Our Daily Bread – Getting God to say YES!

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If you’re just joining us today, we are in part 2 of a four part series titled “The Power of Prayer.” And, as I mentioned two weeks ago and Matt mentioned last week, this series is not just a “good information” series, but is speaking to something that we as a church need to hear, right here and right now.
If you’re new with us today, you may not know that it was about a year ago now that we began this experiment we call Reality 2.0. It began when we found ourselves in a new location, with a new pastor, and a new vision all at the same time.  I also happened to have a new baby at the time as well, and now all four of those are a year old – including my cute little boy, Isaac, who turned 1 last Sunday.
God has been doing amazing things IN us and I believe He is about to start doing amazing things THROUGH us, but before that happens there is something we have to get much, much better at – and that is PRAYER!
As Matt mentioned last week, we are a church that tries to model ourselves off of the early church described in Acts 2. That church was devoted to God’s Word, Fellowship, Breaking Bread Together, and to Prayer.  And because of that, the Lord added to their numbers daily those who were being saved. So far we are doing great at the first three and now God has been telling me that we need to do just as good if not better at PRAYER because He has something big planned for us that we need to get ready for.
And so, I cancelled my plans for a series on parables and threw this one together at the last minute because we need to become a praying church, and we need to do it now!
A few weeks ago I told you I didn’t know what that was going to look like yet and we would learn together, well I’ve been learning and I have a better picture that I’ll share a little with you today.
For this four week series we are loosely going through what is known as the Lord’s Prayer (although it should be called the Disciples’ Prayer), focusing on different parts of that prayer model each week.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, let me read it for you. We find it as part of a sermon that Jesus gave that we call the Sermon on the Mount and is found in the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew 6:9-13
This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Many churches actually recite this prayer as part of their Sunday morning worship each week. But that’s not what Jesus said to do. He said this is HOW we should pray…not EXACTLY WHAT we should pray. It’s a model for the kind of things that we should be talking with God about.
Last week, Matt covered the beginning…
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
And I’ll be touching on that some more today, but my main focus today is on that one little line…
Give us today our daily bread.
The first part helps set our perspective.
 
