READINGS: Proverbs 30:7-9; Phil 4:10-13; Matthew 6:9-11
I was reading about an army chaplain who had a question from one of his soldiers about those army rations – we used to call them “rat packs”.
The trooper asked: Padre, should this pack get “grace” or the “last rites”?
Great question. Ex-soldiers would understand the sentiment.
I have a habit at the end of our elders’ meetings when someone says “let’s say the grace together” to begin “for what we are about to receive…” I really have to concentrate as the night grows longer. And perhaps we should call our closing prayer the benediction and not “the grace”.
We need to say grace before meals. And usually we have food on the table to give thanks for. When you think about it, though, there are few of us who when praying “give us this day our daily bread” really don’t know where our next meal is coming from.
There’s a huge chunk of the world who do have that problem. Their prayer for “daily bread” is literal.
Either way it’s the first part of the prayer that focuses on our needs.
So what do we learn from this part of the prayer?
Lesson 1 – watch how you pray!
The first thing to learn from this line in the prayer is where it is. It’s not at the beginning.
Too many of our prayer go straight into what we call “petitions” or “supplication” – or asking prayers. Like little children we go bounding in to our Father’s presence with requests, without greeting or address. (Of course children as they grow into their teenage years learn to be more respectful in their approach – before they ask for their latest need, or want, or in time ask to borrow the car!)
If the Lord’s prayer is a model – a framework – a template – then quite a large prelude to asking is what we talked about in the first four messages in this series.
We should always begin with God – praise, adoration, thanksgiving – because it puts into perspective, apart from many other things, who we are praying too. This generous heavenly Father. This Holy yet loving God. This powerful creator and provider. Our first request is for His Kingdom to come and that means His will to be done in our midst.
Let’s watch how we pray. Don’t leap into requests too soon. Our needs are a couple of lines down in the prayer template.
Lesson 2 – pray regularly – daily!
It’s the regularity that counts. Whether it’s “each day” or “this day” it’s every day. (Remember the differences between Matthew and Luke’s record of this prayer. Luk 11:3 Give us each day our daily bread. Mat 6:11 Give us today our daily bread.)
There are days that fly buy in our lives where we are too busy and too self-sufficient to think about God’s provision.
In our last hymn today we will sing the chorus “all good gifts around us are sent from heaven above…”
I suspect it originates in James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
And probably also Matthew 7:11: If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
This prayer pattern recognises that every day is good for us – to ask – and to be thankful. It’s good for our perspective. Self-sufficiency only works while you have a job and an income. Usually we pray less during those times.
When you’ve been unemployed – if you know how that feels – it’s amazing how your prayer life gets busier!
How’s your daily prayer life coming on? He wants us to depend on Him each day.
Lesson 3 – be content with the basics. (It’s bread!)
We are to ask for daily bread. It’s bread. Not caviar or a lavish dinner out. That means being content with the basics.
From the temptations of Jesus – where he could have turned stones into bread – to the last supper – where bread takes on a new significance – we can’t escape bread in the Bible. Even “Bethlehem” where Jesus was born means “house of bread”.
It involves the basics. It’s a staple food. People feel satisfied when they eat their staple food, whether it be bread, rice, or some other sustaining food form.
It involves contentment. And contentment with daily bread as a desired state of being is found early on in scripture – as we heard in the prayer in Proverbs 30:
Pro 30:7 “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:
Pro 30:8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Pro 30:9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.
I wonder if the American dream has messed us all up? Listen to these famous words from the declaration of independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ——
That pursuit of happiness causes heaps of trouble – people need more and more in the pursuit – but they’re often never really content.
Contrast that with Paul writing to Timothy:
1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1Ti 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
1Ti 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
1Ti 6:9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.
1Ti 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Or the passage from Philippians which is often misquoted:
Php 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Php 4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
It certainly puts that last verse into perspective. It’s clearly NOT about being a great achiever or conquering the world. Context in Bible reading is everything.
Daily bread it is then. Bread is a essential staple food for many. It also represents basic needs – which include food, heath, shelter, clothing, some kind of income, safety, friends, family.
It doesn’t have to be bigger and better – with endless upgrades.
Contentment is the key. Remember this verse in John 6?
Joh 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “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.
Just as Jesus is the bread of life – who meets every spiritual need we have – so too this prayer is a check and balance to us – to focus on the basics physically as well. To ask for daily bread every day.
In the context of the prayer as a whole – it’s the Kingdom coming in our midst, and his will being done that matters more.
Daily bread will give us what we need to do His work.
May we learn anew to be content. Each day. With enough for the day. “One day at a time, sweet Jesus” is what Chris Kristofferson used to sing. (his 6th no 1 hit).
Matthew 6 ends with this – quite logically:
Mat 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
May you be content, and fruitful, in the Kingdom of God.
Peace be with you.
Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11 and Matthew 6: 7-15
What really sustains you? Is it your (singular) walk with God? Or is it the fellowship that you share in the family together?
We live in an age of independence – in thinking and living. We treasure our independence. We hold onto control as long as we can – our home, our car –the various options we have that have a “my freedom” attached to them. We have all these on-line identities too – where I tell my story and share my ideas – I facebook them, or a Tweet them on twitter. I email my friends. I sign my name to petitions and letters, and have my private bank account and ID.
The prayer that forms the basis of our Christian life – the one Jesus taught – was taught or given to US as a prayer and a pattern for prayer.
It begins as “Our” Father. Not my Father. And all the petitions are in the plural.
Lead us not…
We are in this together.
And we have the challenge of praying together- trusting together – forgiving together as we are forgiven together.
Mat 6:11 Give us today our daily bread. Is our common prayer for our needs to be met. The “daily” bread is the sufficient bread – the bread that is enough for the day – like the mannah, you could not store it up but collected it each day (excepting the Sabbath).
What are you hungering for? What are you concerning yourself about when it comes to your needs/
Jesus teaches us to depend on him daily for that which is sufficient. (GNB) Give us today the food we need.
This fits in so well with Jesus’ teaching from the sermon on the Mount. Don’t worry! God provides for the sparrows! He clothes the lilies of the field. Don’t fret so.
Seek First His kingdom – says Jesus in that sermon in Matthew 5.
So it makes sense that the opening petition of the Lord ’s Prayer is “your kingdom come, your will be done…” followed by that same dependency: ‘Give us this day our daily bread”.
It’s not “My Father – give me today my daily bread!”
Sharing and supporting each other is at the heart of the Christian Community.
Let’s trust Him for the day’s needs.
Let’s depend on Him for the practical food.
And especially the bread from heaven. Remember the heart of the temptation narrative from Sunday? Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8 again: Deu 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Mat 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
As important as our physical nourishment is the open book of God’s word – letting Him speak to us each day from our Bibles.
May we learn to be sustained together by this wonderful Father.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)