The Lord’s Prayer (Part 4)
Part 4 of The Lord’s Prayer by Rev. Billy Kristanto.
The Lord’s Prayer is a complete entity even if we are now going to focus on verse 11. Here it seems that there is a new section. It seems as if there are requests concerning the matters of God, i.e. the hallowing of His name, the coming of His kingdom, and the execution of His will on earth as it is in heaven, and then there are requests concerning our needs, i.e. food, forgiveness of sin, and the keeping away from temptations. Indeed there is a difference, but we put more emphasis on its unity. The centre of request in the Lord’s Prayer is in verse 9 and 10, i.e. that the name of God be hallowed and that His kingdom come. The other requests are united as one; they are subrequests of the main request in verse 9 and 10, because all of them are related.
In verse 11, our Lord teaches us to pray for our needs, which is represented by our daily bread. This represents all other physical needs. This verse says ‘daily’. The Indonesian translation reads ‘give us this day food enough for us,’ while the English one reads ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ One interpretation says that we are asking that God would give us what is enough for this day only; there is a spirit of contentment in our physical needs. We learn to ask God what we need and not what we want; what we want is not important; what we need is truly necessary. God wants us to learn to ask what we really need, not what we want.
Why is this principle important? Because this principle is related to the previous request: Your kingdom come. One who in his life keeps on thinking too much of physical needs, life’s facilities, etc., will finally become too disillusioned to see the kingdom of God. He will be occupied with thoughts about his own desires which are not God’s will. He will not be able to see the reality of God’s kingdom broadly. The matter of God’s kingdom should be understood with a broad heart and a global attitude (we have discussed this in the previous part).
When our lives are occupied with desires for physical needs, we will desperately seek after those things, and fail to understand the reality of God’s kingdom clearly, and so our lives will be confined in a narrow realm. We need to ask God to grant us sensitivity towards what we really need, and this is what we need to ask of Him. God gives what our portion is.
Verse 11 teaches this principle. But there is also an understanding of ‘this day’–daily bread. Another interpretation relates this with an event where the Israelites were given daily manna by God. It is Lord Jesus Himself who actually gave that manna. It refers to the Bread of Life (Jesus Christ) who was to come. When He announced Himself as the Bread of Life, many people could not understand it. Even some people naively and foolishly said, “Moses gave us that manna,” when that manna itself actually pointed to Jesus Christ. They could not see Jesus Christ because they saw the greatness of man (Moses) and so they could not see that it was God who gave them the manna. This prevented them to see the glory of God, the glory that is in Jesus Christ.
When we read the giving of the manna in the Old Testament, God gave the manna daily. It wasn’t given weekly, monthly, or yearly,–but daily. One might think, “Ah, how nice it is if I can save this manna for the next few days.” This is like having a meticulous plan for our future (not necessarily wrong) and put our stake of life security on it (this is a disaster!). What happened? The manna was spoiled, because one could not save it. It was only enough for one day. The blessings of God are only enough for one day, yes, only for one day. This is the biblical principle.
Why is it only for one day? Why is there no such system as ‘this card’s usage period is one year and can be used at any time’? God wants us to learn to depend on Him. If God gives blessings for one year, we will easily be people who no longer depend on God. Then we will not be content anymore, but will be self-satisfied because we feel sufficient for that one year, till we meet God again in Christmas or New Year’s prayer. So it is no wonder if many people make resolutions once in a year (while the Bible requires us to bear our cross daily). The principle of ‘long term thinking’ is basically the same. They humanly thought, “This is God’s blessing that we will keep, we will keep it so that our souls will be freed from worries.” Actually God teaches us to be free from worries by learning to depend on Him. Saving life’s facilities for seven generations or keeping bread up to seven days–all these will be spoiled. If bread is spoiled, it is not a big problem. But how if it is our faith that is spoiled? Spoiled bread is a small matter. Just throw it away. But what if it is ourselves that are spoiled? When we are no longer living a life that is dependent on God, consequently we will be spoiled because we are too worried over preparing for the future, and we—once again—fail to see God’s care.
