Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lord's Prayer: Our Provider – Matthew 6:25-34 and Matthew 6:11

Today we are going to continue our preaching series on the Lord's Prayer as we take time to truly explore and understand what it is we are saying when we pray this prayer. Our first week together we looked at the first section, Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, and explored not only the meaning of the words but the importance of the introduction. Last week we looked at the next section, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” and explored the nature of God's kingdom, where it is, as well as what it means to succumb to God's will on earth as it is in Heaven. Today we are looking at the next portion, give us this day our daily bread, as we discuss this new phase of this prayer and seek to gain a better understanding of what we are asking here.

God is THE Provider
How many of you have ever been broke in every way possible at exactly the same time? You know broke financially, spiritually, emotionally, and all the other “ly”s you can think of. For me it happened when Debbie and I had been married for about three months. We had moved away from both of our families, to Kentucky, for Debbie to complete her seminary degree. Financially we were a one income family learning how to budget and live within our means. Spirituality we were shopping for a new church among people we did not know, in an area that we had never lived in, experiencing a culture completely foreign to us. And emotionally I was a bit out of sorts since I had never lived this far away from my family before. The most I had ever ventured away was a neighboring city about 30 minutes away by car. But here we were. Three months into our marriage we were sitting in a church service and I had our tithe check in hand, ready to place it in the plate. We had committed to each other no matter our situation we would always tithe, 10% right off the top, before taxes. That check I held in my hand represented the last of the money we had for two weeks. I had just gotten paid two days prior and after all our bills were paid, this was it. Giving this check to the church meant that we had no money, not one single penny, for the next two weeks. And in two weeks time we would run out of food in the pantry and gas in the car. Financially we were not going to make it two weeks. The plate came and I put the check in. And immediately found myself wanting to jump up, grab the plate and take it right back out. I was scared of not being able to provide for my wife and how that was going to sound to her daddy who I just promised three months ago that I would take care of his daughter. The rest of that day is a blur, but I do remember praying to God and asking for help. I did not want my marriage to start off this way. I could not provide for my family on my own...I needed God to be my provider.

God Provides for All
And this brings us to the portion of the Lord's Prayer, “give us this day our daily bread.” This portion of the Lord's Prayer moves us from God-directed to Us-directed petitions. Up to this point we have been adoring God, speaking about the fact that God's love is perfect and God's name is to be sacred, holy, and revered. We have been talking about laying our own indulgences aside and working to usher in a mindset of God-first, of seeking out people that have never known, forgotten, and turned away from God and taking them to our leader, to the cross, to God. Well now we are beginning the us-directed petitions, the section where we ask God for help. And there are several things we can take from this first us-directed petition.

One is God wants to provide for us. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Everyone of us has needs or provisions that have to be met physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Provisions for time, for money, for food, for shelter, for clothes, for love. And sometimes we strive too hard to do this ourselves. We get up at dark o'thirty and head off to work. When we get off, it is usually long after the sun sets and we are exhausted. Often too exhausted to do anything but go home, maybe eat, and then go to bed, so we can do it all over again the next day. We have had it drilled in us that in order to have in this life you have to worker harder and longer than the next person. All of this serves to try and make us self-sufficient, self-reliant, and self-dependent. How well does that work for you? And at what cost does all this self-stuff come at? Are we ignoring our families? Do we have any time left for friends? Is daily, quiet time with God still happening?

Jesus tells us to pray, “give us this day our daily bread”. We are asking God to provide for our needs daily. And if we are trying to provide for ourselves all by ourselves, where does that leave God? You see, it is all about focus. If our focus for life is to provide for ourselves we can get lost, sidetracked, separated. But if we live our life to bring God glory, then the work of provision will take care of itself. If we focus on being good stewards, good examples, and loving others, God will provide. When we use our time to spend with family, to uplift friends, and take daily quiet time with God, our focus changes, we see opportunities that God has opened for us. Sure our ideas of adequate provisions might need to be altered, Long Horn and Olive Garden every night might have to change, but isn't that worth your sanity, your relationship with your family, your deepened relationship with God? It takes trust but I promise you it is worth it!

Another aspect we can take from this prayer is that we are all in this together. This portion of the Lord's Prayer is also about being outward focused. Look at the line in Scripture. “Give us this day our daily bread”. Not give me. We are being taught to pray not only for our own provisions, but those of others. We are called to be the body of Christ, all of us connected, all of us working together. We even pray this prayer together in one voice.

Pastor Eric Ritz tells the story of an experience that Dr. Craddock, a great preacher, once had. Dr. Fred B. Craddock tells of going to hear a well-known speaker talk about world hunger. He was not disappointed in her presentation. Her speech was well-organized and persuasive. However, five years later, he had for all practical purposes forgotten what this speaker had said.

However, Dr. Craddock said that the most memorable and life-changing remark came from a little white-haired lady who had much less education and oratory skills than the main speaker--but she did something his conscious nature could not forget.

She took one sentence and translated it into 53 different languages. Dr. Craddock, being a learned man, could partially understand an occasional word. The gathering listened attentively, and then after 52 versions, she shared the sentence with tears running down her cheeks, and a hurt expression on her face: "Mommy, I am hungry. Why don''t we have any food?"

That afternoon on his way back to Atlanta, Dr. Craddock passed a billboard on the interstate. He said he had passed this billboard at least a thousand times. This time, however, he was morally repulsed, for the sign said, "Buffet: All you can eat - $4.95." He forgot the brilliant speech, but he never forgot that sentence.

Dr. Craddock said, every time I pray this prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, I am always reminded that he did not pray, "Give me this day my daily bread." I am reminded that my "bread" should never come from the detriment of any other human being on the face of the earth. I am reminded that I am part of a larger community of faith.

When we pray for our daily bread we are praying for everyone, everywhere. This is a call to action that we need to fulfill. A step we need to take to make sure we are doing all we can to help feel those that desperately need it, emotionally, spiritually, and literally.

And one more lesson we can take from this portion of the Lord's Prayer is that God always provides. I picked our first Scripture lesson from Matthew this morning for that very fact. We read about the birds and how God provides for them and we read about the lilies and how Solomon, one of the richest people to ever live, was never clothed as well as God clothes the lilies of the field. And we read about the grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, and how it is provided for by God. Then comes the line that puts the exclamation mark on this passage. “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Look to the Father, rely on the Father, seek the Father and focus on ushering in God's Kingdom reign on Earth and all these things will be given unto you. God will provide each time, every time, and all the time.

Three months into my marriage I had failed to provide, on my own, for my wife. I prayed to God as I watched all the money I had left in the world go down the isle in that offering plate. Monday morning rolled around and I went to work and kept praying. Monday evening rolled around and I went home, still not sure what to do. I got home and began going through the mail. In it was a letter from my dad's uncle's oldest son, Larry. I knew Larry, but had only spent time with him two or three times in my life. I opened the letter and it said, “I am so embarrassed. I was positive I had mailed you and Debbie this months ago. But as I was cleaning out my desk I found this and am sending it now. Have a blessed marriage.” In it was a check for $60. Plenty for Debbie and I to eat, buy gas, and have some money for the incidentals. God knew I would have a need. Debbie and I through our tithing were seeking the Kingdom of God and God provided. He did not provide months later, weeks later, or even days later. God provided hours later.

You were created in the image of God, out of love by God, so you could show God's love to everyone you meet. As Christians we are called to that purpose. And because of that God will see to everything you need. If you trust God, God will provide. If you let God, God will provide. Seek God and God will provide. God is our provider yesterday, today, and forever because God loves you yesterday, today, and forever.

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