How many of you enjoy eating? Every hand is raised because of course, we all do! Satisfying our taste buds is one of the great pleasures in life. And because it is, eating is always a great topic of conversation. Everyone loves to talk about food! In fact, if you ever find yourself in a room full of strangers one sure way to break the ice and get people talking is to mention food.
As Lucado puts it in his book on the Lord’s Prayer,
“We all have insights and expertise to share on this subject, you might say many of us are ‘heavy weights’ in this area. Whenever you bring up the subject of food you’re sure to get a mouthful.”
And Lucado is right! There is a pantry full of stories about food, including the interesting ways we eat it. For example:
- My daughter Becca, puts ranch dressing on pretty much everything but her breakfast cereal.
- I remember one of the teens in my youth group years ago always put mustard on her french fries instead of Catsup.
- My grandfather Adams’ favorite snack was hot cornbread broken into bite-sized pieces and stuffed in a tall glass with ice-cold buttermilk poured on top.
- My grandfather Williams always put catsup on his eggs, scrambled or sunny side up.
Some people have gone so far as to memorialize their particular eating methods in poetry, like the man who said:
I eat my peas with honey.
I’ve done it all my life.
It makes them taste kind of funny.
But it keeps them on my knife!
And then have you heard any of the old wives tales about food?
- Like the rule that says if you eat ice cream with the spoon upside down it will prevent brain freezes. I’m not sure how you would apply that to drinking a Slurpee with a straw!
- Another bit of common wisdom says that drinking a non-carbonated beverage upside down gets rid of hiccups. (Actually this one really works!)
- And then there’s the old culinary guideline that says you should always eat bread after fish but never drink milk with fish.
Many people will tell you they hate to intermingle their servings, like Adrian Monk who always carefully separates everything. In a diverse church family like Redland your “food conversation” might even turn to the eating practices of other cultures. If it does you could learn that burps are welcome in China and whereas an empty plate tells the cook you liked the food here in America, among some Latin cultures it tells your host that you’re still hungry and want more.
In his book Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, Charles Panati shares some interesting food history. For example, he says the practice of intersecting the fork and knife on a finished plate was begun by Italian nobility who saw the cross as an act of thanksgiving. He also quotes a 16th century book on etiquette that says, “If you can’t swallow a piece of food, turn around discreetly and throw it somewhere.” I’m kind of glad that practice is no longer popular!
And here’s my favorite food story. A man with nine sons had a rule that Dad gets the last piece of chicken. If he doesn’t want it, the fastest fork wins. One night as all ten eyed the final piece of chicken on the plate, a thunderstorm caused a brief electrical blackout. There was a scream in the dark, and when the lights came back on a few seconds later, the dad’s hand was on the chicken platter with nine forks sticking in it.
I could keep “serving up” tales about food all day. As Lucado writes,
“Everybody has a kitchen story because everybody has a history in the kitchen. Whether yours was a campfire in the jungle or a culinary castle in Manhattan, u learned early that in this room your basic needs were supplied. A garage is optional. A living room is negotiable. An office is a luxury. But a kitchen? Absolutely essential.”
This brings us to our text this morning, verse 11 of Matthew 6, where Jesus uses the popular subject of food to teach His listeners some very important principles of meaningful prayer.
Let’s read His words together beginning with verse 9:
9 – “This then is how you should pray, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,
10 – Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And then our text for today:
11 – Give us today our daily bread
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Now, the ears of the people listening as Jesus delivered the sermon on the mount would have perked up at this point, and not just because they loved to eat as much as we do, but also because they came from a culture that had a great deal of history when it came to depending on God for their daily bread. So when Jesus said this, I’m sure their Jewish heritage gave them all a mental flashback back to the days when God delivered their ancestors from Egypt, way back when Charlton Heston led them out of bondage all the way to the Promised Land. You remember that chapter of Jewish History as well, how the people of Israel had been protected from all ten of the plagues God sent to encourage the Pharaoh to let His people go. And how once he did set them free, God led them during the day by a cloud and at night with a pillar of fire. You remember the story of God parting the Red Sea so they could cross on dry ground and then letting the waters come back together so as to drown the pursuing Egyptian army.
After seeing all that, after experiencing God’s provision and protection and deliverance, you would think these people would be willing to follow God anywhere. But, no, just like you and me they were very forgetful when it came to remembering God’s great faithfulness. And in Exodus 16:3 we find them actually complaining to Moses. They said,
“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate food, all the food that we wanted, but you’ve brought us into this desert to starve to death!”
