Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:11a “Give. . .”
It is okay to ask God to give. Prayer is not only contemplation of, and communion with, God, but also a statement by ones who are dependent, and willing to express that dependence. “To pray is to adore; to pray is also to ask” (Maclaren).
In prayer we first have to ask about God’s concerns–His name, His kingdom, His will–but once we do this, and if our attitude is “not my will, but thine, be done” (LK 22:42), then we are free to request material things for ourselves.
We are to do God’s will “in earth” (6:10), but can do this only if we exist on earth. Starving people can hardly think of anything other than their own starvation. To be able to focus on hallowing God’s name, extending God’s kingdom, and doing God’s will, we have to have our basic biological and physical needs met.
Beware two extremes: false fleshiness which forgets the spiritual, and false spirituality which forgets the flesh. Some need to hear, what on earth are you doing for heaven’s sake? Others are too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.
We are spiritual beings, but not spiritual beings only. Having bodies as well as spirits, we are also physical, mental, emotional, and social beings. God cares about all these aspects of our personhood, even as loving parents care about their children’s physical and mental health, plus their emotional and social well-being.
Any loving father wants his children to talk with him about all their needs, not only those which deal directly with the father/child relationship. A parent is not much of a parent if unwilling to hear his or her children out, to listen intently to whatever is heavy on their hearts. God, being a good parent, listens to His children. Anything that bothers us bothers Him. We all have pressing concerns, and since we care, God cares and listens even to grumbling about life’s so-called trivia.
The God of the universe is vitally interested and concerned about what is happening in our lives. Not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without the Father noticing it (MT 10:29)–in fact, He never forgets a sparrow (LK 12:6)–and we are of much greater value than many sparrows (LK 12:7). The God of heaven condescended to rescue the lowly handmaiden Hagar. Abraham gave her a bottle of water, but God gave her a well of water (GN 21:14-19). The Sovereign of the cosmos bent down to feed Elijah by ravens, a widow, and an angel (1 K 17:6,9; 19:5). God cares about our bodily, physical, earthly needs. If we hurt, He hurts.
When Jesus walked among us, He preached the kingdom and talked often of our spiritual relationship with God, but He also spent much time relieving physical misery. When He saw the sick, He was deeply moved. As the Great Physician, He compassionately healed withered hands and lame legs. He was a dermatologist who healed leprosies, an ophthalmologist who restored blind eyes, a neurologist who healed seizures, a gynecologist who ended a lady’s twelve year flow of blood.
As He saw the hungry, He was stirred within and felt pain. The 5000 were hungry. He cared, and fed them. The 4000 were hungry. He cared, and fed them.
This example left to us by our Master is why Christians must care for each person’s total personhood, for every individual’s spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and social needs. This truth brings us to the second word of our text. . .
Matt. 6:11b “. . .us. . .”
The first person plural pronoun waylays self-centeredness. Give “me” could easily end in selfishness. Give “us” carries a note of concern for not only self, but also others. “Give us this day our daily bread” is a prayer not only to receive, but also to share. Seek to avoid selfish grasping in our praying. Pray kind prayers.
We are each part of a whole. As members of a community, we are responsible for the well-being of others. We have no right to eat at the detriment of others. “Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel” (PR 20:17). What we take in at the pain of others shall turn rotten in us.
The righteous refuse to eat “the bread of idleness” (PR 31:27), to take unto themselves what is leeched off others. Paul commanded, “If any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 TH 3:10). It is a documented fact, proven beyond any hope of rebuttal, that what is won at the card table, on a riverboat casino, or in the lottery is taken from the mouths of the poor. This is not right. Unless disabled, we are to work for our food, making a contribution in exchange for what we take.
The whole tenor of the Lord’s Prayer keeps us from having any right to see ourselves as isolated, uncaring units. Never adopt the attitude that we who are the strong can let the weak take the hindermost. Each phrase of this prayer forces us to touch God or people. We are accountable to God and responsible for people.
“Give us this day our daily bread” should serve as our litmus test whereby we measure the rightness or wrongness of the way we earn our living. The phrase forces us to hallow our work life. Even when dealing with our material needs, we are forced to deal with the spiritual. A huge portion of our lives is spent making a living. This petition means all that block of time must be done under Christ’s sway.
Take the test. Can we pray “give us this day our daily bread” over what we do to gain our bread? The very act of turning to God in prayer should be a refusal to turn to any evil way of making a living. It is always wrong to ask God for something, and then go seek it by means He would never smile on. He can’t honor lust, fraud, gambling, deceit, cheating, or meanness, and we must never ask God to bless an illicit process. If you cannot pray “over what you do in earning your living, ask yourself whether you are not rather earning your death” (Maclaren).
What is true of our work life in particular is also true of our whole life in general. The Lord’s Prayer can serve as a litmus test whereby we measure the value of all our wants. Ever test each desire by asking, can we legitimately turn this desire into a prayer? If we cannot honestly turn a want into a prayer, we had best nullify the desire. If we cannot ask God for it, we should not desire it. In this way all of life can become a thought out and acted out prayer, a prayer without ceasing.