This is where we get to asking for things.
Although it is not exactly phrased as a request, that’s what it is. You could say there is an implied “PLEASE” at the end. Give us today our daily bread….please. Because, after all, we are talking to our Heavenly Father – not our Heavenly Waiter. 
Basically, this is the part of the prayer when we PETITION (that means “ask”, make requests, etc) God for what we need – and I would argue this is also where we ask for what we want with an asterisk ( * ).  I’ll explain the asterisk in a bit.
The exact phrase Jesus uses is “Give us today our daily bread.”
Bread really means what is needed to sustain life.
But the way Jesus phrased this in terms of “today” and “daily” forces us to recognize that God is our provider and we should trust Him on a daily basis rather than expecting God to give us a stockpile of bread that we can live off of for the rest of our lives. (i.e. quit asking God to let you win the lottery)
It is reminiscent of how God provided manna to the Israelites on a daily basis and if they tried to keep some past the given day it would spoil. God wants us to be dependent on Him on a moment-by-moment basis. He wants us to continually trust Him to provide for the needs of today without worrying about the needs of tomorrow.
In fact, that’s more what the Greek is saying…
In the Greek, bread is bread, and today is today, but the word translated as “daily” is a bit more nuanced…
ἐπιούσιος (epiousios)
epioúsios (from  /epí, “upon, fitting” and  /ousía, “being, substance”) – properly, aptly substantive, appropriate to what is “coming on” (happening), i.e. suitable (apt) for the coming day.
So, “daily” works in the English, but the emphasis is not on frequency or even the idea of “daily expectation” but simply asking for what is NEEDED for the time frame named – which is TODAY.
So, perhaps more accurately it would read: “Give us today our bread that we need for today….please
Perhaps a small nuance, but a nuance nonetheless.
Jesus is saying to simply ask God for the provisions we need for today, and not to worry about tomorrow. In fact, later in this same sermon and even this same chapter He talks about just that!
Matthew 6
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
So, when we pray for what we need, really it should be done in the faith that God will surely provide us with what we need for today and that tomorrow we can just repeat the process of trusting God.
After all, as it says, God already knows what we need.
Now, I’m sure some of you are wondering, as I used to wonder – If God already knows what I need, why do I have to ask Him for it?
That is a great question, and one that I personally wrestled with for quite awhile early in my faith.  Finally I realized it’s simply because it’s His to give – I’m not entitled to anything, and so the polite thing to do is ask instead of expect.  AND asking shows my dependance on Him instead of myself. It requires me to be humble instead of proud and self sufficient.
A similar question is: If God already has His plan and is going to do what He’s going to do – what is the point in asking Him for anything?
In other words, if I can’t change God’s plan – then what’s the point of praying for things to change?
Those are also wonderful questions. And if you have those questions in your heart, that is great because it means you are actually thinking about these things!
So, the question is….If I can’t change God’s plan, then what is the point of praying and asking for things to change? (like for healing or sparing from death, or salvation for others, or our nation, etc) If God is going to do what He’s going to do, what is the point of praying at all?
Well, one problem with that question is that it is based off of a very wrong assumption. It’s assuming that God does not change things based on our prayers. That cannot be true because there are clearly instances in Scripture where God did things differently, caused different outcomes, redirected events – all because of people praying.
  • Abraham (Sodom and Gomorra)  – Genesis 18 (Abraham pleads for Sodom if only a few are found righteous – God agreed, but none were found)
  • Moses (interceding for the people) – Numbers 14 (God was going to wipe them out and start a nation with Moses, but Moses asked God to relent and He did.)
  • Joshua (sun stand still) – Joshua 10
  • Judges – God constantly rescued them after they cried out to Him.
  • Elijah – 1 Kings 17 – Asked it not rain and it didn’t for 3 years until he asked for it to start again.
  • Elisha – 2 Kings 6 – Asked God to blind an army.
  • All the NT Apostles went around doing all kind of signs and wonders, being rescued from prisons, escaping murderous mobs, etc – all while they and others prayed.
So, God DOES LISTEN to our prayers and if the conditions are right, He WILL act according to them.
Now, one thing to make clear – God responding to our prayers to cause different outcomes than if we did not pray is not God changing His plan or His will.
His plan was simply that he would do ONE THING if you didn’t pray, and ANOTHER THING if you did.
We as humans have plans like that don’t we? The plan includes an IF-THEN statement, such that the carrying out of said plan will be different depending on how something else turns out. Such as I often have the plan that IF my children clean up after themselves without me having to tell them to, THEN they will get ice cream before going to bed. If they don’t, then MORE FOR ME!
 
Whichever path they choose does not change my PLAN, only the OUTCOME.
I believe it works the same with God. I think a lot of His plans have IF-THEN clauses depending on our prayers.
A lot of times I think He’s simply waiting for us to ask…as James says…
James 4
You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.
 
If you never ask God for something then He certainly isn’t obligated to give it to you. Not that He’s obligated if you do, but He does tell us to ask. And James here says that the reason we don’t have what we want is because we do not ask!
Now, perhaps some of you are calling foul in your head right now because there have been plenty of things you have specifically asked of God that never happened.
So what’s the deal preacher man!?!
The answer brings us back to the asterisk. Remember, I said earlier that God wants us to not only ask for what we need, but also ask Him for what we want*. The * means that just because we ask doesn’t mean He has to say “YES”. One reason that the answer is often “NO” is because we have wrong motives, as James says in the very next verse.
 
