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Author:Rev. C. Bouwman
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Congregation:Smithville Canadian Reformed Church
 Smithville, ON
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
Title:Jesus teaches us to pray for daily bread
Text:LD 50 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Lord's Day 50
125. Q. What is the fourth petition?
A. Give us this day our daily bread. That is: Provide us with all our bodily needs[1] so that we may acknowledge that Thou art the only fountain of all good,[2] and that our care and labour, and also Thy gifts, cannot do us any good without Thy blessing.[3] Grant therefore that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures, and place it only in Thee.[4]
[1] Ps. 104:27-30; 145:15, 16; Matt. 6:25-34. [2] Acts 14:17; 17:25; James 1:17. [3] Deut. 8:3; Ps. 37:16; 127:1, 2; I Cor. 15:58. [4] Ps. 55:22; 62; 146; Jer. 17:5-8; Heb. 13:5, 6.

Scripture Reading:
I Timothy 6:6-19
Exodus 15:22-16:21

Singing: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise" Anglo Genevan Psalter)
Psalm 145:4
Psalm 136:1,13
Psalm 105:14,15
Psalm 104:7,8
Psalm 34:2,4
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. C. Bouwman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ!

The disciples had difficulty praying, and so asked Jesus for instruction about prayer. Part of the instruction Jesus gave in answer to this question was the command to ask God to "give us this day our daily bread."

We're used to that petition, and we understand too that the Lord would have us to ask Him not just for bread as such, but also for food in general, sleep, clothes, transport, shelter - as the Catechism has it, "all our bodily needs."

But why, brothers and sisters, are we to pray for these things? Why can't we take food and sleep, clothes and shelter for granted? Why, in fact, do we need food and clothing? What place should this petition have in our prayers?

As it is, congregation, we're to pray this fourth petition in connection with the first three. We're to ask for the bread we need to carry out day by day the task God has given us in His kingdom - so that in turn His glorious name is made more glorious still through our labors. Our prayers for "daily bread", prayed with this goal in mind, will certainly be heard by our God and Father.

I summarize the sermon with this theme:


The need for this prayer

The perspective of this prayer

The content of this prayer

The need for this prayer

The Lord our God has established His covenant of grace with us. In Christ He has spoken with us, and in Christ we may speak to Him. But there are things that can make speaking with God very difficult. One of those things that can make speaking to God difficult is riches, wealth. Agur, the author of Proverbs 30, utters this prayer:

"Two things I request of You

(Deprive me not before I die).:

Give me neither poverty nor riches-

Feed me with the food allotted to me;

Lest I be full and deny You,

And say, "Who is the Lord?"

Or lest I be poor and steal,

And profane the name of my God" (vss 7ff).

Notice: Agur is aware that to have too much can lead one to deny the Lord. Then the point is not that one denies the Lord's existence; the point is rather that one no longer acknowledges dependence on the Lord.

Here, congregation, we need to be honest with ourselves. Agur asks God to give him neither riches nor poverty. Very, very seldom do we find people who pursue poverty. On the other hand, very, very often we find people who pursue riches. In fact, it's in all of us to want more, better, bigger. It's sinful human nature; we want comfort, we want riches, we want this, we want that. But Agur has learned the instruction Solomon has given in the book of Proverbs (instruction about human sinfulness and greed), and so beseeches God to spare him the temptations that come with riches. "Feed me," he prays, "with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, 'Who is the Lord?'"

The apostle Paul echoes the need for modesty in his words to Timothy. We read his warning against greed:

".the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (I Tim 6:10).

We understand: if you've strayed from the faith through your greediness, prayer becomes so very difficult. In fact, then you cease praying.

Yet it doesn't take full-blown departure from God's ways to have difficulty with prayer. James puts it like this:

"You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3).

You see, these saints didn't deny God as such, nor did they quite praying. They kept asking, asking for this and for that, things they wanted for themselves, for their children, things that they could enjoy, that supplied them comfort and pleasure. But they weren't getting what they requested. And we know from our own experiences that when you ask and ask, and consistently don't receive, prayer gets frustrating, and one is tempted to give prayer away..

I don't know whether the disciples of Jesus were well off. It's possible that some of them were; the father of James and John, for example, was a well-to-do businessman. However that may have been, the disciples had trouble with praying. Because they asked and asked, and didn't receive - because they were asking for things to spend on their own pleasures? I don't know. But the fact of the matter is that the Lord gave His disciples particular instruction in relation to asking for daily bread.

