When You Pray
By Edgar Jones
4. The Lord's Prayer -The Third Petition
This petition is brief and to the point, in keeping with the brevity rule:Give us this day our daily bread; (Matthew 6:11)When we examine the context of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6, we find that we can outline the entire chapter as follows:1. The Rules of Prayer (piety), Verses 1 - 8This entire chapter is all about piety -- and prayer in particular! Pondering these things, we conclude that three things are ruling here: (1) the ruling practice; (2) the ruling principle, and (3) the ruling priority.
2. The Exemplary Prayer, Verses 9 - 13
3. The Explanation of the Prayer, Verses 14 - 34a. Forgiveness Verses 14, 15
b. Secrecy during fasting Verses 16, 17, 18
c. Trusting the Father Verses 19 - 33
d. The bottom line Verse 34
I. The Ruling Practice: Trusting the Father
Jesus fully addressed this third petition in Subsection c of the outline above, "Trusting the Father", that includes verses 19 - 33. Let's examine these verses:19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal,We must in prayer be ruled by the simple practice of trusting the Father, who knows what we need before we ask him, and has promised to provide all these things. We can further subdivide and outline these verses as follows:
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
22 The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light;
23 but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?
28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin;
29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.1. The choice: God or mammon? Verses 19 - 24Keep in mind that the petition we are examining is this:a. On laying up treasures Verses 19 - 21
b. The lamp of the body Verses 21 - 23
c. The two masters Verse 24Give us this day our daily bread;Do we trust our Father, or do we trust mammon to provide our needs? Food, drink and clothing are the most basic needs. Therefore whoever is without these things will need the money with which to buy them. But suppose the money is not there? If we are not trusting the Father, the lack of these things or of any means of obtaining them will feed a growing anxiety within us, for we are already getting hungry.
This direct connection between money (mammon) and the basic necessities tends to drive us in the direction that will assure that we will never be without them. This can be prevented by the possession of money, and the more we have of money, the greater our assurance of a continuing supply of food and clothing. We therefore have a built in incentive to want more money.
Then comes Jesus telling us we cannot serve God and mammon! Thus, if we yield to the temptation to make the acquisition of money one of our prime objectives, we are in the service of mammon and we cannot serve God. This choice is absolutely mandatory, and it reveals the value set and the heart set of each individual. We are called to love the Father with . . . all our hearts (The Great Commandment) and this is not possible when the heart is set on the means of supplying all these material needs. As Jesus explained:For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.Yet, yield to this temtation we do. The result is that we fix our eyes upon the possessions of others and covet them, or on the wealth of others and covet that. But the eye is the light of the body and, in this case, the light that is in us is darkness. How great is that darkness! (verses 22, 23)
The inevitable result of this condition and state of mind and heart is that those of us who have not been highly successful in providing the money for all our basic needs, not only for today but for tomorrow and the tomorrow of tomorrows, will be unhappy due to anxiety about what we will do when our little money is expended. But then comes Jesus telling us, in verse 25:Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?This introduces the next verses, 26-33, wherein he briefly emphasizes the Father's providential love for all his children. He seeks to shame us by pointing us to certain examples in nature of the Father's provision, then firing the pointed question,Are you not of more value than they?We outline these verses as follows:1. Examples of The Father's provision in nature Verses 26 - 30Jesus brings it all to a common "therefore" in verse 34:a. See how the Father feeds the birds Verse 262. Admonitions concerning these things Verses 31-33
b. See how you grow without anxiety Verse 27
c. See how the Father clothes the lillies Verse 28 - 30a. Do not be anxious like the Gentiles Verse 31
b. Your Father knows your needs Verse 32
c. The final condition - seek the kingdom Verse 33Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day.This is the bottom line!
Aha! You see now how he has been referring to our third petition all along?Give us this day our daily bread; (The third petition)Another admonition is implied here: Do not ask for tomorrow's bread. It is obvious that "bread" in the Prayer stands for all our daily needs, including bread, clothing, shelter, medical care, or whatever they may be. Jesus intends that all be truncated under the one term, "bread" for the sake of prayer brevity.
Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day.
Suppose that the Prayer went as follows, adding more petitions:Give us this day our daily bread . . .You see, it becomes rather ridiculuous, doesn't it? Just ask for the bread -- it all comes together!
Give us this day our daily . . . milk . . .
Give us this day our daily . . . clothing . . .
Give us this day our daily . . . shelter . . .
Give us this day our daily . . . etc. . . .
And we are to trust our Father to supply all of them, day by day! After all,. . . your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)The Great Principle is the ruling principle behind Jesus' rules of prayer. It stands behind everything Jesus teaches, and this is no exception. He stated this principle in many ways; perhaps the application is most obvious in this version:
Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)
. . . will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? (Matthew 6:30)
II.The Ruling Principle: Finding our LivesFor whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24)There is no ground for anxiety about the provisions necessary to sustain life when we abide by this. What motivates us to be anxious about tomorrow's need for life's necessities if not a dominating desire to save that life? Only when we permit Jesus to apply this principle can we be free from anxiety about tomorrow. Apart from this it is a hopeless endeavor; one may as well forget it and proceed to fuel all moods and activities by anxiety concening life-essentials. Apart from this, the evolution driven instinct for survival and life preservation will enslave us from the cradle to the grave.
Apart from applying this Great Principle to our lives here and now, what we say or pray is of no significance whatsoever in obtaining the object of our prayers. Whoever seeks to save the life in this world will be anxious about tomorrow's needs, and will not be truly trusting the Father to provide them. Whoever is anxious about tomorrow is anxious about saving that life, and will lose it. On the other hand, whoever applies this Great Principle today is set free from any concern for the preservation of life in this world, and will be free from worry about tomorrow. Such a person is free to truly trust the Father for whatever is of concern, be it today's needs or tomorrow's exaltation to the Father's eternal glory.
III.The Ruling Priority: The Kingdom of God
Our only Lord and Teacher has established this by the simple words:But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. (Matthew 6:33)This is but another way to state the Lord's admonition about treasure that begins with verse 6:19 above:Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.Who can be seeking first the Kingdom of God when consumed by the quest of earthly treasure? Or by what that treasure can buy . . . bread, clothing . . . and all things that sustain the life of this world?
The quest of the kingdom is therefore the ruling priority, apart from which all daily prayer is vain. It is not merely incidental that Jesus concluded his teaching on piety, and especially on prayer, with the admonition to seek first his kingdom.
This third petition carries with it yet another very important implication. Inasmuch as it asks only for the provision of the bread of today, it is to be offered up in faith every day!
And, of course, all must be in accord with the divine protocol: enter into your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father in secret. Rest assured, He will reward you openly!
This do, he instructs us, "when you pray". This admonition allows for no exception, and in particular not the exception of prayer in pubic.
When we really trust our Father who is in heaven, when we truly apply the Great Principle, and when we have but one priority -- then we can rest assured that all we need do is to daily offer up this simple prayer for today's needs, expressed as "our daily bread". When we trust our Father, who is in heaven, as babies trust their parents to care for them, he will surely provide. Is the baby anxious about tomorrow's milk? Or does it ask only when it has immediate need, so that the mother may raise raise it to her breast? Therefore:But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to
your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
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