James 4
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
God is not a Genie in a Bottle.
He doesn’t grant wishes – He answers prayers.
In fact, He answers every single prayer you pray. It’s just that He doesn’t always answer, “YES”. I always find it annoying that the phrase “God answered my prayer” implies the notion that He answered “yes.” God answers every prayer…it’s just that His answers also include NO and NOT NOW.
So, the question is…how do we get Him to say YES?
The answer is simple: Ask for the right things for the right reasons and in the right way.
This should not be a foreign concept to any parents. Do we, as good parents, give a blanket YES to all requests our children make? As much as they would love that, you and I know that often times the most loving thing we can do for our children is tell them “NO.”
And since God is the best Father ever, often His answer is NO simply because we ask for the wrong things, or we have the wrong motives, or it’s simply the wrong time. 
So, how do we pray for the right things in the right way for the right reasons so God will say “YES”?
Good question.  Jesus answered that.
John 14
14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
There it is. All we have to do is tack “In Jesus name” right before the “Amen” in our prayers and everything we prayed for will be done!!  Hallelujah!  That is AWESOME!
What’s that? You’ve tried that and it didn’t work? That’s odd – it says it right there….
Oh wait, are you saying this verse might be taken out of context and not compared with every other scripture that talks about praying in the name of Jesus and thus giving a false understanding that we can tell Jesus what to do?
In case you couldn’t tell, I was being sarcastic. Sadly though, there are many that hold to that false belief and think we can basically name what we want and claim it in Jesus’ name and God is obligated to come through! And if He doesn’t, it just means you didn’t have enough faith.  Nothing could be further from the truth.
Now, Jesus does mention several times in the Gospel of John this idea of praying in His name, but it means much more than simply saying “In Jesus’ Name”
The immediate context of the verse I just quoted out of context is Jesus is telling his disciples about the future and the way things will be when he is gone. And part of that future includes how we pray…
John 14
12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
So, our first clue here is that the purpose of Jesus doing what we ask in His name is to glorify the Father. That should eliminate a good chunk of the things we pray for…
Later, in the next chapter but same conversation, Jesus talks about how he is the vine and we are the branches and how we can do nothing without Him. (a sermon for another time)  Well, as part of that, Jesus says
John 15:7-8
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
We see again that the YES answer to prayer is for the Father’s glory. And the BIG IF to whether we get what we ask for or not is “if you remain in close relationship with Jesus and His words remain in you.”
 
In other words, if you are closely following Jesus and your mind is made up of God’s Words – then the things you think to ask for will most likely be something He wants to give you.
John puts it another way in his first letter…
1 John 5:14-15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
We can have confidence that God will answer YES to our prayers…if we ask according to His will.
Same with my children. If they ask for something I want to give them out of my love for them and care for their wellbeing – then I am happy to answer YES. But if they ask for something that I know will harm them or is something that I know in my fatherly wisdom would not be good for them, then because I love them, I will say NO.
Now imagine if my kids were able to read my mind and know exactly what I will say YES to and what I will say NO to and also fully trust that my decisions are good for them, then they would be able to always ask the right things in the right way for the right reasons, and I could gladly answer YES!

I also imagine that if they were around me a lot and spent their time trying to learn about me and get to know my heart, get to know my WILL, rather than only thinking about themselves, that they would likely come to a point where they could predict and trust my answer to any question.
Hmmm…I wonder if that works the same with God…Our Heavenly FATHER….

You know what’s interesting about where this has taken us is that it brings us right back to the Lord’s Prayer. What’s the thing we pray for right before asking for our daily bread?
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Guess what? – it’s God’s will that you have your daily bread. That you have what you need. It’s also His will that your sins be forgiven and that you are kept from temptation and delivered from the evil one. So, He has no problem saying YES to those things.
You see, asking in Jesus’ name is not just something we say at the end of prayers.
“In Jesus’ Name” means that you are praying for something that He would want you to pray for. I’ve often compared it to how in our world we can do a name drop when trying to obtain something – to hopefully get a good deal or special treatment for the connection. Like you go to the mechanic and tell them Bill recommended them to you. The hope is maybe they won’t try to cheat you because they know and like Bill.
When you do a name drop like that, you are basically saying that what you are asking for is approved and recommended by the person named. And you are hoping that the person you are asking will respond based on their good relationship with Bill rather than their non-relationship with you. 
Name dropping also comes the added consequence that you are putting Bill’s reputation on the line by doing so.  Because if it get’s back to Bill that you used his name inappropriately, it’s likely to cause all kinds of relationship problems. It’s basically lying!
Do you get what I’m saying? When we ask the Father for something and we say “In Jesus’ name” we’re basically saying to the Father that Jesus (His Son) is good with me asking for this, that Jesus told me to do the name drop so you will give me what I ask for.  When we do the Jesus name drop, we’re implying that what we are asking for is in His will. 
And John says that if it IS according to His will then we can expect an affirmative answer.
 
