Daily Bread Living
October 8, 2009
“Give us today our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11
Before we begin: Name three things you pray about most often. Why does God want us to ask him to provide “daily” bread?
With this petition we turn a corner in our journey through the Lord’s Prayer. The first three petitions direct our attention to God the Father. We are instructed to . . .
Pray to the Father about His Name – Hallowed be your name.
Pray to the Father about His Kingdom – Your kingdom come.
Pray to the Father about His Will – Your will be done
The second half of the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray for ourselves and for others. We are to . . .
Pray for Provision – Give us today our daily bread.
Pray for Pardon – Forgive us our debts.
Pray for Protection – Lead us not into temptation.
A brief glance at the Lord’s Prayer reveals that there is one word that characterizes the first half of the prayer and another word that characterizes the second half of the prayer. The word for the first half is “your”-Your name, Your kingdom, Your will. The word for the second half of the prayer is “us”-Give us, forgive us, lead us. By arranging things this way Jesus is teaching us that we are to begin with God’s concerns. We are to pray to God about the things he is most concerned about. When we have done that, we are to pray for our own concerns-Our daily bread, our forgiveness, and our protection in the moment of temptation. We start in heaven and then come down to earth, which is the pattern of all divine revelation.
We start in heaven and then come down to earth, which is the pattern of all divine revelation. </h6 class=”pullquote”>
God And Your Problems
In the second half of this prayer God is brought directly into the very tiniest details of our everyday lives. If the first half of the prayer seems too esoteric, if the first half seems too theoretical, if it seems too theological-it shouldn’t-but if for some reason it does, you will certainly understand and draw near to the second half of the Lord’s Prayer because it is meant for you and the problems you are facing in your daily life.
Let’s take a look at the second half of the prayer and analyze it a little bit more. It contains three petitions- “Our daily bread”, “forgive us our debts”, and “lead us not into temptation.” That covers provision, pardon and protection. If you think about those three things, they take care of all the needs of life:
Provision takes care of your present.
Pardon takes care of your past.
Protection takes care of your future.
Not only that, it takes care of every part of you personally. Provision takes care of your body. Pardon takes care of your soul. Protection takes care of your spirit. Everything that can be brought legitimately into prayer is in the Lord’s Prayer. That is why it is such a tragic mistake for us to overlook the Lord’s Prayer or to think that it is just a Sunday morning ritual. It is more than just a pattern or model for prayer. If you understand it in its breadth, everything that you can legitimately pray about is contained in either the first half or the second half of this great prayer.
Hot Bread From Heaven
Now we are ready to look at the second half of the prayer. It begins with a petition for provision: “Give us today our daily bread.” There are two words we need to think about before we consider the deeper meaning of this petition. First, this is a prayer for bread, not for cake. “Give us today our daily bread.” The Greek word for “bread” refers to common, ordinary bread. It doesn’t mean anything fancy. It just means normal, everyday bread. Jesus is telling us that when we pray, we ought to pray for ordinary, normal, everyday bread.
Jesus is telling us that when we pray, we ought to pray for ordinary, normal, everyday bread.
At its heart, this is a prayer for food. This is a prayer to be said before you sit down and eat. When was the last time you actually prayed to God, “O God, please give me a meal?” Most of us ought to pray the opposite, “O God, prevent me from eating another meal, I have already eaten too much.” This petition sounds like it ought to be a prayer uttered by someone living in Haiti or Bangladesh. It’s sad but true. We have so much food we take this prayer request for granted and yet it is this prayer request from which has been formed a familiar childhood prayer – “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. By his hands we all are fed. Give us Lord our daily bread.”
But bread in Scripture is more than just literal bread; it’s also a symbol for all the material needs of life. Bread in the Lord’s Prayer stands not just for the kind of bread that you slice and eat. It also stands for all the physical and material needs of your life.
Martin Luther On “Daily Bread”
In 1529 Martin Luther wrote his famous “Small Catechism” in which he explains the meaning of each part of the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer.This is what he says about “Give us today our daily bread”:
What does this mean? Truly, God gives daily bread to evil people, even without our prayer. But we pray in this request that He will help us realize this and receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What does “Daily Bread” mean? Everything that nourishes our body and meets its needs, such as: Food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, yard, fields, cattle, money, possessions, a devout spouse, devout children, devout employees, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors and other things like these.
