How many of you enjoy eating? We all do! I am sure. I certainly do.
Satisfying our taste buds is one of the great pleasures in life. And because it is, eating is always a great topic of conversation. Everyone loves to talk about food! In fact, if you ever find yourself in a room full of strangers, one sure way to break the ice and get people talking is to mention food.
Let me tell you a story.
A man with nine sons had a rule that Dad gets the last piece of chicken. If he doesn’t want it, the fastest fork wins. One night as all ten, eyed the final piece of chicken on the plate, a thunderstorm caused a brief electrical blackout. There was a scream in the dark, and when the lights came back on a few seconds later, the dad’s hand was on the chicken platter with nine forks sticking in it.
This brings me to my text this morning, verse 11 of Matthew 6, which says “give us, today, our daily bread”, where Jesus uses the popular subject of food to teach His listeners some very important principles of meaningful prayer.
We are all very familiar with the Lord’s Prayer. We say it so often that we don’t give much thought to it. We have learnt it the parrot fashion, and it’s over exposure has hardened our hearts to its richness.
Prayer is a conversation between God and us, whether it is in private or public. Prayer is a form of worship, and worship is also a form of prayer.
In Jesus’ time bread was used in every meal. And throughout the Bible we can find reference to bread.
When we pray: “give us today our daily bread” it is a prayer of dependency. We trust that God, our Father, is our provider.
It also means daily, not next week, not next month, bread today. It is a prayer of sufficiency.
Just before Jesus taught them how to pray at their request, people were listening to Jesus when he delivered the Sermon on the Mount. They all came from a culture that had great deal of history when it came to depending on God for their daily bread.
So when Jesus said this, I’m sure their Jewish heritage gave them all a mental flashback to the days when God delivered their ancestors from Egypt and was taken to the Promised Land.
The story of how the people of Israel had been protected from all ten of the plagues God sent to encourage the Pharaoh to let HIS people go is a reminder of God’s protection.
You remember the story of God parting the Red Sea so they could, cross on dry ground and then letting the waters come back together so as to drown the Egyptian army that was chasing them.
After seeing all that, after experiencing God’s provision and protection and deliverance, you would think these people would be willing to follow God anywhere. But, no, just like you and me they were very forgetful when it came to remembering God’s great faithfulness.
In Exodus 16:3 we find them actually complaining to Moses, saying God should have let them die where there was food, rather than bringing them out into the desert to die of starvation. God heard their moaning and groaning.
God gave them “manna” every morning. Everyday day God sent them bread from heaven for 40 years. So when Jesus taught them to pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” they remembered that their Heavenly Father had done this day after day for 40 years as he provided for the needs of His people.
And in a sense they still lived out this history because in those days it was customary to eat your daily bread in the morning, just as the nation of Israel had done in the days of Moses.
With this historical context in mind, I want to take a close look at these six words of our text. “Give us today our daily bread”. Because I think they contain four very important principles of meaningful prayer.
Firstly: They tell us that our Father God wants us to talk to Him every day.
Jesus is reminding us to speak to Our Father on a daily basis. Not only on special occasions or not just on Sundays. God wants to hear us.
He is our Father. He wants to know, how we are and what our needs are. Yes, you might say, Our Heavenly Father knows our needs.
Just imagine if your child has gone to boarding school and wouldn’t you as a parent want to hear from your child regularly?
So this part of His prayer model, Jesus urges us to pray regularly and repeatedly. Every day we are to ask God for our daily bread. Prayer is not a shopping list that we ask only the things we need. We need healthy relationship with God. For our relationship to grow, we need to spend regular time together.
Secondly: God wants us to depend on him for everything.
The phrase: “Daily bread” referred to much more than food.
You see in those days many people were hired on a day to day basis. So when they asked for daily bread, they were asking for daily work, which would provide food to survive on a daily basis and money to buy clothing, pay the rent, etc. Jesus’ hearers would have understood this. They would have known that He was telling them to pray for everything they needed to exist.
In this part of His instructions on prayer, Jesus was urging us to talk to God every day about everything, every need, and every burden.
Remember the time when Elijah ran away from King Ahab and Jezebel as he was threated to be killed. Elijah was so depressed, frightened and felt he had enough of his life. He even asked God to take his life away and in that distress he fell asleep. God knew his needs and sent an Angel with bread and water, who woke him up and asked to eat and be strengthened. (1Kings 19:5-18)
God did not answer Elijah’s prayer to let him die, instead God ministered to the physical needs of Elijah, addressing his physical weakness of fear and the spiritual need of strengthening and reassuring. Friend that you talk to like this, about literally everything? It could be your husband or wife or a very close friend. God wants us to talk to Him about everything. As the old hymn puts it, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!”
This part of the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer of dependence.
Thirdly: God wants us to trust His provision in every way.
We learn from 1Kings 17: 7-16; how Elijah asked a widow from Zerapath for a drink of water and some bread to eat. She herself only had a drop of oil and some flour to make their last meal for her and her son. But she trusted Elijah when he said God will provide for her if only she trusts and obey his request. Of course she did it and she was blessed, and she never ran short of oil or flour again.
Asking God for our daily bread means we believe He knows our needs better than we do. So this part of the prayer is a statement of trust.
It is saying, “God, whatever you want me to have is all I want. You know what is best for me so you know best how to answer this part of my prayer. Give me what I need for today, as my needs are not always the same.”
A friend of mine once said, after being unemployed for several years, he landed a fantastic job and within three months of that, he found his wife was pregnant after four years of infertility. Blessing after blessings he said.
Sometimes, the “daily bread” God gives is like that, because that’s what God knows we need. But then there are other days when we wonder why God puts what He does on our plate, days we doubt the ways He chooses to “bless” us.
There are days when God gives us painful experiences or times of discipline, or times of grief. I think it is because there are invaluable lessons that can only be learned in tough times and we become strong through suffering.
Finally: God wants us to care about the needs of everyone.
Remember, Jesus didn’t say we should pray, “Give me today my daily bread”, but rather “Give us today our daily bread”. And he worded it like this as a way of helping us to broaden our focus to include the needs of others.
If the truth is told, when you and I woke up this morning, we didn’t have even the slightest doubt that we would be able to eat today.
In fact, the major concern for us is what we will eat and not whether we will eat. But that is not the way for hundreds and thousands of people in our nation and the world.
So, this part of the Lord’s Prayer is meant to help us foster compassion for the people who are starving.
This is what Jesus taught everyone, to love each other. By doing so we remember to pray for those in need and also to share what we have.
When we pray for our “daily bread”, we are asking God to give us a heart full of love so that we can be generous.
I know here at Bell Road you support the shelter project. I see those plates of food on that wall that we can buy to feed the hungry.
A meaningful prayer is – a prayer that helps us think and love, and work like God does. It is the prayer for the needs of others.
Sometimes we find it hard to remember to pray for others.
The five finger prayer that I shared with the children earlier on, reminds us and helps us too.