But if it’s not, don’t expect a YES.
You can’t trick God.
If you want your prayers answered – you need to know the will of God.
How do you know the will of God? You read His Word and you Pray.
Now, what I just said may sound a bit circular. If you want your prayers answered then you need to know God’s will by praying? 
Exactly!
Now’s the part where I get to blow your mind and you will never think of prayer the same way again!
What exactly is PRAYER?  Isn’t prayer just a conversation with God? That’s often how it is described. 
If that were the case, why don’t we call it prayer when we’re talking to each other? There’s talking and listening going on just like in prayer.
Or why don’t we just call it conversing with God rather than prayer? Why is it different?
And it’s not just because God doesn’t usually speak audibly like your friends do.
It’s because GREEK is so much deeper than ENGLISH!
The Greek word that is behind the concept of what we know of as prayer is 
προσεύχομαι
(from  /prós, “towards, exchange” and /euxomai, “to wish, pray”)
“euxomai” is actually used a few places in Scripture when the writers would express a wish or desire for something. Paul used it somewhat frequently. But when you add “pros” to the front, it takes on a new meaning.
– properly, to exchange wishes; pray – literally, to interact with the Lord by switching human wishes for His wishes as He imparts faith
That is the verb form (to pray).
The noun form is similar:
προσευχή – is the same
(from  /prós, “towards, exchange” /euxe, “a wish, prayer”) – properly, exchange of wishes; prayer.
So, prayer is more than conversing with God.
It is exchanging your wishes for His.
Your desires for His.
Your wants for His.
It’s not just telling Him your wishes.
It’s trading your wishes for His.
It’s trading your heart for the one He wants to give you.
That is why the Lord’s prayer begins with…
Your kingdom come, your will be done…
Prayer is not asking God to bend to our will.
It is allowing God to bend us to His.
David knew this….
Psalm 51
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 25
Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
First and foremost, our prayers should be asking God to mold us and shape us and bend us to His will.
So that our thoughts become His thoughts and our desires become His desires.
That is exactly what the Lord’s Prayer is.
Jesus didn’t say “CONVERSE WITH GOD like this.”
He said “PROSEUCHOMAI like this”
He said, this is how you exchange wishes with God.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
As I’ve said before, this prayer is not for reciting. This should be the heartbeat of every Christ follower.
Because when it is, that’s what Jesus means when He says..
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
He gives you new wishes, so that…
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

**DISCLAIMER**
Now, before I continue, I have to return to using the English word “prayer” in the manner that we commonly understand it because otherwise you won’t understand what I’m saying next. So, while the Greek word “proseuchomai” is deeper than our English word “prayer” – in reality there IS more to communicating with God than this exchange of wishes. So, you could say that our English prayer is “broader in scope” than its Greek equivalent.
Sorry for the disclaimer, but words are important.
**END DISCLAIMER**
Once you’ve exchanged wishes, now it is time to actually do some asking, also known as petitions or requests.
That’s what Paul refers to in
Ephesians 6:18
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
He says “prayers and requests”, two different words. One is prayer – which we’ve already discussed.
The other is “request” or “petition”. It’s the Greek word δέησις, and it means exactly that – a petition, supplication, request of God.
Paul uses both prayer and petition again in
Philippians 4
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 
So, even though the true concept of PRAYER in the Greek is to exchange wills with God, we are also told to make requests of God. All of which are wrapped up in our English concept of “prayer.”
So when we pray…
 
First we ask God for His kingdom to come and His will to be done (exchanging wishes)….then we ask about our needs/wants. 
And as John says, if we are asking according to His will, then we know we will get what we ask for.
Jesus was clear that if His words remain in us and we remain in him (which means obeying Him) then we can ask Him anything and He will do it.
And this is why Paul is so confident in telling us
Philippians 4
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
That is the beautiful promise of Scripture is that when we go about this the right way. When we stop trying to make God into our wish granter and start first by granting HIS WISHES, then we get the absolute PEACE of God that transcends all understanding, because when you are in the middle of His will, there is absolutely nothing to worry about.
So, if you want God to actually answer your prayers in the affirmative, then you need to start doing what I suggest all the time. You need to EAT GOD.
 
You need to know God’s Word so well that you can quote more scriptures from the bible than stats from your favorite sports team.
So that when you have a question in your mind, it’s God that answers instead of Oprah or Dr. Phil.
You need to spend more time seeking God’s Kingdom and His righteousness and less time looking for Pokemon. 
And while you’re doing that, pray the prayers of David and ask God to first and foremost give you the right heart.
And guess what will happen?
God will say YES!

