Give us today our daily bread (Sermon Series: Lord’s Prayer)

Lord's prayer.4In two weeks’ time we will celebrate my daughter’s 8th birthday and as the years have passed by I have realized that her birthday requests are getting more complex each year. When we celebrated her first birthday, for instance, milk was her only demand. However, this year she has already asked me for a doll, a new scooter, a birthday party and even a pink pony. If you are a dad or a mom you probably know what I am talking about here. But why do kids increase their petitions as they grow older?

One of the reasons is because imitation is part of a toddlers learning process.[1] As adults are always pursuing more and more. Children then end up copying their behaviour.[2] Most of us, for example, are never content with what we have. I personally know people who have a nice home but want a bigger house. Others who have a well-paid job but want a higher paid one. And some who have a loving partner but want a better looking spouse.

What I am trying to say is that we have to be careful with the legacy we are leaving for the next generation. We need to live in a way that shows them that contentment is not about obtaining more possessions but rather living happily with or without them. Spurgeon put it like that: “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled”.

We all need to understand that only God can provides all we need to feel satisfied. But what are the things that we need from God to live in contentment? And how do we ask God to supply these needs? In order to help you to live a life that pleases God in the same way that satisfies you, I want to study Matthew 6.11 answering these two questions.

How do we ask God to supply our needs?

  • Communicating with Him through prayer in a relational manner (Give)

From Matthew 6.9 Jesus introduces the ‘Lord’s prayer’ as an example of the right way to pray. Jesus teaches his disciples, in the first three parts of the prayer, that God and how he rules are the most important parts of the prayer. And the next three parts are about how they should pray appropriately for they own needs. But in verse 11 his language seemed a little bit inappropriate.[3]

Certainly my English teacher would say that in polite speech, orders or requests are often phrased instead as questions or statements, rather than as imperatives such as: ‘give us’.[4] But was Jesus really teaching us to make requests to God in an impolitely direct way?

In fact he was not being rude or teaching us to treat God in a harsh way but making an important point. God is our father and all the language formalities are not required from us, His children. He does not see us as sellers negotiating a complex deal but as little children who have free access to their dad’s ears.

When we were spiritually born into God’s family we were given an amazing birthday gift: intimate family access. Therefore, we can freely make our petitions to God knowing that our heavenly father cares about us. This is amazing, isn’t it? Even though God is the creator of the whole universe He allows us, Christians, to have a relationship with him.[5]

How do you pray? Is God a stranger or a family member when you talk to him? For some, God is certainly not their father just by the way they pray. That is one of the main differences between our prayers and the prayers performed by other religions. We pray in a relational manner but also in an unselfish manner.

  • Communicating with Him through prayer in an unselfish manner (Us; Our)

The reason why Jesus said: ‘give us our bread!’ and not ‘give me my bread’ is because he expects us to make requests in a godly way. He requires unselfish prayers, having in mind the necessity of others as well.

But why does God want us to pray for others? Because our altruist prayers reflect God’s own character of outgoing sacrificial love. When we ask for the provision of others we think beyond ourselves reflecting God’s compassion and love. Wasn’t that the reason why Jesus, during his crucifixion, asked God to forgive our sins?

Jesus clearly wants us to remember those who are in need, however he also expects us to help those in need as soon as our prayers are responded. In other words, we have to share what God gives us with needy people. It is a huge hypocrisy to ask God to supply someone’s need when in reality we have the resources to do it, isn’t it?[6]

But is it wrong to ask God in prayer for a more personal favour? No, my point here is not to make you an ascetic. I do not want you to abstain from the normal pleasures of life or to deny yourself of material satisfaction.[7] What I am actually saying is that we need to seek God’s kingdom first.

This week for example I asked God to help me to prepare this sermon, but not because I wanted to impress people with my talk. My motivation was to have people praising God through my talk.

Before we make our petitions we need ask ourselves this question: what is the motivation of my prayer request? Do I want to glorify God through my request in first place? God is not a genie of the lamp who will fulfils their masters’ egocentric desires but rather our master.[8] That’s why we also have to pray in a dependent manner.

  • Communicating with Him through prayer in a dependent manner (Daily)

Jesus tells us to pray asking God to provide our basic needs daily.[9] But doesn’t he know what my needs are? If so, why do I need to pray for God’s provision then? We pray to remind ourselves that we need to depend on God because when we do not, things go wrong.

In the Garden of Eden, for example, Adam and Eve lived in paradise. God gave them everything they needed to live a life without problems. They had no reason to make requests. And yet they thought they did not have to depend on God. They then decided they wanted to make their own choices and rebel against God breaking everything.

We are not different from Adam and Eve and prayer helps us to remember that. We all have to enjoy life in a way that is not driven by harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.[10] After all, only God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect for us all.[11]

One quality of children is that they are dependent on others for their well-being. When my daughter, for instance, was two years old she wanted to amuse herself by playing with a sharp knife she saw in our kitchen. She asked me pointing to where the knife was. Did she have any idea of how dangerous that was? Certainly not, but even not understanding why I did not give what she wanted in order to have fun she trusted me and still loved me. We, Christians, should share the same quality of depending on our loving Heavenly Father for everything we need.

