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Jesus said, “Pray then like this, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
I. 1st 3 Petitions
A. Here on earth as it is in heaven.
In these first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, our Lord tells us that there should be no limits on what we are to ask for when we pray to ‘Our Father in heaven.’
We should ask God that His Name, would be kept as holy and sacred, here on earth as it is in heaven. Can you imagine what that would be like?
We should ask God that His Kingdom would come, here on earth as it does in heaven. Can you imagine what that would be like?
We should ask God that His will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. Can you imagine what that would be like?
B. Asking for heaven on earth.
So, in these first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says that we should ask for heaven on earth. That’s a lot to ask for. And it may strike us as being a bit presumptuous to ask God for something so grand and glorious as this. It’s like when someone takes you out to a real nice restaurant and says ‘order what you want.’ You just don’t feel right ordering the ‘surf and turf.’
But when it comes to ‘Our Father in heaven,’ just the opposite is true. This is Jesus Christ the Son of God telling us to ask for heaven on earth. To ask for anything less would be incredibly rude.
In his Large Catechism, Luther creates a little story to make his point. “Suppose that the richest and mightiest emperor on earth were to order a poor beggar to ask for whatever his heart might desire and was prepared to give him great imperial gifts. And suppose that the fool of a beggar would ask for no more than a ladle of beggar’s soup. For having treated his imperial majesty’s command with mockery and contempt, he would rightly be regarded as a rogue and a scoundrel and as one who was not worthy ever again to come into the emperor’s presence.”
“It similarly exposes God to great shame and disgrace if we to whom He offers and assures so many inexpressible riches, despise them or do not confidently expect to receive them, but instead are scarcely able to bring ourselves to ask for a piece of bread.”
II. The 4th Petition
A. Incredible heights and depths
But now this morning, we turn out attention to the 4th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, in which Jesus tells us that we should pray like this, “Our Father in heaven… give us this day our daily bread.” And so it seems as though Luther’s little story is turned against him. For here, our Lord is telling us that we should indeed ask our Father for the lowest and most basic earthly need, even that ‘piece of bread.’
And so maybe we can begin to appreciate the incredible heights and depths that the Lord’s Prayer covers.
Jesus directs us to pray for the ‘great spiritual necessities’ of faith that sustain and strengthen us for eternal life in heaven. But He also directs us to pray for the ‘basic physical necessities’ of life that sustain and strengthen us for daily life in this world. God is as interested in providing for our body as he is our soul.
B. True religion about spiritual and physical needs.
What this means is that we may have to rethink our idea of what true religion is all about. It’s very tempting to think about religion in broad and sweeping terms that may have little if any connection to the dirty little details of daily life like food and shelter and the economy.
Truth is, the devil who would like nothing more than to convince us that true religion deals only with ‘spiritual things.’ He knows all too well just how controlled we are by our appetites and physical needs.
But here in this petition, Jesus tells us that God is in the little details of life such as “what shall we eat and what shall we drink and what shall we wear.” And we need to recognize our Father’s gracious hand in the giving of the most minor things of daily life.
C. Connection between the two.
When you think about it, the two are not so separate and distinct from one another as we tend to make them.
Just think about Adam and Eve and the fact their great fall from grace happened over food.
Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob just because he was hungry.
When Jesus realizes that it is late in the day and that the crowd that has come out into the wilderness to hear Him preach is hungry, He doesn’t say, “at least I’ve filled their soul and that’s what really matters.” No, he knows that the Word of Life is hard to swallow on an empty stomach and so He feeds them with bread and fish.
James says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16).
It is as though the human soul and the human belly are wired together on the same circuit.
D. God of grace: Without our Prayer.
In fact, in his Small Catechism explanation, Luther subtly instructs us that God employs the same divine grace in the giving of daily bread for our body as He does in the giving of the Bread of Life for our soul.
the Kingdom of God certainly comes by itself WITHOUT OUR PRAYER; by grace alone.
the will of God is done even WITHOUT OUR PRAYER; by grace alone.
And God certainly gives daily bread to everyone WITHOUT OUR PRAYERS even to all evil people. Even this is by grace alone.
And how thankful we should be that the one true God is a GRACIOUS GOD. Think about it. What if God gave us our daily bread ONLY when we prayed for it? We would either be a whole lot hungrier than we are, or we would be a whole lot more diligent about praying than we are.
