“Give us today…” Matthew 6:11a
While the first half of the Lord’s Prayer was chiefly concerned with God himself, the second half is chiefly concerned with us. Jesus models for us how to pray for our physical, relational, and spiritual needs all in a compact set of sentences.
Our physical needs are represented by asking for the bread we need everyday. In the ancient world, as today, bread is a simple symbol for all of food, and therefore life. Perhaps the only form you eat bread in is pizza, or maybe you’re gluten free and go other places for nutrition; the point isn’t in the symbol, but what it stands for. Jesus here is teaching us that God cares very much about the practical things we need, and that not only are we allowed to ask for them, we are encouraged to ask for them, every day! Sometimes we can feel like a thing is “too small,” that we shouldn’t bother God about studying for a test for example. But nothing in your life, even if it’s not precisely “spiritual,” is off-limits for God’s love and power.
Our relational needs are represented by praying for forgiveness. Jesus will unpack this teaching even more in the next verses, but here it is important to note that he doesn’t expect us to be isolated from each other. There is an assumption not only of relationship with other people, but relationships that are messy—that are real. Otherwise why the mention that we’ll need to forgive others when they’ve wronged us? We can tend to pull away from the hard edges of community by staying only with those we really like, or maybe just not engaging much with others at all. But God has made us to experience himself, and life, with and through each other, and tucked in this request is an implicit promise that he will be with us to help us when it doesn’t come so naturally.
Finally, Jesus teaches us a pattern for how to pray for our spiritual needs. Just as verse 12 acknowledges that our sin is going to impact our relationships, there is no hiding that every single day, many times a day, we are faced with temptation and even evil. Temptation, briefly, is when there is pull on us, trying to get us to act in a way that is displeasing to God, or to deny something true about him in favor of a more appealing or comfortable lie. Temptation can come from inside our own hearts where rebellion against God’s good authority still fights for control, or from outside of us through our peers, media, or what we’re studying. This prayer is a way of asking God to keep us from these influences by his power, and asking that when we find ourselves in their midst, we would receive his power to emerge faithful to him.
Each of these areas of our lives need attention every day, and God cares deeply about them, our whole selves. As you think through these three categories, is there any one which you think you would like to practice praying for more? Perhaps one that has escaped your attention, or one which you didn’t know that you are encouraged to pray about. If so, make a note of this, and invite a like-minded friend to join in praying for the rest of the semester regularly in this way.
Maybe there is a category here you feel unwilling to pray through; you don’t want to ask for something because you don’t quite trust what God will do with it, or perhaps you feel unwilling to give up your own control over an area of your daily life. Meditate on why this is so, ask yourself what is holding you back. Pray that God would reveal himself to you even in these emotions of unwillingness, and would bring about a change of heart. And certainly, invite a friend who follows Jesus to process with you and help you in this!