|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
Part six of an nine-part series. Read part five.
Many postmodern Evangelicals chafe at the idea of utter dependence upon the Father for everything.
In our study of the model prayer given to us by our Lord, we have now come to the mid-point. In the first portion of the prayer, the focus has been on our coming to God the Father in the proper way and with the proper mind. As we pray, we are to keep at the forefront of our thoughts the facts of who God is, and our relationship to Him: "Our Father" -- "Hallowed be Thy name" -- "Thy kingdom come" -- "Thy will be done." These elements of the model for praying are characterized by the words relationship, reverence, priority, and submission.
As we begin studying the second portion of this model for prayer, we come to the matter of petitioning God. The first petition is, "Give us this day our daily bread." Let me suggest to you that an appropriate theme or key-word for this phrase of the prayer is dependence.
Daily Bread Signifies Daily Dependence
It is significant that Jesus, in encouraging us to bring our material needs before the Father, chose what we might term a lowest-common-denominator example: "our daily bread." He chose the most basic thing we need, the thing that, physically speaking, we cannot do without.
Keep in mind that this model prayer is part of Jesus' discourse covering three entire chapters, known as the Sermon on the Mount. For Jesus' Jewish hearers on that remarkable day, this part of the model prayer no doubt called to mind God's provision of manna to Israel as described in Exodus chapter 16. On the journey through the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land, daily dependence on God's provision was the way of life of God's people.
What the Israelites -- about two million men, women, and children continually on the move for forty years -- needed for each day, came that day, and was enough for that day. No Israelite could hoard the leftovers, because as they soon learned, they would be stinking and worm-infested the next day. As they moved toward God's long-term place of blessing, they had to trust in God's very short-term provision. There was only enough for the present day five days a week, and twice as much on the day before the Sabbath, so that the people had no excuse not to obey God's command to remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Note this well: God's provision never puts us in a position where we need to sin by making our own way, in order to have it. Of those in Israel who went out looking for manna on the Sabbath (and found none), God said, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?" (Exodus 16:28).
Postmodern Evangelicals' Rebellion Against Dependence
God placed the Israelites in a position of utter and absolute dependence on Him. And so it is for us. As Job said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return." As Paul wrote to Timothy,
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
In our sinful flesh, we chafe at the idea of utter dependence on God the Father, utter dependence for everything. Many times, we adopt the foolish attitude that we must operate outside of God's way of provision in order to have it! In the postmodern Evangelical church, even churches that condemn the name-it-and-claim-it prosperity "gospel" frequently hold seminars on managing your money and building your wealth. Look at the Sunday school offerings of many Evangelical churches, and you will find classes for the adults that use the popular video series by noted financial gurus on achieving "financial peace". Some of these financial experts also hold "Christian money management" seminars at expensive resorts.
What is the focus of these things, by and large? They present worldly wisdom in a pseudo-Christian wrapper. They do not promote dependence on God, but dependence on yourself and on human wisdom to ensure provision for today and for the future. The wealth-management gurus who have gained such popularity among Evangelicals promote the false idea that you are in control of "achieving your financial goals" and that by building wealth you can achieve "financial peace".
This, dear friends, is the thinking of the church of Laodicea in Revelation chapter three, whose confidence in worldly riches blinded its people to their deep spiritual poverty, just as Paul described in 1 Timothy 6 above. The Lord condemned the attitude of the Laodiceans and called on them to repent:
Because you say, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. (Revelation 3:17-21)
I have heard more than one preacher say that it is ridiculous for Christians in the prosperous western world, with a roast for Sunday dinner cooking at home in the oven, to come to church and pray, "Give us this day our daily bread" or words of similar intent. But such preaching forgets the fact that we brought nothing into this world and will take nothing out of it, and that we ourselves are not even our own. As we saw with Job in our previous study, the abundance that so many of us experience can be abruptly withdrawn, for reasons that may be known at the time only to our Father.
It is our natural tendency to become complacent and self-confident in the midst of plenty. But as James says, "You do not know what will happen tomorrow." Of confidence in our own flesh for the provisions of this life, James says, "All such boasting is evil" (James 4:14, 16).
Rather, we must come humbly before our Father and say, "Give us this day our daily bread." None of this is to say that we are not responsible to be faithful stewards of the resources God places in our hands. But we must always remember that we are mere stewards of that which God alone has given. This phrase of Christ's model prayer shouts against fleshly efforts that are such cheap and ineffectual substitutes for dependence on God to do what He has said He will do.
So much for the negatives. But this phrase of the prayer also presents us with an overwhelming set of positives.
If we can - and indeed must - pray for this the smallest, most commonplace, and most basic of things, is there anything, from the largest to the smallest, that we cannot and should not ask of our Father? If we must come to Him for the small things and can be assured of His wise provision, how much more can we bring to God the "big" things and be assured that the same wise Father is at work? The apostle Paul tells us that we are dealing with the God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). When it seemed to Abraham that God's promised provision was failing, Jehovah reminded him, "Is there anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14).
Indeed there is nothing too hard for the Lord, nothing too large for the Lord, and nothing too small for the Lord. There is nothing that we cannot ask of the Father, in Christ's name, with an attitude of submission to His will.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17)
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You!" (Psalm 84:11-12)
As King David testified:
I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed. Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell in it forever. (Psalm 37:25-29)
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