The Lord's Day Morning
May 30, 2010
“How to Pray (3): Daily Bread”
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker, for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care. Let us worship Him.
If you have your Bibles I'd invite you to turn with me to Luke chapter 11 as we continue working our way through the gospel of Luke and as we continue working our way through the Lord's Prayer. We come today to the third verse especially, the third petition, in Luke's version of our Lord's Prayer. We’ll concentrate on it. We've seen already several things.
One, when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray He took them to the Bible. Each of these petitions come right out of the Scriptures and so the first answer to the question, “How do I learn to know how to pray?” is I go to the Bible.
Okay, once I've gotten to the Bible, what do I do? I learn to pray the Bible back to God. I pray God's promises back to Him. Sometimes it's very easy to pick a prayer right out of the psalms or right out of some other portion of Scripture as Mr. Smith did today as we were commissioning the staff. He went right to Ephesians 3 and he used that as part of his prayer for us and for the staff. Sometimes it's very easy to go right to the Bible to a prayer and just make it your own. Sometimes all you have to do is change the pronouns around a little bit and make it your own prayer. But whatever the case it, the key to becoming a more faithful prayer for the Lord is to go to the Bible and let the Bible direct you in prayer. That's one reason why we've commended to A Method for Prayer by Matthew Henry because all Matthew Henry does is build an outline for prayer and fill it up with the Bible so that the language, the phrases, the content, the thought categories for prayer are all drawn from the Bible. So that's one thing that we said was a secret to Jesus’ answer to the disciples, that we pray the Bible.
We also said last week as we looked at the phrase, “Your kingdom come,” that biblical prayer is going to be God-centered. It's not going to be ultimately self-centered. Yes, as we're going to see today, it is always appropriate to take our temporal concerns to the Lord. He encourages that. There are numerous biblical examples of the Lord encouraging us to take our temporal needs and situations and circumstances and concerns to Him and ask Him to intervene. He instructs us to do that by His Word, but that still doesn't mean that prayer is self-centered. It's always God-centered. And even in the order that Jesus gives us we see the prayer moving first, notice, for God's name, His reputation, His glory, His reign, and His will and then “give us each day our daily bread.” So the movement is from a focus on God, His name, His glory, His rule, His will, to our needs, so that God is first and we are second so that the Creator is first and the creature is in second place. So there's a logic to the order.
But now we are given real help in how we are to pray for temporal things. We do pray for temporal things all the time. It's the easiest way for us to pray because we feel so pressed in those areas. If we're running low in the bank account at the end of the month it's easy to feel our need for financial sustenance. If we're having relational difficulties it's very easy for us to take those things to the Lord in prayer.
But what guidance do we have from the Lord in that? Well, the Lord Jesus gives us much guidance in this passage. In fact, I would suggest if we learn how to pray this third petition in Luke's rendering of the Lord's Prayer, if we learn how to pray this petition Biblically, it will help us in several areas. It will help us understand godly dependence, it will help us understand humility, it will help us understand gratitude and generosity and contentment, and even it will help us in making sure that our desires are placed on the right thing, are focused in the right place, that we desire the Giver more than we desire any gift that He gives. And so as we study through this particular petition of the Lord's Prayer, let's ask the Lord to help us learn what He would teach us as He teaches us to pray. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for the disciple to asked Jesus to teach us how to pray and thank You for the Lord Jesus Christ who was the greatest prayer warrior who ever lived and who even now ever lives to intercede for all those who rest and trust in Him. We pray that from Your Word now You would teach us to pray for our everlasting good and Your eternal glory, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Hear the Word of God:
“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught His disciples.’ And He said to them, ‘When you prayer, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’’”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
How do you pray for yourself and for your needs without being inappropriately self-preoccupied? How do you discern what you ought to pray for and what you ought not to pray for? How do you know what to pray for absolutely and what to pray for conditionally? When do you know when to pray a spiritual petition for yourself or a temporal, earthly petition for yourself? What guidance does the Lord give us in praying for ourselves? Even in this little petition He gives us a lot of guidance.
In fact, I want to suggest to you that just in the phrase, “Give us each day our daily bread,” He teaches us five or six things that help us to know better how to pray for ourselves. He teaches us in this passage that if we pray, “Give us each day our daily bread,” rightly, understanding what He means by it in this prayer, that we will learn a godly dependence on Him, that we will learn a certain humility as we prayer, that we will evidence a certain generosity in our prayers, gratitude in our prayers, contentment in our life, and a right desire, a desire in the right place. And I want to look at this with you today.