The phrase “and the like” means anything he leaves out of the list. Which means everything physical or material is contained in the expression “bread”. You are not just praying for physical bread; you are praying for all the physical and material needs of life.
If you haven’t eaten in three days, the one thing you want more than anything else is daily bread.
In the history of interpretation, some people have been rather shocked that a prayer as exalted as the Lord’s Prayer should contain a petition for something so mundane as daily bread. Over the centuries some commentators have suggested that daily bread represents something spiritual or sacred like the Lord’s Supper. They were a little bit offended that something as earthy as daily bread and the needs of life would be in a great prayer like this. It seemed superfluous and even unspiritual to them. Try telling that to a starving man. If you haven’t eaten in three days, the one thing you want more than anything else is daily bread. This petition is our invitation to earnestly ask God for the needs and necessities of life.
Daily Bread For Daily Needs
The word “daily” also deserves our notice: “Give us today our daily bread.” One commentator called it the only perplexing word in the whole Lord’s prayer. The Greek word is difficult because it only appears twice in the New Testament-in the two texts that contains the Lord’s Prayer. And there aren’t many examples of the word outside the New Testament. So rare was this word that Origen (an early church father) suggested that perhaps Matthew and Luke coined this word to translate an Aramaic original for which there was no Greek equivalent. But a few years ago researchers found this word in a fragment that appears to be a woman’s grocery shopping list. She wrote down the things that she was going to buy when she went to the store and next to certain items she wrote the Greek word translated “daily.” In that context, the word means either “Buy it daily,” or “Buy it today.” That clarifies the meaning of this word in the Lord’s Prayer. It means “for this very day,” or “for the day that is about to come.” If you pray this prayer in the morning, you are saying, “O God, may you give us today the material things that we need for today.” If you pray this prayer at night, you are praying, “O God, may you give us tomorrow the things that we need for tomorrow.”
We can draw two conclusions from these two introductory points. First, the fact that Jesus mentions bread teaches us that material things do not lie outside the realm of prayer. Sometimes well-meaning people have thought that it is somehow unspiritual to pray for physical needs. That’s not right. You’re not just a soul or a spirit, you are a real person living in a real human body. If food is what you need, this prayer teaches you to pray for food. If money is what you need, this prayer teaches you to pray for money. If a job is what you need, this prayer teaches you to pray for a job. If health is what you need, this prayer teaches you to pray for health. If any physical thing is what you need, if it is a legitimate thing, we have warrant here to bring it before God. Material things are not excluded from the realm of prayer.
Second, Jesus is teaching us the importance of moment by moment, 100 percent dependence upon God for the things that we need. He’s teaching us that we need to learn to depend upon God on a day to day basis. As Matthew Henry says, this really means that the followers of Jesus Christ are to have “a hand to mouth existence.”
Four Steps To Daily Bread Living
With that as background, here is my thesis for this message. This great petition “Give us today our daily bread” is more than just a prayer request. Properly understood, it describes an entire way of looking at life. This petition suggests something about a truly Christian lifestyle. You could call it Daily Bread Living. That is to say, if you are going to pray this prayer with understanding, it’s going to lead to a certain attitude, or a certain way of life. If this prayer is ever going to become reality it must first affect the way you live. Therefore I want to suggest four steps to Daily Bread Living. Each step comes from the very words of the text itself. These four steps to daily bread living are really four qualities that need to be in your life if this prayer request is ever going to become a reality.
1. The First Step to Daily Bread Living is Gratitude to God for All His Blessings.
The first step comes from the very first word. “Give us today our daily bread.” This prayer request teaches us that everything we have comes from God. Everything. The clothes, the food, the friendships, the education, the mind we use, the words we speak, everything comes from God. We are put in the position of those who are praying, “O heavenly Father, give us what we need.” Surely this must be the central teaching-that gratitude to God is to mark our lives and we’re to be grateful to God for all he’s done.
Life is too short to have a bad day.
