According to the Apostle Paul, Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And yet the Lord’s Prayer as found in Luke’s gospel teaches us to ask and to ask expectantly. Hence, we must learn to receive.
Last month we looked at the opening words of “The Lord’s Prayer” which, no doubt, you have memorized. “Father, hallowed be your name.” I hope you recall the incredible intimacy that is conveyed and Jesus’ personal investment that underlies that first petition. Jesus would do everything necessary to make known the glorious name of God. Yet he asks, mingling effort and dependence as a sweet offering to the father he loves.
The same is true of the second and the third petitions. The second request is simply “Your kingdom come.” Everything that Jesus was as an individual, as a teacher and as a son was wrapped up the pursuit of that petition. His birth, his childhood, his ministry, his preaching and his sacrificial death were all about the coming of God’s kingdom in which righteousness and justice would reign. All of his miracles pointed to that kingdom. Even his death found its meaning in the coming kingdom.
So why does he ask and why teach disciples to ask for that which he is so determined to bring into reality? Here is a very significant lesson. Jesus recognized that all things happen, and particularly the kingdom of God happens, because of the sovereign good pleasure of his heavenly father. In the spirit of Psalm 90, Jesus asks that his father would “establish the work of his hands (v.17).” If Jesus, God’s son, so asks, can we not see that we must always ask! He encourages us to seek God for all things, even the things we are so convinced are right and necessary. Even holy things, to which we would devote all of our energy and strength to accomplish, require the full willingness of God to come to fruition. We are wholly dependent creatures.
The third petition seems a bit out of place in the context of the lofty concerns of the first two. Why does Jesus turn his thoughts now to food and pray: “Give us each day our daily bread.”? In the context of the story of Jesus, food seems insignificant. After fasting forty days he rebuked the evil one with the words: “Man does not live by bread alone (Luke 4.4).” Another time, the disciples were concerned that he needed to eat and he responded with the curt comment: “I have food to eat that you do not know about (John 4.32).” So why now place such significance upon daily nutritional needs?
It is now nearing the noon hour and my need to eat is apparent. I could go on for a while, but eventually hunger will drive me to seek out lunch. Our needs as creatures normally control us. No matter how great our resolve to the contrary, our will yields to our sense of hunger. Hence we rightly understand our basic needs in the context of God’s purposes for each of us. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that even our routine needs are of concern to our heavenly father. We can ask him. No, we must ask him for those needs!
Asking may seem insincere since all we need is to go to Kroger. We live in incredible times when farmers are able to provide so much food that much of the world is overweight. But this petition is particularly significant when one does not appear to need God’s provision. The petitioner recognizes that God alone provides and blesses. We ask and acknowledge his incredible goodness. We ask and do not steal from our father. His bounty, this blessing, though the fruit of hard work, comes to us out of our heavenly father’s goodness and love. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Our heavenly father is a giver. Let us rejoice in all that we receive from him. Even as you ask, be glad that his kingdom comes and our daily bread is ours out of his goodness.
Roger G. Collins, Grace Presbyterian Church, Byram; *English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. Exported from Logos Bible Software; Originally published in the July 2014 Byram Banner, Byram Mississippi.