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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
 
Title:Petitioning the Father for Our Daily Bread
Text:LD 50 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Thankfulness
 
Preached:2005-12
Added:2006-01-05
Updated:2006-07-14
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 145:1-5
Hymn 1A
Psalm 127:1-3
Psalm 123:1-2
Hymn 65

Readings: 1 Kings 17:8-24, Psalm 62, 1 Timothy 6:3-10
Text: Lord's Day 50
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Why do we pray? That may seem like a question that has an obvious answer. Still, because of the culture which surrounds us, we need to ask this question. Many popular magazines have had articles in the last few years about the medical benefits of prayer. People who pray seem to have their cancer go into remission more often than people who don't. People who pray recover quicker from the effects of heart attack and stroke. People who pray apparently have fewer problems with depression. And so on. The implication is that you can get a lot out of prayer. Prayer brings a lot of benefits.

As we turn to Lord's Day 50, we have to be very aware of this attitude to prayer. For many people today, prayer is about what you get out of it. With such an attitude, the first three petitions of the Lord's Prayer are just formalities. When we get to the fourth petition, "Give us this day our daily bread," that's when we really start praying. When we focus on ourselves and the benefits we can get from God, that's the essence of prayer. At least, that's the way some people think.

Our Catechism teaches us to be aware of this dangerous way of thinking. We cannot read Lord's Day 50 all by itself. It comes as part of a package. That package includes Lord's Day 45. Lord's Day 45 tells us why we pray: because it is the most important of thankfulness. When we talk about thankfulness, we're looking away from ourselves to the one to whom we're thankful. Prayer is concerned not with us in the first place, but with God. And Lord's Day 47 shows us that our prayer life is to be concerned with God and His glory. That holds true also when we come to Lord's Day 50 and the fourth petition. We don't begin here with ourselves. It's true that prayer does bring us benefits, even medical benefits, but the first and primary focus is always on God also when we petition Him for our daily bread.

I preach to you God's Word this afternoon as summarized in the Catechism. Our theme is this:

The Lord commands us to petition the Father for our daily bread.

We will consider:

1. The needs daily bread meets.
2. The confession daily bread creates.
3. The faith daily bread motivates.

1. The needs daily bread meets.

The answer in LD 50 begins with the words "Provide us with all our bodily needs." It's quite clear from this that the Catechism understands "daily bread" to mean the needs of our physical body. When we ask God to provide us with our daily bread, we're asking Him to meet all the needs we may have each and every day. In other words, "daily bread" meets our physical, bodily needs. There are certain things we require for existence and survival. When the Lord Jesus gave us the Lord's Prayer as a model, He wanted to teach us that God is the one who meets our needs.

Notice here that we're speaking in the first person plural. The petition is not "Give me this day my daily bread." That would be first person singular. No, brothers and sisters, the Lord Jesus speaks of 'us' and 'our.' Why is this important to note? We live in a very individualistic time. Here in the Lord's Prayer, the Lord Jesus is teaching his people to look beyond themselves.

It's important to remember that the Sermon on the Mount, in which the Lord's Prayer is given, has a strong emphasis on God's covenant. There are lot of parallels between what we find here and what we see with Moses in the Old Testament. The Lord Jesus is teaching the covenant people of God. And when we speak about covenant, we usually do so in the first person plural. In the covenant, there is me, but there are also others. When we pray for daily bread, following the pattern of the Lord's Prayer, then we must also be giving attention to others and their needs. And so, brothers and sisters, do you pray for the needs of others in the congregation? Are you aware of the needs of others? The Lord Jesus wants us to think of others and their needs. This petition is about "OUR" daily bread.

However, we may still have concern for our own personal needs and the need of our family. When we do that, then we have to be careful to define those needs carefully. It's always good to be reminded that the Lord Jesus is speaking about needs, not greeds. "Provide us with all our bodily needs." Many things that were once luxuries have become needs. So, we have to be very careful in using discernment when it comes to this question. Though it was once considered a luxury, you may need a vehicle today to drive to your work or to church. But in most cases it would be fairly difficult to argue that a snowmobile or a boat is a need or an X-Box or a Star Choice dish. These things are luxuries some of which our lives are better without.