Consider the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 8:10, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” In 1 Chronicles 29:14 David says, “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” In Psalm 145:16 David again declares, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” Have you ever stopped to think about the splendor of creation? God could have ordained that we eat nothing but mud. Mud for breakfast, mud for lunch, mud for supper. He could have made everything gray. But he didn’t do that. He created a whole world for us and he painted it in Technicolor. He said, “Here, eat and drink and be made strong. Everything I made, I put here for you.” The whole world is yours to enjoy. Lying on the field looking up at the fleecy clouds. Letting the juice dribble down your cheeks when you’re eating a luscious peach. Losing your breath when you jump into an ice-cold stream. Watching your grandchildren play at your feet. Climbing Horn Peak in Colorado. Listening at twilight to the “Goldberg Variations.” All those things are gifts from Almighty God.
The animating principle of the Christian life is gratitude to God for all his blessings. Everything of value that you possess comes in one way or another from the hand of Almighty God. Everything you have at this moment, including the very breath you are breathing, comes down as a gift of the Father of lights above. This truth ought to make us grateful for the gift of life itself. A few years ago I happened to catch a few minutes of an interview with Hamilton Jordan, Chief of Staff under President Jimmy Carter. Jordan had written a book with the intriguing title, No Such Thing as a Bad Day. It’s his own story about being diagnosed with cancer on three separate occasions before the age of 50. “Where did the title come from?” asked the interviewer. Hamilton Jordan said he called a friend with cancer who is also a father with several young children. After they chatted for a bit, Mr. Jordan asked him, “Are you having a bad day?” “When the doctors tell you that you have only three months to live, there is no such thing as a bad day,” the man replied.
What a world of truth lies in those simple words. If you know you’re only going to live for a few weeks, every day becomes precious and you simply don’t have time to have a “bad day.” You get up every morning, smell the roses, and drink deeply of the elixir called life. Even the moments of sadness are there to be savored and remembered because soon those moments will be gone. I think Mr. Jordan’s point is that in some strange way what happened to that young father was a gift from God. Not the dying part because that is heartbreaking to contemplate. But the other part, the realization that since you won’t be here long, you simply don’t have time to dwell on the negative. You see the sand slipping from the hourglass and you choose and choose again to make every moment count.
We are to pray and ask God for what we really need, not for every wild desire that comes into our mind.
How different this is from the way most of us live. We can afford to have “bad days” because we’re planning on living a long time. A “bad day” is a luxury we give ourselves because we figure with so many more years to go, we can pout or be miserable or have a pity party or feel sorry for ourselves today. The dying have no such luxury. Only the living dare to go into the corner and sulk. Years ago I heard someone say that happiness is a choice. All the virtues and all the vices are choices we make. Happiness is a choice. So is anger. And gratitude. And kindness. And sloth. And patience. And doubt. And faith. We are the way we are because we choose to be that way. And we stay the way we are because we choose not to change.
“So teach us to number our days,” said the Psalmist, “that we may apply our hearts to wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). How true. Life is too short to have a bad day.
He Just Jumps Right In
In one of his sermons, Dr. Harry Ironside tells of the occasion when, as a young man, he went into a cafeteria to eat. The tables were crowded and the only place he could find to sit down was at a table across from another man. So he sat down and as was his habit, Dr. Ironside bowed his head and gave thanks. The other man glowered while he did so and as soon as Dr. Ironside had finished, the man looked at him and said, “What’s the matter with you. Is something wrong with your food?” He looked down at it and said, “No, it looks fine to me.” The fellow said, “Have you got something in your eye? Do you have a headache?” Dr. Ironside said, “No, I’m feeling fine.” The fellow said, “What are you doing then? Why did you bow your head?” Dr., Ironside said, “Well, I was just giving thanks to God for the food I was about to eat.” The man looked at him and said, “You believe that stuff, do you? That’s crazy.” Dr. Ironside said, “Sir, don’t you give thanks for your food?” The man said, “I never give thanks. I just jump right in.” Dr. Ironside looked at him and said, “Well, you’re just like my dog then. He doesn’t give thanks either. He just jumps right in.”
The lesson is not about praying before a meal. The lesson is about being truly grateful to God for all of his blessings. There are basically two ways you can live your life. You can live your life with a big M and a little G or a big G and a little m. The first step to daily bread living is to get on the big G and the little m side. That’s gratitude to God for all his blessings.
