The Model Prayer, part 3: Our Needs

Posted: October 31, 2011 in Matthew

Matthew 6:11-12, “The Model Prayer, part 3: Our Needs”

When it comes to prayer, this is the part that many people have been waiting for.  Finally, it’s time to ask God regarding our needs! The Lord’s Prayer (the Model Prayer) can really be divided in halves.  The 1st half has three requests that deal with God (1 – Hallowed, 2 – Kingdom come, 3 – will be done), and the 2nd half has three requests that deal with us & our needs (2 of which we’re looking at today).

Obviously Jesus gives us this model in this order on purpose.  It is supremely important to addressing God first.  Prayer is addressed to God, is about God, and is for the glory of God.  When we forget that, our priorities get out of order & we begin to address God as rulers rather than as His children.  Instead we’re to seek Him & His kingdom, and we can be assured God will give the rest that we need (6:33).  Yet it IS good for us to express to God our needs in prayer.  Obviously He knows what we need before we even ask (6:8), but when we express our needs to God it helps us understand our dependency upon our loving Heavenly Father.  It helps us grow in our relationship with God, and sometimes He meets the emotional needs that arise out of our physical & spiritual needs – even before the physical needs are met.  Philippians 4:6–7, "(6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (7) and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." [] Thus it’s good to tell God our needs in prayer; the Bible tells us expressly to do so!

In a sense, the prayer that Jesus teaches us regarding our needs encompasses everything we could possibly imagine for our prayer requests.  Things like healing, wisdom, help, and all sorts of things could be wrapped up in the thought of “daily bread,” and obviously our need for forgiveness is addressed here as well.  Yet Jesus boils it all down to two basic categories: the physical & the spiritual.  We need physical provision & we need spiritual freedom – both are found in the work of Jesus Christ because of the grace of God.

Matthew 6:11–12 (NKJV)
11 Give us this day our daily bread.