And see: Jesus' fourth petition follows the same line in which the Holy Spirit had long ago moved Agur to pray. Agur asked God to keep poverty away from him, "lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God." The disciples too, says Jesus, should ask God to keep them from poverty; "give us day by day our daily bread." With this prayer the disciples should acknowledge their dependence on God. The instruction of Scripture is so clear that all creatures are dependent on God. I think of Ps 104. The psalmist has been speaking about wild donkeys (vs 11), cattle (vs 14), young lions (vs 21), etc, and then says:

"These all wait for You,

That You may give them their food in due season" (vs 27).

That's not to say that every person in Perth today is aware of their dependence on God for food, but that doesn't change the facts any; the wild donkeys of Judah's hills did not consciously know their dependence on God either, but they -like every person and every creature on the earth today- is dependent on the Lord God for food. Paul goes farther in his words to the unbelieving pagans of Lystra: "He gives to all life, breath, and all things" (Acts 17:25). That's categorical language; "He gives to all life, breath and all things." It's the instruction of Scripture: all the world is dependent on Him. By teaching us to pray the fourth petition, Jesus teaches us to confess this reality before God. 'Lord, if You don't give us daily bread, we shall perish. So, give us day by day our daily bread.'

The perspective of this prayer

Agur asked more than that God would withhold poverty; he asked also that God would withhold riches - lest, said Agur, "I be full and deny You, And say, 'Who is the Lord?'" Notice that Agur does not set his goals too high; he's modest in his requests. This is precisely Jesus' instruction to His disciples. He tells them to ask God for "bread". Have you ever considered, congregation, why Jesus instructed His disciples to ask for "bread" instead of, say, meat - let alone one of the delicacies available at Jerusalem's best restaurant? The reason, of course, is that bread was for the people of Israel the basic diet; everybody ate bread. And the people of God should be content with the basics. I remind you of what Paul wrote to Timothy:

"And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content" (6:8).

In other words, we don't need things that tickle are pleasures, don't need to pursue luxury, comfort.

Here is a theme that's so very contemporary. Albany's whaling station was shut down a couple of decades ago because of a ban on whaling -why?- because human greed had chased the whales too close to the point of extinction. Examples of that nature are almost infinite; so very much damage has been done to the environment, so much pressure has been put on species God placed on this earth simply because of human greed. People want more, and more. These environmental issues shall surely keep appearing on the world's agenda in years to come, and these are issues in which the children of God shall need to be involved. Yet it shall need to begin with ourselves, with what we demand for ourselves. And what we want for ourselves needs in turn to be reflected in what we pray. And here's Jesus' instruction: ask your heavenly Father for "bread". In other words, keep your wishes simple, keep your material goals very modest.

It's a thought we don't really like, since it's in us to want more, more. But here, brothers and sisters, we come to the kernel of the fourth petition. Why is this petition the fourth one? What's its place in the light of the whole Lord's Prayer?

It's no accident, congregation, that this petition for daily bread follows the one about doing the will of God. You'll recall from previous sermons on the Lord's prayer that the first three petitions are all connected together. We're to ask the Father, Jesus says, that His wonderful Name may be made more glorious still; that's the first petition. How that's to be done? By us acknowledging that the Lord is King in all of life - the second petition. And how do we acknowledge that the Lord is King in all of life? Third petition: by us doing His will, obeying His commands for us. And, we'd said in Lord's Day 49, we're to do the will of God in the concrete circumstances where God in wisdom places us day by day, that is, in our "office and calling." Well now: what do we need in order to carry out our office and calling? What do we need to do the will of God in the place God has put us day by day? What do we need to obey His will so that we acknowledge His kingship, and so make His name more glorious? Of course: we need "daily bread". Do we need delicacies, do we need the fastest and best, do we need expensive clothing, the trendiest? Something in us says: we need that, we want that. And Yes, as long as we keep our goal related to ourselves, to our comfort, what other people think of us, the impression we can make on others, then Yes, these things shall be important to us. But the Lord teaches us to pray with the Lord God in the center of our lives, and the reason for having us pray God-centered prayers is simply because our lives are meant to be God-centered, not self-centered. And if our lives are to be God-centered, then the purpose for asking for bread is not that we get comfortable, that we can satisfy our taste for finery. Rather, then the purpose for asking for bread is that we have what we need to do the will of God, so that in turn we acknowledge His kingship and God be glorified.

I ask your attention for Israel in the desert. This people had been delivered from bondage to the Egyptians -why?- so that they might live for the glory of the God who delivered them. But I read in Ex 15 that the people of Israel, three days after they crossed the Red Sea, ran out of drink. When they finally found water in Marah, they were disappointed to taste that the water was not drinkable. Tell me now: would this state-of-affairs glorify the Lord? Had God in fact brought them out of Egypt in order to have them die in the wilderness from thirst? Had God not said He'd bring them into a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey? We realize: for His own name's sake the Lord had to give His people drink. And He did.