2. The Second Step to Daily Bread Living is Contentment with What God has Already Provided.
The key to the second step is in the very last word: “Give us today our daily bread.” We are invited to ask for bread, not for cake. We are to pray “give us today our daily bread,” not “our daily dessert.” Jesus encourages us to pray to God for our needs, not for our greeds. It is very true that the way a pauper will pray this prayer will be very different from the way a prince will pray this prayer. But the principle is the same. We are to pray and ask God for what we really need, not for every wild desire that comes into our mind. This prayer is not an invitation to pray for great material wealth simply so we can add to our bottom line. Nor is it an invitation to pray for everything in the latest Christmas catalogue. Not that those things are wrong in themselves. But the text says “bread,” not “chocolate eclair.” We are to trust God for the things we really need.
When Jesus Does the Cooking
Have you ever studied the way Jesus ate? What you find is very revealing. First of all, Jesus enjoyed good food. Jesus repeatedly went to festivals and feasts and very rich and sumptuous banquets. He went so often that the Pharisees called him a glutton and a drunkard. Our Lord enjoyed good food. He felt at home among the wealthy of the world. But whenever Jesus did the cooking, things were different. Basically there was one thing on the menu-Baked fish and barley bread. Our Lord Jesus could enjoy as a gift the good things of the world, but when he himself did the cooking, it was simple and nutritious. Our Lord Jesus was truly comfortable with the high and mighty and the wealthy and he did not mind eating their food, but when he did the cooking the menu changed dramatically.
“Lord, don’t make me too rich or too poor. O God, give me whatever you think is enough and I will be content.”
In early 1990s I traveled to Russia not long after the fall of Communism. Upon my return to America, many people wanted to know what the food was like. I never ate better in my life. It seemed like we had three or four meals every day. Wherever we went, we enjoyed the hospitality of Russian believers. The average Russian family has much less than most Americans have of this world’s goods and yet when you go there, they open the cupboards wide and they keep bringing it out. During my visit, I was greatly blessed by a particular custom we followed in almost every home. At the beginning of the meal we all stood and bowed our heads and thanked God for the food. Then we sat down and shared our meal together. At the end of the meal we stood up again and we prayed, thanking God for what we had just received. That made a powerful impact on my life. That is what Jesus is talking about. That’s what it means to say that God has given you daily bread-to be truly thankful and truly content with what he has provided.
Many of us need to ponder the words of Proverbs 30:7-9:
Two things I ask of you, O Lord, do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me. Give me neither poverty nor riches but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God.
What a wonderful outlook on life. “Lord, don’t make me too rich or too poor. O God, give me whatever you think is enough and I will be content.”
3. The Third Step to Daily Bread Living is Confidence That God Will Meet My Needs Day by Day.
You can find this principle in two places in our text: “Give us today our daily bread.” Daily bread living means believing that God will provide what you need on a day by day basis. The experience of the children of Israel in the Sinai wilderness provides a powerful illustration of this principle. Exodus 16 records the story. The children of Israel had just crossed the Red Sea. After that great miracle, they started grumbling. Now they’re out in the middle of the desert and they’re saying, “Why did you bring us out here? At least we got to eat back in Egypt. Who cares about miracles? We’re going to starve to death.” So Moses went to God and said, “God, I’ve got trouble with your people.” And God said, “You think you’ve got problems? I’ve got problems. Tell them to get ready because I am going to provide food for them.” So the Lord send the children of Israel manna and quail. The quail were going to come flying in low to the ground at night. The next morning the Jews would find dew on the ground and when the dew disappeared, they would find wafers that tasted like crackers with honey. Manna.
God is willing to supply our needs but only on a day to day-to-day basis.
God’s instructions were very specific: “Go out and get as much as you need for yourself and your family. But don’t get any more than you need.” Why? Because if you get any more than you need, it will rot and the maggots will infest your quail. “On the day before the Sabbath you can collect for two days, but that’s it. Anyone who tries to hoard extra manna will end up with a worm-infested, rotting mess.” I’m sure if I had been there I would have been sent my three sons out with the wheelbarrow that first week and told them, “Put some under the bed. You never know, this may not show up tomorrow.” I think I would have been on the wormy side of things for a couple of weeks just trying to play it safe.
