Praying for Our Needs

Dr. Brian Allison

We are to continually give thanks to God for His goodness. Of course, when we think of giving thanks to God for His goodness, that presupposes that we have needs. Because we have needs, we should come to God Who is able to meet those needs; and when He, by His grace – which is simply the expression of His love – meets our needs, the appropriate response from us is to thank Him. Regardless of what our needs are, God is able to meet those needs. In fact, our Lord has taught us to come to Him with our needs, and to make them known, because He is willing to meet them. In Matthew 6, our Lord teaches us how to pray. This prayer is traditionally called the Lord's Prayer – the Model Prayer. There is nothing more important than this matter of prayer when we think of our relationship with God. It is prayer that brings us into His presence and fellowship so that we may experience realities that we never thought possible, nor could imagine. May the Lord the Spirit continue to teach us how to pray. Matthew 6:9-13 reads, "Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]'"

This prayer ought to inform our praying at every point in our communion and devotion to Christ. Our Lord lays out the form, the structure, of how we are to pray. He says, "Pray in this way," not, "Pray with these words." Notice that there are two parts to the prayer – the first part concerns God, the second part concerns us. We find a similar structure with the Decalogue (the ten commandments) – the first four commandments pertain to God, and how we are to relate to Him, and the last six commandments refer to our relationships to people, how we are to respond to each other. In this prayer, the first three petitions pertain to God and the latter three pertain to us.

In prayer, we first must think of, or remember, God, and then we may think about ourselves; we should first be concerned about His glory, and then we may be concerned about our needs. As we consider the context of this prayer, we see that the occasion concerned making requests of God. The main issue concerned God hearing our petitions; and Jesus teaches that it is not through our vain repetition that God will hear us. God already knows our needs, though He still wants us to pray. Now, if we want God to hear us, and bless, then we must pray in a certain way. Jesus says that if we want God to hear our prayers, then we should begin with His glory, and then move on to our needs. The glory of God is the strongest argument that we can present to God in order to move Him to respond to our needs, for He is concerned about His glory. In this message, we shall consider the second half of the Lord's Prayer – our needs.

Physical needs

God invites us to present our physical, spiritual, and personal needs to Him. The first petition says, "Give us this day our daily bread" (v. 11). The language 'give us' may initially seem selfish, and even self-centred. We think of little children with their selfish bent, climbing over their parents, begging, "Gimmie, gimmie." And yet our Lord teaches us to pray, "Lord, give me." The implication of such language is that God is the Giver. It is His nature to give. God can do nothing else but give. Giving is not something He simply chooses to do, but it is something that He is bound to do, because it is His nature. He must give because of His love. And God does not simply love, He is love. For example, we read, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" (Jn. 3:16a). This verse, indeed, offers us some insight into the depth and extent of His love. Because God is bound to give, we ought to have confidence in approaching Him, saying, "Lord, give me; it is Your nature." God supplies our needs, He provides for our lack; and He delights in giving to us. Do you believe that? Did you believe that this past week, or were you somewhat sheepish, saying, "I do not know if I can go and ask God. I do not know if He really cares. I do not know if He wants to give to me. In fact, I do not know if God really likes me"? Remember, it is His nature to give, and He is bound by His own nature to give.

We are to pray, "Lord, give us this day." God does not want us to worry about tomorrow. Matthew 6:34 reads, "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Many spend much needless energy worrying about the future. Now, (this is self-evident) the problems and concerns of tomorrow will have to be addressed when the day arrives; so it does not make much sense expending double emotional energy – now and then – for the same problems and concerns. God does not want us to worry about tomorrow, or the next day; and so our Lord instructs us to be presently focused, and to pray, "Give us this day." Now, you may say, "I am not in great need. I am financially well – off; I am economically sound. This kind of praying does not make much sense to me." Listen, the Lord gave, and the Lord can take away; and we ought never to forget that. Who gives one strength to earn and to gain wealth? God! Now, someone may not have an empty cupboard or an empty refrigerator, but God has given him the ability to go out to work so that he can have a full cupboard and a full refrigerator. Indeed, everyone must pray in the spirit of this prayer, for God provides for His creatures.