But if God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect why doesn’t he give us what is necessary to survive sometimes? What kind of father is this? These questions lead me to another question.

 What do we need from God to survive?

  • Only what is necessary to sustain our physical life (Bread)

Why did I pray for my heavenly father in a relational manner, asking him to heal my friend in an unselfish way, trusting God with all my faith in a dependent manner and he still allowed my friend to die?

Some people would answer this question simply saying that God does not exist. Others would say that he exists but does not interfere with His creation.[12] Those who believe in reincarnation would say that we suffer to have to pay for our wrongdoings in our past lives. But what does the Bible say?[13]

The word of God says this: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalms 103.19). He is the one in control and knows what is best for us. Surely sometimes we do not understand it but all things works for good.[14]

A good example of this is found in the story of Joseph. God allowed Joseph’s brothers to kidnap Joseph, sell him as a slave, and then lie to their father for years about his fate. Yet, at the same time, all of their sin worked towards a greater good: Joseph ended up in Egypt, where he was made prime minister. Joseph used his position to sustain the people of a broad region during a seven-year famine, including his own family. If Joseph had not been in Egypt before the famine began, millions of people, including the Israelites, would have died.

Everything we have is a gift from God given to us to provide all our earthly needs. And even when death seems to be the worst thing that could happen to us God provides what is necessary to sustain our life in eternity.

  • Only what is necessary to sustain our spiritual life (Bread)

During Jesus’ ministry he used the word bread many times, and in two of them refers to spiritual food.

The first one I want to point to is in Matthew 4.1-4. Jesus was tempted by Satan who said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread”. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’”. His reply comes from the context of Deuteronomy 8.3 where the Israelites spent of 40 years in the wilderness experiencing trials at God’s hand just as Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness. But what is the meaning of it? And what is the application for our life?

It means that the most important things in life are not physical but rather spiritual. We do not truly live by bread but rather by the Word of God. If Adam and Eve had listened to God sin would not have entered and neither eternal death. In other words, starvation killed many on earth but sin killed many more in eternity. Are you reading your Bible daily in order to get fed? Are you feeding those around you with the word of God?

Another passage where Jesus used the word bread, meaning spiritual food, is recorded in chapter six of John’s Gospel. More than 5,000 people after being fed by Jesus were ready to make him their king. However Jesus decided to expose that their excitement and motivation was wrong. He stated that his real followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood and the crowd left him probably thinking that he was a lunatic or a cannibal. But what did Jesus mean by these disturbing statements?

Jesus was saying that he did not come to work as a baker for his followers. He came not to give bread, but to be the bread. He had come to not save them from hunger but from sin. For Jesus gave his own body, the bread of eternal life, to pay in full the penalty for our sins. He died on the cross to give us his perfect bread in exchange for our sinful mouldy bread. Is Jesus Christ your bread? Is he the one who sustains your spiritual life?

Conclusion

I said in the introduction that my daughter made a lot of requests for her 8th birthday however I did not mention one in particular. She asked me to pray for a friend who is in need of a miracle. A friend who needs to be saved and she knows that only Jesus can do that. She understands that only God can provide all we need to feel satisfied on Earth and in Heaven. I hope that you also have God as the source of all you satisfaction not only here in this world but also in eternity.

Notes

[1] http://ilabs.washington.edu/meltzoff/pdf/99Meltzoff_BornToLearn.pdf

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JrtpCM4yMM

[3]“At first glance, asking God to ‘give us’ what we ask for almost sounds a little rude. After all, we rarely speak so blunty even to colleagues at work!” Richard Coekin, Our Father (Nottingham: IVP, 2009) pp. 118.

[4] The use of the imperative mood may be seen as impolite, inappropriate or even offensive in certain circumstances. Wierzbicka, Anna, Cross-Cultural Pragmatics (Mouton de Gruyter, 1991).

[5] God’s nature is relational and that is the reason why he identifies himself in family terms: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

[6] Paul said: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” 1 Timothy 5.8.

[7] John Piper often promotes the idea that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. He says that God designed the world in such a way that he is glorified when we are satisfied. Our joy is not separated from his glory; when we enjoy God, he is glorified. John Piper, Desiring God, (New York:Random House, 2011)

[8] Matthew 6.24

[9] The word daily is hard to be translated because it could mean ‘today’, ‘tomorrow’ or any number of slight variations. Richard Coekin, Our Father (Nottingham: IVP, 2009) pp. 118

[10] 1 Timothy 6.6-11

[11] Romans 12.1-2

[12] Deists deny the Trinity, the inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ, miracles, and any supernatural act of redemption or salvation. Deism pictures God as uncaring and uninvolved. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Nottingham: IVP, 1994) pp.270

[13] How do I discern God’s responses to my prayers petitions? Well it will depend on the kind of request. If the prayer petition is a sin God say: “No, I care about you”. If the request is right but not the timing he says: “Yes, but wait”. If the timing and the petition is both right he can say three things: “Yes but not what you expected”, “Yes, I thought you’d never ask me”, or even “Yes and here is some more”.

[14] Romans 8.28

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