We need to understand this verse literally. It is not a hyperbolic phrase. The fact is that not everyone has the privilege of having it. There are Christians who are strong in their faith, whose hearts are close to the kingdom of God. They do not know what they will eat today, but they believe that God will provide. They give thanks because God will surely provide. Georg Müller is often quoted as an example of faith that really believes in the providence of God. How far are we from these people!
In another part it is said, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” It is not that there may not be worries; it is possible for men to worry. But trouble for the day is sufficient for the day. If we are worried over things in 30 years to come, we will burden ourselves with unnecessary troubles. And the most destructive about this condition is that we will not be able to enjoy the blessings of the kingdom of God. We will not be able to pray, “Your kingdom come.” These words will not come out, as we will always pray for things that trouble us. There will be nothing about the kingdom of God in our prayers. What remains is our wants, our desires, not the work of God.
This phrase teaches us to ask of God blessings enough for today. Tomorrow is tomorrow’s matters. Tomorrow I will ask again. Why? Because tomorrow my God is still living. If my God is only living today, I will ask everything as long as He lives. But our God is not like that. He lives every day. Tomorrow we shall meet Him again, and we ask again. That is the spirit taught in the Bible–give us this day our daily bread.
Moreover, when we talk about our needs, it is said here, “Give us.” This is a communal prayer, even though we can pray it individually. This is just as the first phrase, “Our Father,” and not “My Father.” Indeed He is my Father, but He is also your Father, and his/her Father–our Father. When we pray for our needs, the Bible teaches us not to pray only for our needs, but also for others’ needs, because this is what is meant by the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God means I am praying for my needs, but I also pray for other people’s needs. This is again the globality principle of the kingdom of God.
One whose prayer is narrow–always for his own needs (usually it is more passionate to pray for our own needs)–will not see the beauty, the abundance of God’s blessings that God has revealed in this world. What actually is one of the great blessings? Not only that we finally receive what we need (in the matter of physical needs, for example), but also that we can have a broad heart when we pray for other people also. This is a blessing, too, not even smaller than the fulfillment of our needs, because by it we become more like Christ. People who were used by God mightily–we can read from their biographies–had this character for sure. They surely had a broad heart and not narrow heart. A narrow heart cannot be used by God freely. But to one who has a broad heart God entrusts greater things. We long for every believer to grow more in this aspect–to grow in broadheartedness. One way is to learn to pray not only for our own needs and concerns, but also for others’ needs and concerns. Let’s put our attention on other people’s needs, their physical and spiritual needs.
This verse teaches a communal spirit in prayer. One who in his life is able to be content in every situation–as it is mentioned here, “Give us this day our daily bread,”–his life will surely be blessed. Perhaps one of the best exposition on contentment was given by Jeremiah Burroughs, a Puritan, which is titled “The real jewel of Christian contentment,” inspired by the epistle to the Phillipians. He especially deals with being content. One who is content in every situation will be blessed because he has very little worries. If there are worries, they are more due to spiritual worries–worries because of God’s work, worries for God’s will to be done,–not the kind of worries that are self-centered.
The understanding of contentment doesn’t mean that we cannot desire to advance or that we cannot save for the future. We can save, we can desire to advance–there is a place for these. Right ambitions that are in the will of God are tested by what kind of attitude that we have at the moment. Let’s say we are in the third grade. Of course we can have the ambition to be in the fourth grade–this is not a wrong ambition. This is possible in God’s leading, this may be our portion one day, but what constitutes a test whether the desire is right is by examining our attitude about our situation now (that is in the third grade). If I can’t accept my situation now as one who is temporary in the third grade, and I try to precede God’s time, I am actually having no spirit of contentment (this kind of things tends to destroy ourselves and those around us).
Two things need to be distinguished from each other: the right ambition and the wrong one. Healthy ambition in the measure of faith that is given us pursues progress, but it is marked by thanksgiving for what we are at the moment. I am not being one who is continuously discontented, always complaining of what is lacking, and finally not being able to accept my own existence. If we are bound by many unnecessary things, our understanding of Christian liberty will be marred. Therefore contentment is a very important thing in Christian life. J. Burroughs calls it a rare jewel–it is rare to find one whose life is contented. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between a healthy ambition for progress and discontentment. We need to know ourselves honestly before God. We need to know ourselves as we are known by God–this is the foundation of integrity.
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- April 4, 2006 / 00:54