from, there were no refrigerators to get food from. Each day God provided what they needed for life that day.
When Moses reminded them that they did not live on bread alone, he meant that even their food was decreed by the word of God. They had manna because it came by His command. It was therefore ultimately not bread that kept them alive but His word! God wanted to show Israel that he alone is the life-source of their corporate existence.
J. A. Thompson's commentary on this passage in Deuteronomy is insightful, he writes:
Already during the forty years of wandering God had taught Israel utter dependence on Him for water and food. Hunger and thirst could not be satisfied by human aid but only by God. The need for such divine provision in the hour of their extremity could not but humiliate the people.....
The provision of food, which Israel did not know previously, made plain the lesson that it is not mere food that gives life. Without the divine word, the food itself may not be available.... Nothing was possible without Him, even to eat they had to await His pleasure. (J. A. Thompson, The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Deuteronomy, page 134-135)
Moses said that God did this to humble them. Humility keeps us from depending on our own strengths. God was bringing Israel to a place of complete dependence on Him - humility.
God wanted the Israelites to realize and remember their utter dependence on Him, so He used an extremity of need and a miraculous provision to capture their attention and teach them a lesson that is difficult to learn. Still, they forgot. For forty years God met their every need, and once they got in the land, they forgot. How much easier is it, then, for us to forget when God is supplying our needs through ordinary ways. Our dependence may not be as obvious, but it is just as real and just as acute as if we had to wait daily for God to rain down manna from heaven.
Too often we rely on our own skills and strength, especially when the task before us seems easy. We go to God only when the obstacles seem too great. The humble person knows that he is dependent on God for everything!
Lets continue on:
Deuteronomy 8:4-6 (NKJV) "Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 "You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you. 6 "Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.
This was a special or miraculous intervention of their loving Guardian in preserving them amid the wear and tear of their nomadic life in the desert. The Lord disciplined Israel by making her depend on Him for everything: food, water, and clothes. Since all these were provided by His decree, the only logical response was to obey His commands; following and fearing Him - fearing to disobey the One who is so powerful and holy.
I think this is one of our problems, we don't see ourselves as dependent upon God, and therefore, we don't fear or obey Him:
Deuteronomy 8:7-9 (NKJV) "For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 "a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 "a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
In contrast with the severity of the wilderness, these verses describe the abundance of Israel's new land. What a contrast! In the promise land, they would lack nothing. It sounds a lot like what we have, only we have even more. Now, note carefully what their response was to be to all this prosperity:
Deuteronomy 8:10 (NKJV) "When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.
They were to praise God for what He had given them, they were to be thankful to Him. All they had He had provided, and they were to praise Him for it. Failure to praise God was to disobey His commands.
We have a problem being thankful for all God has given us. Four times in Psalm 107 the psalmist cries out for men to praise the Lord for His goodness:
Psalms 107:8-9 (NKJV) Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
Moses then spelled out the danger inherent in abundant prosperity. Please listen carefully:
Deuteronomy 8:11-14 (NKJV) "Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, 12 "lest; when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 "and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 "when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
Whereas in the wilderness they had to depend on God for the necessities of life, their newfound prosperity might conceal their need for the same dependence.
If the children of Israel faced the danger of becoming independent of God because of the blessings of the promise land, how much more do we face this danger in twenty first century America? They faced the danger of pride - "your heart be lifted up." An Israelite who ceased to praise the Lord for what they had would find that his heart had become proud in his abundance:
Hosea 13:6 (NKJV) When they had pasture, they were filled; They were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me.
Israel's prosperity caused pride. In their pride they forgot God. Moses said that they forgot God by failing to keep His commandments. They ceased to obey Him. Do we face the danger of the pride of independence? Yes, I believe even more so than Israel did.
So, we need to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread" that we may be continually reminded of our dependence on God, of our need for him to provide our every need.
God alone is our provider. In the Scriptures, God is referred to as Jehovah-Jireh. This is a compound name which means: "the Lord will provide."
This name comes from the story in Genesis of Abraham's obedience to offer Isaac to the Lord. You will find the story in Genesis 22. God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Deciding to obey the Lord, Abraham took Isaac and set out to the place where God had chosen. He bound his son and laid him on the altar. As he was about to slay his son, God stopped him. He commended him for his willingness to obey and called his attention to a ram that he had provided for Abraham to offer. As Abraham offered the ram as a burnt offering to God, he called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh. He had experienced the provision of God. He had come to experience first-hand the reality that God could provide.
As a father provides for his own children, so God is our provider. James says:
James 1:17 (NKJV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Paul puts it this way:
Philippians 4:19 (NKJV) And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
God not only gives us the stuff we need, He gives us the good stuff. He gives us what we really need, not simply what we think we need. And much of what God gives us, you simply cannot buy with money. When you are overwhelmed, you may be able to buy a bottle. When you sober up, however, the problem is still there. What you need is supernatural peace in the midst of the problem. What you need is the ability to deal with the situation. Only He can give you that.
This prayer reminds us that all good things come from God, even our ability to work and to earn our food. All good things come from God, even the basic necessities of life. If we pray this daily, we remind ourselves of just how totally dependent we really are on God for all our needs, even our most basic needs.
Jonathan Edwards preached a message on July 8, 1731 in the city of Boston titled, "God glorified in man's dependence." The opening paragraph stated, "There is an absolute and universal dependence of the redeemed on God. The nature and contrivance of our redemption is such that the redeemed are in everything directly, immediately, and entirely dependant upon God. They are dependant on Him for all and are dependant on Him in every way." How aware are you of your entire dependence upon God?
Please notice that our text says, "Give us this day our daily bread." It does not say, "Give me...", it says, "Give us...", this reflects the body concept. We are always to remember that Christianity is others oriented. This isn't a selfish prayer seeking something for me or my family, but it is a desire for something for us. "Give us this day our daily bread" is plural; it is a family prayer with concern for others as well as for ourselves. When I say family, I mean the family of God.
Is this prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread" an excuse not to work? If we are to be dependant upon God, then wouldn't we be more dependant if we didn't have a job? Shouldn't we just sit back and wait on the Lord to provide our every need? No! God can meet our needs supernaturally, but normally God provides for us through normal natural means such as diligent work habits. Paul emphasizes the importance of work in writing to the church:
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NKJV) that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, 12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.
Paul commands the Thessalonians not to be idle but to work. Work is honorable, honest, and commanded.
The Greeks deplored manual labor and relegated it to slaves as much as possible. But the Jews held it in esteem; every Jewish boy was taught a trade regardless of his family's wealth. The Jews taught that working with one's own hands demonstrates love for the brethren, because a self-supporting person is not a burden to others.
He goes so far as to say in:
2 Thessalonians 3:10 (NKJV) For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
Do you see what God's cure for laziness is? It's hunger! In God's economy, there is no welfare roll for those who refuse to do what they can do. We are all to be involved in diligent labor, and as we work we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." Because we realize that everything we have, including the strength to work, we are dependant upon God for.
Believers, please remember that God is glorified in our dependence, and that we declare our dependence through prayer. May the prayer of our heart continually be, "Give us this day our daily bread".
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