Summary: A short talk from a series on the Lord's Prayer at our evening service. To pray, "Give us today our daily bread" is to recognise that God is the giver. It may also require us to be part of the answer to other people's prayers as per James 2:15-16.
The Lord’s Prayer is the model for prayer taught by Jesus. It is the skeleton, the frame, upon which we build when we pray. Yes, we can and do pray it word for word, but if we think the Lord’s Prayer is like a fixed recipe, or worse, if we think this model prayer is like a spell, or like a magic formula then we’re wrong.
The context is that Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray in contrast to how many others prayed at that time. He said, “Don’t stand on street corners praying like people who enjoy being observed in prayer” (6:5). In other words examine your motivation in prayer. It is not a cause for showing off or making it to YouTube!
Jesus then said, “Don’t be like that. Rather, pray in private, to your Father in heaven” (6:6). Prayer, like worship, is not a performance. It is direct communication between Father God and us.
Jesus then warned about babbling in prayer like pagans; because they used long, repetitive prayers in the hope that their god was more likely to respond.
Putting the Lord’s Prayer in context means taking stock of how and why we pray. Referring to pagan prayer Jesus said, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (6:8); and he continues by saying, “This, then, is how you should pray” (6:9). Here is the framework. Avoid babbling, if showing off is a problem then pray in private, and remember that your Father in heaven already knows what you need before you ask him.
Praying to our Heavenly father is not like a trip to see an old style Bank Manager. Our Father knows what we need. When I started work at Lloyds Bank 26 years, 2 months and 16 days ago people came to see the Bank Manager and they’d have to explain their situation in detail. He would ask questions like: “How much do you earn? What’s your expenditure? Where do you work? How long have you been there?” and he might ask or think, “Why didn’t you have car insurance? Why do you spend that much on things you don’t need? How many children have you got?”
And they would ask or plead for an overdraft or loan; but we don’t need to babble and explain. He knows!
The first part of the Lord’s Prayer calls us to get our priorities right in relation to God, Our Father in heaven. May your name be glorified. May your will be done in my life and in your Church and on the earth just as your will is done in the heavenly realms. All glory and honour belongs to you. You are God.
And then we switch from Our Father, Your name, Your glory, Your will etc. to asking Him for our needs; but it is not like a trip to the Bank Manager. God already knows what we need and what our next door neighbour needs. Babbling is ineffective and telling God a long-winded story is not necessary.
Father already knows. So ask him. “Give us today our daily bread” (6:11). Bread is the literal translation but to our ears it may not carry the meaning and sense intended. For example, ‘bread’ was a way of referring to food. Most workers were paid by the day and so relied on today’s pay for today’s food.
So to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” is to ask God to provide for what we need on a daily basis.
Have you noticed that the prayer is not, “Give me my daily bread”? It is, “Give us our daily bread”! It is, “Holy Father in heaven, may your perfect will be done amongst us. Please provide for all of our daily needs.”
And as we pray like this, I am drawn to last Sunday morning’s Bible text from the letter of James (a half-brother of Jesus). He wrote (James 2:15-16): ‘Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?’
When James wrote this challenge I think it’s good to be aware that praying the Lord’s Prayer had only been around for a few short years. Faith that prays, “Give us today our daily bread” gets to work by being part of the answer to that prayer. It means reliance upon God for everything; and I was struck by that in Ciamanda with Maxwell and Pauline and the Church.
God is thanked every time food and drink is served and prayers usually include prayers for those in need.
Again to quote James: ‘Every good and perfect give is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights’ (James 1:17).