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Why do we pray? Does it matter that we pray? If we don’t pray, will God still care for us?

These questions–and others like them–often run through my mind even as I pray. I do not want to just go through the motions when I am talking with God. I want to engage appropriately, biblically, with the Lord who invites us into conversation. But that means that I have to, at times, really think about what I am doing. If I don’t, I can just end up running off at the mouth.

Jesus’ followers asked him about prayer; they wanted him to teach them to pray.

Jesus said, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” (Matthew 6:9-12)

Previous posts have looked at a number of the facets of this prayer model. This post looks at one of the simplest–but perhaps most overlooked–dimension of prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Do you ever, really, pray this way? Do you ask the Lord, on a regular and daily basis, to provide for your basic needs? Or are you like so many who . . .

Pray for monthly and yearly “bread” with little thought of ever asking of the basics necessities of life daily?

Offer a minimal word of thanks before eating a meal thinking that in so doing you are doing what Jesus taught here?

Never really talk with God about things like food and clothing and shelter living with the perspective that those things are just “givens” and that they come because you work for them?

If we don’t genuinely and consciously pray for “daily bread” are we to assume that either God still just “automatically” meets our daily needs? (And if that is the case, why pray for such things?) If we don’t genuinely and consciously pray for “daily bread” are we living with the assumption that whether we do or don’t pray for such thing that somehow needs will be met? (And if that is the case, why pray for such things?)

I wonder if this injunction to ask for daily bread is really a wake up call to how naturalistic, materialistic, and assumedly self-sufficient we really live. Perhaps the value of this call to pray for daily bread is not about changing the mind of God–getting him to get going to meet our daily needs on the assumption that he wouldn’t if we didn’t pray. Maybe it’s about changing our hearts and minds about how we think about our daily life.

The Lord “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and send rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). He loves his enemies, does good to those who do not return a blessing to him, and is kind to those who ware ungrateful and evil (Luke 6:35). This means that even if we do not speak to him and ask him to meet our daily needs, he will often do so because of his own goodness and kindness and mercy and love.

But this doesn’t mean that it is a futile thing to pray this way.

When we pray for God’s will to be done, we are not asking him to do something that he was overlooking before we prayed. We are not asking him to step in and do stuff he has no interest in doing. We are, in praying this way, responding to his invitation to partner with him in the carrying out of his will.

When we pray for daily bread, we are not asking God to do something that he will overlook We are not asking him to step up and be the good God he is reluctant to be. We are, in praying this way, aligning our souls with his goodness and grace and realizing that every good gift that we enjoy does indeed come from our good God and Father (James 1:17).

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2 Comments

  1. I guess that I do think about my food often and how every meal is a gift from God. It doesn’t seem like too many years ago that I was flat on my back in the middle of the road, unable to move, waiting for EMS to arrive. And then another flashback to that day three weekends ago. Life is short, health is fragile, and each day is a precious gift from our Father. I sometimes look at my oatmeal in the morning and thank the Lord for it, knowing that so many people that day will have nothing that good to eat. Thanks for the reminder that we have a good God who tenderly loves and cares for us.

  2. Doug, thanks so much for sharing. I appreciate the honesty reflections. Even when I do appreciate the daily provision and thank Him for being so kind, I still don’t know that I live with the awareness of the grace that undergirds the daily provision. Like a child who expresses appreciation for mom making breakfast or dad taking him to soccer practice, I do thank the Lord for His provision. But that child doesn’t really grasp either the intentionality or the cost and sacrifice that might be involved in making that provision. Appreciation? Yes. Awareness? Not so much. And part of what this petition in the Lord’s Prayer presses on in me is my frequent inattentiveness to the intentionality and cost–through the death of the Son–of God’s daily, kind provisions.


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