Thanks be to God that He is GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL.
He sent His Son, Jesus Christ into the world for our salvation, EVEN WITHOUT OUR PRAYER;
Jesus bore our sins and suffered death even death on a cross, EVEN WITHOUT OUR PRAYER;
“He who did not spare His only Son but gave Him up for us all, EVEN WITHOUT OUR PRAYER; how will He not give us all things, even our daily bread, EVEN WITHOUT OUR PRAYER.
E. Everything comes from God.
So as Jesus teaches us how we should pray, we learn something that we already know but very easily forget, which I think has a lot to do with why we do not pray as we should. Everything, from the big to the little things, the spiritual to the material things, the eternal and the temporal things, all come to us from the hand of God and in no other way.
It’s easy for us to see the hand of God in the miracles that Jesus performs and in His resurrection from the dead. But how easily we loose sight of the fact that the sun doesn’t rise and the rain doesn’t fall and the seed doesn’t germinate and the crops do not grow and the food is not harvested, apart from the hand of God.
The Psalmist prays, ‘You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth.” (Ps.104:14).
F. The Economy
Luther does us a great service by helping us to see the hand of God in ALL of the little details that are involved in taking care of our daily, bodily needs. When the Small Catechism asks, ‘what is meant by daily bread?’ Luther includes the entire economic system that it takes to produce our and deliver our daily bread. “A devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors and the like.”
All of these are the ingredients of a good economy which is the means through which God delivers our daily bread to us. And as we are that ‘devout husband or devout wife or devout child and devout worker and devout and faithful ruler,’ we are the very hand of God through whom God supports the daily, physical needs of our neighbor.
And if we may be the instrument through which others receive their daily bread, then we also understand that our daily bread comes to us through the devout service of others who act as servants of God.
And so the entire economic system is included in this petition.
G. Thankful for daily bread.
When you think about this, what this means is that we should be just as thankful to God for the daily bread that sustains our body as we are for the Bread of Life that sustains our soul.
We should receive our daily food and drink with the same gratefulness to God as we receive the food and drink of the Lord’s Supper.
This means that every meal that we eat provides the opportunity to pray and give thanks to God.
It means that every morning that we get up and put on clothes and shoes, provides the opportunity to pray and give thanks to God.
As we leave the house that we live in and enter back into it we should pray with thanksgiving to God for giving us a roof over our head and place for our family to live safely.
As we go to work each day and when we receive a paycheck for the work we do, we should stop and pray with thanksgiving to God because all of this comes from His hand.
This is what the Psalmist had in mind when he prayed, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:15-16)
H. Anxiety and worry / Greed and Gluttony
There is another point to this petition that we need to consider. Our Lord teaches us here to pray, not for ‘bread in general’ but for “daily” bread specifically. We are to look to the hand of God to supply us with all that we need for today, and trust that the Lord will provide for us again out of the same love and care for us, tomorrow.
This of course touches on the whole business of ANXIETY AND WORRY as well as GLUTTONY AND GREED.
Right after the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus goes on to say, “Do not worry about what you will eat or what you will drink or about what you will wear… Do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” (Mat.6:34).
And yet, very few of us can bring ourselves to trust in God’s care for our lives enough that we never worry about tomorrow. The typical remedy for our anxiety that we usually hear is either, ‘don’t worry,’ or ‘take this pill.’ But it might be better to think about our worry and anxiety as a strange gift from God, through which He invites us to pray. When we feel anxious about tomorrow or the next week or next year, we might think about it as a built in reminder to us that we should pray as our Lord has taught us, “our Father in heaven.” “Give us this day our daily bread.” And help me to trust in You to supply all that I need.
The same petition also acts as an appeal to God for His help in keeping our natural propensity for greed and gluttony under control. When Jesus says that we are to pray for ‘daily bread,’ He frames the petition in the plural and not the singular. We are to pray that He would give “US OUR daily bread.” He doesn’t tell us to say, “Give ME MY daily bread.”
Even if I have all of the food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, land and animals that I need to sustain this physical body another day, I am to pray for those and with those who do not. Carefully woven into this petition is the appeal to God that He would make me more generous and willing to share what He has given to me with those who lack the daily physical necessities of life in this world.
“Pray then like this… ‘Our Father in heaven… give us this day our daily bread.’”