Learning to Pray: Part Three
The Steward’s Confidence
We are on a five-week journey reflecting on Jesus’s instructions to His disciples on how they should pray – what we know as The Lord’s Prayer. We are considering how The Lord’s Prayer reflects the journey of the faithful steward, and to do so we are breaking it down into five sections:
- The Steward’s Cry – Our Father, hallowed be your name
- The Steward’s Commitment – your kingdom come, your will be done
- The Steward’s Confidence – our daily bread
- The Steward’s Confession – forgive us as we forgive
- The Steward’s Courage – deliver us
We are using the text from Matthew 6 from the New International Version, and today we will meditate on the following words, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
My hope it to share with you the wonderful blessing I’ve received as the Spirit has been teaching me how our commitment to be faithful stewards is beautifully woven into this way of praying. While that shouldn’t surprise us, it has revolutionized my prayer life, and I hope there is a substantial blessing for you in this as well.
The Steward’s Confidence
With this third phrase, we come to a significant pivot point in this prayer. In the first two parts the focus was on God; hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done. After these three ‘your’ statements we come to four ‘us’ petitions. Let’s not lose the importance of this shift. According to Jesus’s instructions, praise and surrender precede our petitions. Put another way, when we have praised God for His Majesty, affirmed the intimacy of our relationship with Him as our Father, surrendered ourselves fully that His kingdom may be known through us, and sought to be guided according to His will in all we do, then, and only then are we in the right place to lay our petitions before Him.
In these first two petitions, we have laid claim to our role as stewards and not owners. Now, from that same steward’s heart, we are instructed to lay our requests before him. Honestly, I wish the wording were different. Here’s why.
If you’re familiar with the Strengths Finder tool, you will know that each person is assigned their five top strengths based on a completed assessment. My two top strengths are Strategic and Futuristic. The description for my Futuristic theme states, “When the present proves too frustrating and the people around you too pragmatic, you conjure up your visions of the future and they energize you.” Yup, that’s me, always living in the future. So, you can imagine how challenging it is for me to say this simple prayer, “give us this day our daily bread.” The focus on the present is stated twice for emphasis. The request is what we would ask of God today, and what we ask is for daily needs. Not tomorrow’s or next Thursday’s or next year’s, but today’s. We can interpret the term “daily bread” to mean those things that we need to sustain us for the work for which you have called us in this day.
I am discovering that for me to pray this prayer requires the disciplined heart of a true steward. There are three reasons why I say this. First, it recognizes that every day is a gift from God. We don’t own it, we lay no claim to it, nor should we see it as some form of right or entitlement. Psalm 118:24 proclaims that, “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” If we enter into this day as though it were a precious gift from God, then this prayer rolls easily off our lips. What else would we ask but that God would supply us with what we need for the day He has given us? What else would we need? It is a statement of trust that the God who created this day for us, and us for it, also will provide the means for us to live it for Him.
If we start the day with the mindset of an owner, on the other hand, it will be easy to get caught up in the fears and stresses of life. As owners, we must control outcomes in order to secure our happiness. Controlling outcomes is an exhausting endeavor. For us to make sure that everything turns out the way we want, we need much more than “daily bread”. It is less about providing what we need to do God’s work, and more about arming us with all we must have to meet our goals and secure our success. Stewards and owners will see their needs very differently and as a result this prayer will either satisfy or frustrate.
The second reason this prayer requires the heart of the steward is that it presupposes that we cannot meet our daily needs ourselves. It places us in a position of want, almost helplessness. To pray this prayer sincerely means we accept the idea that if God had not provided us our daily bread, we would go without. This is a great challenge, especially for first world Christians. Our refrigerators are well-stocked, our bank accounts have money in them, our gas tanks are full, we have enough close in our closets for ten people, and so on and so on. Can we truly, honestly pray this prayer with a heart that believes that if God does not provide will go without? This is why it was so important that Jesus started His prayer where He did. If we consider the resources around us as ours, this prayer is nonsensical. It is only with the steward’s heart, one that lays no claim of ownership on anything, that we can look at the abundance in which we live and still sincerely pray for daily bread. The same God who supplied what we needed will be counted on to continue to supply. It is a prayer of humility, a prayer surrender, and a prayer of ultimate alignment of our priorities with His.
Finally, this prayer requires a steward’s heart because it refuses to let the failures of yesterday or the fears of tomorrow steal the joy of today. In the next part of the prayer we will talk about forgiveness, but here, in this plea for daily bread, we must not rehash or rehearse any guilt or sorrow from yesterday. That is the devil’s work. I believe the enemy knows that most dangerous person on earth is a surrendered follower of Jesus who is focusing on God’s work today. To distract us, he throws up all of the failures of our past to burden us down and steal our daily joy. One of my favorite quotes in the situation goes like this, “when the enemy reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.” It is our inheritance to claim the victory Jesus won for us, and to send the enemy fleeing.
If not the past, fears of tomorrow can also keep us from seeing and being satisfied with God’s provision of daily bread. The sign on the wall of an African-American church is a good reminder, “Don’t borrow the sorrow from tomorrow.” We cannot ask for tomorrow’s bread today. Like the children of Israel who could only gather manna for the day, so we come humbly to God with a true steward’s heart, asking Him to provide according to His promises. And we leave tomorrow for tomorrow. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:33-34)
My prayer is that you can make this prayer your own. This day is God’s gift for you, ask Him for all you need to steward it wisely. Everything you need for this day God will provide, but it all comes from Him, acknowledge that. Finally, whatever happened yesterday, or whatever might happen tomorrow, spend this day seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And trust God to take care of all other things.