Give us this day our daily bread. – Matthew 6:11 ESV
What is it you really need? When you go to God in prayer, what is it that you typically ask Him for? Obviously, it is perfectly okay to make requests of God. In fact, we are encouraged to do so in Scripture. Paul writes, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6 ESV). John makes a similar statement when he writes, “we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him” ( 1 John 3:22 ESV). Of course, John adds an important caveat that we tend to overlook. He makes it clear that the answers to our prayers are tied to God’s will. He qualifies the promise of answered prayer with an acknowledgement that it hinges on our understanding of and relationship with God – “whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:22 ESV). A little later on in his letter, John makes this relationship between our knowledge of God and our answered prayers even more clear. “And this is the confidence that we have toward 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 requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15 ESV).
When Jesus provided His disciples (and us) with His model prayer, He purposely began it with an acknowledgment of God’s holiness, sovereignty, and kingship. He is God, but He is also our Father. Because He is our King and our adopted Father, our desire should be for His righteous rule and reign in all things, including our lives. We should desire what He desires. We should want what He wants. His rule should directly impact our requests. His will should alter our wants. If we truly believe He is righteous, holy, just and fully in control as our King and loving Father, we will trust Him to provide for and protect us. Which is why Jesus transitions His prayer from asking that God’s will be done to a humble request for daily bread. It is well within God’s will to ask for our daily needs. But sometimes we confuse wants with needs. We get our will confused with His. But Jesus would have us remember that God’s will is always best. God always wants what is best for us. And when we start to think that the things of this world are what really bring us joy, peace, fulfillment and contentment, we miss the point. Which is why Paul told Timothy, “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:7-8 ESV). Paul spoke from experience. He had learned to trust God for his needs. He had learned the secret of contentment. “for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT).
When we begin our prayers with an acknowledgment of God’s holiness, a self-reminder of our adoption as His children, an expression of desire for His kingdom and will to be done, our requests become much simpler. They become more focused on the essentials and less consumed with the peripheral issues of life. We will tend to ask God for what we need, not what we want. We will find ourselves praying for His will to be done, rather than our own. We will increasingly learn to trust God to give us exactly what we need, when we need it. So that “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:7-8 ESV). But we will always be tempted to redefine what “food and clothing” means. Quality and quantity tend to become the measuring tools by which we define our needs. How much food? What brand of clothes? Does it include eating out three to four days a week? Just what does our “daily bread” cover? Is a house included? If so, in what neighborhood? What about cars? Income? Retirement account? Savings? It is not that any of those things are wrong. The issue is contentment and a confidence in God’s will. It is trusting Him to provide us with what we really need. It is a willful concession to His divine sovereignty over our lives. Because He is our all-powerful God and our all-loving Father, we can trust Him. We can ask Him for anything, but He will ultimately give us what we need. And the more we get to know Him, the more our prayers will line up with His will and our requests will reflect His desires for us. We will want what He wants. We will desire what He does. And we will be content.