My Prayers Are Too Luxurious
-- John 6:47-51
Happy Easter! I pray for your soul, that the grace and blessings of the resurrection may be with your home and business.
I would like to continue to preach about Lord’s Prayer although today is the Easter Sunday. This is a meaningful day in which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ; however, we celebrate the resurrection every Sunday all year long. Therefore we do not count Sundays in the 40 days of Lenten. Lent is the time we remember Jesus’ affliction and death.
Jesus teaches us to pray the first three prayers for God in the Lord’s Prayer. I mentioned that those three prayers are called Thou Petitions. Then, Jesus teaches us to pray three prayers for us, which are called We Petitions.
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.
The truth of the matter is that, if we meet God in our prayers, worship him, reign in his presence, and ask that his will be done then it will be fulfilled. Once this prayer is answered the prayers for ourselves will be fulfilled naturally in the process.
Nonetheless Jesus allowed us to pray for ourselves. Rather, he definitely encouraged us to pray for our needs. He knew our limitation and weakness. He knew how important it is for us to come forward to God and pray for our problems.
We can come forward to God with prayers and pray to God about anything we want. Sometimes, we pray for unjust matters as we are blinded by greed or indiscretion. It is wrong if we continue to stay in this stage, but it is a natural phenomenon in the process of growth in faith. We can linger in the childlike stage and ask for something harmful. God expects us to grow out of this stage and help us to do just that. We can clearly understand what we need to ask for in our prayer as we grow spiritually through a continuous fellowship with God.
Jesus summarized the Lord’s Prayer in three ways which we should not forget when praying the Lord’s Prayer. He taught us to always embrace God in our hearts if we know God, reign ourselves in God’s presence, and truly hope that God’s will is fulfilled.
The first prayer is “give us today our daily bread.” The original meaning of a Greek word translated into ‘daily’ could mean either “something to eat today” or “tomorrow.” Either way it doesn’t mean an abundant food that can last a few months, but essential food for life. It means to pray “give us our bread for today” as we wake up in the morning.
Most of us pray unconsciously, but we may not want to do that. Most of us, including you and I have something to eat for the day. Please bear with me if some of you don’t have food to eat which can happen. If that is the case the church can help. Please let the pastors know. However, most of us living in America or South Korea live a day without worrying about food. So, we can’t help but ask this question, “Why should we still keep praying this prayer when we have food for the day?”
This question is very important in helping us understand the essential quality of the prayer. Why are we asking God? Is it that we let him know because he doesn’t know what we need? Or, are we pleading with him to give us what we need accordingly but he doesn’t give it to us?
Neither is right. God is Omnipotent, therefore, he knows what we need and can give it to us. He wants to give it to us because he loves us. Jesus told us the significance related to this:
…for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8)
If this is true, we may say either “God doesn’t know what circumstances we’re in” or “God doesn’t care about our concerns.” The One who Jesus Christ called My Father is the One who knows what I need more than anyone else, and wishes for my happiness more than anyone else. Then, why does he turn away from our prayers? He gives us the best even though we don’t pray. Then, do we need to pray at all?
The reason we pray to God is to acknowledge his sovereignty and be in his presence. Everything in this world is in his hands. He controls everything about me from breathing and sleeping, to healing from a disease. He provides food in our refrigerator we can eat for a few days. The reasons we pray for our daily bread is to acknowledge, confess and declare that he provide the bread.
Last year I prayed to God everyday to ask for healing after the surgery. I didn’t do that because God may not heal me. But I did it because I believe he would do that. Thus, the prayer “Lord, please heal me” means “I acknowledge that God heals everything. I am in your hands, so please accept me.”
There are many reasons for not praying. Some of them sound plausible and profound. For example, some may think “God provides me with everything I need even though I don’t pray. I don’t need to pray.” I fell into that while learning about prayers. Some may think “How can we ask these trivial matters to God when he has so many things to do?” How inconsiderate!
However, both of these thoughts are deceiving. We may forget God sooner or later if we don’t pray. If we don’t thank God for the food on the table, we may take it for granted. If we don’t thank today’s earnings to God, we may misunderstand the earnings are what we earn. If we don’t pray for healing, we may misunderstand that a doctor and a medicine heals our diseases. Even though we don’t pray before going to bed, we think we may fall asleep. All these happen because God allows. After all, we would forget God’s work and end up with misunderstanding and fallacy. This is why we need to pray to God about everything in detail.
Thus, “Give us today our daily bread” is a prayer that we declare and confess who takes dominion over our life is, and we stay in the presence of his sovereignty. Jesus preached on the mountain that we must trust God thoroughly just as we trust Jesus.
“Therefore I tell you, don’t 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? 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. So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6: 25, 26, 31, and 32).
In the first prayer for ourselves, there is another side that we have to pay attention to. That is, we pray "give us today our daily bread," rather than, "give me today my daily bread." If we pray saying "me," the daily bread is needed for only me and my family. When we pray saying, "us", we have to think of others around us who need the daily bread.
Whom does "our" indicate? It is the "our" in the " Our father who art in heaven" when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. All human beings God created are the "us." It would be better if it said, "all lives." If we think that way, the prayer can have a different meaning. It is because a few people around us may not partake of the daily bread.
The figures of famine that The World Food Programme of U.N. reported make us quite uncomfortable. Do you know the disease that causes the highest death rate among human beings, today? It is the very "disease of hunger." It is said that there are higher death rates by the famine than all of the AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Suffering from hunger is incomparable. Every evening, one out of seven among the world population goes to sleep without a meal. They are not other people. There are no other people among God. We are all children of God and they are sisters and brothers in Christ.