  • Knowing that Jesus was talking to the Jews, the 1st item that comes to mind regarding “daily bread” would likely be the manna provided by God in the wilderness. (Exo 16)  Truly that was daily provision – the Hebrews were commanded to take up what they could use day-by-day, and no more.  Those who attempted to store up food for later found it rotting & with maggots the next day.  Yet on the day prior to the Sabbath, they could gather up enough for two days’ worth.  The Hebrews learned very quickly what it was like to depend upon God for daily bread.  They would have literally starved to death without God’s daily supernatural provision for them.
    • Keep in mind that this is no different with God’s people today.  Granted, we do not go to the fields every morning upon the dew & gather up miraculous appearances of little bits of white bread every morning.  Most of us wake up, get in our cars & go to work in order to bring home a paycheck that will be used for groceries, housing, bills, and more.  Yet is one form of provision by God any less from His hand than the other?  The manna was certainly miraculous, but who gave us the ability to work?  The skills?  The job itself?  Who gave us the roof over our heads & the ability to go to the grocery store?  The very fact that any of us can get out of our beds in the morning at all is a demonstration of the blessing & provision of God!  Like the ancient Hebrews, without the provision of God, all of us would starve as well.
  • What’s included in “daily bread”?  Although the word is a simple reference to a loaf of bread, obviously this has got to be speaking about more than only literal bread.  Hunger is indeed a terrible problem all over the world – there are Christians today in other nations for whom “daily bread” is a literal prayer request!  Yet even for the Jews of Jesus’ day, there was an expectation that people would be eating more than plain bread (i.e. the loaves & fishes – even a boy had fish for lunch!).  Especially when we think of our own culture today – few of us have consistent daily needs regarding hunger.  (Most of us likely have needs regarding weight loss; not weight gain!)  More likely “daily bread” is a phrase that encompasses all of our daily sustenance & needs.  Just as the ancient Jews relied on God for daily sustenance through the manna, so do all believers today rely upon God for our physical provision.  Indeed, Jesus tells us that our Heavenly Father does exactly that when He says that God clothes the lilies of the field, and how much more God will clothe us (6:28-30).  We are dependent upon God for our daily survival – and that’s the point.  What is it that we need to get through this day?  That is what we ask in the model prayer to the Lord.
  • Notice that this is “daily” manna.  Greek scholars have a tough time with this word as it’s only found in the NT.  It seems to mean “sufficient for the coming day.”  This isn’t concerned with next week or next year, but what it appointed for us to have for today.  That’s not to say that advance planning is wrong; it’s simply that when it comes to basic survival, we’re looking at today.  Tomorrow has enough troubles of its own (6:34).  Not only does this keep us focused on what is present; it also keeps us mindful of what is basic.  In looking at the “daily,” Jesus does not reference an overabundance, but rather what is necessary.  We are not taught to pray, “Lord, give us today bread sufficient for the next 10 years” – instead, we are to be content with what we have been given.  Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6).
  • When do we need it?  Day by day.  IOW, not only do we need what is sufficient for the day, we need what is sufficient every day.  We are to continually ask for our daily bread – we are to continually seek God’s face.  It’s not as if we only need God to provide our daily bread on Sunday, Wednesday, and every few Saturdays – we need to seek His face every day asking for His gracious provision.  How contrary this is to our own culture!  The typical American dream seeks after financial independence and complete self-sufficiency; the gospel of the kingdom demands that Christians understand their complete insufficiency & absolute dependence upon God.  Keep in mind that this is how Jesus teaches us to pray – the acknowledgement of our absolute dependence upon God is something Jesus wants us to know.  The more we understand our own dependence, the greater we’ll be able to be used for God’s glory.  Paul understood that it was in his own weakness that Christ would be able to be shown strong (2 Cor 12:9) – it’s no different with us.  The more we realize our ongoing need for God’s power and God’s provision, the more we’ll seek God to pour out His power in our lives for His purposes and His glory. [Bill Bright, suit of clothes]  That’s what absolute dependence looks like – when we’re completely given over to whatever the Lord wants to do in our lives.
