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: Our Daily Bread
When we say that this prayer is a simple prayer for the things that we have need of every day and that God invites this type of praying, certain great truths emerge from it.
First, it shows that God cares for our bodies. There have always been some in the Christian Church who have tried to minimize the body in the belief that only the soul or the spirit is important. Sometimes this type of religion has taken the form of asceticism or celibacy. At other times there has been outright abuse of the body. However, none of this is biblical, and it is contradicted by the whole tenor of the Bible as well as by explicit teaching. Jesus showed us that. William Barclay notes in his excellent commentary on Matthew that Jesus spent “much time healing men’s diseases and satisfying their physical hunger. He was anxious when he thought that the crowd who had followed him out into the lonely places had a long road home, and no food to eat before they set out upon it… We can see what God thinks of our human bodies, when we remember that he himself in Jesus Christ took that body upon him. It is not simply a soul salvation, it is whole salvation, the salvation of body, mind and spirit, at which Christianity aims.”1
Second, this part of the prayer also teaches that if we live as God intends us to live we are to live one day at a time. That is, we are not to be anxious about the unknown future or to fret about it. We are to live in a moment by moment dependence upon God.
I am convinced that the meaning of this request must vary slightly from one culture and society to another. Basically, it means that we are not to take thought for tomorrow, but to ask God only for what we need for today. But this has a different meaning in a society in which the needs of the future are met through the family structure and a society in which the needs of the future are met through financial planning and saving. In our society, it would be wrong for a father to neglect to save for his children’s education, his own retirement, and old age on the grounds that he should ask only for one day’s ration at a time. In our society, part of this day’s ration consists of the money to be laid aside for the next. Consequently, we are not to neglect our families by neglecting insurance policies, pension plans, or saving accounts. To do that would be to misinterpret Christ’s teaching. At the same time, however, we are obviously not to become entirely wrapped up in these things as if our life and our future depended ultimately on them. Instead, we are to wrap ourselves in the warm mantle of God’s faithfulness.
If you are a Christian, have you ever known God to be unfaithful to you? Have you lacked the necessities of life? I know that there are times when God does deprive us of things, sometimes to teach us something and at times merely to bring forth praise to Himself. And we are often lacking in things that we believe are necessary but are not. And yet, it is not the rule for God to permit His children to suffer great want. Is God faithful? Of course He is faithful. You can trust Him for your todays and tomorrows.
1William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1958), vol. 1, 218.
Since Scripture teaches that God cares about our bodies, what are some implications for how we both regard and treat our own bodies?
What does it mean to live one day at a time? How can that idea be misunderstood?
Application: Make a list of specific ways in which God has been faithful to you. In your prayers, give praise for these evidences of His blessing.
Key Point: Is God faithful? Of course He is faithful. You can trust Him for your todays and tomorrows.
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Philip Ryken’s message, “When You Pray.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)