What we've been doing the last two weeks is simply looking at the prayer and then providing it as an example, turning around and taking the Word of God and lifting it up as a prayer by way of example to help us all pray more Biblically. We’ll continue that pattern today. Before we look at the passage directly, I'd like you to take your hymnals in hand and turn with me to page 877, not hymn 877 but page 877. And if you’ll look on the right hand column on that page you will see 104Q, that's question number 104 of The Shorter Catechism. The Shorter Catechism itself is a summary document that tries to use the language and the thought of the Bible to answer particular, practical questions about the Christian life.
And question 104 is simply asking, “What is it that we're praying for when we pray what is called here, the fourth petition?” And that's following Matthew's order. You remember between “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come” and “Give us this day our daily bread,” in Matthew's prayer there is another petition. Do you remember what it is? You say it all the time — “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Okay? So this numbering is following Matthew's order. Luke sort of subsumes that third petition up under the second one that we studied, “Your kingdom come.”
So that's why it's called the fourth petition here. And it simply answers, “When we pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ we pray” — what? “That of God's free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy His blessing with them.” That's a wonderful answer to that question. I think you’ll see how that works out as we expound this passage today.
I. The Lord Himself is the gracious Provider of all that we have and all that we need.
But let's begin with the very first point — When we pray, “Give us each day our daily bread,” we acknowledge that the Lord Himself is the gracious Provider of all that we have and all that we need. Notice that the prayer first focuses on God's kingdom — “Hallowed be Your name. Your will be done. Your kingdom come.” And then on our needs and concerns — “Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us.” So the order of the prayer is God-centered. Now, our daily bread refers to all of the outward provisions for our daily sustenance. It may indeed recall the manna that was provided in the wilderness on a daily basis. This petition reminds us of our utter dependence on the Lord for everything. When we pray, we pray, notice — “Give us.” Now that doesn't deny what Paul teaches in the Pastoral Epistles. You remember what he says about work? “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” So “Give us” — this is not a government handout that is being asked for here.
This is not an abdication of the responsibility of work that is going on here, but it is an acknowledgment of our utter dependence upon the Lord. We may work and we may work hard and we may work appropriately, but even when we do [work] it is the Lord who gives. We are utterly dependent on Him. If all that we have is the gift of God, then we should be constantly in prayer for that provision and we should be aware of our dependence upon Him. We acknowledge that we, as the creatures, are dependent upon He the Creator. And so this prayer teaches us a godly dependence on the Lord. Let's turn it around and pray that we might learn of our godly dependence on Him. Let's pray.
Our Lord, we pray this day that You would give us each the bread that we need, the food of our sustenance, the material benefits in order to live this life and to care for our families and to serve this community and to serve You well. We recognize that no matter how hard we work, that no matter how competent we are in our vocations, that everything that we have and require ultimately comes from You, and so we pause right now and acknowledge that no matter how much we have it all comes from You. And we are completely dependent on You. So teach us our dependence even as we pray for Your supply, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
II. We are to be humble and remember that we are not self-sufficient.
Now this prayer, properly prayed, not only indicates our dependence on God, it also cultivates humility. We live in an affluent society and all of us in this room, no matter how poor we may think of ourselves, we are all affluent in comparison to others in our culture, in comparison to people around the world, in comparison to people in history. And affluence tempts us to pride and to self-sufficiency and this prayer corrects that pride and that self-sufficiency. Do you remember what Charles Spurgeon said? He said, “There's no trial like prosperity. There's no trial life affluence.”
Why? Because you’re tempted to think that you don't need to depend on God and you’re tempted to think more highly of yourself, because you’re self-sufficient, than you ought to. Well, this prayer humbles you because what does it do? It says, “Lord, give us our daily bread. If You don't give it, we won't have it, and whatever we have has come from You.” If everything that we have is the gift of God, then we have to be careful not to take credit for what He has given to us in His grace. And so properly prayed, this prayer is a prayer that cultivates humility.
I was talking with a friend of mine — he's been a friend of mine ever since I've been in Jackson. I've known him for twenty years now. And I had heard second hand about some good things that were happening spiritually in his son's life. One of his sons had gone through a really rough patch and I had heard from a second party that his son was doing well, that his marriage was doing well, that he was serving in the church, that he was growing in the Lord. And I hadn't seen this friend in some time and we bumped into one another at breakfast a few days ago and so I asked him about it. I said, “Now I've heard that your son's doing well,” and he broke out in a big smile and he began to recount to me how good the Lord was being to his son and what good things were happening in his son's life. And I rejoiced with him. We spent a few moments just rejoicing in the Lord's goodness there. But at the end of the conversation, right as we were wrapping up on that and getting ready to talk about something else, he said, “One last thing.” He said, “But you know, he's making too much money.” Now I did what some of you just did. I kind of laughed. And he said, “No, I'm serious. He's making too much money. He's making too much money for his own good.”
