"..You should pray...Give us each day the food we need." -
Jesus, Luke 11:3
The King James Version's, "Give us this day our daily bread," puts an emphasis upon praying for DAILY provision. The translation quoted above appears to put an emphasis on daily NEED. IMO one points to God, the other looks inward. This may not be an improvement, if it deteriorates prayer into glorified navel gazing. However, let's explore this idea of need.
Recently I began to search for the cause of death in America, over the past 100 years. It turns out the number one killer in America in the early 20th Century was tuberculosis and pneumonia. It was aided by a monstrous flu epidemic that killed millions. By the middle of the 20th Century, cause of death had shifted to heart disease. For the past 60 years, this has remained the primary cause of death, excluding abortion. Interesting that abortion didn't even make the top five. It is the greatest cause of the loss of life in American history. But, I digress.
Starving to death is not a fear Americans seem to dwell upon. The phobias of the nation are many, but this one is rarely fatal. From food stamps to free meals at school, and dinner on the grounds at church, there is food to eat. You can find it stuffed in Spandex on any trip to your neighborhood Wal-Mart, if you don't believe me.
How does praying, "Give us each day the food we need," lead to a "Christian" nation devouring itself with heart disease. From childhood obesity to chronic obesity food has taken over the lives of millions. Regardless of the latest fitness craze, insane fitness ads, palatial fitness gyms, and ever-present diet plans, the epidemic continues.
Growing up in Southern Baptist culture, I often joked that the cross over the church ought to be shaped by criss-crossing a knife and a fork. Sweet tea, tables groaning under pot-luck dishes, and loaded with desserts to kill for are the memories of many a Southern Baptist boy. Good times.
Today, the contemporary church believes that a day old Krispy Kreme Donut, and warm Starbucks coffee is the sign of a movement of God. If they only knew.
Need. What does that mean? Praying for what we need is a grand gift from God. It is sometimes called by the classic devotional authors, "Supplication." They refer to prayer as the means to leans on God for the supplies needed to thrive, not just survive. Prayer is a great privilege, and should be used early and often. Jesus said, "You should pray."
Health and wealth theology has taken a great deal of credit for success in the world's wealthiest nation, but it has also stolen a great deal of joy from solid Christians. Jesus encouraged His disciples to pray for what they needed...daily. Some may make too much of prayer, but it is no badge of honor to make too little of it.
Dana, my wife, has a favorite verse in the Bible. It is,
"My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19 NASB
Since she was a small girl, Dana has seen the wisdom in asking God to supply personal needs out of His limitless resources. She has taught me a valuable lesson in practicing patience, and receiving divine provision. Time and space fail me to document all the times God has provided in our time of need. Thanks, Dana.
Often, good-hearted people shy away from praying for something they want, because they question if they really need it. Of course there is a difference, but there are times when God is the only one who knows what it is. Pray anyway.
True. Wanting something and needing something are two different things. Just because something is wanted, doesn't mean it is wrong to desire it. BUT, in the matter of food, failing to discern the difference between wanting and needing can lead to inevitable, and very visible consequences.
Saying grace over a meal is a great time to ask God and yourself, "Do I really need this?" Praying over your meal, before you inhale it, is God's way to express gratitude for what you have, and to learn to discern what you need. More gravy? REALLY?
Prayer leaves the answer in God's hands. God always answers prayer. His big three are: Yes. No. and Wait. However, my personal favorite is, "You have got to be kidding!" Remember the gravy?
Back to need. If God's people only prayed over their food with this kind of integrity, they would lead a nation away from gluttony. There I said it. Gluttony, one of the "Seven Deadly Sins." It is the sinful use of food as a form of self-gratification, and the loss of food as a source of nourishment.
Go to any church fellowship hall on banquet night or weekly family dinner and you will find the evidence you need to see that it exists. It isn't pretty.
Daily. The people Jesus spoke to had no refrigerators or freezers, and most had no savings accounts or charge cards. Most were called "the people of the land." For the most part, they were peasants, small farmers, artisans, and laborers.
Life was day to day. People worked for a daily wage, or to produce their daily food. It was tedious, back-breaking, and mind-numbing work. Their ambition was to exert enough energy, that day, to provide enough food for their family to survive another day. There was little hope of social or economic ascent. Life was short, hard and without mercy. The setting and the rising of the sun were a relentless reminder that they had better be moving. To less was to invite starvation. Daily need, indeed.
Jesus intervened in their daily lives with the gift of prayer. He told them to look to God, daily, for what they needed. Got that? Daily. Can you see a pattern? Praying to God daily, for what is needed daily, keeps a person in touch with God's love for them, and His hand on them, daily. Emphasis mine.
Life is fragile. Handle with prayer. Jesus put it this way. "You should pray...Give us each day the food we need." Praying daily for what is needed to survive, may not seem like much of an ambition to the average American Christian.
Too often, American Christians believe they were born for more than this. In typical fashion, they race off each day to do more work for The Lord than ever before. In doing so, their busy lives have little time and space to spend with The Lord of the work. Jesus knows what you need before you ask for it. Pray anyway. It is the original pause that refreshes.
Americans have grown accustomed to lofty pursuits, marked by selfish ambition. In doing so, they have done a great deal of good. BUT life for millions of them has developed into a craving for more, leaving very little satisfaction with what they have, once they devour it. Jesus had more in mind for His followers.
Praying keeps your "wanter" from getting out of control, and reminds you that God provides what you need the most. His Son, Jesus, satisfies the deepest need in your life, in a way more stuff never will. When you are expending more time serving Him, than you are replacing in time with Him, you are in need. More than God wants what you can do for Him, He wants you.
TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!