The Lord’s Prayer — Week 3

Monday, February 18

Read: Matthew 6:5-11

Consider: One of the things that continually impacts us about The Lord’s Prayer is the simplicity of it. The phrases are short, the requests succinct. After all, Jesus had just told us not to “keep on babbling” in our prayers (6:7), thinking that there is more power to them if we multiply the words. No, the opposite is true. There is beauty and power in simplicity.

And could there possibly be a simpler request when it comes to our needs? Jesus said, “This is how you should pray…‘give us today our daily bread’” (6:9-11).

That’s it? No begging? No deal making (as in, “If you do this one thing for me, God, I promise I’ll…”)? No planting of financial “seeds” to convince God that you’re serious? Just “Give us today our daily bread”? What’s the catch?

Well, there is no catch, but there is something more that is needed. For the last two weeks we’ve seen that a call to pray is also a call to act. It is a call to enflesh—to live out—the prayer we pray. When we begin the prayer with worship — “hallowed be your name” (6:9) — we’re called to give ourselves to him completely. We’re called to cast down our idols and all the gods in our lives that compete with the giver of life. When we pray for his kingdom to come and his will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (6:10), we’re called to participate in the work of that kingdom—to be part of the answer to that prayer. So, when we’re called to ask for our daily bread, we’re called to combine that simple request with simple trust.

No begging. No deal making. No threatening. No cajoling. No bribing. Just trust.

After all, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (6:8).

Pray: “Lord, this week as I consider my relationship with you in the context of my daily needs, teach me to trust you in ways I never have before. Teach me to rest on your promises. Teach me to cast my anxieties on you. I don’t want to dishonor you by refusing to believe that you really care for me. Thank you that today you hear my simple prayer for daily bread.”

 

Tuesday, February 19

Read: Exodus 16:1-21

Consider: Okay, let’s be honest. How many of us would have tried to gather enough manna for more than one day? After all, it was just lying there on the ground. It wasn’t going to hurt anyone if it was stockpiled. What if it didn’t come the next day? Wouldn’t it be wise to have enough for you and your family in case God didn’t deliver the following morning? So that’s exactly what some of the Israelites did, only to wake up and find maggots and stench where there had been the sweet taste of honey wafers (16:20, 31).

Why did God choose to feed his people in such a strange way? Well, this was only temporary. When they reached the land of promise they would plant fields and raise animals. They would feed their families in the ways of seed time and harvest. But while they were in the wilderness they had to be fed by the hand of God. And God wanted them to learn how to trust him—every single day.

Did you notice that Jesus asked us to pray for just one day of “manna” at a time? He said, “This is how you should pray…‘give us today our daily bread’” (6:9-11).

How are we praying? “Give us this year our yearly bread”? “Give me a lifetime guarantee so that I’ll never have to depend on you moment-by-moment”? We often pray that way, and sometimes we don’t pray at all for daily bread. We just depend on our own resources. But we’re not called to trust our own wisdom, our own cleverness or our own strength. We’re called to trust the One who gives us wisdom, makes us clever and strengthens us day by day.

So, God teaches his children to be totally dependent on him. He teaches us that he is with us today and that he will be with us tomorrow.

By the way, one of the things the Israelites had to learn was that even in the land of promise when they were planting fields and raising animals, it was still their God who was supplying their needs. He is the giver of all good things.

Pray: “Lord, please supply my needs today—not just my physical needs, but my spiritual and relational needs as well. And I thank you in advance, because I know the ‘manna’ will be there for me. I won’t ‘gather’ for tomorrow by being consumed with worry. You are with me today and I’m confident you’ll be here tomorrow.”

 

Wednesday, February 20

Read: Matthew 6:25-34

Consider: A few verses down from The Lord’s Prayer we find Jesus enlarging on that simple request he invited us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (6:11).

He speaks about trust. He repeatedly tells us there is no need to worry (6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34). He assures us that our Heavenly Father is aware of our needs (6:32). And then he gives us a powerful tool.

How many times has someone said to you, “Don’t worry,” as if that instruction alone will do the trick? If it was that easy—if you could just flip a switch and quit worrying—you would have done that a long time ago. But the anxiety won’t leave, and you’re plagued with “what ifs.” It almost angers you when someone glibly says, “Don’t worry about it!”

But there is nothing glib in Jesus’ instruction. He tells us how—through his power—to be at peace.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (6:34)

In other words, Jesus is teaching us to live in the present moment. A few years ago, I heard a speaker who had studied anxiety and depression. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know there are no simple answers to clinical depression. It is not a spiritual problem, but often a physiological and chemical problem which requires medication and therapy. But even for people suffering from severe anxiety and depression who must take it very seriously and use resources for support, this professional was encouraging them to learn to live in the moment—to find joy in the “right now.” He saw this as part of the answer to dealing with anxiety.