In verse 4 the Lord responded to their faithless complaining by saying,
“I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow My instructions.”
Verses 13 and 14 say that in the morning, just as God promised, “there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost appeared on the ground.” They called this stuff that sounds kind of like Frosted Flakes, “manna,” and a loose translation of this Hebrew word would be, “I haven’t got a clue what this stuff is but we’ve got to name it something.”
Every day God sent them this bread from Heaven, and on the day before the Sabbath He told them to gather enough for two days so they wouldn’t have to work on that day that was to be set aside for rest and worship. If they ever gathered more than their daily needs the leftovers would spoil. So they learned to literally trust God every day to provide. And He did indeed provide. God sent them their daily bread according to this plan for 40 years. Brad Mitchell at Willow Creek did the math on this and calculated that, at a rate of one quart per person for 40 years, it comes to 1.8 billion quarts a year, or a total of 72 billion quarts to feed the entire nation of Israel for four decades. That’s a lot of manna-a lot of daily bread!
Of course all they had to eat was quail and manna, so during those 40 years I’m sure they got very creative in how they prepared this bread from Heaven. Perhaps the ladies got together and compiled a manna cookbook with recipes for boiled manna, fried manna, sweet and sour manna, manna soup, ba-manna splits, etc. My point is that because of their history I’m sure when they heard Jesus tell them they should learn to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” they remembered that their Heavenly Father had done this day after day for 40 years as He provided for the needs of His people.
And in a sense they still lived out this history because in those days it was customary to eat your daily bread in the morning, just as the nation of Israel had done in the days of Moses. Back then Jewish families usually had only two main meals: breakfast, and dinner-no lunch. Breakfast was normally a piece of flat bread cake along with a piece of cheese and maybe some dried fruit and olives. Men would leave home in the morning, heading for work, and they would eat their “daily bread breakfast” as they made their daily commute.
With this historical context in mind, I want us to take a close look at these six words of our text, because I think they contain four very important principles of meaningful prayer.
(1) First, they tell us that our Abba wants us to talk to Him every day.
In this part of His prayer model, Jesus urges us to pray regularly and repeatedly. Every day we are to ask God for our daily bread. And please notice the double emphasis on prayer being a daily thing. Anything repeated twice in a prayer that contains only sixty-six words must be important. And it is! Jesus was emphasizing the fact that we are to pray for daily bread, not weekly bread or monthly bread, but daily bread.
Now, why daily? Why is it so important that we talk to our Abba every single day? Can’t we treat prayer like worship and just do in on what you might call a “week-to-week” plan? You know, pray every Sunday and when we finish say, “See you next week Lord. Try to take care of these next seven days for me!”
A. Well, one reason meaningful prayer is a daily thing is because we have short memories.
As I said a moment ago, we are indeed very much like the Hebrew people of Moses’ day, because it is so easy for us to forget all that God does for us. In spite of the psalmist’s words we forget, “..all of God’s benefits” We forget that He, “.forgives all our sins” and “heals our diseases.” We forget the He “.redeems our lives from the pit and crowns us with love and compassion.” We forget that God “.satisfies our desires with good things.” So praying every day like this keeps our memories of God’s great faithfulness sharp.
B. But a second reason I believe God asks us to pray every day, and I think this is the main reason, is simply because, as our Abba, He wants to hear from us.
You parents with kids away at school know what I’m talking about. You want to hear from your kids regularly, because this is the only thing that soothes the pain that we feel when our kids aren’t around. It’s the only effective treatment for the pain that comes with this kind of separation. I know if a day passes and we don’t hear from Sarah, we begin to kind of ache to hear her voice. If we don’t hear from her for two days we get in the car and drive up to Messiah! And that’s a reflection of the way God feels about us! Remember, this is our Abba we are talking to, our Heavenly Father, Who loves us so much that He makes it a point of keeping a running count of the number of the hairs on our head. This is our Abba who hated the fact that our sin separated us from Him so much that He sent His only Son to die on the cross because that was the only way to remove the sin barrier. So, of course He wants to hear from us every single day! In fact, He wants us to rely on Him for every decision, seek His help in every crisis, and praise Him for every joy.
You know I am totally dependent on God for my sermons. It may not sound like it sometimes, but I’m always praying for His help in putting these weekly messages together. It takes an entire week of asking for God’s help every day in order for me to finish one sermon, and every day He helps me a little bit more, one more insight, one more illustration, one more way to say what I’m trying to say. In fact, for me sermon prep is sort of a running conversation with God, a conversation that lasts an entire week. Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night and talk to Him about my current message.
