Summary: Semon on the issue of needs and determing what "needs" are.
Did you see the clip before worship from Bruce Almighty? I would imagine that this is just how most of us would respond if we were faced with answering all the prayers of…say North Portland between I-5 and Portsmouth. If you didn’t see it Bruce gets fed up with answering millions of prayers and so he simply answers them all YES! In one of the deleted scenes God, Morgan Freeman, explains how Bruce’s seemingly simple “yes” short-circuited God’s future plans for various individuals. In those deleted scenes Morgan Freeman makes a profound statement as he says, “If you’re going to paint you’ve got to use some dark colors.”
The phrase before us this morning is “Give us this day our daily bread.” It’s the first phrase that deals with us and it’s only “us”. Jesus tells us our concern is for our most current needs. Catch that? Jesus doesn’t mean literally bread but the basics of life. If we take this literally then we would have to worry and fret for our daily water, our daily hamburger or Mac and cheese. But we know that’s not the case because Christ tells us [right after this section ]that our heavenly Father, His heavenly Father, already knows what we need, things like our food and clothes and He willingly meets those needs.
Here’s a question to consider since we’re reasonable people. Does this mean that we don’t plan for retirement, or our estate. Does this mean we don’t do career counseling or concern ourselves with our future education? One might even argue that Jesus wants us to live for today, and say to heck with what’s to come. But they’d be wrong. For you see when you read the whole Bible it tells us to be prudent, wise, to do others, to set aside money and resources to give to the Lord, and to make plans. The issue is whether all of that is done in line with God’s will and without a sense of worry and anxiety. The issue is whether what we’re seeking is our need or something less.
Jesus is concern with our attitude and our approach when we pray. He wants to make sure that when we pray we’re not like those who were suppose to be the spiritual leaders of His day-and-age. This model prayer shows us what God wants to hear from us; but it also shows us the change in our attitude that is needed if we want our prayers to be heard. It’s this broader view of the message of God’s word that caused me to included James 4 as part of our lesson. Because James helps us understand why our prayers sometimes aren’t answered.
Ø We don’t ask—this is our ego getting in the way
Ø We ask with the wrong attitude or motives—this is “hedonism” or our lusts getting in the way.
The first mistake is that we don’t ask. We figure we can solve the problem ourselves. We’re like Jimmy Stewart’s character in Shenandoah. In one scene he’s trying to continue his late wife’s legacy of raising his children as Christian. He even sets a place at the table for her in her remembrance. What’s sad is the attitude expressed in his “grace”. He prays, “Lord, we cleared the land, we planted it, sowed it, harvested it. We cooked the harvest. We would not be here, wouldn’t be eating, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves.
We worked dog-boned tired hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same, Lord, for the food we’re about to eat. Amen.
Let me suggest that if we treat God like this, or if we ignore Him altogether we don’t hurt God we hurt ourselves. Later in that movie after he’s lost some of his boys to the Civil war we see him again at the dinner table. This time he’s set four empty places and starts the same prayer. This time his voice trails off as he reaches the line, “if we hadn’t done it all ourselves”
Our ego, our believing we have done it all ourselves is one of the great hurdles in praying this part of the Lord’s Prayer. And sometimes it’s even more insidious when we assume its God and us. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s like that praise song says, “There is NONE but You”.
James second hurdle deals with our attitude when we pray. He’s not just thinking about sex when he uses the word “lust.” The word James chose is broader, it is life focused on us. It is life lived so that our attention, our energy and our effort are centered on what we want rather than on what God wants us to have. When we translate that focus into our “prayer” we shouldn’t be surprised when our prayers don’t seem to be answered.