Each of us must pray, "Lord, give me this day my bread." But you may say, "Well, I do not like bread," or "I do not eat bread." However, we are to understand this language as a figure of speech – a metonymy, in which one word replaces another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated. Our Lord is referring to that which represents the necessities of life. So, we are to pray, "Lord, provide me today with the necessities of life." That could be clothing, shelter, even health. Each one of us is wholly dependent upon God for the necessities of life.

God is the one Who provides for us, regardless of the comfort or convenience we now enjoy. In a moment, it could all be taken away. You may ask, "Why do we have to even pray; why doesn't God just provide for us apart from our asking?" My children do not have to come to me every day and ask, "Dad, please give me some food today." They just assume that there will be food; they do not even have to think about it. It is a parental responsibility to provide the necessities of life for the family. So, why does God not work that way? Why does He want us to petition Him every day? If He is our heavenly Father, why does He not just give to us every day what we need? One reason is that: We often forget the hand that feeds us. This was ancient Israel's problem, and God eventually destroyed them. When life is going well, in our self-sufficiency we forget about God. Hence, God has made it an integral part of our worship (thank Him for His grace) that we will turn to Him, in dependency, and thus acknowledge Him, and thereby honour Him (which is the creature's duty), if we pray as our Lord has here taught us to pray. It is God who is facilitating our worship, and we should thank Him for such grace.

So, we are to petition God every day not only because we are absolutely dependent upon Him, but also because He desires that we recognize that He can sufficiently meet all our needs. And the result should be worship. God desires our worship. It is not the case that He does not care and that is why we are to ask, and it is not the case that He is any less compassionate than human parents; but rather, He knows our pride, folly, weakness, and selfishness, and that we so easily forget about Him. And thus He graciously provides means (integral to the form of worship He requires) by which our relationship with Him may be maintained and cultivated.

Did you forget about God this past week? We cannot forget about Him, if we pray the Lord's Prayer. Not only are we to pray every day, but we to pray simply for what is required for the day – "Give us this day our daily bread;" that is, what we need for this day, our daily portion or ration. Sometimes we come to God asking for the moon. Jesus says that we are to ask for what is necessary. Now, to be sure, God is pleased to give us some of our desires. "Delight yourself in the LORD," the Word of God says, "and He will give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4). But sometimes our desires are carnal and self-promoting. James 4:3 read, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." Jesus says that we are to simply pray for the necessities for each day, for what we require for the day. You may say, "Lord, I really want a new car; give me a Viper," though you already have a working car. All your friends may be driving newer models, and thus you may feel the peer pressure to have a new car; but our motives are to be pure. In this case, one should just thank God for the car that he or she has. Or someone may pray, "Lord, I just pray that You would give me a new outfit. Lord, this special occasion is going to be great; I am going to be seeing new people. I want the two hundred dollar outfit I just saw in the catalogue;" when, in fact, she has a whole wardrobe of clothes. God does not want us to be consumed with our desires; and often He does not answer those kinds of prayers.

Spiritual needs

So, we are to pray for our physical needs, but we are also to pray for our spiritual needs – "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (v. 12). We sin every day, we offend God every day, we displease Him every day; and God expects and requires perfect obedience from us every day. Indeed, we are saved by grace; and we are still in the flesh, in these frail bodies which are riddled with weakness, but God expects perfect obedience every day. And because we sin every day, at the end of the day, we owe God. We have spiritual debts outstanding, for which we must render payment. Now, here is the problem, we do not have enough 'capital' in ourselves to pay off these spiritual debts, yet God still demands payment. But here is the wonder of grace – God Himself provides the payment in His Son; He is pleased to take care of the debt; but we are required to acknowledge our sin. We must confess our sin, and say, "Lord, in mercy cancel my debt against You." Accordingly, we can have a clean slate every day. We should keep short accounts with God. I suggest to you that if you do not pray this way every day, that is, confessing your sin and asking for forgiveness, that you are not praying in the spirit of the Lord's Prayer.