And there was a time when I wondered why He does it this way. Why do I have to keep checking in with Him? I wondered why He didn’t just give me the sermon on Monday afternoon. It seems to be more efficient. It would save us both time! But I came to realize that the reason He helps me a little bit every day, is because He loves to hear from me and He feels the same way about you!
And, I need to hear from Him as well. I need a healthy relationship with my Abba. Prayer is not a grocery list as much as it is a way of relating to God. And it’s impossible to have a meaningful relationship on a “once-a-week” basis. No, for a relationship to grow, you need to spend regular time together. In fact, meaningful prayer is a great deal like sermon prep in that it’s a constant conversation, it’s praying without ceasing as we share all of life’s experiences with our Abba. Through constant prayer we can converse with God while shopping, driving, working, parenting, whatever.
Now, I’m not saying we should walk the aisles of Giant talking out loud to God. That would look just as silly as all these people we see talking to unseen people with an earphone. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve thought someone was talking to me, only to turn and see that thing sticking out of the side of their head! No, I’m referring to mentally maintaining constant contact with our Abba, talking to Him with our thoughts. As Brother Lawrence put it: “practicing the presence of God” in everything.
Rick Warren refers to this and writes,
“In Eden, worship was not an event to attend but a perpetual attitude; Adam and Eve were in constant communion with God. Since God is with you all the time, no place is any closer to God than the place where you are right now.”
And Warren is right. As Ephesians 4:6 says, ” God rules everything and is everywhere, “ and constant conversational prayer acknowledges that fact. Have you ever talked to God like that, about everything? Have you ever invited Him into your thoughts? Remember, not a day goes by but that He doesn’t long to hear from you, and you need to hear from Him as well!
(2) A second principle of prayer in these six words is this: God wants us to depend on Him for every thing.
This phrase: “daily bread” referred to much more than food. You see, in those days many people were hired on a day-to-day basis. So when they asked God for their daily bread, by inference they were asking for daily work, which would provide food to survive on a daily basis and money to buy clothing, pay the rent, etc. And Jesus’ hearers would have understood this. They would have known that He was telling them to pray for everything they needed to exist. As Martin Luther put it, daily bread is, “.everything necessary for the preservation of this life, including food, a healthy body, job, home, wife, and children.” In this part of His instruction on prayer, Jesus was urging us to talk to God every day about every thing, every need, and every burden.
How many of you have a friend that you talk to like this, about literally everything? It could be your spouse or a very close friend. God wants us to talk to Him about every thing. As the old hymn puts it, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry every thing to God in prayer!” When we pray in this all-encompassing way we learn that as the Psalm 37:4 says we can, “Depend on the Lord; and trust Him for He will take care of you.”
“God is not a mountain guru only involved in the mystical and spiritual. The same hand that guides your soul gives food for your body. The One Who clothes you in goodness is the same One Who clothes you in cloth. In the school of life, God is both the teacher and the cook. He provides fire for the heart and food for the stomach. Your eternal salvation and your evening meal come from the same hand.”
So basically this part of the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer of dependence, a prayer of doggedly relying on God for every thing, every day. I like how Dallas Willard puts it. He says, “Today I have God and He has the provisions. Tomorrow it will be the same.” And whenever we begin to doubt and wonder if God is dependable, if we think He might not be faithful to provide our daily bread, all we need do is look to nature, because every living thing in all of creation depends on God every single day.
To show you what I mean, this afternoon as you sit down to your Sunday lunch, look around the table. Trace the bread you see there back to the grocery store. Where did the store get it? And where did the mill get it before it went to this store and where did it come from before that? As one unknown poet put it:
Back of the loaf is the snowy flour
And back of the flour, the mill
And back of the mill is the field of wheat
The rain and the Father’s will
In his book, The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan points to the fact that God’s unchanging dependability can even be seen in something like a common leaf. Listen to this excerpt from his book:
“Behold a single leaf. Hold it open in your palm. This single leaf, joined to the tree, drinks poison [carbon dioxide] from the air, drinks it serenely as Socrates downing his cup of hemlock, and refuses to return in kind, instead spilling out life-giving oxygen. This leaf tilts to catch the sun, its warmth and radiance, to distill the heat and light down to the shadows, down to the roots, back up to limbs, to shade the earth, to feed you and me. A leaf. God makes these, season after season, one after the other, billions upon billions, from the Garden to the New Jerusalem, most for no eye but His own. He does it faithfully, or else I would not live to tell about it , or you to hear.”
