Matthew 6:7-15 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: “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 this day our daily bread,12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
We begin to see some petitions in this prayer Jesus helping us to see that it is ok for us to ask for things from God four ourselves and others. He doesn’t get to this part of this model prayer until He first of all emphasizes that we are to honor and glorify God by our desire that His name be lifted up and proclaimed as holy and glorious. We speak to Him as our Father, our real, heavenly, spiritual Father. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
God is holy, He is glorious, He is mighty and awesome and our prayers should reflect this believe and this truth. We can say this but we should also live our lives with this in mind as well. What I mean is that we should live in obedience to Him. If we believe that He is above all in wisdom and to be honored then how do we express this better than to live our lives for Him, live in obedience to Him? But there is more. The truth is we fail at this. And so living for Him must be more than trying and failing, trying to live for Him and failing, trying again and failing. Living for Him is yes, wanting to live for Him but it is much about trusting in Christ who did live perfectly for Him. Our ultimate hope and trust is in Jesus who carries us from where we are to our heavenly home. He did live perfectly so that we can live for God. He didn’t make any mistakes, didn't sin, didn’t fail. And our lives are hidden in His life. What this means for us is a certain freedom. Yes we fail in obedience but Christ covers it and so we are free to pick up and brush off and repent and go on living for Him.
I heard an orthodox Jew speaking recently who said for a Jew to go to heaven he must keep over 600 laws but for a non-Jew to go to heaven he only had to keep 6 or 7 laws. He said for this reason, Jews warn people not to convert. It is better to stay a non-Jew and have a better chance of getting to heaven as a non-Jew. I just thought, oh my, what a terrible way to go through this life. Here is the truth: God offers to us forgiveness of sin through the sacrifice of Jesus, His Son. No one has kept the Law perfectly except One and that was Jesus. If we ever get to be right with God it will only be because of Jesus’ perfect life imputed to us. That is the only way. And here is the thing: If we really believe this, then our overwhelming response to such glorious news should be an ever increasing desire to live our lives according to His word, not for our salvation but from a grateful heart! Jesus kept the whole Law and salvation for you and me is possible because He did. And so we can say along with Jesus: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name!” And then once we have embraced the truth that God is our Father and that His name is great and holy then we begin to agree with Him and His wisdom and we can say: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Simply put: God, let your perfect will be accomplished. Your ways are best and great and perfect, let it all happen. You know what is best, let it be. I am a fool, I am ignorant, and You are not. Let Your will be done. And so we move from high praise and adoration to God and agreement with His will and ways to specific petitions that recognizes our need for God in our physical bodies and in our spiritual lives as well. Jesus says, “give us this day our daily bread.” There is a lot of discussion regarding the phrase “daily bread” in Christian literature. But it basically means, “give us this day what is necessary for us.” It is simply asking for what we need for what is sufficient for today.
We are all Americans right? It may be actually hard for us to comprehend what Jesus is saying here because we are used to such abundance. Mark and I sat down for our elder meeting Friday morning and as usual, because Mark is so gracious, he brought chicken biscuits for us to eat. As is our custom, we started our meeting with prayer and as a part of that prayer we thanked God for the food He provided…in this case chicken biscuits. After the prayer we both just talked for awhile about how easy it is for us to take for granted that we will have food available for each meal. We are so accustomed to having food available for each meal that it can become easy to forget that God has provided it. We expect Him to and He does and so we can become complacent about His gracious provisions so much so that we fail to ask for His continued provision. But the truth is, God provides what we have. Most theologians agree that this request of daily bread goes beyond food to all daily provision that is needed for life. Now, I want us to consider a couple of things about this. First remember in the previous verse that we are talking to the God who has the authority and the power to rule in heaven with His will and to rule on earth with His will. We are talking to our Father who is in heaven and what is he doing there? He is ruling and reigning. He is the God of the universe, creator, sustainer, master of all. I mean, can you imagine such power and wisdom and knowledge? Now place yourself, your one life, in the scope of all created things not just on earth but in all creation. You and I are such minute pieces of it all. We may wrongly think we are big, great, important in creation, but we are really small, tiny in relation to it all. And yet we can ask God, and we do ask Him, to consider our state, look upon us and meet our daily needs. And even more incredible, He wants us to do just that. He wants us to know and to feel our dependence on Him and he wants us to know that despite the magnitude of the whole of creation, He cares for us in it all. God is prepared to provide for your smallest needs down to the minute details. This is the teaching of our Lord. In fact He tells us, because He wants us to know that He really does value us. Here is how He says it:
Matthew 10:29-31 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
If only we could grasp this. How small we really are and yet how loved we are and cared for by God. Listen to this truth from Isaiah and be amazed by it:
Isaiah 57:15 15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place,
(At this point it sounds like we are in trouble…how can such a One care for us? But here is the twist, the stunning truth…)
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.
