Monday, October 24, 2011

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Well, we've got a lot to do today, so let's get started. Today, we're going to be studying Matthew 6:11. If you'll remember what we've been doing, we've been walking step by step through the Lord's Prayer. It's a prayer that Jesus gives us as a model when his disciples asked him, "How should we pray?" So he teaches them to pray in this way. He says,

Pray then like this:
"Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

So that means that we, here in the year 2011, can look over their shoulders and ask Jesus ourselves, “How should we pray?” And by reading and studying this prayer, we receive a model or a pattern to use for our own lives—our own lives of prayer. When we go about our lives day to day, praying, we can use each of these phrases, each of these thoughts, to spur us on.

Over the last couple months, we’ve looked at the introduction, “Our Father in heaven,” the first prayer request, “hallowed be your name,” and the second prayer request, “your kingdom come.”

So when we go to pray ourselves, we are reminded that we should address God as our Father in heaven. That means that we address the almighty, transcendent, most holy God—the very God who stood over the mountain in Exodus and with terrifying presence gave the Law to Israel, the very God who can strike us down for our rebellion against him—we address him as our Father. That means that he has a disposition of love toward his people. He’s a better Father than even the best father. I’ve got a good Dad, and he’s a better and more trustworthy Father than even my Dad. That also means that we can approach him in utter dependence.

The first request teaches us that we need to ask him even for the ability to glorify him in our lives and in our prayers. This is the kind of dependence that we need to approach God with. We can’t even give him glory without his help. We also saw how God is more than happy to answer these kinds of prayers because in them, we’re praying that he would help us to be exactly what he’s created us to be—for example, poor in spirit, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and so on.

Then last time, we saw how in the second request, we pray that the Father’s Kingdom would come. We pray that God would keep us and make us a part of his kingdom. Then we also pray that everyone else would also be brought into this kingdom. We’re praying for the evangelization of the world, and our neighbors, and our families. We’re praying that this would happen quickly and that God’s influence would spread from our hearts right on out into our lives. Our hearts are changed; God is king in there. Our lives are changed; God is king out there. And then the world is changed because God is king over all.

Because of time and since I only have two weeks after this one, we’re going to step over the third request, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It’s enough to say here that in this request, we pray for God to make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to his will in all things, in the same way that the angels do in heaven. We pray that God would change our hearts as we sit under his word. We want to be able to do God’s revealed will, and we want to be able to do it from our hearts. And that’s what we pray for when we say “Your will be done on earth.”

So today, I want to look closely at what Jesus means when he tells us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” That’s the fourth request of the Lord’s Prayer. “Give us this day our daily bread.”

This is where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? Daily bread. There was a psychologist writing in the 1940s, Abraham Maslow, who theorized that there is a hierarchy of human needs. His theory is called, interestingly enough, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the very basic level, he says humans need things like food and clothing and shelter. Without adequate clothing and shelter, you might die. Without adequate food, you will die.

Also, the apostle Paul points out something fundamental about our daily bread. He teaches that husbands should love their wives like people tend to love their bodies. And how does he know we love our bodies? His answer is that we feed them. We eat. We take care of ourselves.

In our section of the Lord’s Prayer today, we pray that God would give us this thing—this daily bread—that is so fundamental to our existence.

Martin Luther writes helpfully here in his Small Catechism. “What does this mean?” he writes. “God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked men; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” The Heidelberg Catechism points out here that this passages leads us to pray that God would be pleased to give us this so basic need. Also it moves us to realize that God is our only ultimate source of all good things, and that none of our own efforts will provide these things for us without God’s blessing. This passage should move us, then, to trust in God for our help, and no one else in any ultimate sense.

So what does Jesus mean by “daily bread?” I think Luther is helpful again. He explains that in this prayer, we're praying for a lot more than simply food: We pray for,

“Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”

So when we ask for God to “give us this day our daily bread,” we ask not only for our basic human need of food. We ask also for all sorts of things that the Lord uses to sustain us and keep us and help us from day to day.

God is Very Kind to Us

This highlights the kindness of God! Just think about it. He doesn't need to give us any of these things. He gives food to all kinds of people all over the world—wicked people as well as good people. He’s given food and plenty of other good gifts to us. He takes care of the world. Do you realize that there are over six billion people in the world? That’s really more people than have lived on the earth at any one time throughout history. And very many of them have their basic needs met, as well as higher needs—good gifts from God.

