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    The Lord's Prayer

    Give Us This Day (Mt. 6:11)

    by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith (1999)

    The Lord's Prayer might be considered idealistic in so far as it seeks God's kingdom and the doing of His will on earth and in history. But the prayer is certainly not idealistic in the sense of being unrealistic. For though the ultimate aim of the prayer is high and lofty, our Lord's instruction touches the most important aspects of everyday life as well. The first of these is the prayer for our daily bread.

    Basic Meaning

    The basic meaning of this request is clear enough, but there are a few points worth mentioning. First, when we pray for our daily bread from God, we are taught to trust in Him for all things, even the food that we daily receive. Though it seems to superficial appearance that men obtain their bread with or without prayer, we are taught to seek our bread from Him that it may be blessed and that we might receive it rightly, for it is a gift from Him, regardless of appearances. Second, the prayer for daily bread should be considered as including all of our basic physical necessities. In order to live, we need shelter; we need clothing. Whatever physical need we have as workers for His kingdom should be regarded as included in this request.

    Third, it is worthy of note that we are here seeking physical blessings from God. God is not the Lord only of the "spiritual" realm or of "spiritual" people. God created us as physical creatures who depend upon the physical world around us for our lives. There is nothing about this that is inferior or to be despised nor is there any necessary contradiction between the physical and the spiritual worlds.

    The final point to note is that we are taught to ask humbly. Jesus says, "our daily bread." This is not a prayer for riches and fame. Jesus does not encourage us to think of God as a magical source of all the things we would like to have. We ask with humility because we are asking that He enable us to work for His kingdom. The point here, by the way, is not that it is wrong for us to ask for something more than the bread that we need for a single day, but that we ask God for what we need to work for His kingdom. We commit our needs to Him. If He decides to give us only our daily bread, we should be content with it.

    Related Scriptures

    The very wording of this request and the following context of our Lord's sermon suggest that Christ intended for us to associate this request with certain other Biblical teachings. The basic passages in the Bible that Christ alludes to are those which tell the story of the mana and its theological meaning (Ex. 16:11 ff.; Nm. 11:1 ff.; Dt. 8:1 ff.). Just as God gave Israel their bread one day at a time to teach them to trust in Him and to seek all things from Him, so, too, our Lord teaches us to seek our bread from God daily so that we learn to trust Him for all things.

    God intended to teach Israel more than just their dependence upon Him for food. They were to learn to live not by bread alone, but by "every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD" (Dt. 8:3). Israel should have known that God's word is the real source of life, not the bread which He uses to sustain us. If they had learned that lesson, they would have trusted Him even when they faced trials in the wilderness. Though there appeared to be no source of water or food, if the children of Israel had only trusted God's word, they would not have rebelled against Him.

    Another passage that we must relate to our Lord's prayer, though not specifically alluded to since it was not yet written, is John 6:35. Here, in another sermon, Jesus refers to the manna in the wilderness to teach the Jews of His day the true meaning of the manna: "Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world" (Jn. 6:32-33). The true bread from heaven is Christ Himself.

    Here we are taught the basic reason that God made us eaters. After all, God could have created us so that one meal sufficed for a whole week or even a month. Think how much more convenient that would be for mothers and how much we could reduce our food bills! But God had something else in mind. He created us as hungry creatures who eat three times a day so that we could learn something of our dependence upon God through our dependence on the physical creation. The physical creation, in other words, is given to us as an object lesson to teach us our need of Him.

    God tested Israel in the wilderness in the matter of food so that He could show them what was in their own hearts. Would they seek Him? Would they trust in Him in extremity? The children of Israel failed miserably. They preferred returning to Egypt to trusting in God. They complained that He had brought them into the wilderness to kill them, and so, it was done to them according to their words.

    The context following the Lord's Prayer suggests another type of passage, for Jesus goes on to say that we should not lay up treasures in this world (Mt. 6:19 ff.). Rather than be anxious about the things of this world, we should trust in Him and seek His kingdom first. If we seek His kingdom above all other things, He will take care of us, even better than He takes care of the sparrows.

    Paul teaches essentially the same thing when he exhorts us to be content with the blessings that God has given us: "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1 Tm. 6:7-8). While is it perfectly legitimate for a man to have riches, it is the root of all sin to love riches (1 Tm. 6:10). To love riches is to commit a form of idolatry: "covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col. 3:5b).

    Thus our Lord taught us not to use prayer as a means of seeking our own ease, fame, or glory. We are to seek the glory of God and His kingdom. Whatever we need for that aim is a legitimate request. For that matter we may ask Him, as His dear children, for anything whatsoever, but in the attitude of faith and contentment that is willing to be satisfied with daily bread. A heart that is overflowing with thanksgiving for the blessings one already enjoys makes one truly rich. If God also adds material blessings, the man who is content in all circumstances will know how to use them.

    We return, then, to the context of our Lord's instruction and note that He teaches us to seek our daily bread from God so that we may seek His kingdom. To understand what it means to trust in Him daily for all that we are and have is one of the most profound lessons we can learn. It is not something that we know just because we can say the words. We learn just like the Israelites did. In our daily walk with God, we are tested and tried on all points. If we are praying the Lord's Prayer daily and intelligently, God will impress the lessons of this prayer deeply into our hearts through our daily experience of His goodness. We will learn to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and to trust in Him to provide for our every need.

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