“Our Daily Bread” Matthew 6:11 August 1, 2010
INTRO: Allison and I have been married 22 years and there is one little wedding
present that we still use about once a week. It’s a pewter bread plate.
It looks like something you could buy in a souvenir shop in Williamsburg.
There is a picture of a farmer embossed on the plate, he has a scythe, he’s cutting
wheat. And in old English letters it says: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
When we set the table we use that little plate for bread or crackers or biscuits.
We like it, because it speaks of God’s goodness in providing that meal
and all our family meals over the years.
“Give us this day our daily bread” marks a shift of emphasis in the Lord’s Prayer.
We might say it’s a shift from focusing on God to focusing on ourselves.
The first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are about God.
Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done.
Then the last three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are about us.
Give us our daily bread. Forgive us our debts. Lead us not into temptation.
So here the Lord Jesus is teaching us the importance of praying for ourselves—
for the things we need, and for forgiveness, and help to live a good life.
And when it comes to praying for yourself, the first thing he wants you to do
is to ask your Father in heaven for bread.
This is such a change from the lofty and spiritual things that come just before it,
that there have been some Christians who have said, this can’t mean
literal, physical bread. The Lord has just told us to pray for God’s name to be
hallowed, his kingdom to come, his will to be done as it is in heaven.
And now it can’t be right that he is telling us to come down from that lofty spiritual
But that’s exactly what he is telling us.
John Calvin’s comment is that the Bible tells us over and over that God expects us
to ask him for the everyday stuff we need, it’s a proof of true faith when we
“feel that his fatherly kindness extends to the smallest matters.”
I think Calvin nails it.
We’ve said all along that you have to look at the Lord’s Prayer as a whole.
And perhaps more than anything else, Christ drives home that in prayer we must be
continually aware we are not addressing a distant God, but our Father in heaven.
We come to him as his beloved sons and daughters.
And nothing is more natural and right than for a child to ask his father for things.
After Sunday school a few weeks ago I was talking to another dad
and one of my children came up to us and stood next to me, not interrupting,
but making clear her body language that she wanted to ask me something.
This other dad said: “I know that look. She’s about to ask you for money.”
And this child of mine grinned sheepishly and said: How did you know?
Then proceeded to ask me for some money to do something with a friend.
Of course there are times when our children’s asking angers us.
When it’s motivated by discontentment or irresponsibility.
But when your children ask you rightly, and if you are a good parent,
you love to hear them asking and you love to grant their requests.
And children don’t just ask their parents for material things—
they ask for encouragement, and advice, and blessing—
things that are immaterial, but just as real and necessary for everyday life.
Your Father in heaven wants you to ask him for the things you need.
Every day, for everything, even the little things.
Jesus tells us to pray for our daily bread.
Paul says in Philippians to pray without ceasing.
That must mean that a thousand things a day are legitimate subjects for petition.
Money for your electric bill, and tires for your car, and health for your sick child,
and the meeting with your boss tomorrow and the algebra test 5th period,
and on and on.
The idea is that we should have a constant awareness of our heavenly Father
and a freedom and willingness to ask him for needs of all kinds.
Now, this is the point I want to drive home in this sermon.
If you pray this way—without ceasing, asking your heavenly Father
every day, many times a day, to give you the things you need,
if you pray this way—it will leave its mark on you.
It will have profoundly positive effects on your soul. Let’s see how.
Two big ways. I’ll give them to you was we go.
MP#1 If you pray every day, asking your Father for everything,
your heart will be changed towards things and people.
Let’s start with things. Stuff. The material substance of life.
Your earnings. Your acquisitions. Your bills.
This is a huge part of every day life.
Not a day goes by that you don’t think about these things.
But how do you think about them?
Do worry? Do you envy other people? Are you discontent with what you have?
Is this a source of conflict in your family and marriage? Or, are you content?
This is a part of life that is full of stumbling blocks.
Christians otherwise devout and moral can be blinded and enslaved by this.
But if you turn your financial affairs into petitions every day—
If every thought about your material situation becomes a prayer to your Father,
it will in time change your heart toward this important part of your life.
Earlier in the service we read Proverbs 30:7-9.
Some people are surprised to read that and realize that Jesus didn’t come up
with the phrase “daily bread.” He got it from this passage in Proverbs.
It’s a prayer by a man named Agur (we don’t know anything about him). He prays:
“Lord, give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me my daily bread. Otherwise, I might
have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal
and so dishonor the name of my God.”
Why did this wise man ask for daily bread?
Why didn’t he pray for the whole amount right now?
Lord, stack it up in a big pile, and I will come and get some whenever I need it.
Lord, make me rich and I won’t have to bother you about this again.
He didn’t pray for that because he couldn’t pray that way.
It would have gone against everything he knew about the life of faith
and what is good for the soul and what God wants.