Brothers and sisters, the fourth petition also teaches us to be content when God meets our needs. Contentment is difficult in a consumer culture. Our culture is always telling us to want more. That we need more and more. In contrast to that, the Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 6:6-7, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it." Somebody once said that you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul. We have to learn to be content and realize that money, wealth and luxury are phantoms. Paul goes on to say in verse 8, "But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." What a thing to say! Could you say that? Or would you add a few extra things? Are you happy and thankful when God meets your basic needs? Beloved congregation, we must learn contentment to be happy with what we have. That goes for the younger brothers and sisters too. I imagine some of you get Christmas or birthday presents. Do you spend a lot of time in front of the toy catalogue making your wish list? We had better call it the covet list, for that's what it is!

Paul says in Philippians 4:11, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Oh, don't you wish you could learn the same thing? I sure do. There are many times where we're not happy with our situation. We're not happy with the things we have. We want more and more. And that can be dangerous. It's just like the sun. Sunlight itself is a good thing. Without the sun we could not survive on this planet. We enjoy a beautiful sunny day. But the sun can also burn you if you're not careful. The sun can even kill you. It's the same thing with material wealth. We enjoy it, but it can burn us eternally if we're not cautious and careful. If we do not learn the art of Christian contentment. That's why Paul says further in 1 Timothy 6:9, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." David puts it another way in Psalm 62:10, " though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them."

Riches can increase. God can richly bless us with a good job and plenty of disposable income. When that happens, thankfulness is the only way to avoid becoming covetous and discontented. We must give credit to God for all the good gifts that we have. That brings us into our second point this afternoon:

2. The confession daily bread creates.

Earlier, we read the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. To understand the importance of this story, we have to know the context around it. Just like in so many other places in the Bible, context is everything here. God's people were under King Ahab who was wicked and disobedient before the LORD. God therefore punished the people of Israel with the covenant curse of famine. Not only that, but the Word of God, represented by the prophet Elijah, was withdrawn from them. The barrenness and fruitlessness of the land was a sign of the barrenness and fruitlessness of Israel. God's people were left starving without their daily bread both in a physical sense and in a spiritual sense.

Elijah is sent by God to the region of the Gentiles, to Zarephath of Sidon. God goes to the Gentiles with his prophet. And then He also provides food for a Gentile widow. This eventually leads her to the confession of faith that we find in verse 24, "Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth." That wasn't simply some nice words about Elijah. This woman was confessing faith in Jahweh, the God of Israel, the one whom Elijah represented, also by the words that came from his mouth. This widow was kept alive by God, her son was brought back to life by God. And she comes to faith in Him.

Don't you see, brothers and sisters, if it had not been for God providing for her bodily needs through the oil and flour, she would not have reached this confession of faith? For this woman, this Gentile, daily bread created a confession of faith. It did not do so on its own it worked together with the Word and Spirit (the primary means) but yet daily bread had its role. God has come to this Gentile woman and worked faith in her. In so doing, He shows a foretaste of what was coming in the New Testament. In the New Testament era, countless Gentiles have been and are being brought into the Kingdom by Christ and His Spirit.

We also have to keep in mind that God provided daily bread not only for the widow and her son, but also for Elijah the prophet. What was a prophet called to do? Confess the Name! As long as God gave Him enough food, He was to continue in that task and so are we to do the same. God showed Himself to be the overflowing fountain of all good you can be sure that Elijah acknowledged that fact.

As God's prophets today, we are called to confess His Name as long as we have life and breath. As long as we have our daily bread, our health and strength, we are called to witness to the fact that He is the only fountain of all good. Don't we see that today as well, brothers and sisters? Yes, we have all been provided for as to our bodily needs praise Him for that! But praise Him that He even gives us more! He is the only fountain of all good. Everything good we have, from the smallest thing to the biggest, even the mundane, comes from God. God meets our bodily needs so that we will praise Him, both in our prayers and our walk of life. Daily bread is meant to create this confession of faith!