God is teaching us in the Old Testament the same thing he is trying to teach us in the New Testament. He is willing to supply our needs but only on a day to day-to-day basis. We don’t like to live like that. Most of us have freezers at home filled with food. Maybe we have a side of beef and some vegetables. We have plenty of food. There is nothing wrong with that, by the way, but a freezer filled with food makes it more challenging to pray this prayer sincerely. We mutter our prayers instead of saying them from the heart because we already know we aren’t going to go hungry.
We don’t like to live the way Jesus is talking about here. We don’t want to live day to day. We’d rather have pension plans and stocks and bonds and options. We would rather have life insurance policies that guarantee a secure future. If we had our way, this prayer would read, “Give us this week our weekly bread.” Or “Give us this month our monthly bread.” Or better yet, “Lord, give us this year our yearly bread. Just give it to us all at once and we’ll be all right. Then we’ll trust you.”
God does not work that way. He works by teaching his people moment by moment dependence upon him.
Life is uncertain. Most of us don’t have enough savings to get through another month. You can be doing fine and then one day the doctor says, “I’m sorry the tests are positive. You’ve got cancer.” Your life gets rearranged in a split second. Just when you think you’ve got it all together, an illness, the loss of a job, the collapse of an empire that you put together, can happen so fast. One reason God lets those things happen is to move us away from self-sufficiency to God-sufficiency. From self-reliance to God-reliance. From trusting in our own ability to trusting in him alone.
Not long ago I talked with a single mom who owns her own business. “How’s it going?” She smiled and said, “We’re barely making it. June was tough. But I’ve got two jobs for July. We’re going to be okay for July. That’s the way it is. Just when we’re about to run out, God brings a little more work in.” That’s not easy but that dear lady has discovered something that those of us who have plenty of money never discover. She’s discovering that God will meet her needs.
We all eat from the same table.
Do this mean that we shouldn’t plan ahead? Not at all. You should plan ahead. That’s biblical. You should plan ahead but you shouldn’t worry ahead. There’s a big difference. You should plan ahead. You shouldn’t worry ahead. The whole point of asking for daily bread is to teach us to take life one day at a time. Men and women who are in a Twelve Step program already know that. It’s a basic principle for healing of the inner life: You can get better but you must take it one day at a time. You don’t get better a week at a time or a month at a time. You get better one day at a time. That is a tremendous principle. Daily bread living means taking life one day at a time and being confident that God will take care of your needs day by day by day.
4. The Fourth Step to Daily Bread Living is Generosity Toward Those who are Less Fortunate.
This principle comes from the little word “our” – “Give us today our daily bread.” It does not say, “Give me my daily bread. That’s a completely different prayer. You’re never invited to pray for yourself alone. Every time you pray this prayer you are invited and encouraged and even commanded to pray in concert with your brothers and sisters. We all eat from the same table. This petition imparts a bigness, a vastness, a broadness to your prayers. It takes you out of the narrow focus of your own problems and it opens you up to a whole world of people all around you. This thought runs against the grain of modern society. In the marketplace only the tough survive. You’ve got to look out for yourself and make sure no one is gaining on you. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Whoever works the hardest gets the most. The world says, “Get to the top any way you can.” How different that is from the words of Jesus in Luke 6:38, “Give and it shall be given to you.” It is a jungle out there and the business world runs by the law of the jungle. Only the tough survive. You’ve got to look out for “number one.” It is open warfare and you have to be willing to stick someone hard if that’s what it takes to get to the top. It’s totally opposite of what Jesus is suggesting here.
Biblical Economics 101
Here are four principles that underlie the call to share with those who have less than you do:
What you have is loaned to you that you might give it to other people.
Principle 1: Everything you have comes from God.
Principle 2: Everything that is given to you is given in trust to you.
Principle 3: The blessings that you have are not given to you for your own personal benefit.
Principle 4: What is given to you in trust is given that you might share it with others.
