Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:11c “. . .this day our daily bread. . .”
This phrase teaches us three vital lessons. First, live one day at a time. Pray solely for “this day.” Worry not about tomorrow. God never gets in a hurry, but does always arrive on time. Each day He provides “our daily bread” for that day.
Second, we are dependent on God for every thing. Bread, being the staff of life, bespeaks all our biological needs. God sustains us. This truth is easy to forget, especially when the economy is booming. If we are employed, and all seems to be going well, we tend to think we are carrying our own load, but even the hardest working people owe all they have to God. The Lord forewarned Israel, saying once they became wealthy they would be tempted to say in their heart, “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth” (DT 8:17-18).
We are totally dependent upon God for our lives, our health, our sustenance, but we often become so absorbed in and fascinated by second causes that we forget to acknowledge the First Cause. Chemistry can be so mesmerizing that we forget the Chemist; engineering can be so enthralling that we forget the Engineer; creation can be so magnificent that we forget the Creator. Unfortunately, the more we learn of God’s laws and ways, the more independent of Him we feel. This is like learning the ideas, plans, and programs of another, and then stealing them.
When contemplating God’s ways do not lose sight of God. Our technological advances work because God created a world which responds to our methods.
A member of my family once visited the home of a wealthy farmer. The farmer’s wife, knowing my family member was a Baptist deacon, asked him to thank God before the meal. The rich, unbelieving farmer rudely interrupted, “I produced this crop. God had nothing to do with it.” Wrong! People do not command the harvest; God grants it. If He chose, He could hide the sun, stop the rain, turn the heavens into brass, make the ground as barren as iron, or shrivel the seeds.
During a drought in my first pastorate, not one drop of rain fell in July, and the farmers were using yardsticks to measure the depths of the cracks in their gumbo dirt. Those farmers knew they were totally and utterly dependent on God. We, too, need to adopt the same attitude. We acknowledge this fact in a practical way when we “say grace” before meals. Let this ritual become a built-in reminder that everything needed to maintain life–food, clothing, shelter–comes from God.
Third, in prayer it is acceptable to make requests for physical and material needs. Nothing is wrong with asking God for a raise in pay, or for our business to succeed. It is okay to request God to spare us from earthly calamities (MT 24:20). The disciples pled for help in a storm, and Jesus granted their plea (MT 8:25-26).
To say Christians should have no earthly desires is unbiblical. We are not Buddhists, seeking to destroy all desire. We do not seek to be Stoics, trying to petrify emotion. We do not need to be monastics, as if we should love only God and disdain all else. Believers have desires, emotions, dreams, aspirations, disappointments, burdens. Sharing the common lot of humanity, and partaking of life’s ups and downs, it is okay for us to tell God candidly what we feel, think, and want.
We can be frank with God. I learned this lesson years ago when teaching on the life of Moses. He spoke straightforwardly with God about many subjects.
Having urged us to be blunt with God, I hasten to add two cautions. First, it is okay to pray our desires freely and frankly only as long as we offer them in a spirit of submission to God’s will. We sin if we let an earthly physical desire be so strong that we ask for it even if it contradicts a plain directive in the Bible. We also sin if we cannot truly add to our requests, “Not my will, but thine, be done.”
Second, most of our material requests in prayer should focus on needs, not wants. Let us be totally honest with ourselves when analyzing our text. A request for bread is a prayer for basics, not frills; for sufficiency, not superabundance.
Asking for luxuries and extravagances is allowed, but should be done rarely. Focus mainly on necessities. Instead of running wild in prayer and making lavish requests, let’s spend more time asking God to curb our appetites. “Contentment is reached by moderating wants, not by multiplying possessions” (Plummer). Paul told us, “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 TM 6:8).
Matt. 6:12a “And forgive. . .”
Do not overlook this “and.” It tells us “give” and “forgive” belong together. One deals with bodily needs; one with spiritual needs. Both are essential. Having bread is never enough, for life without God’s forgiveness is hardly worth living.
Life without forgiveness is as risky as a cruise on the Titanic. Without forgiveness, “our daily bread” merely feeds us as lambs for the slaughter. Jesus said point blank, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (MK 8:36-37).
Our physical lives are not all there is, nor are they even the main thing. The spiritual realm is far more important than the physical. It is good to eat “our daily bread,” have well rounded meals, and take our vitamins, but even better to do a daily reckoning of our spiritual health. Our bodies send loud and clear messages telling us we need food and water, but we do not have built-in mechanisms to alert us to our spiritual need. Thus, though a sense of spiritual hunger and thirst is our most important need, it usually is not felt very often. Regular use of our text will help remind us of our spiritual requirements. Only One of our race ever fulfilled His total potential. Absolute perfection eludes the rest of us. There is always more we should not have done or more we should have done. Being ever soiled and tarnished by this evil world, we are all sinners in constant need of forgiveness.
Many readily admit their own imperfection, but refuse to acknowledge the dread awfulness of their sin. This is sad, for people never appropriate the Savior’s benefits until they not only admit their own sin, but also accept the blame for it.
Some feel they need a counselor more than a deliverer. Blaming our failures on heredity or environment, we often reject personal responsibility and culpability, and think of our sin with pity rather than disgust. We need to confess, “For my sins, I blame me, not my mom, dad, spouse, or children. I sinned. I’m guilty.”
Quit blaming others. Come before God as debtor, not debater. Only as we swallow infernal pride can we enjoy internal pardon. Pray with the old Puritan, “Give me perpetual brokenheartedness. Keep me always clinging to Thy cross.”
One of the best spiritual disciplines is the ongoing practice of consciously uncovering our own inner hidden sins of thought and attitude. As we do more preventive surgery on the inside we have to do less corrective surgery on the outside.