As even something as common as a leaf shows, we depend on God for everything and our prayers are to echo this understanding.
But note, we are to bring God our needs, not our greeds. This part of the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t say, “God give me everything I want, it says ‘Give me everything I need. Give me my daily bread. Give me what I need to serve You one more day.'” I’m reminded of what Paul said to Timothy “Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” We need to be satisfied with our basic needs because God has not promised to make us all wealthy. Listen to what Jim Bakker, the former head of the PTL network, wrote in his book, I Was Wrong. And remember at one time Bakker was a man who championed the health and wealth gospel:
“For years I had embraced and espoused a gospel that some skeptics had branded as ‘prosperity gospel.’ I didn’t mind the label: on the contrary, I was proud of it. I even got to the point where I was teaching people at PTL, ‘Don’t pray, ‘God, Your will be done,'” when you’re praying for health or wealth. You already know it is God’s will for you to have those things! Instead of praying ‘Thy will be done’ when you want a new car! Just claim it! Pray specifically and tell God what kind you want. Be sure to specify the options and what color you want too!’ The more I have studied the Bible though, I have had to admit that this prosperity message did not line up with the tenor or Scripture. If the evidence of God’s blessing was wealth, then gambling casino owners and drug kingpins and movie stares are blessed of God. If we equate earthly possessions and earthly relationship with God’s favor, what are we to tell the billions of those [faithful believers] who live in poverty?”
So, in these six words Jesus is saying we should talk to God every day, and we should depend on Him for every thing, every need of life. But our Lord was also inferring that,
(3) God wants us to trust His provision in every way.
Asking God for our daily bread means we believe He knows our needs better than we do. So this part of the prayer is a statement of trust. It’s saying, “God, whatever You want me to have is all I want. You know what is best for me so You know best how to answer this part of my prayer.” I like the way that Alan Redpath translates this phrase in his book Victorious Praying. He words it like this, “Give us this day bread suited to our need.” And since our needs are not always the same, the “daily bread” God supplies is not always the same. Lucado says,
“Some days the plate runs over. God keeps bringing out more and more food and we keep loosening out belt. A promotion. A privilege. A friendship. A gift. A lifetime of grace. An eternity of joy. There are times when we literally push ourselves back from the table, amazed at God’s kindness.”
I’m reminded of the scene from the movie, Facing the Giants, where the football coach is overwhelmed with God’s blessing: a new truck to replace their old unreliable car, a winning football season that made his underdog team state champs, a big raise in pay, and then to top it all off, discovering that after 4 years of trying, his wife was expecting their first child. The Message paraphrase emphasizes how this overwhelmed coach felt with its wording of Psalm 23:5, “God, You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup fills with blessing!”
Some times the “daily bread” God gives is like that, because that’s what God knows we need. But then there are other days when we wonder why God puts what He does on our plate, days we doubt the ways He chooses to “bless” us. There are days when God serves up painful experiences, or times of discipline, or times of grief. As Lucado puts it,
“Some times our plate has nothing but vegetables-twenty-four hours of celery, carrots, and squash. Apparently God knows we need some strength, and though the portion may be hard to swallow, isn’t it for our own good?”
Well it is, because there are invaluable lessons that can only be learned in tough times, and there is a caliber of strength that can only be gained through suffering. God knows this of course. He knows what we will need to get through what is ahead, so when we wonder why the “meal” He serves is a little hard to swallow, we need to trust the “Cook!”
As I told you a few weeks ago, during my college years I worked at Holiday Inn as a night auditor. My brother Jon did this as well. In fact for a while we worked at the same motel. And, our Innkeeper was very generous to night auditors when it came to kitchen privileges. I guess she thought if someone had to stay up all night they should be able to eat whatever they wanted, so we were encouraged to raid the “ice box.” Well, what I wanted every night in my raids was sweet rolls and pastry and ice-cold milk. But what Jon wanted was mashed potatoes and gravy with lots and lots of butter and salt. In fact many nights he emptied the mashed potato and gravy machines all by himself! Fortunately this wasn’t our only source of sustenance. We had a mom at home who made sure we got good food the rest of the day to counterbalance our lop-sided preferences. Think what I would have looked like back then if all I ate was pastry? Think how high my brother’s blood pressure would have gotten if all he ate was very salty gravy-covered potatoes! We needed a wise parent to look out for us and give us the kind of food we needed to grow. Praying these six words is a way of saying, “Abba You’re my Parent. You made me and know me. You know my life so feed me what You know I need to grow and develop, into the kind of person You can use to further Your eternal kingdom.”