And what he meant by that is, it is a trial to learn to be a good steward when we have been given an abundance. It's a real test because you can love the abundance rather than God, you can spend it poorly, you can invest it unwisely, you can work out propensities in wrong directions — all sorts of bad things can happen in an abundance.
Now we are to be good stewards and we should never look down on the abundant supply of God as if it were evil to have received abundant supply, but it is a test. And this prayer helps you know how to bear the test and one way is to cultivate humility in relation to abundance. So let's do that. Let's pray together using the Lord's Prayer and ask for God to cultivate humility in us.
Our Heavenly Father, as we pray to You to give us each day our daily bread we are acknowledging that everything that we have is a gift from You. Our talents come from You. Our wealth comes from You. Our ability to earn money comes from You. The material possessions that we have come from You and we do not take credit for what You have given to us in Your generosity. Even if we have worked hard and we are tempted to look at others and say, “The reason we have been blessed is because we're smarter or we work harder or we're more faithful than others,” we recognize that ultimately everything we have comes from You. So we humble ourselves before You and say, “Lord, apart from You we are nothing. And there is nothing that we have in our hands that has not come from Your hands, so teach us the humility that we ought to have as we think about our temporal blessings, in Jesus' name. Amen.
III. We are to remember the needs of others as we pray.
But this prayer also teaches us generosity, doesn't it? Notice how Jesus tells us to pray. He doesn't say, “Give me,” it's “Give us.” There's a recognition that it's not just our need, we're not the center of the universe. There are other people that need that blessing as well — our families, fellow members of the congregation, brothers and sisters in Christ, and others who are in need. And so this prayer teaches us, as opposed to self-centeredness, a certain generosity in our prayer, that we need to pray for the needs of others. So let's turn this prayer into the needs of others. Let's pray.
O Lord, we do not only pray for daily bread for ourselves, but for others also, so we ask this morning, especially for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in this congregation who have been deeply affected by the current economic downturn, that You would provide for them. Some of our brothers and sisters have lost jobs; provide work. Some of our brothers and sisters have lost money in investments and we pray that You would restore that to them that they might steward it for Your glory. But Heavenly Father we also pray for the even less fortunate among us. We ask that You would satisfy the poor with bread. We pray that all who walk righteously and speak uprightly will be given, by that Rock of salvation, bread and that their waters would be sure and that they would be supplied of all their needs, in Jesus' name. Amen.
IV. We are to desire God more than God's gift.
Now there's another thing that we learn when we look at this prayer. When we pray, “Give us each day our daily bread,” we declare our desire to enjoy the temporal blessings of this life only with God's favor. Notice the phrase at the end of The Shorter Catechism, that “we may receive of the good things of this life and enjoy His blessing with them.” One of the blessings of asking for daily provision is the reminder that it's God who gives that provision and that He Himself is the Giver of the gift.
Why? Because we can find ourselves, in praying for temporal things, wanting the thing that we pray for more than we want God, desiring the thing we pray for more than we desire God, seeking our satisfaction in the gift that we're asking for rather than in the Giver who gives it. And there are occasions in this life when we're forced to choose between the gift and the Giver and our hearts are revealed then.
I love what Augustine says when he says, “He loves you too little, O Lord, who loves anything as well as You, which he does not love for Your sake.” And this prayer helps us to avoid that particular temptation. Why? Because we're saying, “Lord, You give us our daily bread. You’re the Giver. We’re coming to You. We’re never ever going to want our daily bread more than You because we're coming to You and acknowledging that You are the Giver of our daily bread and if we had to choose between You and our daily bread, why we’d rather give up our daily bread than give up You.”
Isn't that what Habakkuk was all about when he was saying what he said in Habakkuk chapter 3? Let's turn this prayer around and follow Habakkuk chapter 3 and use it so that we might pray for our desire to be found in the Giver and not just in the gift. Let's pray.
