Learning to Pray the Jesus Way (A blog series on The Lord's Prayer) Part 4: Our Daily Bread

Learning to pray is a foundational discipline of the Christian faith.  In this blog post series on prayer, author Summer Lacy gives us insight into the practice of prayer using the model Jesus taught His own disciples - The Lord’s Prayer.  This simple, unassuming prayer Jesus gave us lays the foundation for a fulfilling life of prayer.

This is the fourth installment of this Learning to Pray series. Be sure to check out Part 1 Part 2, and Part 3.

9 Our Father in Heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread...

When I began writing a study on The Lord’s Prayer several years ago, I expected verse 11 to be one of the simplest verses of the entire prayer.  "Give us this day our daily bread" seemed pretty straightforward to me.  After the mammoth challenge of unpacking verses 9 and 10 on God's name, kingdom, and will, I was hoping to coast for a bit.  I may have even muttered the words, “Oh, finally!  Thank you, Lord, for an easy week of Bible study!”  

Little did I know that verse 11 would unveil some of the most difficult heart-work of the entire prayer.  

As Jesus encourages us to ask God for the things we need, He also leads us to consider those needs.  

What are we asking God to give us?  

What is it that we really want more of?    

In this verse, Jesus exposes our desires.  Ultimately, He begs us to consider all the things we want instead of (or maybe just in addition to) God.  

At first glance of Matthew 6:11, it's difficult to anticipate the richness laying below the surface of those 7 words.  (Needless to say, it was not such an easy week of Bible study.)

Here's a quick peek of the profound truths embedded within those 7 words broken down one small phrase at a time...

Give Us:  God wants us to ask Him

This Day:  God wants us to trust Him

Our Daily Bread:  God wants us to desire Him.  

Now that you've got a general idea of where this verse takes us, let's go back and take it one phrase at a time.

Give us:  

Despite Jesus' assurance in Matthew 6:8 that God knows of every single thing we need before we even mutter a word, {Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him}, He tells us here in 6:11 - just a few verses down, to go ahead and ask God anyway.  

So why?  

If God is truly aware of our needs, why does Jesus insist that we tell Him what we need?  Why does He tell us that we should even ask at all?  Is this some sort of Heavenly power play through which God lords His authority over us?  

Or maybe it’s something else.  Perhaps it is because the act of asking actually moves us closer to Him.  

Our willingness to ask God - for anything at all - implies that we believe in a personal God with whom we can fellowship.  And the act of asking, in and of itself,  pulls us into that fellowship.

In short, God asks us to ask because in order to ask we must first draw near, come just a little bit closer, consider His presence.  

Take a look at how emphatically God's Word instructs us on this topic:

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Luke 11:9
Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.  John 16:24

Some might worry that in taking this approach God is opening Himself up to the possibility of being taking advantage of - as if He were in some way required to do our bidding.  

But where we may be unable to discern what is best for our greater good and His eternal glory, He is always able.  God is after our hearts, not a surface affection He can buy the rights to by giving us everything we want. 

Ultimately, our security in these verses comes not from the flimsy belief that we can control God through prayer, but from a deep-rooted faith that God has a plan and that His character is thoroughly good and right and sufficient.  From this place of belief, God asks us to ask.  

This Day:  

Although we live in a time in history where many of us have the luxury of focusing more on our retirement accounts that we do our day-to-day survival, God insists that we stay focused in on today.  

Give us this day our daily bread...

So why such emphasis on today?  Doesn't conventional wisdom suggest that we plan ahead for tomorrow?  

I don't think the Lord has anything against conventional wisdom.  Nor do I think that savings accounts and IRA's are anti-gospel. 

At the heart of Jesus' instruction that we remain focused on today is His desire that we would trust Him.  

Despite the fact that we live in a day in time when we have more of everything than humans have ever had (ever), we stockpile, we hoard, and we collect.  We're constantly on the lookout for just a little bit more.  And lest you think that this problem in purely American in its scope, or confined only to those from wealthier populations, think again.  This problem is clearly documented all throughout the Biblical narrative.  {See Exodus chapter 16.}

This constant yearning for more is a malady of the human heart that points to a fundamental lack of trust in God.  

We don't trust God to provide us with the things we need.  

And in the absence of the things we think we need {whether a spouse, child, house, job or _________ } we don't trust God to be enough.  

And there's a question that cuts down clean to the soul:  God, are you enough?  

That one question preyed upon the minds of every player in the whole of Scripture.  

And it preys upon my mind as well.  

In the absence of all else, will you be enough, Lord?

Our Daily Bread:

In addition to the obvious physical needs Jesus is addressing in this portion of the prayer, there's a deeper spiritual implication here as well.

In John 6:35 Jesus reveals Himself as "the bread of life," bringing into fresh light the words from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, "man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." (Deuteronomy 8:3). 

Let’s allow Scripture to help us interpret Scripture here.  Jesus is the Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (John 1:1).  Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35).  Jesus is what sustains our life.

God is making a connection here between our most obvious and dire physical needs and our most obvious and dire spiritual needs and we must pay attention.

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life,  which the Son of Man will give to you.  John 6:27

Man does not live by bread alone, but by Jesus man lives.  

Those who come to Jesus are satisfied.  He is enough.

God desires that we would come to Him daily for more of Him - our daily bread.   

I’m writing these words just hours after teaching this session to a group of ladies who I’ve been studying and learning alongside for several weeks now. 

One of the greatest gifts of teaching is that in seeking hard after the heart of God with others, I invariably gain insight into the hearts of my fellow sojourners as well. And last night was one of those nights at Bible study where we laid ourselves bare.  Tears welled up in eyes, confessions were made, disappointments were shared. 

We've all set our hearts and minds on things other than Jesus, and yet He still so faithfully pursues.  In instructing us to pray each morning, "Give us today our daily bread" Jesus is pointing us back to Himself as the One and only who can truly sustain and satisfy.  So why would we desire anything less?

Learning to pray is a foundational discipline of the Christian faith.  In this blog post series on prayer, author Summer Lacy gives us insight into the practice of prayer using the model Jesus taught His own disciples - The Lord’s Prayer.  This simple, unassuming prayer Jesus gave us lays the foundation for a fulfilling life of prayer.