Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Praying For Bread

This week is prayer week at the church I am serving in. On Sunday, we had a prayer through the Scriptures session in which I try to encourage members to learn to pray to God using God's Word. I believe that one reason why people do not pray often enough is because they do not exactly know how to pray. Some will simply use the Lord's Prayer as the main way. I was trying to coax members to go beyond this, and to use the whole of God's word. One way is through specific word emphasis. At the end of it all, I realized how much I have personally enjoyed the session, feeling that our focus of our prayers is not on our prayer requests but on God. Indeed, when we pray "Give us this day our daily bread," so often we can become so concerned about the 'bread' that we tend to see God as a means to that end. Rather, when we pray 'Give us this day our daily bread,' it is more important to realize that this statement is a confession of our DEPENDENCE ON GOD. It is a verbal statement that no one else except God who can give us our daily needs.

Suppose for example, I pray for a loaf of bread. Someone may ask: "Why pray when you can go to Safeway to buy a loaf? In fact, there are tonnes of bread, all different flavours from raisin-filled to multigrain; from French baguettes to yummy croissants. So why bother to pray when you can buy it using your debit/credit card?"

I have to agree, to a certain extent. Why pray when we can easily go to the supermarket or provision stores to buy it? Unless of course, there is something else Jesus wants us to learn about. I believe it is this dependence on God who not only provides us our physical loaf of bread through our ability to buy, but to help us realize that these kinds of bread are but a hint of the everlasting Bread of life: Jesus himself.

The pattern is similar. The woman at the well was spiritually myopic when she talks about mere water at the well. Jesus guides her to realize that Jesus is the Water of life (John 4). Jesus is also the Bread of Life (John 6). He reminds us:

John 6:27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
John 6:28 ¶ Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
John 6:29 ¶ Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
The bread of life is of believing in Jesus, of dependence on God for our daily needs. Let me repeat, when we ask for our daily bread, our focus is not satisfying our stomachs by the eating of the physical bread but the letting our anxious hearts find pleasure and rest in the Bread of Life: Jesus.

So go ahead to buy that bread when there is money in your wallet. The Lord has graciously provided us a means to earn that money. Remember always that whatever we have or will be having is ultimately from God, just like how God feeds the sparrows, the birds in the air.

The devotional: "Our Daily Bread," founded in 1956, is preciously a ministry that encourages Christians to depend on God daily. It is not the bread per se but the person providing us our daily needs so that we can exercise deeper dependence on God each day. Cultivate our relationship with God through prayer. Develop that trust in God by praying. Love God in the way of prayer. If a Christian claims to love God, he will find that prayer is almost always the key to the heart of our heavenly Father. Like a lover who longs to rush home from work so that he can make that phone call to hear the voice of his beloved. It is like that longing heart that is worried about not able to make that connection with God because he is too busy. Too often we claim to work for God that we forget that we are called to work WITH God. What makes anyone think that he/she can work FOR God on his own strength? As we pray: "Give us this day our daily bread," we are also asking God to help us by coming alongside with us, not for God to work with us, but for us to work with God.

Our hearts have a sinful way that tries to claim credit for what is not due to us. I find this prayer very healing for the soul. May you benefit from it.
Prayer when opening door:
        I pray thee, Lord to open the door of my heart to receive thee within my heart.

When washing clothes:
        I pray thee, Lord, to wash my heart, making myself white as snow.

When sweeping floors:
        I pray thee, Lord, to sweep away my heart's uncleanness, that my heart may always be pure.

When pouring oil:
        I pray thee Lord, to give me wisdom like the wise virgins who always had oil in their vessels.

When posting a letter:
        I pray thee Lord, to add to me faith upon faith, that I may always have communication with thee.

When lighting lamps:
        I pray thee Lord, to make my deeds excellent like lamps before others, and more, to place thy true light within my heart.

When watering flowers:
        I pray thee Lord, to send down spiritual rain into my heart, to germinate the good seed there.

When boiling water for tea:
        I pray thee Lord, to send down spiritual fire to burn away the coldness of my heart and that I may always be hot-hearted in serving thee.

(Credit: George Appleton, ed. The Oxford Book of Prayer, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985, p102)
You might be asking, 'What about the men?' Well, there is also a prayer by the Chinese Christian Men. For this you will have to stay tuned.......

Till then, as you pray for bread, remember that it is praying a DEPENDENCE on God, not a focus on the plain bread which easily grows mold and perishes. Jesus is our bread of life.


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