    • Keep in mind this does not excuse us from the responsibility to work and earn our wages.  Even before the Fall, God gave Adam the responsibility to work in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:15), and to this day work is something that we’re expected to do as responsible Christians.  Those who refuse to work are not to expect to eat (2 Ths 3:10) & those who refuse to provide for their families are described as being worse than unbelievers (1 Tim 5:8).  What this does do is help us remember Who it is that gives us the ability to work & upon Whom we depend for our work to be sufficient: our gracious Heavenly Father.
  • The point?  It all comes from God!  We look to God for our daily bread.  That God is our provider goes to the heart of the history of mankind.  Prior to the Fall, God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the eye & good for food (Gen 2:9) – after the Fall, God provided for Adam & Eve’s nakedness by providing tunics of skin (Gen 3:21) – after the Flood, God provided the animals in addition to the plant for Noah’s food (Gen 9:3), and the list could go on.  That God is our provider is even one of His names/titles, spoken by Abraham after the near-sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22:14).  None of that changes through today.  God is our source of provision – we look to God & God alone for the things we need.  Idolators look to the false god of their own making – those who worship money look to their bank-accounts – those who worship power look to their own abilities of manipulation – yet those who worship God look to God alone.  He truly is the only one who CAN provide, because He is the one who made it all, and to whom all things belong.  God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps 50:10), and He owns the hills & the air the cattle breathe, besides! 🙂  Look to God for your provision!
    • Do you notice how this turns God from being our last resort to our first response?  Often during crises of provision, we try every trick in the book & when finally exhausted, we then go to our knees in prayer to God.  But when we understand that all things come from His hand to begin with, it’s only natural that we would start by seeking the Lord in prayer.  How many 5-year olds start making phone calls to friends or start breaking open their piggy banks when they’re hungry?  They simply go to Mom or Dad & tell them.  Why would it be any different with us?  Go tell your Heavenly Father.
  • Notice the plural again: “us…our…”  Obviously we do seek God for our individual sustenance & the things that we need for our families.  But the Model Prayer is primarily a corporate prayer.  When we go before our Heavenly Father to lift up our requests, we’re not just praying for us – we’re praying alongside other brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.  There may not be a literal physical need for you to have bread right now, today – but I guarantee there’s a Christian somewhere in this world that is going hungry today.  Pray with them & for them.
  • Impossible to talk about this and not think of Christ Jesus Himself.  He IS the bread from heaven. John 6:48–51, "(48) I am the bread of life. (49) Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. (50) This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. (51) I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” " [] We need to partake of Jesus daily!  We find our sustenance in Him!  To pray for our daily physical bread and yet neglect the spiritual needs that are only met in the Lord Jesus is the height of foolishness for a Christian. When tempted by the devil in the wilderness with bread, Jesus rightly responded that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4).  That’s not to say physical needs aren’t important (they are!), but without Christ, nothing else matters.  The unbeliever still dies and goes to Hell whether or not his belly is full.  The Christian is sustained first and foremost by the abundant life of the Lord Jesus Christ, and THEN every other need can be met.  The apostle Paul endured hunger, thirst, shipwreck, robberies, stonings, and a litany of other sufferings – but the reason he could endure it all is because he was absolutely dependent upon Jesus Christ to meet every spiritual need he had.
    • Have YOU partaken of Christ Jesus?

