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

During the Second World War, Corrie Ten Boom and her family helped Jews escape from Nazi persecution and hid them in her home. In her book, The Hiding Place, she shares about growing up in that home, where her father had a watch repair shop downstairs. He was very good at what he did, and she said there weren’t too many repair problems he hadn’t encountered. But, she said: “occasionally one would come along that baffled even him. And then I would hear him say: ‘Lord, You turn the wheels of the galaxies. You know what makes the planets spin — and You know what makes this watch run’”!  And he would ask God to help him with the  need that he had. (Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place, p. 70) 

What Corrie’s father did that day, is an example of how every Christian should constantly bring our needs to God — all through the day, just like Mr. Ten Boom did, and also during our morning prayer time. We are studying today the 4th petition of the Model Prayer. This section of the Model shows us that after we praise God, and pray for His kingdom and His will, then we are then also to bring Him our requests: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Let’s look at what we can learn about bringing our requests to God, from what Jesus taught us here:

I. The Basic RELATIONSHIP expressed in our requests. 

The first two words of this line of the prayer are “give us.” The wording here is very simple — and yet conveyed in those two words are the very heart of Christianity. We needy children, ask our Heavenly Father, to give us what we lack. “Give us this day our daily bread.” That is Christianity in a nutshell. As Tim Keller wrote: “To pray is to accept that we are, and always will be, wholly dependent on God for everything.” 

Asking God to give us what we lack is at the heart of Christianity. Asking God to give us what we need is how we are saved in the first place!  We realize that we are sinful people, and are not righteous enough to make it to heaven, so we ask God to “give us” salvation through 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.” No, we come to God saying we have NOT been good enough; we don’t deserve it; please give us what we need. 

When President Calvin Coolidge was a young man in college, like most college students, he wrote home to ask for money. In the fall semester of 1893, he made his usual request for money in terms of his recent accomplishments. He wrote his father: “In view of the fact that yesterday I put a debate said to be the best heard on the floor of the chapel this term, in view of the fact that my name was read as one of the first ten in French, in view of the fact that I passed in Natural philosophy with a fair mark whereas many failed … can you send me $25 the forepart of next week?” (Amity Shlaes, Coolidge, p. 44)

Coolidge was in effect asking his parents to send him that money because he had been so good. And this is the same attitude that many people take with God. They say: “God, I’ve been pretty good, so would you give me heaven,” or “answer my prayer?”

But that is NOT how the Bible teaches us to come to God. In fact, it is the opposite of how the Bible teaches us to come to God! The Christian person is the one who has come to God as a beggar, and pleads, “God, I am a sinner; in Your mercy please do for me what I do NOT deserve” — that is what it means to be “poor in spirit.” To be “poor in spirit” means you realize you are in poverty, spiritually, before God, so you ask Him to help you. And Jesus said God will GIVE the poor of spirit the Kingdom of Heaven. 

That is the most basic transaction of the Kingdom of Heaven: we realize that we are needy children, so we ask God to give us in His mercy what we need.  That’s how we get saved in the first place. If you’ve never done that, you need to ask God to save you today: not because you deserve it, but because of His mercy in Christ.  

But our asking God to give us what we need, doesn’t STOP with salvation. After we ask Him to save us, we are to continue to bring our requests to God every day, like Jesus shows us in this Model Prayer. In fact, God gives us multiple commands in His word 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 Jesus 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 in the Old Testament and the New Testament; in the Gospels and in the letters, from David to Jesus to Paul and James and John, all through the Bible, we are repeatedly commanded to bring our needs to God in prayer. This is basic Christianity. 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?”  He says God will give us what we need, just like any good father will give what is good to his child who asks. That’s the very basic picture of our relationship with God. He’s the Father; we are His child; and we are to ASK Him for what we need. 

And this is all about our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  God wants us to ask, because it reminds us of that relationship we have with Him, and it brings us to fellowship with Him in prayer. That TIME with us in prayer is what He really wants from us.  Bill Elliff, our pastor who married Cheryl & I, used to play a game with his girls when they were preschoolers, 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 they would work and work and try to pry that penny out — and he would finally let them get it. He said he could have opened his hand at any moment and let them have that penny — but he let them struggle and work to get it out because he just enjoyed the sweet time they spent playing with him. 

That is how our Heavenly Father is with us, too. He made us for the specific purpose of having a relationship with Him, and one of the primary ways He has designed to fulfill that relationship is by us spending time praying, and asking Him to meet our needs.  So Jesus shows us in the Model Prayer here, that there is this specific place for us to ASK our Father: “GIVE US this day our daily bread.” It shows the basic relationship we have with God. We as His children ask, and He as our Father gives. That is what Christianity IS.

