The approach Jesus directed His first disciples to use in prayer is centred first of all on God the Father, who He is and how we should approach Him. It then turns to highlight the primary purpose of praying for the child of God. It is to ask Him to prompt us to desire the things that He most wants to happen on earth. It is half-way through the model for prayer before it turns to us and our requests.
Matthew 6:11 states: Give us this day our daily bread. Notice it is ‘we’ and ‘us’ not ‘me’. It is community-centred praying at its best. If our prayers to God are primarily centred on me and what I want then this model for prayer commended by Jesus is a radical challenge to it. Do I or you need to stop and consider how closely aligned are our priorities in prayer with those of God as revealed to us by Jesus?
I have the privilege of working in the local food bank at the present time. It is not something I had ever planned to do, but when needs arise in a community as has happened in the last couple of months there are many individuals who want to make a difference. It is so encouraging that across our city of Dundee there have been many people able and willing to contribute in a variety of capacities.
In the early days of our work after the Covid-19 virus related lock down began there were some difficulties in obtaining certain food items. It was not often that bread was raised as one of the sought after items, as there appeared to be a regular supply of bread products in the shops. So what is the point of this petition then and now, is it really just about obtaining ‘bread’?
There are probably only a few people in the UK who could not afford a loaf of bread each day. So why should we pray this petition? It is a daily recognition that God is interested in even the small things going on in our lives. It is also an acknowledgement that the ultimate source of our ‘daily bread’ comes from God. James 1:17 reminds us: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father. Or as Paul puts it in I Corinthians 4:7-8a: For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 8Already you have all you want…
In context, Paul’s words were spoken to some comparatively wealthy people in his day who did not appreciate how fortunate they were to have such blessings. They needed to be more sensitive to the needs of others who were struggling to afford even such basic necessities of life. In our materialistic culture with the constant advertising of new products that has the intention of enticing us to purchase things we will never need and in all honesty don’t really want. It is so easy to lose a sense of perspective. Jesus wants us to come to a state of contentment with the provision of our needs and to inculcate a sense of gratitude for that provision.
As Paul put it in I Timothy 6:6: But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing and shelter, we will be content with that. To honour this aspect of prayer that Jesus has commended to us is to ask God to enable us to be freed from the materialistic spirit that saturates our culture and from which Christians have not been immune.
The challenge that Jesus is giving us here is to ask our Father in heaven to help us discern between our needs and our wants and to cultivate a spirit of gratitude when the former are met and to move towards the place where we do not miss some of the things that we might want.
Our song for reflection today is: ‘All I once held dear’