The Lord’s Prayer is rich with meaning, and if we’re going to start actually reciting it, we need to delve deeply into its meaning. I mean, the problem with any fixed form of prayer is the tendency to recite it as rote, as an incantation, without the understanding. It’s just the way our minds work. Do anything often enough, and your brain disengages. To prevent that, we need to frequently look into the depths of Jesus’ teaching.
(Mat 6:9-10) “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
This language is, of course, a prayer. But consider what we are asking for — we want the world to be a place where God’s will is done utterly, without hesitance or reservation, by everyone here. This means, of course, that the Kingdom has to come first in our own hearts. Until we’re willing to submit to God’s will utterly, there’s no point in praying for others to do the same.
But this leads to the missional element of the prayer. For God’s will to be done, the Kingdom must be expanded to the ends of the earth. And that requires evangelism, missionaries, and church plants. It requires us to talk to our friends and neighbors about Jesus. It requires that we hallow God’s name to the point that others see it in us. We must be transformed before we can transform others.
This is an intensely heart-changing, world-changing, missional prayer.
(Mat 6:11) Give us today our daily bread.
Jesus does not tell us to pray for a big 401(k) or generous cost-of-living adjustments to our taxpayer-funded pension. He doesn’t tell us to pray for roast beef. It’s a prayer for enough bread for one day.
Harken back to Ray Vander Laan’s lesson on green pastures. To our eyes, a “green pasture” in the Judean wilderness looks like a desert. It has barely any vegetation at all. Each evening a fog rises from the sea and waters the desert, producing just enough growth to feed the sheep for that day. And the shepherd’s job is to find one day’s vegetation. He won’t find a week’s.
During the Exodus, God provided the children of Israel with manna, but only enough for one day. If they gathered too much, it turned bad.
(Deu 8:16-18) He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
The recurring theme of scripture is that God never promises more than today’s bread. The prosperity gospel is attractive, but it’s not green pastures.
As we pray for daily bread, we are submitting to God’s way — the way of simplicity and reliance on God to get through one more day.
Notice that the prayer is intended for praying as a fellowship. The prayer is spoken in the plural: “Our Father … Give us today our daily bread.”
We live in a highly individualistic culture, and so this sounds strange to us. We say “give us today our daily bread,” but we think “give me today my daily bread.”
We tend to think of the really important prayers as individual, personal prayers, but when asked how to pray, Jesus taught us to pray as a community. That hardly means we shouldn’t pray individually, but it does mean we need to elevate community prayer in our thinking.
We need to learn to pray for our daily bread, to pray that we all be forgiven. We just need to develop more of a community mindset, so much so that when we go to God in prayer, it’s not just our personal relationship with Jesus we are concerned with. We need to be concerned about our congregation’s relationship with Jesus. And if we’re well fed, we need to pray for the daily bread of others.
We just need to be less selfish in our prayer life, as the Lord’s Prayer teaches us.