You see it was his prayer for his daily bread that gave him a clear, godly mind
when it came to the matter of money.
If you are always praying to God about your money and possessions,
if you are always making them a matter of conversation with him,
then you will be enabled, more and more, to view them rightly.
When you leave Alabama, and drive into Georgia or Tennessee or Florida
you see those billboards that say Mega Lotto. Power Ball.
And then the lottery pot for that drawing. $12 million. $28 million.
Sometimes I’ll see those signs and I’ll think, Wow.
What would I do what that money. And I start building castles in clouds.
Being a minister, I always have to work out first how I would be able to hide my
winnings, because it would be pretty embarrassing if the newspaper said:
Local pastor wins lotto millions.
Then I think of all the ministries that are near and dear to my heart that need money.
All the missionary works I could support, the friends I have in the ministry who
would be blessed by anonymous financial help.
And then I think about paying for college for my kids.
And then finally, after I’ve done all that good, I walk into the motorcycle store!
And then I think: Should I buy a lottery ticket and pray to win?
And when that thought crosses my mind, it all comes crashing down.
Because I realize that it would be impossible for me to pray for that.
I might daydream about those things, but I could not utter those words in prayer
to my Father in heaven without denying everything
I deeply and genuinely want for myself as a Christian.
I want to be content. I want to give sacrificially. I want God’s ordinary provision.
I want to take seriously the warnings about the love of money.
When you think about money—don’t daydream or worry or envy—pray.
And as you pray, you will find that your mind is clarified and this important
part of life is brought into submission to the truth and the judgment of your faith.
And if God gives you a little answer to your prayer for daily bread—
that’s his wisdom for you. If he gives you more, it’s his gift to you
so that you can prove to be a faithful steward.
But in either case, because it has been a matter of sincere and frequent prayer,
it is bathed in the convictions of your faith.
I also said that if you pray every day, asking your Father for everything,
your heart will be changed towards people.
Jesus says to pray give us this day our daily bread.
Not give me this day my daily bread.
Other people are a huge part of every day life.
We certainly think about other people and our dealings and relationships
with them just as much every day as we think about material and financial things.
And if every thought about them becomes a petition—then your heart is changed.
Spiritually-minded Christians throughout the ages have said that there is no
better cure for bad feelings toward other people than praying for them.
This is especially true when your feelings of envy or ill-will are directed at a person
who seems to be getting more of what you want for yourself, or who excels you,
or who is more gifted or blessed by God than you and makes you feel smaller.
Suppose you envy someone here in this church.
Suppose for some reason you dislike someone in your church.
And you take that person’s name to God in prayer.
Now, what will you pray? What will you say to your Father in heaven
about that person? What will you ask him to do to that person?
Can you pray the things that have been in your jealous and hateful heart?
Can you pray: Father, bring that person down?!
He thinks he is so much better than me, humiliate him.
She did me wrong. Give her a taste of her own medicine, Lord.
You can’t be a Christian and pray that prayer. You know full well what God would
think of that prayer and what he would think of you if you dared pray that way.
When you start to pray for this person you recognize immediately
how sinful your spirit is. That the way you have been thinking about him or her
is a betrayal of everything Christian—grace, humility, love, forgiveness.
You are thinking about that person the way you deserve for God to think about
you—but he didn’t, so you can’t.
And when you actually do pray for that person, you are forced to speak to God
about him or about her in terms that ought to be controlling your heart.
And in time, that changes your heart.
When you encounter this person or think of him during the day and you pray,
and ask God to bless him, to show him good and make him happy—
then those prayers will start to lay an obligation on your heart to think about
him and treat him in a way that is consistent with your prayers.
You can’t ask God to bless a person and then curse him in your heart.
Praying cleanses your heart towards others.
Don’t worry, don’t fantasize, don’t envy—pray to your Father in heaven.
And prayer will start to make a mark on your soul.
If you pray every day, asking your Father for everything,
then the two biggest aspects of your daily life—your finances and relationships
will be brought under the judgment of your faith.
And, second . . .
MP#2 If you pray every day, asking your Father for everything,
you will see his answers more clearly.
There are many mysteries to prayer—and one of the big ones is how God answers.
When I was a boy I was taught that God answers in three ways—yes, no, and wait.
That was helpful to me as a child, and I still go back to it.
But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized, as I’m sure you have,
that God’s yeses are not always what you expect.
Sometimes a no is a yes in disguise.
And sometimes you realize that God answers in a way that is even bigger than
the categories of yes, no, or wait. Because he raises the level of grace in your life
in such a way that you see things very differently than you did at first.
I’m not saying that God doesn’t give specific and clear answers to prayer.
He does. Sometimes a Christian will pray, Lord, I need $187 by noon tomorrow.
