The Struggle of Prayer (Pt.6)

“Give us this day our daily bread…” (Matthew 6:11)

 

Many of God’s people have known what it is to go without. Many have known extremity. Without any doubt when bills cannot be paid with the resources on-hand tensions grow, tempers blow, and faith can take a pounding. Paul admonishes the comfort-softened westerner, “having food and clothing let us therewith be content.” We may well believe that he takes shelter for granted. Still, one wonders exactly what the Lord considers “our daily bread” and how different that might be from what we think?

 

At its most fundamental level “give us this day our daily bread” (or, even “our bread for the morrow”) is a plea for God to give us enough food and drink. But as God is Yahweh-Jireh (“the Lord who will provide”) we can be confident that by “bread” what is meant is “that which we need.” Luther believed, quite sensibly it seems to me, that “daily bread” comprehended not just food but also all those things which God has willed for men, women and children. Certainly, this does not extend to the luxuries of life, which in no way can be equated with necessities, nor with the main tenor of the prayer. But we may take confidence that this is the correct interpretation from Jesus’ words against undue anxiety in 6:25-34. There the Lord is referring directly to “your life.”

 

From this we may deduce that Jesus wants His people to pray every day for God to provide that which we need to live in this world. And this would include the particulars needed to pay the bills in the economies we live in. God is gracious and kind, and our acknowledgement of this fact should be present in our praying to Him, for otherwise it is difficult to be truly thankful.

 

But what does all this come to? What is this petition really about? The answer is as simple as the switch from the focus upon God’s causes and kingdom in the first three petitions, on to the creature in this petition. When we ask and keep on asking for our daily bread we are showing our daily dependence upon our good Creator. I make bold to assert that dependence is the foundation of true prayer. In point of fact, expressing our utter dependence on God is the epitome of proper creature-hood. It is us coming to ourselves; realizing who and what we are in the grand scheme of things. For what are we in this world if not utterly dependent on the Divine Benevolence? We can so easily be sideswiped by illness or tragedy or some other kind of trouble, and then our vaunted self-sufficiency comes to nothing. It is the purest sort of sanity to ask God to help through every day.

 

 

 

 

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5 comments

  1. I think it is significant that Jesus’ prayer is for “our” daily bread, not just “my” bread. This broadens our vision beyond “me” to looking out for others in need. Thus when Jesus adds in Mt. 6:19 about not storing up treasures on earth, but in heaven, he is talking about giving up the anxious working and striving for more and better food, drink, and clothing (as in 6:25f.)–which all the peoples are seeking (6:32). In 19:21 Jesus tells the rich man to sell his treasured possessions and give to the poor, and then he will have treasure in heaven, and he can follow Jesus.

  2. Paul:
    Some would not agree with the word “balance” when it comes to our prayers, yet I would posit that there must be a understanding of our daily needs versus the good pleasure of God in accomplishing His purposes. James 4:1-4 warns us about asking God for things that will be spent on our pleasures and this of course is completely different than asking for necessary daily food, clothing and shelter. Yet the Apostle Paul, who was a man of prayer, often went without basic needs: 2 Corinthians 6:3-10. Paul understood these hardships as “having nothing and yet possessing everything.” Paul, one could argue, had a deep understanding of this balance. If after much prayer, we are not given what we understand to be basic needs including such things as employment, we can always rejoice that we have been blessed, “in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 NIV. Balancing our daily needs with the glorious purposes of God’s will, which may involve hardship for us, is a difficult lesson but a necessary step in the process of our sanctification. How many of us, like Job can honestly say when hardship comes to our lives, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1: 21 NIV…. And here is the most important lesson: we must keep a constant prayer communication with God, God seeks our devotion and attention. We glorify Him most when we humbly seek Him in recognition of our desperate condition and recognize His abounding love and goodness to us.

    Ray Miller

      1. Agree that Ray has put a good comment here. A lot of Christians would treat this with suspicion though, thinking this is all Calvinist theology or Catholic theology (truly I have witnessed a non-charismatic but dispensational Bible teacher that claims God doesn’t want us to suffer), would love to see Paul’s take on this.

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