Daily bread is likewise meant to lead us to see that everything we do and everything we have is worthless without God's blessing. That's the point of Psalm 127:1, "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain." The Lord Jesus makes the same point in John 15:5 when He says, " apart from Me you can do nothing." We need God's blessing for anything we do to prosper. This is what we are to confess. When we pray, the Lord Jesus wants us to make this acknowledgement: Lord, we need you without you we are nothing. We rely totally upon you. But in order to pray that, you also need to consider that carefully. Think about it often: without God blessing us, also through daily bread, what or where would we be? We could not exist apart from Him. Such thoughts help you understand what it means to be a creature it helps you to remain humble and thankful.

Yes, daily bread creates a confession of our creaturely dependence upon God. Closely related to that confession is our third point this afternoon:

3. The faith daily bread motivates.

Our Lord's Day concludes with a 'therefore.' "Grant, therefore, that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it only in Thee." As a result or consequence of all that precedes we are asking God to work in us so that we will trust in Him alone. This is not only a petition to God, it's also a call to us. It makes no sense to pray to God to help you to stop a certain sin, when you make no efforts in your life to stop. So also it makes no sense to ask God to work in us so that we trust only Him, if we also don't make the effort to do so. We are called to trust in Him. God provides us with our daily bread He meets our bodily needs then we're called to look to Him with trust. Actually, the originally German word there can also be translated as "confidence." That English word literally means, "with faith." Our daily bread is intended to motivate us to true faith in God.

The Catechism says "place it only in Thee." The word 'only' is important. We see that word used several times in the same way in our reading from Psalm 62. Verse 1, for instance, "My soul finds rest in God alone." Verse 2, "He alone is my rock and my salvation." Verse 5, "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone." And verse 6, "He alone is my rock and my salvation." The word "alone" can also be translated "only." All of this points to God exclusively. No other creatures, nothing created can be the object of our trust. Of course, in a sense we do trust one another, or least we should. Trust is the basis of most business endeavours you trust, for instance, that the bank is not swindling you out of your money. But that's different from the faithful reliance that the catechism is speaking about. The catechism is speaking about a faith, a trust, a confidence that God is the one in control. God is the one to whom we pray for help. He is the only One to whom we turn in good times or bad. Some people trust in their mutual funds or term deposits, depending on them for riches and prosperity, finding their only comfort and life and death in a high interest rate and low fees. But we believers are called to trust in God alone! That will be reflected not only in the way we pray, but also in our lifestyle.

Do you see what the Catechism is showing us? It's showing that daily bread motivates us to grow in faith, trusting in God more and more. Remember that we are in the last section of the Catechism. Prayer is about thankfulness. Thankfulness is about sanctification the process of change, the process of becoming increasingly holy. We call this 'progressive sanctification.' When we pray for our daily bread, we are praying that God will continue working in our lives. We want Him to work in us so that we ever more put to death our old nature, and turn to Him more and more in faith. The Christian life is not meant to be a plateau where we arrive at a certain level and then remain there until we're lowered into the ground. The Christian life is characterized by progress. Sure sometimes we slip and seem to be falling. Look at it like this: our lives are like yo-yos. Up and down. But this yo-yo is being held by a man standing on an escalator going up. By the grace of God, we're being brought higher and higher. In the end, the Word and Spirit of God are bringing us higher, even though we can't always see it. Our goal is to shorten the string on that yo-yo through daily growth. Part of the way we do that is to move on with faith in this God to whom we pray for daily bread.

And why do we do that? Why do we pray? Not because of us and the benefits we personally receive. Prayer is not about changing God. Prayer is not about twisting God's arm to get him what we want him to do. Prayer is really about changing us making us more dependent on our Father. That's why we say that we pray in thankfulness for what our Father gives us. We pray for everything, including our daily bread, so that God will receive greater glory through us. We want God to be lifted up through our faithfulness, a faithfulness of both deeds and words. God is overwhelmingly good to us, even in our darkest hours. Even at a time when the whole world seems to be falling apart, you can still be thankful to God. You can still acknowledge Him as the source of all good. In bad times and in good times, we can pray following the manner of the fourth petition, asking God for our daily bread, that He may be confessed by us His prophets. AMEN.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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