Lord, as we pray for our daily bread, we're reminded that we want You and need You more than any temporal blessing that You could possibly provide. Lord, it's good to have children, it's good to have work, it's good to have a home, it's good to have a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs and food in our stomachs, but there is nothing more important in this world than You. And our satisfaction is found in You above all other things. So even if the fig tree does not blossom, even if there is no fruit on the vine, even if the labor of the olive fails and the fields yield no crops and the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no herd in the stall and even if the markets plunge and wealth is lost, yet let us have the grace to rejoice in You, the Lord, and to joy in the God of our salvation and to say, “Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him.” O Lord, give us our daily bread, but give us Yourself for we do not want the bread without the Giver. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
V. We should gratitude in our hearts because everything God provides is a gift.
But this prayer also helps us in gratitude, doesn't it? Not only in cultivating humility and generosity, not only in cultivating a godly dependence, it helps us in gratitude. When we pray, “Give us each day our daily bread,” we're looking to God for provision of every blessing, temporal and spiritual. And that ought to drive us to what? To gratitude. If He's the One who's given every blessing, whether it's spiritual or temporal, then we ought to be constantly grateful. God constantly gives. In fact, Micah tells us that “He delights in giving.” And He even gives good things to His enemies. Jesus says that “it rains on the just and the unjust.”
If God gives good gifts and if He gives all gifts, temporal and spiritual, then we ought to be grateful in our prayers. If everything is a gift, we ought to be constant in our thanksgiving to God. So if we pray this prayer right, it's actually going to cultivate gratitude and thanksgiving in our prayers. Let's do that together and go to the Lord using His Word and seek to cultivate gratitude in our hearts. Let's pray.
Our Heavenly Father, when we pray, “Give us each day our daily bread,” we acknowledge that every blessing that we have ever received has come from You. And therefore our hearts ought to be filled with thankfulness and gratitude. Lord, so often they are not and we confess that sin. It is a great sin to be ungrateful to You because You've given us everything that we have. Lord, make us a grateful people, a thankful people, a people that are recognizably and evidently and observably grateful and thankful. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
VI. We should be content with the gifts and blessings that God gives us.
One last thing — this prayer helps us to cultivate contentment. One of the great challenges of life in a consumer society is looking over there and seeing somebody that has something that you don't have and wanting it. We think of ourselves as consumers, we live in a consumer society, and so we constantly struggle with a lack of contentment because somebody has something that we want but don't have. And this prayer, prayed rightly, cultivates contentment. Notice again when we pray, “Give us each day our daily bread,” we're cultivating contentment with God's provision. The Shorter Catechism puts it this way — “In the fourth petition we pray that of God's free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life.”
I remember reading George Mackay Brown's book, My Uncle George. He tells the story of his uncle George who was a Presbyterian minister in Scotland, coming to Glasgow to marry him to his bride in the middle of the Second World War. And in the pastoral prayer during the wedding ceremony his uncle George had prayed that he and his wife would be supplied a competent portion of the good things of this life. And George Mackay Brown who was writing this book was complaining about that. He said, “The Lord has taken my uncle's prayer very literally and I wish that my uncle had been more aggressive and bold in prayer for material prosperity for me.”
But you understand that that language is not the language of stinginess there, it's that the Lord would supply what we need. In praying for our daily bread we're not necessarily asking to become rich, but we are asking for enough for what we need, for what we require, for what is necessary, and we're asking Him to continue His blessing on us and to provide for every need. And our ability to be content will be in direct proportion to our trust in the Lord's goodness and faithfulness and frankly His generosity in His provision.
You know if we're always out there thinking, “Lord, you know I'd be happy if I could only have a bigger house, more money, a better job, a better spouse, better kids” — if the grass is always green on the other side then one thing that tell us is that we really don't think that God is faithful, good, and generous in His provision because if we don't have it, He's not given it. And if we think that we deserve it and He's not given it, what we're saying is we don't think He is good and faithful and generous. Now this prayer helps us correct that by pointing us to the goodness, faithfulness, and generosity of God. So let's turn it around and pray it to Him in that light.
Our Lord, one of the great enemies of our contentment is a worldly mindset that links our happiness with consuming the maximum amount of stuff. But we can even look around us and see what happens to the hearts and lives of spoiled people. And so we pause right now to thank You that You are so good and You’re so faithful and You’re so generous but You don't spoil us because You love us. Very often You give us not what we want, but what we need; not what we think we need, but what we need. And sometimes You give us what we need but we have to wait for it for awhile. And in all of this we acknowledge that You’re not stingy, You’re lavish in the way You give. You’re loving in the way You give. You’re good and faithful to us. So help us Lord to be content with what You have provided and to resist thinking that satisfaction and joy in this life comes from stuff. We ask this in Jesus' name.
So if we take Jesus’ petition, “Give us each day our daily bread,” and we turn it around to the Lord using the language of the Bible in prayer, we learn humility and dependence and gratitude and generosity and contentment and to put our desire in the right place. May the Lord teach us to pray.
Now let's sing Anna Waring's wonderful hymn about contentment – if you take your hymnals and turn to number 559. It's a great hymn about contentment, a prayer for contentment – “Father, I Know That All My Life.”
Receive from your generous God this blessing — Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Messiah.