Ex 16 tells us that this same people, now some six weeks after the exodus, ran out of food. What Israel should have done? Prayed! Prayed the fourth petition. But they didn't; instead, they complained, complained with their own stomachs, their own lives, their own selves in the center of their attention. Yet -for this is right after the exodus, and Israel has so much to learn- God answers their complaint; He promises to give bread day by day. And so it happens; day by day there is adequate bread laying on the desert floor around the tents of each Israelite. No, the manna isn't the finery supplied by the best of restaurants, but people don't need that either. What Israel needed was simply bread, the basics so that they would not curse God for leaving them with an empty stomach. They need the basics so that they can do the actual task God gave the people to do day by day (and that was to travel through the desert to the Promised Land) - and in the challenges of travelling the desert to do His will, acknowledge His kingship, make His name more glorious.

The same is true in chap 17 when the people are again without water, true too when enemies attack the people. The Lord supplied for their needs in a basic but very real fashion - so that they could live for Him.

Here, brothers and sisters, is the instruction for us. You have difficulty with prayer, you ask and don't receive? Think then: is what you ask for geared to your own comfort, your own welfare, your own reputation? Beloved, then you can ask for God to fulfil your dream a thousand times in a day, but you shall not receive. Learn from James:

"You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3).

And learn from the Lord's instruction in the fourth petition; you are to ask for the basics you need in order to carry out the will of God for you in the specific place God gives you in daily life - to His greater glory.

The content of this prayer

Well, then, what do you need? What should you concretely ask for? Look, congregation, what is your specific task tomorrow? So many of the young people shall go to school tomorrow. God's will for you at school tomorrow is that you learn what there is to learn in your grade, and do so with obedience to God's Ten Commandments. What that requires? O yes, it requires breakfast tomorrow morning, for you can't study well on an empty stomach. So you may ask for breakfast. But you need more to do God's will at school tomorrow. You need sleep tonight, for you can't study with a sluggish head. So you ask for sleep. To do your work well at school requires also that your teachers have the insight and wisdom and courage to teach the course in a fashion pleasing to the Lord. So you pray tonight that the Lord please give your teachers the insight and wisdom and courage they need. To do God's will for you at school tomorrow requires that you stand above the pressures of your peers, that you obey God's commands about loving your neighbor as yourself. So you pray for grace to love your neighbor as the Lord has loved you. You see, boys and girls, here is Jesus' instruction for you. What should you pray for tonight, tomorrow morning? You have difficulty knowing what to say, how to say it? Here is Jesus' instruction for you: think through what your specific needs are for tomorrow in relation to the task the Lord is pleased to give to you, and then lay those needs before God, concretely, and do so with His glory in mind. Then there is ample to pray for, day by day!

Others are off to work in a cabinet-making shop. It is God's will that in that shop His children obey His commands as they do their work, and so acknowledge that He is King and glorify His name. Yes, that requires food and sleep, it requires health and ability to concentrate on the job, it requires grace to honor the boss, etc, etc. So the prayer of the cabinetmaker is different than the prayer of the student. Though the prayer follows the same lines (according to the instruction of the Lord's prayer), the details are different because the circumstances are different.

Or the task God gives tomorrow is in the kitchen, in the laundry room. That requires specific gifts from God, according to your personal needs. For the one mother it's patience with a run-down washing machine, for the next it's patience with a child who doesn't take the tissues out of his pocket, for a third it's strength to persevere in a job you find so boring. But that's the job God gives, and so there you need the gifts from God to do His will, to develop God-pleasing attitudes as you do the work He gives, so that in turn you acknowledge His kingship in your life and give glory to His wonderful name.

So I can go on. But the point becomes clear, I hope. The disciples had difficulty praying, and Jesus' instruction is that their prayers are to have God in the center. Yet that doesn't mean prayer can't be about the self; rather, prayer must be about the self, about the specific bits and pieces that make up your daily life. After all, it's not just in church that we're to glorify God, but we're to hallow His name wherever we get our hands dirty with the grime of daily living. There's where things are at moment by moment, and those are the bits and pieces we need to lay before God, in all the circumstances we're in -whether nice or not- where we seek to do the will of God.

The disciples had difficulty praying, and it's a difficulty we share - maybe because we're selfish in our prayers, maybe because we ask for things we don't need in order to glorify God's name. So Jesus' instruction is so relevant for us. In the fourth petition we're taught what specifically we're to pray for, taught with what mindset we're to ask it.

And truly, congregation, when we lay the bits and pieces of our lives before God with a view to getting from God what we need to do His will, for His glory, there's plenty to pray about. For our circumstances, the details of our tasks, change by the hour. And therefore the things we need to do God's will keep changing too.

You see, there's lots to pray about..Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. C. Bouwman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2000, Rev. C. Bouwman

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