We see in one sentence in one verse altogether both the One who is exalted, lifted up living in the Holy place bend low to meet the lowly! God reaching down to provide for, to comfort, and even to save sinners. There is another thing that may be perplexing to us and that is worth talking about here. Here in this passage, Jesus is directing us to ask to make our requests to God. And yet earlier in this chapter, in fact immediately before this model prayer we read this:
Matthew 6:7-9 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this…
What I am keying in on is the phrase, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” So on the one hand God knows all our needs but then we are directed to ask for things that we need. So if He knows why should we pray and ask? And really, this question brings us to the heart of the meaning of prayer. We don’t pray because He needs to know things from us. He is not missing some details and we need to fill him in. The right way to think of prayer is in the context of a relationship. I read someone who illustrated this point, that is that prayer is about a relationship with God and how God desires this relationship. That in itself is an incredible thought, that God wants a real relationship with us. But that prayer is about relationship is important to know.
So this is how one man makes this point. His name is Dr. A.B. Simpson and here is roughly what he said: So many of us think that God as our Father gives us the great gift of grace in one great lump sum, and that having received His grace we just go on living our life in this grace. But he said, it is not like that at all. He even said, that would be dangerous for us. If God gave to us in this way then we might be in danger of just enjoying the gift and forgetting about God Himself, the giver of this good gift. Now here is a difficult point for us, if we truly understand the magnitude of who God is. God, wants us, and as our Father, He wants us to speak to Him. He is like an earthly Father in that respect.
Think of an earthly father. The earthly father is grieved by the son who is simply content with what the father provides but never seeks his company unless he has exhausted the supplies he has been given and wants more. Maybe you have experienced this or know someone who has. A child cares nothing about a relationship with his parents but only wants what his parents give to him: food, clothing, a room to stay in, iPhone, care, concert tickets, a trip to Disneyland or whatever. But in all of that there is no connecting, no relationship to speak of. The parent wants a relationship, God wants a relationship with His children. God does know what we need, but God wants us to come to Him and ask Him, this helps us to remember Him and that He is our loving provider. Things don’t just drop in our laps. God gives us good things and prayer helps us to remember this important truth. God is there offering to help and He does help and we are to come to Him and ask. This is a great thing, a reminder that He doesn’t just give but He wants us to be in Him, with Him, in relationships with Him. The God who is self-existent, Jehovah God, the God who is not dependent on anyone or anything, who is from eternity wants us to come to Him, speak to Him and He likes to hear from us. We are to go to Him and ask for our daily bread, our needed sustenance. And let me finish up with this. You may have a really good job making really good money. Or, you may have a not so good job barely scraping by in your opinion. Either way you are totally dependent on God. We are like children who cannot function in the world without the support that parents give, parents or some other provider. I talk to older youth sometimes who think they are grown and somehow on their own, acting and living independent of their parents. And I say will who pay for the room you stay in, who pays your phone bill, who pays your gas or your insurance, buys your clothes, pays your medical bills, and at least for some of those things, the parents do. But they think, I am independent and on my own. I say no, not really, someone is helping you.
We may think we are independent as adults but we never are fully or in reality. We need God and if God cuts us off completely we cease to live immediately. The air we breath, the warmth of the sun, the food we eat, water that we need, our basic needs are from Him and even those things that are luxuries are from Him. We are dependent on Him. We are absolutely in the hand of God. And we are foolish to think that we have become independent of Him because of our knowledge or our wisdom or because of our hard work. We cannot live a day without Him and His loving care. All this that we see ceases to be apart from Him. The world would stop spinning and we would all be gone from it. And so it is good for us to say, with a humble yet informed heart, “Oh Lord, give us this day our daily bread.” It is good for us to say this, it is a reminder of truth, of His care and of our need for Him. Our greatest need has been met and that was in Christ, salvation is of the Lord, His love came down in Christ and He purchased us through the blood of Christ. God became our Father and He is a good and loving Father. He will carry us throughout this life and He will usher us into the next. Know God, know of His love, know of His care and His gracious provision.
Matthew 6:7-15 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: “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 this day our daily bread,12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.