Jesus told us where we shouldn’t live. We shouldn’t live in the troubles of tomorrow (6:34) or the regrets of the past. With simple trust, we ask the Father for what it is that we need right now (6:11), and we thank him for filling our right-now needs.

One of the most important spiritual disciplines we can develop is the capacity to live in the moment. But it is not simply a matter of being present. It is being present while being aware of Christ’s presence.

Pray: “Lord, help me to live in the joy of this moment. That joy comes from the knowledge that you are with me right now. May your presence be real to me throughout this day. And tomorrow…well, we’ll think about that tomorrow.”

 

Thursday, February 21

Read: Matthew 6:25-34

Consider: Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow” (6:34). A literal translation would read, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow” or “have no anxiety about tomorrow.”

I know it’s not the best translation of this passage, but I just love the way it is rendered in the King James Version of the Bible…

“Take therefore no thought for the morrow…”

Take no thought? Come on! Well, like I said, it’s probably not the most accurate way to translate it from the original language. But you’ll have to admit, there’s real beauty to it.

I know, I have to think about tomorrow. I’ve made appointments. There are schedules to keep. There are bills that will need to be paid. I must show up for work ready to go. I have to prepare for tomorrow with adequate sleep and nutrition. But what I love about “take no thought for tomorrow” is the joy of that statement. When Jesus tells us to trust him, he’s not talking about a forced dependence or a begrudging dependence on him. He’s talking about a dependence that brings joy and freedom.

Yes, you and I are very responsible people. We’ve given thought for the tomorrows of our lives. But for now—for right now—could we just “take no thought for tomorrow”? Could we just bask in the presence of the One who has given us this moment?

Pray: “Lord, thank you for your presence in my life right now. Because I have you, I have everything I need. I don’t know what all I will need tomorrow. But for now—in this moment—my needs are met, for you are with me, and your presence meets all of my needs.”

 

Friday, February 22

Read: Matthew 6:19-21

Consider: The passage we’ve read for the past two days in which Jesus instructed us to put away worry and to live in the present, is preceded by an important perspective he has for us. Within the Sermon on the Mount we read about the things that Jesus wants us to highly value. And, at this point in the sermon, we also read about the things on which he doesn’t want us to place a high value.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (6:19-20)

I believe this is Jesus’ way of saying, “Consider what is temporal and what is eternal, then value what is eternal.”

Let’s not separate this from the words that follow about the liberation of living in the moment. (See Wednesday’s and Thursday’s meditation on 6:25-34.) When we figure out what is really important, we begin to see that so many of our worries are silly. So, before Jesus spoke to us about worry, he spoke to us about simplicity—the simplicity of our desires and the simplicity of our values.

“Treasures on earth”—temporal stuff—often take more than they give. We find ourselves worried and stressed about things that really don’t have all that much value. Perhaps we’ve spent a lot of money or time or effort on something, so we believe it is to be highly valued, cared for and protected. But what if we’ve spent our money, time and effort on the wrong thing? We then end up valuing it in inappropriate ways, because, as Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:21).

The simplicity of that request in The Lord’s Prayer — “Give us today our daily bread” (6:11) — is to be part of a broader simplicity in our lives. When our desires are in sync with God’s will for us, simple trust is easier to find.

Simplicity is more than minimalism. It is a spiritual reality—an inside-out work of the heart—that brings perspective, focus and liberation.

Pray: “Lord, lead me on this journey. Teach me how to value what is truly precious and release me from bondage to the things that don’t really matter.”

 

Saturday, February 23

Read: Proverbs 30:7-9

Consider: I’ll have to admit, I can’t remember the last time I prayed, “Give me neither poverty nor riches” (30:8). I think all of us, in some manner, have asked God to keep us from falling into poverty. But I’m guessing very few of us have asked God to make sure we never get rich. I mean, have you ever heard of someone buying a lottery ticket and praying that it wasn’t a winner?

“Give me neither poverty nor riches” seems like a strange way to begin a prayer, but the words that follow sound very familiar.

“…but give me only my daily bread.” (30:8)

We call the Book of Proverbs part of the “Wisdom Literature” of the Old Testament. And the writer is truly giving us some wise counsel as we listen in on his conversation with God. He’s afraid that money will become an idol—that he will find his sufficiency in material wealth—and that when that happens, he will “disown” God (30:9). That kind of person is described as asking a strange question — “Who is the Lord?” (30:9). It shows that there are other gods competing for his allegiance.

Our lives are complex because of competing voices demanding allegiance. So many things are vying for our attention and our affection. Some are beautiful and some are toxic. So, it takes wisdom, intentionality and commitment to recognize the false gods. As we simplify our lives, we gain a better perspective which empowers our liberation.

And so, the wisdom writer decides that the best course of action is to simply pray for his “daily bread.” I believe God agrees with his wisdom, for he chose to give the Israelites only enough manna for one day at a time. And our Lord lovingly taught us the joy and freedom of simplicity when he taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

Pray: 

“Our Father in heaven,
Holy is 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 sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”