II. The ORDER of our requests

So we are to ask God for our needs, but we also need to recognize the ORDER of our asking them in the overall scheme of the Model Prayer.  There is certainly a purposeful order in this outline of prayer.  We see here that there is a place in Jesus’ model for our personal requests, but that place is not first.  Our requests are to come AFTER praise, AFTER God’s Kingdom requests, and AFTER we pray for God’s will. We talked about how the structure of the 6 requests of the Model Prayer is: “THY name … THY kingdom … THY will” first — THEN we come to “give US this day … forgive US … lead US not …”.  So we are to begin our prayers with a focus on God, and AFTER we have prayed for HIS concerns, then we come to ours. 

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 His name and His will in prayer — and THEN bring your requests later.  This is a fundamentally important order, because in our sinful nature, you & I are naturally “ego-centric” — that is, we tend to think that everything revolves around us — and Jesus reminds us here in this Model that it DOESN’T! 

In George Eliot’s classic Middlemarch, she writes about Mr. Casaubon, whom she said was “was the centre of his own world,” and who believed that “others were providentially made for him.”  His character may have been a little exaggerated, but the truth is, in our sinful human nature, we tend to be like that. We are what is called “ego-centric” — “I”-centered, and we tend to think that everything should revolve around US, and OUR wants and needs. So … when we have a problem, we feel like the whole world should stop and focus on us and our need.  And make no mistake: God DOES love us, and He wants to hear our needs.  But the place Jesus gave us for our requests in this model helps the many of us who need this reminder, that the world does not revolve around us! There is a bigger picture going on: of God’s Kingdom and God’s will in the world. 

It appears that Jesus put our requests here as the 4th segment of the Model Prayer to help us understand that our requests are important to God — but they don’t come first.  God has a big plan that is unfolding for the whole world: a plan for people to be saved; a plan for His Kingdom to expand in people’s hearts; a plan for the consummation of the age and the return of Christ. There are bigger things going on in this world than our own personal needs. 

So many of God’s people in America are praying things like: “God, I don’t have a new outfit,” or “God I’d like a new tv.” And God is saying: you know, I care about your every need, but the first concern you should have on your prayer list is not your new clothes or your tv, but that people in India right now don’t have any drinking water — and worse than that, that a BILLION people in India are LOST and are headed for an eternity apart from God.  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 them how much God cares about all their little needs — which, let me emphasize again, He DOES — but we have taken it so far that we have created a whole generation of spiritual babies, who think that the whole world and the Kingdom of God revolves around THEM — and it doesn’t.  God does not exist for US; we exist for HIM. I think one of the biggest problems many Christians have is that we don’t really get that. The world does not revolve around us; it revolves around GOD: it revolves around HIS glory, and HIS kingdom, and HIS will.  And the place Jesus gave us for our requests here in this Model Prayer reminds us of that. God does care about our needs, but our needs are not first.  His kingdom requests and His will are first, and then here later, come our own requests. The order here in Jesus’ Model Prayer helps us to keep the right perspective on things.  

III. The TIME of our requests:

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

Supporting this is that this same Greek Bible word for “this day” (semeron) is used later in Matthew 16:3, where Jesus says to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “In the morning (you say) ‘There will be a storm TODAY …'”.  That word “today” is the same word Jesus used here in the Model Prayer. So Matthew 16 specifically spells out that it is referring to someone speaking “in the morning” about what will happen later on that day.  

We also see this in the gathering of the manna — the “daily bread” — that God gave Israel during the Exodus. That gathering of the manna 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.” If you slept in and went out too late, you couldn’t get any manna! It was all gone! God was evidently teaching His people that they needed to get up early, to get the nourishment they needed for the day.

It appears that Jesus is telling us the same thing about our spiritual nourishment here in this Model Prayer. “Give us this day” — which means the day ahead, so evidently this prayer is in the morning — “give us this day” the nourishment that we need for the day ahead, 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.  

Now, to pray the kind of prayer that Jesus outlines for us here, in any depth and in any quality, is going to take some time, in the morning to do. It means we are going to have to adjust our schedules to get up earlier. Whatever time you are used to getting up, with just enough time to get cleaned up and get to work or school, you are going to have change, and get up earlier, so you can spend this quality time with God in prayer. It is a MUST for your spiritual growth.  

Now if you say, “But I love to stay up late!” — Hey I know! Listen, I love to stay up late as much as anyone. Left to my own devices, I would stay up till 1:00 or more every morning. But I also know that I can’t do that and get up and spend the time I need with God in the morning, and still get to the office at a decent hour.  I have learned over the years that I can’t burn the candle at both ends, or I’ll get sick.  So I have to go to bed early most of the time, so I can get up early and do the most important thing there is to do in life: which is to talk with God first thing in the morning.   