What you have is not simply to be used for yourself; it is to be used for the benefit of others. You might call this Biblical Economics 101. What you have is loaned to you that you might give it to other people. To say Our Daily Bread is to see a world of needy and hurting people. Our implies that you don’t pray alone. To say our, instead of my or mine, imparts a liberality to your prayer. This is liberality, not charity; benevolence, not welfare. Most of us will have all we want to eat today and tomorrow we’ll have all we want and the day after that and the day after that. Yet our world is filled with starving people. When we pray “Give us today our daily bread,” we can never pray as if we were the only people in the world. We are to pray thinking about the needy around us. And if we’re not thinking about the needy around us, we ought not to pray this prayer at all.
When the rich man prays, he will also pray for wretched Lazarus at the gate. And if the rich man’s prayer is sincere, he’s going to make sure that Lazarus has more than mere crumbs to eat. If God has given you two loaves of bread and your brother only has one, that extra loaf is not for storing. It’s for sharing. That’s what this prayer is about. That’s the fourth step to daily bread living.
A Place To Begin
This petition, like all the others, opens us up into a whole new way of looking at life. It’s far more than just a few words on a piece of paper. This is what the Christian life is all about. So what is daily bread living? Let me summarize. Daily bread living is:
1. Gratitude to God for all of his blessings.
2. Contentment with what God has already given you.
3. Confidence that God will meet your needs day by day by day.
4. Generosity toward those who are less fortunate than you.
Gratitude. Contentment. Confidence. Generosity. That’s what Daily Bread Living is all about. If you pray this prayer enough, that’s where you’ll end up. It’s not a bad place to be.
Bob and Amber’s Excellent Adventure
This petition reminds us that God delights to hear our prayers, even when we are praying for things that seem small or mundane or “not important enough” to bother God about. For most of us, the real challenge is learning to lay every part of life before the Lord. Bob and Amber Leland stopped by to see me one final time before leaving the Chicago area to return to Irian Jaya for another term of missionary service. When we got together, Bob had something definite on his mind. He took out some sheets of paper and said he wanted to check on the answers to some prayer requests. There must have been almost 50 different items covering many different areas of our church life. Each one had been written down and the date noted. Some were labeled “Continual” and others were for specific needs. We went over each request one by one. Bob asked me to tell him if the request had been answered or not. He would write down Yes, No, or Not Yet depending on what I said. Some of the requests were for things such as revival in the congregation and spiritual power in the preaching of God’s Word. Others were very particular, such as additional workers for our children’s ministry. On and on we went, covering the church, the staff, and also Oak Park Christian Academy. Some of the requests went back four or five years. I marveled as I thought about the faithfulness of these two servants of Christ laboring in prayer from the “Bird’s Head” coastline of Irian Jaya.
I asked Bob when he and Amber started writing down prayer requests and noting the answers. He told me they started in 1971 because “we were bored with our prayer life. It seemed like we prayed and prayed but never heard about any answers.” So almost 40 years ago they began writing down specific requests. Whenever they agreed to pray for something or someone, they decided to go back later and find out how God had answered their prayers. And that’s why they had come to my office for one final visit. They wanted to know what God had done through their prayers. Bob told me that after three decades of doing this, they have discovered that approximately 89% of their prayers are answered Yes, 2% are answered No, and about 9% are answered Not Yet. “It’s hard to argue with that,” he said with a smile. Bob is right. It is hard to argue with that.
A thankful heart cannot be cynical.
Note: I wrote the preceding two paragraphs almost a decade ago. I hadn’t seen Bob for a long time until I spoke at a Men for God Rally in New Brunswick in January 2009. He came to the rally because he and Amber had retired to northern Maine several years ago. After greeting me, he gave me an update page of prayers he and Amber had been praying for us-for me and my wife, our ministry, our boys, and for our personal concerns. I can testify that Bob and Amber are the “real deal.” They take prayer seriously, and therefore I’m not surprised that so many of their prayers are answered by the Lord.
Keeping Track of God’s Answers
I hesitate to share their story because it can be so easily misused. Some people may think that prayer is like playing some giant slot machine in the sky. And others may think it unspiritual to tally the answers to your prayers. I don’t think the percentage matters but I do think Bob and Amber Leland have found a practical solution to the problem of boredom in prayer. They simply keep track of God’s answers. That is certainly biblical. The percentages just make the story memorable. Why have so many of their prayers been answered? I think it’s because Bob and Amber have dedicated themselves to knowing and doing the will of God. As they have delighted themselves in the Lord, his desires have become part of their desires so that when they pray, they are truly praying according to God’s will. Why should we be surprised when God answers our prayers when we pray in his will? Should we not expect God to keep his Word? Perhaps we would all benefit by keeping a record of our prayers and God’s answers. Certainly this is in the spirit of Jesus who said, “Ask and you will receive” (Matthew 7:7).
