Give us this day our daily bread. -Matthew 6:11 (NRSV)
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
And this is his commandment; that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 1 John 3:21-23 (NRSV)
The fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer has to do with God’s provision for us. God always provides for us, otherwise we would not have the ability to take our next breath. The purpose of praying for our daily provision from God is to underscore that we are connected to Him, and that we can trust Him to provide everything we need.
Behold, thus God wishes to indicate to us how He cares for us in all our need, and faithfully provides also for our temporal support, and although He abundantly grants and preserves these things even to the wicked and knaves, yet He wishes that we pray for them, in order that we may recognize that we receive them from His hand, and may feel His paternal goodness toward us therein. – from the Explanation of the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Luther’s Large Catechism
God is a generous giver. He wants to give to us but often we hesitate to ask. It is also true that He gives to us according to His will and not necessarily by what we think we want and need. Sometimes what we ask for is not the best thing for us. When my son was 14 and going through a growth spurt he begged me for some outrageously hideous $100 skater pants. He really wanted those pants, but he certainly didn’t need them, and I certainly wasn’t going to buy them. He would have outgrown them in weeks, and he would have looked silly in them anyway. I said no- not because I wanted my son to go without clothes, but because I had better and more practical clothing options for him.
God as our heavenly Father is equipping us for eternal life, not just life here on this earth in these mortal bodies. God wants us to ask Him for everything and to come to Him with everything- but like a good parent He knows when to say “yes,” “no,” or “I have a better option for you.”
Perhaps as we pray it is best to leave our options open to God. He knows the desires of our hearts better than we do. He knows what we need better than we do.
It is telling that Jesus instructs us to pray for “daily” bread. Not bread for a week or a month or a lifetime, but daily bread. We are supposed to come to God with everything, trusting that He supplies our needs all the time, every day- not just on Sundays or in times of crisis. It’s not possible to wear God out. He has the ability to take anything we have to throw at Him- our anger, our frustration, our needs, and our desires. He wants us to bring it all to Him.
Sometimes we feel guilty about praying for ourselves and our own needs. But the act of praying for provision is much like the pre-flight instruction to parents to put the oxygen masks on themselves before attempting to put the masks on their children. If we are not equipped ourselves, how can we be of service to others? The key to putting this instruction in proper perspective is our motive in prayer. Do we pray for ourselves simply so we can benefit ourselves, or do we pray for provision so that we can care for our families and serve our neighbors? The more we pray the closer we get to the heart of God. Even if our prayers come from an imperfect motive, it is not about our prayers, but the One to whom we pray. He uses our prayers to transform our motives and to renew our minds and hearts.
Have we brought our every need and heart’s desire- as well as our request for daily nourishment-to God in prayer today?