Last week I did a little explaining about the verse in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11). And while it was accurate enough, there are further implications worth noting. The Lord’s Prayer gives us a terrific model for communing with God, I suppose that goes without saying considering it is our Lord who gives it to us! But as we scratch more deeply at how we might pray we learn, particularly in the realm of asking God for our needs, Jesus teaching us how to live.
With this in mind, here are some further reflections that I pray go well with you.
(1) Our needs include the physical and the spiritual.
There are some in the Christian church who believe that this body we have here on earth is simply a temporary vessel. They minimise the body and the physical in our world and over-emphasise the spiritual or the life to come. At times this has led to people and groups toward asceticism and a drawing away from others toward cultic practices. At other times this has led to abuses and sacrifices of the body. Neither of these are particularly biblical, and contradict scripture and the example of Jesus. We notice that in the life and ministry of Jesus he is concerned not only for the spiritual condition of the people but also for their physical needs.
As James Montgomery Boice comments,
“We can see what God thinks of our human bodies, when we remember that he Himself in Jesus Christ took that body upon Him. It is not simply a soul salvation, it is whole salvation, the salvation of body, mind and spirit, at which Christianity aims.“
(2) We are reminded to take it one day at a time.
If you’ve ever heard a player or a coach of a sporting team be interviewed, then you’ll be familiar with the phrase, “we’re just taking it one game at a time”. For us believers, it is right to be taking life one day at a time.
It is important to recognise that Jesus is teaching us to pray for each day and reminding us of our need for God. It is important to understand that our dependence on God and needs from God are given to us each day. Therefore, there is intentionality in coming to God daily in prayer as we recognise our needs and dependence on him. As we petition God, as we come before him with the requests that we have, the needs that we lift to him, we show our daily dependence on him.
The whole act of prayer is an act of dependence.
(3) Our request for daily bread points us to our need for spiritual nourishment.
I presume you know that glorious taste of fresh bread. Sometimes there is nothing better than a fresh ham and salad roll for lunch. And who are we kidding, it’s always more than one when the rolls are at their freshest.
While it sounds odd to say that we need to feed on Christ, that we need to feed spiritually on God, the only other place in the entire Bible where a request to ‘give us bread’ is spoken by Jesus while he gives a sermon on spiritual bread in John 6. Jesus said,
“I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” They answered, “From now on give us this bread.’ Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:32–35)
In context, the people he was speaking to were thinking of physical bread, but Jesus turned them away from these physical things to himself as the One who could satisfy the far greater hunger of the soul.
So, what does it mean to feed on Christ?
It means that he is the source of all our spiritual life and as we grow in him and come close to him we are nourished, contented, and satisfied in him alone. The hunger and yearning we feel within our hearts for our Creator is fulfilled through Christ as the bread of life.
As we hunger for achievement, or for love, or for happiness we recognise these are good in themselves when used as God intends. But at the heart of our faith, and at the heart of this prayer, is the realisation that it is only Christ who satisfies, it is only him who fulfils our deep hunger and need.
This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:
Would it surprise you that there are churches out there that are unhealthy? That there are churches full of sinners, led by sinners, where the health of the church is compromised?
I’d hate to burst your bubble but it’s true.
There are churches that aren’t as healthy as they should be or could be. This is a shame, of course, because a healthy church can do wonders for the glory of Christ and the people who go to it. Unfortunately, not all churches are perfect. But, as the saying goes, if you find the perfect church make sure you go somewhere else as you’ll be the one to stuff it up. 😉
I open referring to unhealthy churches because the reality is that the state of the youth ministry you lead or are part of (as a student, volunteer, or parent) is only as healthy as the overall church.
It is important to reflect a little on this idea of health. There are a number of ways to think about it. Is the church healthy theologically? Is the church healthy in its structures and processes? Is the church healthy in its interpersonal relationships? Is the church healthy in its leadership? There are different angles to explore this issue of a healthy church. Nevertheless, if there is some part of the church that is unhealthy then it will, consciously or not, affect the whole church. When I get a cold my main issues are the throat and sinuses but it affects the way my whole body operates. It’s the same with the church.
For you as a Youth Pastor, or someone involved in youth ministry, this could look different. This unhealthiness could show up in different ways.
For some churches there is a clear disparity between the youth ministry and the rest of the church. The youth and young adults have their own things going on and the adults have other programs happening and never the twain shall meet. This is sad. It means there isn’t any inter-generational interaction and growth occurring, resulting in the ‘silo effect’. When people of generations aren’t able to get to know each other it is easy to forget “we’re all one in Christ Jesus” and that our church is a local expression of the body of Christ, from child through to octogenarian.
Other churches may have a great Youth Pastor, have a terrific leadership group, run an awesome program, build solid relationships with parents and students, and see people coming to Christ. However, if things at the top of the church leadership structure aren’t great then things will go awry. The health of the leadership of the church is vital in providing a sustainable base for the youth ministry to grow and thrive. In Baptistland, where I find myself residing, there is always the temptation of church leaders to seek power and control and the status of being on the ‘diaconate’ or ‘council’. If the point of being on such a group isn’t service, and a looking out for the whole of the church and its ministries, then it will soon collapse.
So, what are some ways those in youth ministry do despite un-health?
Pray for the church. Pray for the whole church, for its pastors, for its leaders, for its volunteers, and for its health.
Encourage membership. In the Baptist tradition the base of power is held with its members. Therefore, encourage those who meet the membership requirements of your church to become members. This enables those within the youth and young adult ministry to have a more formal voice in the church’s decision-making process.
Be aware of what is going on in the wider life of the church. The worst thing is to become a person or ministry that is disconnected to the whole church. Be someone, or a ministry, that seeks strong relationships with others in the church. In doing so you may find yourself recognising that you’re part of a bigger picture.
A while ago I wrote a post about what I wished I knew when entering youth ministry. This is part three of a series dedicated to elaborating each of those eleven points. You can read part one and part two here.