The fact that we begin in the Lord’s Prayer with hallowing God’s Name, then asking for His Kingdom rule in our lives, then for His will to be accomplished, shows that this is hardly a self-centered prayer. We tend to think in terms of “not thy will, but MY will be done.” Sometimes we would be more honest to pray, “Thy will be done-so long as it coincides with mine”! Someone once said; “We will do God’s will when we prefer His will over our will.”
God permits or allows things to occur that are not part of His will: He wants people to live lawfully; however, people are free to rebel against God and commit sin, which in turn has built-in consequences. Scripture says that “God is not willing that any should perish” – yet many do reject Him and His gift of eternal life. God’s permissive will may differ from his perfect will. God desires that all come to a saving knowledge of the truth, but unbelievers are free to reject the gift God wishes to give. God is not the Author of sin; we are responsible for our choices. We are personally accountable for how we conduct our lives. Sometimes we ask God to guide our decisions, and at other times we regretfully decide things on our own apart from God.
In I John we’re told that we can approach God “with confidence…that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (5:14) God doesn’t just offer us a blank check; our prayers must be in harmony with His will. When we seek God’s will, we need to ask God to place in us a desire to want what He wants – then when we pray, we will be praying intelligently, according to His will- and we can expect results.
When we pray “Give us this day our daily bread” we’re showing that we’re depending on God a day at a time. Jesus urges us, “Don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing…Do not worry about tomorrow.” (Matthew 6:31, 34) Within our request is the faith-knowledge that God will provide. So, with confidence we make our needs known to God. However, we must also understand that we have a role to play and we must do our part as well; God is not just going to “throw it in the nest every day” so to speak.
The first half of the Lord’s Prayer is directed to God – His paternity, His person, His program, His purpose. Now we move to our need for provision, pardon, protection, and preservation. The order is intentional – we honor God before raising personal needs. Jesus expresses this order when He says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.”
We usually have more than enough food for ourselves, so this request may seem remote. We can have any kind of food we wish. In our abundance we forget that God is the source of our provision; that without God we would not prosper at all. He brings the sun and the rain; He causes the crops to grow; He gives us intelligence and the ability to earn bread. He has provided our experiences, our knowledge, our skills, and talents.
Back in Biblical times bread was a whole-grain staple of life. It was baked fresh every day and was an essential part of life. Jesus was instructing His disciples to ask God for what they needed to live for the day. Jesus also taught that we do not live by bread alone, but by the words of life found in Scripture.
Bread is a symbol for everything necessary for life and well-being-to include food, good health, shelter, clothing, a means of income, peace, safety, friends and family. The book of Proverbs gives the right perspective: “Lord, give me neither poverty nor riches; give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny You and say, ’Who is the Lord?’ And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy Name.” This prayer doesn’t imply that we’ll have all we want, but that we will have all that we need; if we do our part, God will do His part.
Physical nourishment is only part of what this petition of the Lord’s Prayer is about. People need hope along with lunch! God has established the church to serve what no one else can cook up – the Bread of Life.