Now, before I close I want to talk about another important part of the model prayer that Jesus gave us. Matt touched on it last week. It’s the fact that Jesus modeled the prayer in terms of WE rather than terms of ME. Yes, we should have personal prayers, but Jesus showed us how to pray TOGETHER.
He begins with OUR FATHER.  He is our father if we are his children. And just to be clear. Contrary to popular culture, we are not all God’s children. We are his creation, but the title of CHILD OF GOD is reserved for those of us who claim Jesus Christ (God’s Son) as our Lord and Savior. When you do that, you are adopted into God’s family.  If you would like to learn more about that, please see me after service or look at some of the verses recommended in the “further reading” section of the notes in your bulletin.
This is an important distinction, because if you are not a child of God, then you really have no basis on which you can pray to Him. It’s not that He won’t hear you, it’s just that your unforgiven sin stands between you and Him.  That has to be taken care of first and can only be done by confessing Jesus as your Lord.
Now back to the prayer.
After “Our Father” the next use of the pronoun is in “Give us today our daily bread.”
Our prayer for provision is not only personal, it’s corporate (corporate simply means shared by all the members of a group). WE ask God to give US what WE need. And this is where being a PRAYING CHURCH comes in.
If you read through the Old Testament you will see that God often treated the nation of Israel as a whole body rather than only dealing with people individually. There are many stories of when the whole nation was punished for the sins of a few and likewise blessed for the good deeds of a few. I believe the church works the same way, as does a nation.
Yes, we are to have personal prayer lives and be dependent on God for our personal needs, but WE must also be dependent on God for our CORPORATE NEEDS as a church.
WE need to be PRAYING.
WE need to be exchanging OUR WILL for HIS WILL.
WE need to PETITION God TOGETHER as HIS CHILDREN.
That is what a praying church does. And that is what WE are going to do.
Starting right now.

There’s something I want to try today and probably turn this into a standard part of our Sunday morning services.
With all this talk of prayer recently, has it occurred to you like it did to me this past week, that we really don’t do much praying during our church gatherings? Just think of the Sunday morning service. We have several moments of prayer, but in all of those cases it’s someone on stage praying and all of you standing or sitting with your head bowed. That’s not exactly US praying TOGETHER.
It seems to me that when Acts 2 says that the early church was devoted to prayer, that it didn’t mean they had scheduled prayers between the music, announcements, and speaking, and really only one person prayed while everyone listened and then they all went on their way after the dismissal. I imagine that they were devoted to praying together, meaning they all participated. That perhaps, a good part of their meeting together consisted of dedicated prayer time together. That’s what “devoted to prayer” sounds like to me.
So, here’s what we’re going to do. We are going to spend the next few minutes praying together, corporately. And specifically, this is a time where WE pray for OUR needs as a CHURCH. This is not personal prayer time. This is corporate prayer time where we as a church ask God to move in mighty ways IN US and THROUGH US. 
Here’s how it’s going to work.
First I want to recognize that this is probably going to seem rather strange to most of us as I have never heard of a church doing it like this before. And since today is the first time doing it, guests and regulars can feel equally weirded out.
I want each of you who feel comfortable enough, maybe comfortable isn’t the right word…I want each of you who feel adventurous enough, then I want each of you to move out of your seat to a location designated by the graphic on the screen.  There are four areas where we will group. Depending on where you are sitting I recommend the corner nearest you. If you are out in the lobby, come in and join one of the groups in the back. You will gather there in a circle (or something like it) you can hold hands if you want, but you don’t have to. In each of those areas there is a designated leader who will at the least start it off, and at the most do all the out loud praying if no one else wants to.
This part is important…
No one should feel in any way obligated to pray out loud (like in the video before the message). And in order to ensure no awkward silences where everyone is wondering who is going to go next, I have instructed each of the group leaders to start it off, and then when they stop, they are going to count to thirty in their head. If no one speaks up during those thirty seconds, the leader will jump in again. If someone else does jump in, then when they stop, the 30 seconds will start again. In other words the longest silence should be 30 seconds and you are still not obligated to pray out loud. The only thing I ask is that you take this time seriously and at least echo in your heart what the person praying is saying. 
We will do that for about five minutes today (maybe longer in future times) and then I will close out the prayer session by praying though the microphone. Then we will all go back to our seats and finish the service with a song like usual. Afterward I may send out a survey asking your thoughts on this as it is an experiment.
The purpose of this is that I would really like to have a time in our service where we are praying together for our church that God will work in us and through us to see lives changed by the transforming, restoring power of Jesus Christ! But I don’t want that to mean I pray from the stage and you listen.
I think if we are going to be devoted to prayer, it should be something WE ALL DO as part of our devotion to God on Sunday mornings.
Everybody ready?
Go to your groups.