“Prayer for Man’s Needs” (Matthew 6:11-13)
We now come to a kind of transition point in the Lord’s prayer where we turn our attention to Man’s needs. In the last few weeks, we covered the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer that have been focused squarely on God – on His name (which is bound up in His nature), His Kingdom and His will, all three having an end in glorifying Him and Him alone. This sets the tone and priority of our prayers. We must be mindful that our prayers must ultimately be to glorify God. Before we examine each of the petition related to Man’s needs, let’s look at some general observations about the rest of this model prayer. As you will see in the days ahead, even when the attention switches to Man’s needs, each of the petitions from here on are bound up in the goodness of God so that He may be glorified.
It’s common today to hear in people’s prayers where they demand things from God rather than allowing God to glorify Himself through their prayers. Instead of giving God the privilege of revealing His glory through meeting our deepest human needs, we make demands based on what we think would benefit us. When we approach God wanting to get something and we don’t get it, we begin to question God. And so many prayers are actually man or self-centered instead of God-centered. In praying for Man’s needs, let us not forget to do so in the framework of honoring God for His provision, pardon and protection.
As we begin to look at the second portion of the Lord’s prayer, it’s incredibly amazing that Jesus is able to, in three short sentences, comprehensively deal with ALL the needs of Man! “Give us our daily bread” is a petition to take care of our physical needs. “Forgive us our sins….” deals with our mental or emotional needs as we seek God to alleviate our anxieties and feelings of guilt when we sin. And “Lead us not into temptation” is effectively a plea for God to deal with our spiritual need for sanctification. In other words, that’s dealing with the body, mind and spirit! The elegance and wisdom in which Jesus communicated His teaching on prayer just astounds me and I must confess I’m humbled at how little I had previously known of its significance. More than that, prayer for bread takes care of the present, forgiveness takes care of the past and leading takes care of our future. And so the totality of man’s most basic and important needs are covered in all dimensions and for all times. I find that profound and deeply satisfying to know.
Unlike many pagan religions that assume their gods are either prone to withhold what’s good or to give begrudgingly, and so their faithfuls must through much pleading, cajoling and even bribing get what they want, our Heavenly Father takes a personal interest in each of His children and and is even eager to answer our every need (not want!) according to his will. Further in his sermon in Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus describes the giving nature of God by using an earthly father as illustration. We know good parents would always be eager to give their own children what is essential and the best they can afford. Jesus made the point that “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! James 1:17 says that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”. That’s a great assurance to have when we approach our God with a humble heart in prayer!
Dear Father, As we pray, even for our own needs, may it be that your goodness, grace and mercies be manifest through the supply of those needs. Teach us to be thankful and trusting that you know what’s best for us.
(This article is adapted from a series of sharing on the subject of Prayer by Yew Lum to his Lifegroup members.)