The converted slave-trader John Newton expressed this truth in these words from an old hymn: “Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring; for His grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much.”
Giving In, Giving Up, or Giving Thanks
A. W. Tozer once remarked that “a thankful heart cannot be cynical.” I paused when I read that because we certainly live in a cynical age. The cynic is a person who, having seen the bad side of human nature so often, finds it hard to take anything at face value. On one hand, such a person can be refreshingly realistic compared to the pie-in-the-sky dreamers who never question anything. The famous axiom of the newspaper reporter comes to mind: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” Well, it’s good to check things out and to have a healthy dose of skepticism when the voice on the phone offers you a “free” trip to Hawaii if you’ll just listen to a one-hour sales presentation-no pressure, of course.
But that’s not the whole story. A little cynicism can be positive, but like any virtue it can quickly become a vice. The heart of gratitude comes from realizing that God alone is the source of all our blessings. Everything else is derivative. I have what I have because God has willed me to have it. I live where I live because God has willed me to live here. I was born into a particular family because God willed it to be so. I was born in Tennessee, raised in Alabama, met my wife in Chattanooga, went to seminary in Dallas, pastured in California, Texas and Illinois, and now live in Tupelo, Mississippi because God has willed it so. We have three grown sons and two wonderful daughters-in-law. Plus we have two fine basset hounds. And even my problems (which aren’t many) are apportioned to me by the hand of a loving God.
God never says ’Oops.’</h6 class=”pullquote”>
Life is a journey with many twists and turns and as I slowly creep toward my 60th birthday–just three years from now–I find that I believe in the sovereignty of God more than ever before. That means there is no such thing as luck or fate or chance. This includes the trivial details of life and the things that really matter like life and death, health and sickness, and what the future holds for our loved ones. I heard about a little girl who, when asked what she had learned in Sunday School, said that she had learned that “God never says ’Oops.’” That’s comforting to know because we live in an “Oops!” world where mistakes are made all the time, often by well-meaning people.
The true cynic doubts that God knows or cares, and he therefore gives in to doubt, anger, and sometimes to utter despair. But those who know their God know that he knows even when they don’t know, and instead of giving in or giving up, they give thanks. It is this spirit that causes us to ask God for the daily bread we need and then to trust that he will answer this prayer every time, day after day, in his own way, according to his own will.
Gracious Father, teach us to trust you more and more. When we are tempted to do it ourselves, bring us down to the place where we must cry out for your help. Forgive us for living as if we were God and you are not. We thank you for giving us exactly what we need, when we need it, not a moment too soon, and not moment too late. Having received so much from you, we ask one thing more. Give us grateful hearts. Amen.
A Truth to Remember: Daily bread living means believing that because God is God, he will give you what you truly need when you truly need it.
1. When, if ever, have you sincerely prayed for God to provide food so you would have something to eat?
2. Psalm 105 is a poetic retelling of God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egypt. From this psalm, name the various ways in which God supplied “daily bread” for his people.
3. “The followers of Jesus Christ are to have a ’hand to mouth’ existence.” What does this statement mean? Do you agree or disagree? How does this relate to saving money, building your investments, and amassing personal wealth?
4. What does the story of God’s provision of manna and quail (Exodus 16) teach us about the way God supplies our needs?
5. Would your friends consider you a grateful person? Why or why not?
6. Why can a cynical person not be thankful? And how can a grateful heart cure a cynical spirit?
An Action Step
Most of us like to make lists. We make lists of things to do, people to see, projects to complete, and so on. Take your to-do list this week and turn it into a prayer list. Instead of becoming hot and bothered about all the things you have to do in the next few days, bring your to-do list to the Lord and say, “Lord, this is beyond me. Beyond my strength, beyond my wisdom, beyond my power. Lord, I’m bringing it to you and asking you to strengthen me and help me.” Keep a record during the next week of how God answers your prayers.