And he provides the exact amount. Maybe that’s happened to you or somebody
you know. There are many, many testimonies of that sort of thing.
And, of course there are healings and other miraculous answers
that are clearly the hand of God.
But it’s usually not like that. His answers are harder to see.
And your spiritual sight is sharpened through frequent prayers for daily bread.
What is daily bread? It’s what you need for life.
Jesus is teaching us that when we pray to our Father and ask him for things,
what we are really asking him for are the things necessary for life and godliness.
That was the heart of Agur’s prayer.
Don’t make me rich or poor—both are detrimental to godliness in different ways.
Lord, give me what I need.
But here’s the thing. We don’t always know what we need.
We feel pangs and longings. We think we understand what they are and we ask
for the things that we think we need. But we might not be right.
So when God gives us what we really need, it might seem like a no,
but it’s really a fatherly yes!
When our children were little, I remember there were times when they would
get demanding and upset. And it would usually be focused on something
they wanted to do. They would get more and more worked up about it.
But as parents, we could see what they really needed.
They needed a nap. All those frantic demands and upset was fatigue.
So we would say, Somebody needs a nap.
And that would make them very mad.
They would say: I’m not tired. I want to go swimming.
We would put them in bed crying and they would go right to sleep
and wake up sweet and happy.
We don’t always know what we need, but God does.
And praying helps you grow up and see that you thought you needed one thing,
God knew better and gave you what you really needed.
I remember one time praying about a problem in the church that was really
bothering me, and asking God to please fix it.
And later that day I got a call from a preacher friend and he started telling me
about some of the problems in his church and they were so bad that when
I hung up I had a completely different view. Thanking God for my little problem.
The Lord didn’t fix it the way I prayed, but he said yes.
To pray for daily bread is to trust him to provide for our needs,
even when we don’t see him providing in the way we think at first he ought to.
Sometimes the bread we most need isn’t bread at all.
Sometimes the healing we most need isn’t healing at all.
Sometimes the need God intends to meet for us is based on a higher need
and his greater purposes.
Nowhere is this more clear than in John 6. Jesus feeding the 5,000.
You remember that miracle. There was this great hungry crowd.
He multiplied the loaves and fishes and fed them all.
Then Jesus left and went over to the other side of the lake and the crowd followed.
When they found Jesus he said:
I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval . . . I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Do you understand what is happening in this story?
The people came to Jesus with a need—they were hungry. And he met that need.
He gave them bred to eat and satisfied their physical hunger. They wanted more.
But Jesus saw they had another need they were not aware of.
It was a greater spiritual need, far more desperate.
And when they came to him again he said, No.
I am the bread that you seek. Eat this bread and live forever.
Most of the time God meets both our physical needs and deeper spiritual needs.
But sometimes, in order to meet our deepest needs,
he lets the lesser needs go unanswered.
Don’t forget that this prayer for daily bread is part of a bigger prayer.
It’s part of a prayer that begins with a request that God’s name be hallowed,
and that his kingdom comes in our lives and families and world,
and that his will is done, not ours.
When we pray, meet my needs, Lord. It usually means bread if you’re hungry,
and healing if you’re sick. But sometimes God says:
For my kingdom to advance, for my name to be hallowed, and my will done—
and for you to understand your need for me, and for you to grow in holiness and
wisdom—I’m going to allow you to remain hungry for a little longer.
Praise God he’s a good enough father to do that. Because we don’t like pain.
We don’t like to wait. And if we could take the easy way out and get our
stomachs filled and never have to learn another lesson, that would be fine.
But our Father in heaven sometimes gives and sometimes withholds—
but he always answers our prayer for daily bread—always gives what we need.
And if you ever doubt that—look at what he’s given you in his Son.
All your needs have been met in the life and death of Christ.
Remember how J.C. Ryle put it. He said that for a Christian
“the great business of life is a settled business, the great debt a paid debt, the great disease a
healed disease, and the great work a finished work; and all other business, diseases, debts and
works are then by comparison small.”
God still cares about the small things. Because they don’t seem small to us.
Even though your great big debt of sin has been paid,
the financial debt you are facing can still feel pretty big.
And your Father knows that. He knows your weakness. He cares for you.
And he wants you to come to him often, daily, with that need—
and as you do, become more spiritually attuned, and you’ll see him do
what he’s promised to do—to meet all of your needs.
After Jesus spoke to the crowds he said:
I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have
no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise
him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
What does that remind us of? Of the purpose of the Lord’s Table.
If you want real food, real healing—trust in me, feed on me in by faith.
Lord’s Table gives us a tangible assurance of that provision.
Take and feel and taste and eat the bread of life.
Are you praying for daily bread?
Do you sometimes doubt your Father is really listening and answering?
Do you think he really knows what you need?
Keep praying, and come to the Table.
Eat by faith of the Bread of Life.