Once again we want to look at the secret of how we can get our prayers answered by God. If you study carefully and learn from the way Jesus told us to pray, it can change your life.
We were looking at, in our last, study about putting God first in our life and in our prayer. You know in Matthew 6:9-11, Jesus spoke about praying, ‘‘Our Father who art in heaven.’’ The number one burden, the request and the longing of my heart is that Your name will be hallowed. The number two longing and burden and the request that I have in my heart is that Your kingdom will come. And the number three desire and longing and request in my heart is that Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Do you think many believers really mean that? I mean a lot of believers pray this prayer like a parrot from childhood, but they never stop to think what they are really saying. They are making the very same mistake that Jesus said right at the beginning – ‘Don’t pray like hypocrites’ and ‘Don’t pray with meaningless repetition’.
But once we understand aright what Jesus was trying to emphasis here, we discover that, if you really begin to pray like this, you become a spiritual man. You will really be spiritual if the primary desires in your life are that God’s name should be glorified, His kingdom should come on earth and His will should be done. That is the uppermost thing in your life, not whether you make money or whether your back ache is healed or any such thing. Those things are there, but they are secondary. Can you imagine what it will do to your life, if you begin to pray like this all the time, putting God’s interests first all the time? It will change your life completely. You will become another man, another woman instead of being primarily occupied with all the other problem of the earth.
The reason why Jesus told us to put God first is, because many of those other problems will never get solved if you don’t put God first. You may get rid of one set of problems and end up with another set of problems because God is not first in your life. Once you put God first in your life, I am not saying you won’t have problems, but I say that God will intervene and make you triumphant in the midst of those problems. The Bible says in Psalm 34:19 ‘‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him from all of them.’’ That is the difference. Worldly people also face problems but they don’t have anyone to deliver them. We have a Father in heaven. So learn to put God first in your life in everything. Don’t put your business first, or your studies first, or your children first, or your wife or husband or home or property first, or anything. Put God first and see the difference it will make in your life. Then you will become a real disciple.
Once you have done that, Jesus taught us to pray, ‘‘Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debt as we have forgiven others and lead us not into temptation and delivers from evil.’’ Notice, one word or, let us say two words that are never found in this prayer: ‘I’ and ‘me’. We could add another one which is similar: ‘my’. These three words – ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘my,’ are so common in our language. ‘I’ is a very important for a person and is one of the most important words in the English language. ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘my’ are not even mentioned once in this prayer. After we have sought God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will, i.e. after we put God first in our life, the next thing the Lord wants to teach us is not to think selfishly of only of ourselves, but think of our fellow believers. The Father has many children.
Are you hungry? Do you need food? Yes, certainly pray that God will give you your daily bread. But don’t forget that there are other children of God also who are also hungry. You are not the only one. Pray for them too. If you have an abundance of food, don’t forget those other children of God who don’t have it. So He said, when you pray say ‘give us this day our daily bread’. When you pray for forgiveness say, ‘Forgive us our sins’ and when you pray for deliverance say, ’deliver us from evil.’ So we find that the Lord was trying to deliver people not only from self-centeredness in the sense that God is not the centre of their life, but also from this self-centeredness where we don’t think about other people around us at all. He taught us to pray, ‘Give us, forgive us and deliver us.’
In this prayer about praying for daily bread, Jesus wasn’t asking us to pray that we should have bread for a whole year or any such thing, but Lord, if you will give me just enough for today that is fine. Now, I am not saying that you shouldn’t have food for tomorrow or money for tomorrow or savings or any such thing. That is not the point here at all. You can have savings for your need in the future or whatever. There is nothing wrong with that, but you should be happy and satisfied if God has given you just enough for today. That is the point. That means, if God has given you food only enough for today, well, praise the Lord. Thank you Lord for today and You will take care of tomorrow. If you can plan for tomorrow, go right ahead. There is nothing wrong with that, but be thankful for what is provided and ask God for the provision of our immediate need. Lord, give us this day our daily bread.
Jesus did not teach us there to pray for luxury. He is not asking for daily ice-cream or daily cake or any such thing. It is just daily bread; just that simple meal to keep my body and soul together and to keep me in good health. That is all Lord, just give me enough for today. There is no covetousness here. Jesus taught us to pray for material things when we are praying for our necessity and not for luxury. We don’t find anywhere in the New Testament any encouragement to pray to God for luxury. But we do find here, in this prayer which the Lord Himself taught, He is encouraging us to pray for necessity. Yes, it is true that your heavenly Father knows what you need even before you ask Him. Doesn’t the Father know that we need daily bread? He certainly does. Then why doesn’t He give them without our asking? The reason is, He wants to have communication with us and He wants us to have the joy and privilege of answered prayer when you get your daily bread.
That is why before we eat our meal, as Christians, we always bow our heads and pray and thank God for the food. I hope all of you do that. I hope in your homes you don’t rush into your meal without bowing your heads first and praying and thanking God for the food. Now it is not in order to make the food taste better or any such thing. We do it as an expression of gratitude, and thereby acknowledging that it is God who has provided it. There are atheists and godless people in the world who dig in to their meal without thanking anybody. Well, let them go their way, but we acknowledge that it is God who has given it. God has opened our eyes to see that. Those atheists are blind; they don’t know who provided their food. So we pray to God not to inform our need, because He already knows that, but to express our dependence upon Him even for our material necessity.
Now this also teaches us that there is nothing wrong in praying for any material thing which we need. It may be clothing; if you need clothing you can pray for it. It may be a house that you need to live in, you can pray for it. For educational facilities for your children, you can pray for it because you want them also to learn to earn their daily bread. Well, they can’t earn their daily bread in most countries unless they have decent education. So there is nothing wrong in praying for the education of our children as well. So all these things come in that little prayer – ‘give us this day our daily bread’. ‘Lord, provide us with what is necessary for our life on this earth.’
Now it is very interesting to see that this prayer for daily bread comes immediately after ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ So, when we put these two requests side by side, i.e. next to each other, we find it is something like this –‘It is my longing that Your will is done on earth as it is in heaven and, in order to do that will of Yours on earth, please give me my daily bread so that I can have strength to do it.’ So you see that the reason why we ask God for material things. It is so that we can do His will and not our own. That is why it is very important first to pray, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ and then to come to our material needs.
The trouble with a lot of Christians, of course, is that, they are only praying for material needs and there is no connection between that and doing the will of God in their lives on earth. Some people think that we shouldn’t pray to God for any material things and that it is wrong to pray for material things, and you should only pray for spiritual things. It is not true. It sounds very holy, but it is contrary to the teaching of Jesus who taught us even before the prayer for forgiveness of sins and deliverance from evil, to pray for our bodily need. So let us never think that this body is created by Satan. It is created by God and when we put God first in our life, it is perfectly proper to ask God to provide all our material needs. Not luxury, but necessity. The word of God says, ‘‘My God shall supply all your need according to His riches and glory by Christ Jesus.’’
This is part of the Basic Christian Teachings Series, a set of 72 short messages presented by Zac Poonen. You can download the audio mp3 files or listen to Basic Christian Teachings by clicking here.