Why Pray? To Remind Us Whose We Are

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Why Pray? 

We’ve learned a few things about prayer in the last several weeks. We’ve learned we need to approach it with humility and gratitude. 

We’ve learned that the first purpose of prayer is to gain a mature relationship with God so that we understand his heart and our own. We’ve learned to ask God to radically re-organize our priorities so that they match God’s own. 

So what’s next? A simple line. Or is it?

“Keep us alive with three square meals.”

I love how clear and down to earth that translation is. The one we know better is:

“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6.11)

But it means the same thing, right? Give us every day what we need to survive. This seems so simple, but it’s really a complex and important idea. In the beginning, God created a garden that had everything we could ever need or want. It was way more than daily bread. And it was all there as a gift. 

But Human beings wanted to make their own daily bread. They wanted to be in charge. They wanted to believe that everything they gained came from their own hands. (I don’t think humans have changed very much.)

Fast forward to the Israelites wandering in the desert. They complained because they didn’t have enough food, so God gave them miraculous food from heaven called manna. They had enough for every day—but they were not supposed to collect more than enough. Why not?

Photo by Evi Radauscher on Unsplash

God’s command regarding the manna was a lesson in: 1) remembering that God provides absolutely everything and 2) not being greedy and wanting more than what we need. When the people collected more than they needed, it rotted. That was both God’s signal to stop hoarding and also a reminder that he does provide every single day. We don’t need to worry about the future. 

Plan sure, but worry? That’s where this line of Jesus’ prayer comes in. 

“Keep us alive with three square meals.” Give us this day our daily bread. 

It’s Enough

It’s more than a request for provision. It’s an understanding that we trust God with today, tomorrow, and every day after that. We ask for daily bread, not a month’s worth. God wants us to learn how to come to him regularly and trust him for absolutely everything.

Asking for daily bread as opposed to what I need for the long term is an exercise in trust, not a request for food. It’s saying to God—I know you’ll still be there tomorrow for what I might need then. I choose to pick up only the manna I need.

It’s also a way of teaching us to submit to only wanting what God says we need. We request bread, not cake. It’s Jesus telling us, as God told the Israelites long ago, don’t gather more than you need. Make sure there’s enough for everyone. Daily bread is what’s really necessary.

Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash

When we say “give us our daily bread,” what are we saying? We’re implicitly saying that we recognize there is an “us.” It’s not just about me. 

It’s Our Daily Bread

Part of what we’re asking is that we be willing to share our daily bread with those who maybe don’t have any. When we ask for enough for everybody, we’d better be ready to remember the lines in Jesus’ prayer before this—set the world right. So if I have more bread than someone else, I need to partner with God and making sure we all have what we need each day.

What’s the purpose of prayer? In these lines, it’s to remind us where everything comes from. It puts us in a posture of humility to come before God and remember that he supplies all of our needs. We cannot ever take credit for all we have and gain, no matter how hard we work. Also, it puts us in a place of remembering that he loves to give us what we need because he loves us. And everyone else.

Jesus Would Make a Terrible Church Planter

Jesus doesn’t appear to have any judgment at all.

We’re in week three of exploring what it would have been like to meet the real Jesus for the first time. What would an encounter have felt like, looked like? How would it have changed us? Who is Jesus, really? We’ve been introduced to him. We’ve met him in baptism.

And now here. d2eb5-img_4584

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

(Matthew 4, John 1)

The next time we see Jesus encountering people for the first time, he’s calling them. Straight up telling them to follow him. No introductions. No “Hey, what are you doing, do you think you could take a break for a while?” Not even a “Who are you and what’s your resume, anyway?” Just this script which, if we take at face value, we cannot think of as anything but odd.

Jesus has bided his time for thirty years in Joseph’s house making end tables. Now he’s been baptized, beaten satan in the wilderness, and finally, the time has come. He gets to start what he came for. Key is in the ignition, suitcase is packed. And because he’s God and all, he’s smart enough to know what many leaders, Christian and otherwise, have yet to figure out. He needs a team.

He gets a chance to assemble his core, his dream team. I’ve worked in church planting—I know how important your core team is. You live or die by those people. If anyone could compile a dream team, Jesus could.

And what does he do? He goes and snags anyone who happens to by lying around that day with nothing else to do. Fishermen taking a break. People napping under trees. Grown men who can’t join him unless they bring their brothers and friends along for moral support. Seriously, who does this? He’d be fired as a manager.

a1fd6-img_0309I know—Jesus prayed and all. I understand all the theology behind this. But looking at it as a normal person would have at the time, which is how were trying to see Jesus in this series, it makes no sense. It’s a desperate, loser move. Jesus’ team is doomed from inception.

Yet something compels these people to follow him. It may be the same thing that compels us.

The disciples knew of Jesus. They would have heard the talk about his unusual “fringe” ways and his ability to handle God’s word. They’d understand people were watching him to be a big deal. They would have known he was an up and coming name.

They would have known no one with those credentials would bother with them.

No rabbi would bother with day laborers and farm workers. They amassed followers from the educated elite of Jerusalem. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Nathanael—they did not imagine any teacher would stop to discuss the things of God with men such as themselves. They had their place—and it was limited.

Yet, one day on the side of the lake, when nothing else is happening, a rabbi calls them. The rabbi calls them. He is not joking. Is it really any wonder they drop everything and follow him? We look at that with such amazement but really, if we realized the gravity of what’s happening, we would not be so surprised.

A rabbi is calling me. Rabbis don’t call fishermen. Rabbis don’t want people like me. I have never been good enough, smart enough, connected enough to be noticed by a rabbi. And now The Teacher has used my name. Mine. I can’t drop this net fast enough.

It would be like Lionel Messi telling some young kid in the vacant lot, “Hey, stop kicking that soccer ball around and let me teach you how to play.”

You know what else is amazing?

A rabbi is calling you.

He’s looking at you, wherever you are, whatever your employment, level of education, lifestyle, or background, and he’s saying, “I want you. Follow me.”

a3c7f-img_4682Look at Jesus’ first encounter with potential disciples. Really look. It’s like he just glances at people and says, “You want to come? You’re in.” You skeptical? You’re in. You uncertain? You’re in. You unworthy? You’re in. Whatever, people. If you want to come, you’re in.

Think about that for just a minute, and let it sink in how people must have felt about that. Let it sink in how we should feel about that.

We’re in. We’re called. On those days when you feel all kinds of not enough, put yourself on the shores of that lake and hear those words – follow me. Whoever you are. Wherever you’ve been. No matter what. Be mine.

Jesus’ first encounter with his followers was not a test of fitness but a call toward fullness.

He doesn’t ask for a resume; he asks for a reception.

I think that’s a Jesus we can love.

I think that’s a Jesus we can serve.

I think that’s a Jesus we can follow.

In the words of one of my favorite quotes of 2015:

Jesus created a motley crew, plucking us from every context and inaugurating a piecemeal clan that has only ever functioned with mercy. We should be grabbing hands, throwing our heads back, and laughing that God saved us all, because surely this is the messiest family ever and He loves us anyway. Our shared redemption should keep us grateful and kind, because what other response even makes sense? (Jen Hatmaker)