Now, when we come to the Lord to ask Him to cancel the debt load, it is assumed and expected that we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. The verb in the original Greek is a past tense, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Because we have received mercy and forgiveness from God, which has brought us into the kingdom and into a living relationship with Christ, we are to forgive in like fashion those who have sinned against us. It may be called the 'law of showing kindness in turn'. God forgave us a great debt against Him at our conversion, and He expects us to cancel out the little debts of people who sin against us.

Many believers may not be enjoying freedom and spiritual power because they have failed to follow this teaching. Again, in asking God for forgiveness, it is a requisite and a condition that we have first forgiven those who have sinned against us. Matthew 6:14,15 reads, "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." It is not that our forgiveness of others causes God to forgive us, but it qualifies us to be forgiven, in keeping with the law of retribution. God is pleased to forgive us – that is, show mercy – because we have forgiven others. Could it be that you are in a poor spiritual state, and in need of grace, because you are harbouring an unforgiving spirit? If God has not forgiven you of your sins of today or yesterday, then you have no grace or power. You are destitute; and God is not standing with you, if you have an unforgiving spirit. Of course, this does not mean that it will always be easy to forgive anyone who has hurt or offended us; but it does mean that we will seek God in order to be willing to forgive, and will ask God to help us when we are struggling with unforgiveness. If we do not forgive our fellow-person, then we are lost. We demonstrate that the love of God is not in us. Could your spiritual problem be that you have an unforgiving spirit? You have thus shut yourself out from the grace of God.

Personal needs

The third petition of this prayer is also spiritual, but it also relates to personal needs – "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from [the] evil [one]." This is one petition, not two. It is the evil one, Satan, who is the instrument of temptation, and we are to pray that the Lord does not lead us into his pathway and under his power. Now, we read in James 1:13, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone." When we are tempted, we cannot say that God personally and directly is tempting us, but God is pleased to allow us to be tempted. Peter, on the night of Christ's betrayal by Judas, was tempted by the evil one; God allowed it. God also allowed Job to be tempted by the evil one. Sometimes God is pleased to give us over to Satan to be tested. That is not a very pretty prospect, but it is true. In Matthew 4:1, we read, "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." God is pleased to also lead us into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted. God is pleased to give us over to Satan to test the genuineness of our faith, to see whether we are really committed to Christ or whether we have a bogus profession. God is the Sovereign Lord of glory, the God of providence, Who orchestrates and arranges every aspect of our lives. Hence, we are to pray for safety and protection, "Lord, don't give me over to Satan, but deliver me from him."

You may ask, "Why would God want to do that? Why do we even have to pray in this way?" One reason is that when we are given over to Satan, when he is allowed to attack us and put us through the wringer, we are then given opportunity to learn obedience through the things that we suffer, even as Christ did (see Hb. 5:8). Another reason is that the attacks of the evil one have a way of killing our pride, and driving us to God. The Lord wants us to go to Him, recognizing our absolute need of Him, and recognizing His infinite sufficiency for us. We have far too much pride, and God is pleased to allow Satan to take a strip off us so that we may be faced with our utter weakness and frailty, and hence realize that we desperately need Him, crying out, "Save me, Lord, help me." God is pleased to break us in order that He may be formed in us, so that we might truly worship Him as God.

The latter part of the Lord's Prayer is not in the earlier manuscripts, but it is an appropriate ending to this prayer, focusing on the wonder and worship of God – "[For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]" Praise the Lord! May the Lord Jesus, by His Spirit, teach us how to pray.