12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.

  • Define “forgive” = “to let go/to release.”  This especially makes sense in the context of a debt.  Just as a bank might release someone from a loan that was owed, so we release others from an offense they committed against us.  We no longer hold it against them.  Of course, this is exactly what we have received in Christ & continually ask for, in accordance with the Model Prayer.  We ask that God would release us from the debt of sin that we’ve incurred against Him, and praise God that we have the promise that He does exactly that in Christ Jesus.
    • Keep in mind that as Christians, we’re not just forgiven; we’re justified.  Because of the blood of Jesus Christ, God released us our debts against Him.  But that would only wipe out the bad – we still need righteousness if we want to be brought into the family of God & spend eternity with Him.  Yet that’s exactly what happens in our justification.  Jesus imputes/gives us HIS righteousness, and thus gives us the right to become the children of God.  IOW, not only did He release us of all the bad, but He gave us all the good we would ever need.  Every single aspect of our salvation is completely wrapped up in the work of Jesus Christ!
  • Debt vs. trespass?  Many people have this memorized as “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Apparently, this was made common in the prayer book of the Church of England, and simply became tradition.  The Biblical word here is “debt” – though the meaning can be interchangeable with “trespass” according to vss. 14-15.  Specifically, Jesus is speaking about something that is owed to another.  Obviously we are indebted to God for everything (all good & perfect gifts come from Him) and we’re not asking God to release us from that, thus the context demands that by “debts” Jesus is referring to sin.  When we sin against God, we’re incurring debts against Him – and we need to have those debts released/forgiven.
    • Do Christians need to ask for forgiveness?  After all, we’re already forgiven in Christ.  You bet we need to ask for forgiveness!  It’s absolutely essential.  Repentance is not a one-time act for a believer in Christ; it’s a lifestyle as we continually surrender ourselves to Jesus as our King & Savior.  Christians can stop asking for forgiveness when Christians stop sinning.  Just because we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives does not mean that any of us has reached a point that we have completely rid ourselves from the potential to sin.  To go a single day without even one sin is virtually an impossible thought – most of us can’t even get to the breakfast table without at least some sort of experience with the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life!  The more we grow in our relationship with Christ, the more aware we’ll be of our old sinful nature – and thus the more acutely aware we’ll be of our need to repent and seek God’s forgiveness.
    • But there’s good news here!  Remember that forgiveness is not merely something we’re to hope for when we ask; it’s in absolute promise of God that we will receive it.  1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." []
  • Not only do we need forgiveness; we need to forgive. Interestingly enough, people welcome the idea of forgiveness when it comes to ourselves, but get scared of it when it comes to others.  The idea of forgiving someone that has offended us can be unnerving, because we’re not exactly sure what we might have to endure in the process.  “If I forgive that person, that means that I’m opening myself to be hurt again!”  Depending on the situation, perhaps yes, sometimes.  Yet forgiveness & responsibility are not mutually exclusive ideas.  To take an extreme example, a person might forgive a murderer, but still not invite him over to dinner.  Remember that forgiveness is releasing something.  Have you released that other person from the debt you believe they owe against you?  When they walk into a room or come up on Facebook, do you shrink back or get a knot in your stomach?  Obviously there’s not been a release.  To truly release the matter to the Lord is not only to demonstrate sacrificial love to others, it’s to give ourselves freedom.  Too many Christians are bound up because of their own lack of forgiveness & it steals their joy – yet there is freedom to be found in forgiveness!  Just as the forgiveness of Christ frees us from our own sin, the power to forgive others because of Christ frees us from the burdens we place upon ourselves.
    • Keep in mind that forgiveness is more than just words.  People can say that they forgive without truly releasing the debt of that person against him/her.  We need to release the matter to the Lord!
  • Notice what Jesus is doing here: He’s giving us the standard of our own forgiveness.  Our forgiveness is tied to our forgiving.  If we are unwilling to forgive others, then on what basis can we expect forgiveness for ourselves?  [Matthew 18:21-35 – parable of Unforgiving Servant.]  Hearts that are broken for others demonstrate themselves to be broken over sin.  The heart that is hardened does not truly understand the gravity of the debt of his own sin.  That was apparent in the unforgiving servant & that can be apparent in others as well.  The weight of the sin of which Jesus promises our forgiveness is absolutely astounding!  There was no work that we could do to earn penance – there was no price we could pay to buy it off – we were consigned to an eternity of death and pain, and yet our Lord the King gave us glorious freedom!  How can we not extend that same forgiveness to others?
    • The fact that we forgive does not minimize the hurt that we’ve experienced.  But just as Jesus gives us the power to forgive others, He is also fully capable of ministering to our pain.  Holding a grudge doesn’t make our pain disappear; it only makes it worse.
  • Question: does this mean that for those who don’t forgive, our salvation is in doubt?  Absolutely not.  Be careful not to rip this out of the general context.  We know that the model prayer is a prayer for those who are already born-again Christians (“Our Father”) – we know that this prayer is something that we are bringing before God daily (“give us today…”) – the context then is forgiveness in our daily relationship with God.  Holding unforgiveness in our hearts directly affects our daily relationship with God.  Two guaranteed ways that a Christian can lose the joy of his/her salvation: (1) personal sin, (2) unforgiveness of other’s sin.  Both can be dealt with simply by continuing to surrender ourselves to the Lord Jesus!
    • That said, it is worth throwing up a caution regarding those who believe they can proudly hold ongoing grudges against one another and still call themselves a “Christian.”  There’s no getting around the idea that a person who has been forgiven will also be a person who forgives.  An “unforgiving Christian” is a walking contradiction in terms.  As John writes, the person who says he is in the light & hates his brother is in darkness until now (1 Jn 2:9).  IOW, to claim to be a Christian, yet maintain hatred for other people (especially through unforgiveness) is to be lying somewhere.  Forgiveness for the Christian is not an option; it’s simply part of who we are.  When we feel we lack the capacity to forgive, we ask our Father for grace – yet when we lack even the remotest desire to forgive, we need to ask ourselves if God is indeed our Father.
  • In case there was any doubt how serious this is in the eyes of the Lord, after Jesus is done giving us the model prayer, He actually goes back to re-emphasize this point.  See vss. 14-15…