And then the final principle of meaningful prayer we find in these words is this:
(4) God wants us to care about the needs of every one.
Remember, Jesus didn’t say we should pray, “Give me this day my daily bread,” but rather, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And He worded it like this as a way of helping us to broaden our focus to include the needs of others. You know, if the truth be told, when you and I woke up this morning, we didn’t have even the slightest doubt that we would be able to eat today. In fact, the major concern for the average American is what we will eat, not whether we will eat. But that’s not the way it is for hundreds of thousands of people in our nation and world. And this portion of the Lord’s Prayer is meant to help us foster compassion for the throngs of people on our planet whose entire life is a fight against starvation.
Years ago Oswald Chambers pointed out our tendency to pray selfishly when he wrote,
“Instead of praying to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers, we pray, ‘O Lord, keep my body right; see after this matter and that for me.’ Our prayers are taken up with our concerns, our own needs, and only once in a while do we pray for what He tells us to.”
Chambers is right. So often our prayers are very self-centered and while we’re on the subject, I would encourage you to read one of our Read ’em And Reap books, a book by Ron Sider entitled, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. I promise, if you read Sider’s book, it will change the way you eat and the way you pray!
One thing I remember about our mission trip to Kenya in back in 2002 was our visits to the Imani orphanage-the orphanage where our own Cathie Burke found and adopted her daughter, Mary Estelle. This orphanage is run by a Christian woman named Faith and she provides a home there for 300 children, babies to teens. Most of Faith’s days are focused on finding enough food to fill the bellies of these beautiful children. She drives her beat up truck all over Nairobi collecting donations of carrots and beans, sweet potatoes, anything to feed her kids. And the kids help by cleaning all this produce. Nothing is wasted.
(Photos shown) Here’s a slide of one of their sheds full of a day’s collection of string beans. This is the kids lining up to get a snack, they didn’t have enough cups for every child so they drank in shifts. And this final shot is me with a few of the children. After watching them struggle to eat, I made a pledge to be thankful for God’s provision, and to pray for these children and others like them. I would encourage you to do the same, because meaningful prayer-prayer that helps us think and love, and work like God does-is prayer for the needs of others.
One woman discovered she had trouble remembering to pray for others, so she devised a neat little memory trick. Holding up her left hand she explained,
“When I’m ready to pray, I look at my hand. This reminds me to pray for those near me-my family, my friends, my neighbors.” Pointing to her index finger, she added, “My teachers used to point at us in school. Sometimes the preacher points at us, so as I come to this finger, I pray for my teachers, the preachers, and others who have been my guides. My middle finger is my largest one. It stands above the others. This brings to mind the rulers of our country, the officials of our city, so I pray for them. The next finger is called the weak finger. When I come to it I think of the weak, the sick those who are poor and need help. I ask God to help them.” Coming to her little finger, she concluded, “Last is my little finger. This stands for me. I finish praying for myself and the things I need.”
I’d like to close with a time of prayer for our daily bread. I’ll give you suggestions and then you take a few moments to pray. Would you bow your heads and close your eyes? Let’s begin by making a commitment to regular prayer, so take this opportunity to tell God that is your desire, and begin to share your thoughts with Him, your joys and fears. Talk to Him about every thing that is on your mind right now.
Now, take a few moments to thank Him for His provision-for the good things, and the hard things. Thank Him for the joys of life and the trials. Tell Him You trust Him to provide what You need most.
Now, pray for the needs of others. You could pray for a neighbor or co-worker you know who is struggling or for a sick friend, or for the hungry people in the world, for our youth on retreat this weekend, for the children of the Imani orphanage, but pray for the needs of others.
Thank You for this the blessing of prayer. Help us take advantage of it by inviting You to share every moment of life with us as we seek your guidance and help. Teach us to trust Your provision. Remind us that You know what is best for us. Give us hearts like Yours that care for the needs of others. Now, speak to us Father, tell us the decisions we need to make, the changes we need to embrace in order to align ourselves with Your will. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen
As we stand and sing, come, confess your faith in Jesus, join our church, come share any decision God has led you to make.
Let the Peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly and whatever you do, in word or in deed, do it all in the Name of Christ giving thanks to God the Father through Him.