I am grateful to hear that many of our people are doing this — some of you are doing it now for the very first time. That is such an important step! Other than becoming a Christian, spending time with God to start your day is THE most important commitment you can make spiritually, because it will impact the whole rest of your life, every day. Put God first in the morning, and there’s a good chance you will KEEP Him first the rest of the day.  Jesus is encouraging us to start our morning that way, with this line of the Model Prayer: “give us this day (the day ahead) our daily bread.”  

IV. The OBJECTS of our requests:

Notice also that Jesus did NOT teach us to pray: ”give ME today MY daily bread.” He made it plural: “give US this day OUR daily bread.”  This is significant.  Even as we come to this place in the prayer where we are to ask for our needs, 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 make sure that we include the needs of others in our prayers as well.  

Jesus was a great example of including others in His prayers — even in the last hours of His life on earth. John 17 is what many call “The Lord’s Prayer”, or His high priestly prayer. Here Jesus 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 also prayed for His disciples: 

— :9 “I ask on their behalf”

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

— :15 “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 for: 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 this “High Priestly Prayer” of John 17. 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 every day on behalf of people who need Him, spiritually or physically, and lift them up to Him in prayer.  

All of 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. We saw a couple of weeks ago how he continually prayed 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. His commitment is recorded in I Samuel 12:23, when the people of Israel asked him to keep on praying for them, even though they had sinned in asking for a king. He said to them: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should 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 it would be a great sin if I did NOT do it.  

Many of us as God’s people need to make Samuel’s verse our OWN commitment as intercessors.  Let’s memorize this verse, and more importantly, let’s FOLLOW it in our prayer life.  Let’s be consistent, and faithful, and fervent in our intercession for others in our daily prayers.  

There are a number of different ways we can do this:

— What I do, is after I’ve begun my prayer with praise, and praying for Kingdom requests, and God’s will — is that then I spend some time praying for needs. The first ones I pray for, are usually a group of 6-8 requests that I call my “front burner” prayer requests. These are the ones that right now are the most “urgent” and I will pray for these every day. (For example, my mom has been in the hospital this week, so she’s been on there. Thurman Krueger has been in the hospital all week; so he’s been on there.) Folks from our church who are having surgery, or recuperating from surgery or who have lost loved ones that week, will usually be on there, and so on. I’ll pray for these every day until the crisis has passed.

— Then like a lot of you I also have a number of ongoing prayer requests, and I split these up, praying for some different ones each day of the week, like I do with my “Kingdom” prayers, because there are just so many.  For example, I pray for our whole extended family on Monday; I pray for our church members with ongoing physical needs on Wednesdays; for our elected officials and authorities on Thursdays, and so on.  

So I pray for the “front burner” requests every day, and then ongoing requests are split up over the days of week. Cheryl does hers a bit differently: she prays in depth for a different family member each day (Libby said her one time: “I know it’s not Tuesday, but we could use your prayers  today!” But it was neat that she knew that Cheryl prayed for her every Tuesday. So Cheryl spreads our family out among the days of the week, and also has different individuals she prays for, on her prayer lists for each day of the week.

 You don’t have to divide it up like I do; or like Cheryl does — you can do it any way God leads you to!  But in SOME fashion, make sure that you are consistently lifting up the needs of other people to God every day, as well as your own personal needs: “Give US this day, OUR daily bread.” We’ve got to make sure we are praying specific requests for ourselves and for others, every day. There is too much at stake, not to.

Tim Keller wrote of how after 9/11, the whole city of New York was in a kind of spiritual depression; his own wife Kathy was sick, and he himself had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Keller said that admittedly he had never been a great pray-er, but in these circumstances Kathy told him that they HAD to make a commitment to pray every day, and she used this analogy; she said, what if you were diagnosed with such a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine every day?  You couldn’t miss or you would die.  Would you forget? Would you “just not get around to it” some days?  There’s no way you would! She said, that’s how we’ve got to be with prayer! We must have it every day. Our needs are too important.

And that is exactly where many of US are right now:

— Some of you here today would undoubtedly agree that you have some needs in your life right now that are too big for you to miss a single day of prayer. 

— Some of us here today would say that we have loved ones who have needs which are too great for us to miss a single day of prayer. 

Our Heavenly Father has SO much for us, He has so many blessings He WANTS to give us; He is just WAITING to give us — IF we will come to Him every day, and ask for it. May God raise up dozens of us in our church family who will pray, every day without fail, both for our own needs and for the needs of others, just like Jesus taught us in this Model Prayer.  

— May we follow the example of Jesus as an intercessor; 

— May we take on 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”!  

— May not a single day ever go by, in which we fail to ask our Heavenly Father: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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