14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

  • Jesus makes it clear that a debt owed to God (or to us) is a trespass against Him.  It’s simply two different ways of looking at the same thing.  The most common NT word for sin means to “miss the mark,” & that can be done accidentally.  The words Jesus uses here implies something more intentional.  It’s difficult to trespass without knowing that we are trespassing – those are the kinds of sin we need to be willing to forgive of others & also seek forgiveness.
  • Notice how Jesus turns it around here.  In the model prayer, we are the ones asking for forgiveness, according the standard of how we forgive.  In the explanation, Jesus shows us first forgiving (or not) others, then receiving forgiveness in return.  In both situations, it’s the forgiveness we choose to extend that comes first; only then can we look to God for the forgiveness that we need.  (This is one more reason we can know that Jesus is not talking about our justification.  Our salvation is a gift of God’s grace – something which cannot be earned, even by our forgiveness of others.)  When it comes to our daily relationship with God & the intimacy we experience with Him, there is a “cause & effect” in regards to forgiveness.  If we forgive, we can receive forgiveness from God the Father.  If we do not forgive, no forgiveness from God ought to be expected.  Pretty sobering.
    • Has your relationship with God felt hindered as of late?  Search your heart & see if there is any unforgiveness in your life.  Understand that God sees our unwillingness to forgive as nothing less than sin.  If there is a grudge you’ve been carrying, confess it to God, release it to God, and be done with it!  Problem: “But I thought I HAD released it to God, and yet I still feel pain with this person.”  Then keep releasing it & asking God for grace until you’re free.  A grudge is not something that can simply be ignored; it’s a wart that will get in the way of everything else in our relationship with God until it’s dealt with.
  • Please don’t miss the best part in all of this.  Jesus promises that God forgives. There’s not a doubt left by Jesus regarding the certainty of our forgiveness.  When we forgive others, we WILL experience the glorious freedom of forgiveness!  People who hold onto grudges become attached to them & are sometimes afraid of what they’re giving up.  Yet if they only realized what they would gain in exchange!  Give up your grudge for the freedom of forgiveness from the Lord – it’s guaranteed!

Conclusion:
Christian, look to God to provide you your needs!  What is it that we need?  Physical provision (daily bread), and spiritual freedom (forgiving & forgiveness).

  • We need bread.  We need daily physical provision.  Praise God that our Heavenly Father cares about even our most mundane needs!  Sometimes people get the idea that unless a prayer request is “big,” it’s not worth taking to God.  The Lord Jesus instructs us to pray for bread.  The things that we need for daily survival are legitimate prayer requests to bring before the Lord.  He is our Jehovah Jireh, and He is sufficient to meet our every need.  Understand your absolute dependence upon the Lord, and thank God for it!
  • We need forgiveness.  For the Christian, our sin has been taken care of at the cross, but we still struggle with our sinful flesh on a daily basis.  There is no joy for a Christian when there is unconfessed and unforgiven sin in his/her life – yet the promise from Jesus is that forgiveness is indeed available.  Don’t put it off – ask God for His glorious release from the debt of sin & be restored to the intimate relationship with Him that He desires for you.
  • We need to forgive.  Our forgiveness of others is not an “extra” in the life of a born-again believer; it’s an essential if we are to experience the day-to-day forgiveness of the Lord God.  Unforgiveness presents a barrier between us and the abundant life that Jesus promised – and it’s completely unnecessary.  Release others unto the Lord & where we lack the ability, we can go to our Heavenly Father for grace to do so.

To sum it up: we need Jesus!  Food is given to us by the Bread of Life.  Forgiveness is given to us by the Savior of the world.  Even the ability to forgive is given to us by the One who gives us new life.  Christians desperately need the work of Christ in our lives – and that’s exactly what we are to seek the Lord for when we pray.

Depending on your individual circumstances, there might be different challenges for you today that we find here in the Model Prayer.

  • Maybe you need to truly seek God for your provision.  You’ve been wearing yourself out in your own strength, but you haven’t yet sought your Heavenly Father who loves you greatly.
  • Maybe you need to release some grudges that you’ve been carrying.  Perhaps you’ve said the words “I forgive you,” but in reality you haven’t really released anything into God’s hands.
  • Maybe there’s sin in your life for which you need to ask forgiveness.  Perhaps that sin is a grudge you’ve been nursing – perhaps it’s some other besetting sin – perhaps it’s something that happened on the way into worship this morning.  As a Christian, you don’t have to carry the weight of guilt – you have the glorious promise of forgiveness in Jesus Christ!  Go to your Heavenly Father in prayer, and seek Him for forgiveness in order that you can be restored to the joy of your salvation.
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