Sermon: What to Pray For
Scripture: Matthew 6:11
In this week’s lessons, after first praying for God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will, Jesus also taught us how to pray for things that pertain to our own interests.
Theme: The Need to Be God’s Child
Now if you are saying, as some people do, “But how can I know that God is willing to answer my requests for life’s necessities?” the answer is that Jesus Himself taught that God was willing. In fact, He taught it in the very next chapter of the Sermon on the Mount in a passage that is actually the best possible commentary on this petition in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Of if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt. 7:7-11).
This passage says three things about prayer. First, we must be God’s children before we can come to God. Second, as God’s children we are invited and even urged to come. And third, God delights to answer those who do come. When we come to God in prayer through the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Holy Spirit, we do not come as God’s enemies. We come as God’s children and therefore as close members of His family. There are many things that an earthly father would not do for a stranger. There are many more things that he would not do for an enemy. But there is almost nothing good that he would not do for one of his beloved sons or daughters. In the same way, we come to a God who is not distant, who is not harsh, who is not stingy or begrudging in His gifts. We come to a God who is loving, willing and merciful, and who is anxious to be known and loved by His children. This God urges us to come.
Moreover, He urges us to come regularly and repeatedly, for the prayer says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The idea of regular and repeated prayer is suggested twice (once by the words “this day” and once by the adjective “daily”), and anything repeated twice in an abbreviated prayer of only sixty-five words (seventy-two in Greek) is important.
For many years, commentators and linguists did not know the exact meaning of the Greek word translated “daily,” (epiousios), and even today there is still some doubt. This was because the word did not occur in either literary or popular Greek, and, therefore, because there was no means to check it, several interpretations seemed possible. Now, however, the word has been found again in a papyrus from upper Egypt that seems to reveal its meaning. The manuscript is part of an account book, and the relevant inscription reads: “½ obol for epious–.” At this point the writing is broken off, but there is little doubt that the last word is the one that occurs in the Lord’s Prayer and that it refers to what we would call a daily ration. Probably the phrase belonged to a shopping list and was therefore a reminder to someone to buy supplies for the coming day.
This meaning is supported by a seemingly parallel inscription in Latin found at Pompeii that contains as part of a list of expenditures the words “five asses for diaria [a term based on the Latin word for “day”].” Since both of these expressions would seem to be pointing to items that were part of a day’s ration for a person or a group of persons, it would be natural to take the word epiousios in this sense. And in this case, the fourth petition in the Lord’s Prayer would be a request that God grant us daily our daily ration of life’s necessities.
How do we know that God is willing to answer our requests for what we need?
What three things do we learn about prayer from Matthew 7? What do these truths reveal about God and also about us?
Reflection: In your prayers, are you conscious of the fact that as a Christian, God wants you to come to Him in prayer with what concerns you, and that God delights in hearing and answering the prayers of His children?
Key Point: When we come to God in prayer through the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Holy Spirit, we do not come as God’s enemies. We come as God’s children and therefore as close members of His family.
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Philip Ryken’s message, “When You Pray.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)