Now not all six billion have all of these things, of course. We’ll get to that in a bit. But as many as do have their basic needs met, as many as do enjoy the good gifts of God, they’re all sinners. We’ve all rebelled against God. So any of these gifts that he gives us, he gives to us out of pure kindness. The apostle Peter writes in 2 Peter 3, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” God is patient with us and he is very kind to us. So when we pray that God would grant our daily bread, let us be motivated to thankfulness and a deep sense of trust in this God, who is absolutely lavish with us.

But We're Tempted to Doubt God's Goodness

But we’re tempted not to trust God. I know I am. There are a couple of ways this works out in my own heart. First, it happens from time to time when I pray for people. I realize that this is a hard economy and there are a lot of unemployed people. And so when I pray that a coworker would be able to keep her job because she needs it to support her child and stay in her apartment, I am tempted to doubt. I am tempted to be less than bold in my prayers, because I wonder if God might not actually grant what I’m asking for. But Jesus compels us to pray for this. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Lord, sustain us. Give us what we need for today. Then he encourages us in Matthew 6:25,

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Another way that I’m tempted not to trust God here, is when I see that there are people in the world who don’t even have the most basic physical need of adequate food. There are starving people in the world. Even now, there is a severe famine in the horn of Africa. The cost of basic staple foods there is through the roof, and people are literally starving. Sometimes I wonder how can I pray with boldness, and how can I trust God to provide the most basic of needs, when I know that people will die of starvation. Frankly, that’s a sin that I need to confess and repent of. The fact is that these kinds of crises are all the more reason to pray even more boldly. God, meet their needs, give them the food they need

God Uses Our Prayers to Motivate Us

And you see, God is very creative in the ways that he meets our needs. If we pray for God to meet a need, he might just motivate us to do what we can. You know, he meets our very ordinary need for food by motivating an army of people simply to get up and go to work in the morning. Farmers get up and till and harvest. Merchants open their markets. Truck drivers deliver goods to markets. Staff right here at the Springhurst Health and Rehab prepare meals and serve them to you. Through all of them, God has answered this prayer for you.

God is generous in his kindness to you. And maybe in praying this prayer, God can motivate you to meet a need you’re able to meet, however complicated or simple it is. He will motivate some people to help the people in the horn of Africa with food. He will motivate others to help them by bringing them the gospel—the words of eternal life. So when we see needs in our lives and in others’ lives, needs that seem to go unmet, don’t let that prevent you from praying for God to meet them, no matter how daunting they seem. Because God uses the prayers of his people to meet those needs.

God's Gifts are Not Ultimate

I realize I’m running out of time, but we’ve got to do a bit more work to do. When we pray for our daily bread, we are motivated to receive it with thanksgiving. Like I said a moment ago, God is lavish in his kindness to us. This should motivate us to give thanks to God. But this also means that we shouldn’t make God’s gifts ultimate.

God gives us food so we can glorify Him, not so that we can stuff our bellies. Any of the gifts God gives us—whether food, or family, or health—he gives them to us in order to reflect back on him in worship. If we abuse these gifts, we commit various sins like gluttony, or sexual immorality, or drunkenness. When we make God’s gifts ultimate in our minds, if the Lord chooses to remove one of them for a season, then we are crushed. You can lose joy; you can lose your trust in God. Remember that God is good beyond the gifts that he gives you. He is out for your good. If God is ultimate, everything else falls into place. Seek first the Kingdom, and all these things will be added to you.

Jesus Christ is True and Better Food

Finally, we need to realize that there is a kind of food, a kind of daily bread, that is much more important than the food you eat with your mouth. Jesus answered the Devil’s temptation by saying “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” In John 4, John writes,

The disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

Later in John 6, Jesus says, “I am the bread of Life,” and his disciples acknowledge that He has the words of eternal life. They have nowhere else to go, because Jesus has what is of ultimate importance.

So here’s the long and short of it. We pray that the Father would give us what we need for the day. And we trust that he will do it. We trust that he will because he’s already given us everything in Jesus, his Son. So trust in Jesus. He is the bread of life. The gospel really turns everything on end. Trust the Father through Christ to give you what you need and he will. Even if he gives you fewer good things than you think you need, you have Christ. And if you count the glory of God as better than all of his good gifts, than you can be completely thankful for all of the gifts you’ve been given.

The takeaway today is that in Christ, the Father gives you everything. I don't know if that sounds like a good thing to you, or not. I hope it does. So trust Jesus today and humble yourself. Confess your own sinful brokenness and turn to Christ. Right now, we are invited to pray together that the Father will give us the bread we need for today.

So let’s pray together, shall we?

Date: 22 October 2011
Text: Matthew 6:11
Title: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Location: Springhurst Health and Rehab Center
Event: Saturday Morning

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