Summary: True prayer recognizes God as our Source for everything.
“Our Daily Everything”
April 5, 2009
Bill Hybels begins his book Too Busy Not to Pray with these words: “Prayer is an unnatural activity. From birth we have been learning the rules of self reliance and self sufficiency. Prayer flies in the face of such deep seated values…. It is an assault on independent living. To people in the fast lane determined to make it our own, prayer is an embarrassing interruption. Prayer is alien to our proud human nature. Yet somewhere, someplace we all reach the point of falling on our knees, bowing our heads and fix our attention on God and pray.”
In Matthew 6, Jesus in His “Sermon on the Mount” teaches us how to pray. For those joining us for the first time, we’ve talked about how the “Lord’s Prayer” was never given to us by Jesus so we could mindlessly rattle it off and move on; in fact, when you read His set-up to the prayer, we find that the way so many people use it is exactly, perfectly, directly the opposite of what Jesus intended. It’s not a prayer so much to recite in rote fashion as it is a model for how we ought to pray, the elements that good praying ought to include.
So far, we’ve said that to pray effectively:
• I must recognize the power—and the point—of prayer.
Prayer isn’t about me, first and foremost; it is an act of worship, which is by definition about God. That’s why Jesus spends time telling us how not to pray, and how not to worship; if we do anything we do to glorify ourselves, we are misguided in our praying.
• I must approach God rightly.
There is a reverence we must attach to the name of God; when we invoke His name, we do so with seriousness. “Taking God’s name in vain” isn’t first and foremost about “cussin’”; it’s about taking His name on our lips without the appropriate reverence in our hearts and minds.
• I must have God’s priorities as my own.
I don’t begin praying with a laundry list of my needs, but I begin my praying with a determination that God’s character, kingdom, and cause are more important to me than anything else.
Today, we discover that to pray effectively, I must recognize that ultimately, the Provider of my needs is God—and that I am needy!
This petition is about our physical lives. When thinking about the needs of our bodies, we can err on either side of the equation. Life is about far more than the body—contrary to what our TV shows and magazines and media would have us believe sometimes. Diet books abound. Exercise videos litter our shelves. Magazines glorify the physically beautiful and ignore the ugly. TV programs and movies accent the importance of looking and living fit. It isn’t really a stretch to say that Americans have come to worship the physical body.
But at the same time, God created our bodies and declared them “good”. And those bodies need to be sustained; they are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and God expects us to use our bodies to glorify Him (I Corinthians 6). The upkeep of our bodies is an important thing!
I’m indebted to Dr. John MacArthur for today’s outline; the outline is his, the sermon is mine; if the sermon were his, it’d be a lot better!
I. The Substance of our Petition – “Bread”
Fair question: why do we need to pray for bread? Many Americans—present company of course excluded…ahem—could stand to do with less bread than they currently consume. Karen brought home some leftovers from the speech tournament, including bags of delicious dinner rolls, etc. Praying for bread last week would seem superfluous in the Harvey household, wouldn’t it? We can hear this request coming from an Ethiopian Christian or a Cambodian believer, but really…we live in America, right? If we were only praying about the food we eat, we can think of prayers that might be at least as fitting:
• “Give us this day the grace to push away from the table.”
• “Lord, help us stop wasting so much food.”
• “Give us the grace to eat broccoli, and not simply French fries and Twinkies.”
• “Give the starving in Sudan their daily bread.”
Famously, we’ve lived through a couple years of drought in Georgia (pretty much ever since I’ve lived here). On our worst, most pessimistic day, did any of us seriously worry, “I fear I’ll starve”? “The land of plenty”? How about, “the land of wretched excess”? Want to have an eye-opening experience? Ask a missionary about shopping at Publix instead of shopping in a foreign country. We have dozens of varieties of fruit snacks, for goodness’ sake—contrasted with shopping in most foreign countries, where your choice of meat might be whatever type of animal was most recently slaughtered locally. So when we come to this part of the prayer, we can sort of just skip on by, right? Wrong!