Well, I wonder whether you’ve ever signed a petition?
I suspect you know what petitions are. A petition is where you put your name down in support of something. Perhaps it is asking for policy change in government, for better conditions in the workplace, or for support behind a particular injustice in the world. Whatever it may be, and whether it is done online or on an actual piece of paper, petitions are a way of showing your support for a particular cause.
There are also parts of everyday life where we petition others, where we ask people for something we would like or need. Perhaps it is a student petitioning their teacher for an extension in the assignment. Or a child petitioning a parent for ice-cream after dinner. And in a similar way, when we come to God in prayer and lift up our needs to him we petition him. We ask him for things. We ask him for our wants and needs.
In Matthew 6:11, in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus continues to teach his disciples about prayer through this particular phrase, ‘give us this day our daily bread’. And in similar fashion to previous posts (see below) it is worth reflecting a little on what Jesus is teaching us.
First, when Jesus says, ‘give us this day our daily bread’ he is talking about depending on God daily.
As Christians we recognise that we are living a day at a time. It sounds cliche, but we do not know when we will die, and we do not know what will happen tomorrow.
This requires us to depend on God.
When we depend on ourselves or on others then we will be let down, but with God we have a solid foundation. A God who rules and reigns, and who is always faithful and dependable. And so a mark of a follower of Jesus is their dependence on him for their needs. We come with a posture of dependence on him.
To depend on God is to fully trust in his care for us. That despite our circumstances–in happiness or in hardship–we continue to have a posture of dependence on God.
As Leon Morris writes in his commentary on Matthew about this verse,
The prayer encourages a continuing dependence on God; it does not countenance a situation in which the disciple asks God for a supply for a lengthy period, after which prayer he can go on for some time in forgetfulness of God. He depends on God constantly, and this dependence is expressed in this prayer.
Dependence on God is not simply a once off occurrence. It is something that is required of us daily. It is a practice, a discipline, to continually depend on God.
Yet, there is also a cautionary reflection here worth noting.
When we are comfortable. When we have everything we need. When we don’t need to depend on God for as much as we used to then it is common to let this dependence slide. We must be careful not to fall into this trap, not to change our posture from one of dependence to independence.
Second, when Jesus says, ‘give us this day our daily bread’ he is talking about asking for our needs.
Whenever we pray we are generally asking God for something. And this gets to the heart of petition. Petition is that word that defines prayer as asking God for stuff. Stuff that may include inner comfort and strength, to physical needs like food or finances, to wisdom and discernment.
And don’t hear me saying this is necessarily wrong. God encourages us to come to him with everything, and in all things.
In fact, as I’ve read over this Lord’s Prayer I’ve noticed just how much asking there is of God. In fact, everything from v10-13 is really a prayer of petition. We find ourselves asking for:
- his kingdom to come,
- his will to be done,
- our daily bread,
- our debts to be forgiven,
- not to be led into temptation, and
- to be delivered from evil.
By my reckoning there are six requests, six items of petition to God in this prayer.
And when Jesus specifically prays the petition of ‘give us this day our daily bread’ he wishes us to pray for the needs that we have, the needs necessary for life.
Martin Luther, the great Reformer of the 16th century wrote that this use of ‘bread’ was symbolic of ‘everything necessary for the preservation of this life, like food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, husband or wife, children, good government and peace’. In essence Luther was saying these are the necessities of life, rather than the luxuries, of which a couple here and there may be debatable.
Whatever the case, here in Matthew 6:11, in this petition given to us by our Lord, we find an aspect of our prayer life that involves asking for our needs.
This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following: