“The Model Prayer: Requests” (Matthew 6:11 sermon) 

(Preached at Pleasant Ridge Baptist, Morganton, NC   5-13-15)

Tim Keller is pastor of a church that is flourishing in a very difficult ministry field: the heart of New York City. He recently published a book on prayer, and in it he wrote: “To pray is to accept that we are, and always will be, wholly dependent on God for everything.” (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

That idea of depending on God for everything is reinforced in the 4th petition of the Model Prayer which we are studying this evening: “Give us this day our daily bread.”  This section of the Model teaches us that after we praise God, and pray for His kingdom and will, that we are also to pray for our requests: “our daily bread.”  We learn several things about praying for our requests as we pay close attention to just what Jesus taught us here in these words:  

I. The BASIC RELATIONSHIP of our requests

The first two words of this line of the prayer are “give us.” It is very simple, yet conveyed in those two words are the very basic nature of Christianity. We who are needy children, ask God, our Heavenly Father, to give us what we lack.  This is Christianity in a nutshell. As Keller wrote, we are “wholly dependent on God for everything.”

Asking God to give us what we lack is what it takes to be saved: we ask God to “give us” righteousness, “give us” salvation because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  Unlike all the other religions of the world, Christians don’t come to God and say, “Render to me according to all my good religious deeds”; the saved person is the one who has come to God as a beggar, and pleads, “God, do for me what I cannot do for myself” — and the poor of spirit is GIVEN the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is the most basic transaction of the Kingdom of Heaven: we ask, and God gives.  It happens initially in salvation, but it is not to stop there. We are to continue to ask and receive from God in prayer all through the Christian life. In fact, we are given multiple commands in scripture to ask:

— God told His people in Psalm 81:10, “I YHWH am your God  who brought you up from the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”  He was telling them to ASK and He would provide for them!

— God says in Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know.”

— Jesus said later in this Sermon on the Mount: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

— In John 16:24 He challenged His disciples (and us!) “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ASK and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”

— Paul commanded us in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

— James 4:2 says “You do not have because you do not ask.”

—  I John 5:14 “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request which we have asked from Him.”

So asking is basic to Christianity, and the commands in scripture to do it are pervasive.  We as God’s children are to ask, and God as our Father will give. It is significant that Jesus uses the illustration of the father and the child in Matthew 7:9, “What man is there among you, who, when his sons asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?”  God will give to us, just as a good father will give to his child who asks.  That’s the whole basic picture of our relationship with God.

And that is what asking is really all about: it is about our relationship with our Father.  God wants us to ask, because it is an expression of that relationship.  Bill Elliff, our former pastor who married Cheryl & I, used to play a game with his little girls, in which he would hold a penny in his hand, and his daughters would sit in his lap and try to pry that penny out. Bill said he could have opened his hand at any second and let them have that penny — but what he really wanted was just the sweet time they spent sitting with him.

I believe our Heavenly Father is the same way. He made us for a relationship with Him, and one of the ways He has designed for us to fulfill that relationship with Him is by spending time with Him, asking Him to meet our needs.  So in the Model Prayer here, Jesus tells us that we have this place to ASK: “GIVE US this day our daily bread.”

II. The PLACE of our requests

We ARE indeed to ask, but we also need to recognize the place of asking in the overall scheme of the Model.  We have talked before about the purposeful structure that we find in The Model Prayer, and that is certainly true regarding the place of our requests in the prayer.  There is a place in Jesus’ model for our requests, but that place is not first.  Our requests come AFTER praise, AFTER God’s Kingdom requests, and AFTER we pray for God’s will.  Remember the structure of the 6 requests of the Model Prayer is that “THY name … THY kingdom, and THY will” all come at the beginning. THEN we come to “give US this day … forgive US … lead US not …”.  So we are to begin with a focus on God, and after we have prayed for HIS concerns, then we come to ours.  Jesus definitely gave us a place in the Model Prayer for bringing our requests, and this is it.  It is not first, but it begins the second part of the prayer.

It is just like Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Seek FIRST His Kingdom and name and will in prayer — and THEN bring your requests later.

This is fundamentally important, because in our sinful nature, you & I are naturally “ego-centric” — that is, we tend to think that everything revolves around us.

Perhaps you are familiar with the concept of “ethnocentricity” — that often a particular culture or nation will teach that everything in the world, and in history, revolves around them.  One of the evidences of this is that in world maps, nations almost always place THEIR particular country in the center of the map —  as if the whole world revolves around them!  They are “ethno-centric”, putting themselves at the center of the world.

We tend to be like that as individuals as well, only we call that “EGO-centric”, meaning “I”-centered.  In our selfish, sinful state, we have the big “I” on the throne of our lives, and we tend to think that everything should revolve around us.  So … when we have a problem, we often feel like the whole world should stop and focus on us and our need.  And make no mistake: God DOES love us, and other Christians do too. And they want to minister to us; and God wants to hear our needs.  But the place of our requests in Jesus’ model just helps to remind the many of us who need it, that the world does not revolve around us. There is a bigger picture: what is going on in the world, and God’s Kingdom purposes.

The movie “Casablanca” is generally considered to be one of the top 2-3 movies in history. There are a number of memorable quotes in it. One is near the very end, where Rick tells Ilsa:  “I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”

It seems that Jesus’ placement of our requests as the 4th segment of the Model Prayer is part of His attempt to help us understand that too: that God loves us, and He wants to hear our requests, but they don’t come first.  God has a plan that is unfolding for this world, for people to be saved, and for His Kingdom to expand, for the consummation of the age and the end of the world, and the return of Christ. There are bigger things going on in this world than whether I have a late bill or a sore toenail!  We need to have a Kingdom perspective.

We are praying things like: “God, I don’t have a spring outfit.”  God is saying: you know, I care about your every need, but the first thing you need to be praying about is not your spring outfit, but that there are people in Nepal right now who don’t have any drinking water — and worse than that, they are LOST and are headed for an eternity in hell.  And THOSE are the things we should be praying about first!

Now, that ‘s not to say that God doesn’t care about the little things in our lives; He does. Jesus said not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father.  But we need to keep these things in balance.  I think we have done a lot of people a disservice in recent generations in the American church, by telling people how much God cares about all their little needs — which, let me emphasize again, He DOES — but we have almost taken it so far that we have created a generation of spiritual babies, who think that the whole world and the Kingdom of God revolve around THEM — and it doesn’t.  God does not exist for US; we exist for HIM. I think one of the biggest problems many of us have is that we don’t really get that.  The world doesn’t revolve around us; it revolves around God’s glory, and His kingdom, and His will.  And the place for our requests in the Model Prayer reminds us of that.  God does care about our needs, but our needs are not first.

III. Then notice the TIME of our requests:

“Give us THIS DAY our daily bread.”  This points to this being the model of a morning prayer: you are praying for the food that you need for the day ahead.

Strengthening this idea is the fact that this same Greek Bible word for “this day” (semeron) is used later in Matthew 16:3, where Jesus says to the Pharisees and Sadduccees, “In the morning (you say) ‘There will be a storm TODAY …'”.  That word “today” is the same one Jesus used here in the Model Prayer. And it is instructive to us that in the Matthew 16 passage it specifically spells out that it is referring to someone speaking “IN THE MORNING” about what is going to happen later that day.

Similarly, is very symbolic, and should be instructive to us, that the gathering of the manna — the “daily bread” — that God gave Israel during the Exodus was done in the morning. Exodus 16 says it was “in the morning” that the manna would appear, and the people would go out to gather it up.  Interestingly enough, :21 records that “when the sun grew hot, it would melt.” It appears that God was teaching His people to get up early, and get the nourishment they needed for the day.

It looks like Jesus is telling us the same thing about our spiritual nourishment in this Model Prayer. “Give us this day” — in the morning — the nourishment we need for the day, just as Israel gathered the manna in the morning.  The prayer He is modeling for us here is almost certainly a morning prayer.  It is an outline of the kinds of requests He wants us to pray in our morning prayer time.

Listen, I love to stay up late as much as anyone. Left to my own devices, I would stay up till 2:00 or 3:00 every morning.  But I also know that I can’t do that and get up early and spend time with God in prayer and in His word in the morning. I have learned that I can’t burn the candle at both ends, or I WILL get sick.  So I go to bed early, so I can get up early and do the most important thing there is to do in life: which is to walk with God first thing in the morning.

I am grateful to hear that a number of our people here are doing that same thing; some for the very first time, and some are re-committing to it.  One of our ladies even said that her new commitment now was “No Bible, no lipstick”!  Now that’s a serious commitment!  But I do believe that is what the Lord wants from us: to make HIM our #1 priority in the morning.  And He is pointing us in that direction with this line of the Model Prayer to “give us this day (the day ahead) our daily bread.”

(Now, we have said before that we do not have to pray through an outline of the Model Prayer every single time we pray. It is an outline for the larger, “block of time” prayers that we should pray to begin the day.  But having said that, we are not to stop there.  We are to to continue to pray shorter prayers throughout the day — and that is the kind of prayer that we are going to look at this Sunday morning in our “Disciplines of Disciples” study: “The Discipline of Continual Prayer.”)

But the time of this Model Prayer is evidently the morning, as Jesus taught us to pray: “Give us this day (the day ahead) our daily bread.”

IV. The OBJECTS of our requests:

We mentioned this just briefly Sunday in our overview of the Model Prayer, but as we begin to focus on our requests here, it is important to notice the grammatical “person” that is used in this verse: it is NOT the 1st person singular, “give ME MY daily bread”, but plural: “give US this day OUR daily bread.”  This is significant.  Even as we come to the place in the prayer where we are to ask for our needs, here, we are not to be selfish in our praying. We are to pray for our own needs, to be sure, but we are also to keep it plural, and make sure that we include the needs of others in our prayers as well.

We see a great example of including others in our prayers during the last hours of Jesus on the earth.  In John 17 we find what many call “The Lord’s Prayer”, or His high priestly prayer. Here He was, about to go to the cross to suffer and die, and as we saw last week, His own flesh was repulsed at the thought of the torture that He was about to undergo. He needed the Father’s help and strength — but at that crucial time in His life, He prayed for His followers:

— in :9 He prayed, “I ask on their behalf”

— He prayed in :11 “I ask You, Holy Father, keep them in Thy name …”

— In :15 He prayed “Keep them from the evil one”

— :17 “sanctify them in the truth

— :18 “that they may all be one”

And so on throughout the prayer. In His last great prayer time here on earth, Jesus was unselfish in His prayers, praying for the needs of His followers.

This is what Jesus came to earth to do: to come to be a mediator — an intercessor — between us and God.  He came to lay His life down as a “bridge” to span the gap between sinful man and Holy God.  We see that most poignantly in His death on the cross, and we see it again in His “High Priestly Prayer” of John 17, and Hebrews 7:25 says He continues that ministry in Heaven, as “He always lives to make intercession for (us).”

So the more we become like Jesus (which is God’s goal for our lives) the more we will become like Him in this area of intercession.  Just like Jesus, we will come to God on behalf of people who need Him, spiritually, physically, or in whatever way, and lift them up to Him in prayer.

The great people of God in scripture were intercessors:

— In Exodus 32-33, Moses interceded for the people of Israel after they had sinned with the golden calf.

— The Apostle Paul was a great intercessor. As we have studied before, he was continually praying for individuals and churches. His intercession even went to the point of saying in Romans 9:3 that he could wish to be accursed in order to bring about the salvation of his brethren the Jews.

The prophet Samuel was another great intercessor. And his commitment to intercession is famously recorded in his response to the people of Israel in I Samuel 12:23, when they asked him to keep on praying for them, even though they had wrongly asked for a king: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me to sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you.”  What a great commitment he had to intercede for the people. He said, not only will I DO it; he said I would consider it to be a great sin if I did NOT do it.

Many of us as God’s people need to pick up Samuel’s verse, and make it OUR commitment as intercessors.  Let’s memorize this verse, and more importantly, EXEMPLIFY it in our prayers.  Let us be consistent, and faithful, and fervent in our intercessions for others.

And there are varied ways we can organize this in our own personal prayer times.  I usually pray every day for some of the “front burner” requests I have going, and then I have a number of ongoing prayer requests that I split up, doing some different ones each day of the week, like I do with my “Kingdom” prayers, because there are so many.  For example, I pray for extended family on Mondays, those with physical and material needs on Wednesdays, elected officials and authorities on Fridays, and so on.  You certainly don’t have to do it like I do; you can do it however God leads you.  But in SOME fashion, make sure that you are consistently lifting up the needs of others: “Give US this day, OUR daily bread.”

I pray that God will raise up dozens and scores of the members of this church to be intercessors for the needs of others like Jesus taught us in the Model Prayer.  May we learn to follow the model in this prayer; may we follow the example of Jesus as an intercessor; and may we ourselves embody the commitment of the prophet Samuel, and say to those on OUR prayer lists: “May it never be that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you”!  Let us be found faithful every day, fulfilling the 4th request of the Model Prayer by praying, “Give us this day our daily bread” — and interceding for others.

We want to spend some time tonight putting this into practice as well.  We are going to pray through an outline of the Model Prayer together as we have been, and when we come to the requests section, you can pray for the requests that have been handed out — AND as always, the front of the worship center will be open for whoever wants to pray for a special request, or you can come and have someone pray with you.

PRAYER TIME:

PRAISE:
— scripture:  Psalm 86

–song: “In Christ Alone”

— thanksgiving

KINGDOM:  pray for Sunday’s service, and for a missions request: God’s Kingdom to spread in Nepal

GOD’S WILL:

REQUESTS:
— pray for a special request you have; for the one you were given tonight; and you can come forward to pray and/or have someone join you in prayer.

— ALSO:  Rhodes’ grandbaby being delivered tonight;  Bradley Kirkley kidney stones;  (Continue to pray for Roy & Greta Waters, & Eddie & Suzanne Wright  AND OTHERS)

CONFESSION:

SPIRITUAL PROTECTION:

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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