Poverty and hunger do not exist only in Tanzania or Nicaragua. There are a lot close to us as well. McLean is the richest community in the world, but there are still some who die by hunger. Did you know that? Didn't you see those day laborers who look for jobs in the cold weather, waiting for someone who can give them work? If they do not work for a few days, they have to worry about their daily bread for their families. Just a few miles away from where we live, we can meet homeless people who are begging for the daily bread.
“Give us today our daily bread" is a very urgent prayers for them. It is a very uncomfortable fact that there are so many people who desperately pray, "Give us today our daily bread," thinking of husbands or children who went out seeking for the daily bread each morning , and remembering that they are all our brothers and sisters. It is bothersome, annoying and an irritating, because we cannot spend our wealth freely when we think of them. The phrase, "Who cares I spend my money on whatever I feel like?" should not come out from Christians.
However, we should not turn our faces away from this uncomfortable truth. Turning our faces from this is similar to turning our faces away from God, and avoiding the burden that we have to share. If we truly believe in God and want to be truthful followers of Jesus Christ, we must confront this uncomfortable truth. Whenever we pray for the daily bread, we must remember the fact that there are many who have to worry about the daily bread. To the willing participants, at least two changes occur.
First, if we pray remembering "our" daily bread, we are pledging ourselves to reduce our spending and to live frugally. The prayer for the daily bread makes us realize how much we have and how much we waste.
While praying, we may feel, “ah, my prayer is too excessive." Sometimes I feel that way when I pray for myself. While I pray for my health, I recall church members who are perplexed because they could not find the right treatments. Then, the feeling of "ah my prayer is too excessive" was overwhelmed. While I pray for my children, I recall church members who are in agony because of their children. Then, I come to confess, “Oh, God, my prayer is too excessive." And, I became satisfied with what I have and where I am and grateful to God, and I have a renewed mind to help other people.
The prayer about the daily bread is the same. If there is no prayer for the daily bread in the Lord's Prayer, we probably would not pray for the daily bread. Instead, we would probably pray to live without deficiency until we die. Whether Jesus knows our mind, he put this prayer first among the list of prayers for us. Through this prayer, we realize how excessive our prayers are. When we realize that, we will be satisfied with what we have and where we are, and come to thank God, and we can have some room for other people who do not have the daily bread.
Second, if we pray thinking of the "us" who do not have the daily bread, the mind that we have to share our material with the poor neighbors stir up from our inside. People who are against helping the poor have their own reasons. They think that cheap sympathy does not cure their poverty, but fasten them. And some people think that laziness brings poverty. Let it be awakened and reform them. Of course some poverty was caused by that reason, but not all. They need to think of whether such logic is hypocrisy to justify their egoism or not. And also, to take care of our neighbors is the favor and solicitation and the order of God whom we call Abba.
With this thought, we present the fast offerings for the Holy week. After two weeks, we are going to collect funds during the Turtle Marathon to donate to the Nathaniel Mission Center, Good-Spoon Mission Center, and the Juveniles Center for Non-trust at Na-Jin, Sun-Bong areas. For the Turtle Marathon event the church holds for this year, three seniors promised to match the funds for the donations collected throughout the event. The three seniors made a big decision with loving heart for the brothers in Mexico, for the juveniles in North Korea, and for the brothers and sisters of Latinos. That is, if someone donates $10; actually $20 will be delivered to them. I pray that the Turtle Marathon will transpire a very moving and impressive event for us.
Whenever we plan events, some people complain because these events give them some burden. I am so sorry for them, but please think of the meaning of the prayer seriously, “give us today our daily bread." If the meaning of this prayer touches our emotion, we will be satisfied with what we have currently, we will thank God, and will have the sympathy for the poor, and we'd share our possessions with others. God will be happy with that mind.
As we pray "give us today our daily bread," we must consider one other thing. We must remember that there is another form of the bread, different from the one needed for the body.
The problem in the world we live in is not that there is lack of food to eat but there is abundance. It’s the world where people feel their waistline and worry about eating less on daily basis. So when basic needs have been taken care of, why is the world still like this? The materialists argued that the utopia will be realized when material needs have been fulfilled yet we do not see that paradise anywhere on this earth.
That’s because human beings are not fulfilled by food alone. Among my relatives is a foul-mouthed older lady who often said, "What’s a human being but a poop making machine?” It seems right but we are more than that. Physical comfort is not everything. If there is such a person, then that person has been totally dehumanized. Originally, the human beings were not like that. According to Genesis, man was created in the image of God, and thus became the 'living soul' (Genesis 2:7). This means human beings are 'spiritual beings with flesh'. That’s why food alone is not enough.
Victor Frankl thoroughly experienced lowest of human living conditions while confined in the “death camp” under Hitler’s rule. Based on this experience he wrote a book titled “Man’s Search for Meaning.” In the book, Frankl testifies that a man can still live as a noble being without having satisfied the minimum physical needs. Although there were exceptions, the fact was that not everyone lived only for the physical needs. That’s how human beings were created. Therefore, we cannot be satisfied with food for flesh alone.
Jesus faced Satan’s first temptation in the wilderness which was to turn stones into bread. For Jesus who had fasted for 40 days, this was a very sweet temptation. But He resisted this temptation and answered:
“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
In the old days, God said this through Amos:
“The days are coming,”
Declares the Sovereign LORD,
“When I will send a famine through the land—
Not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
But a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. (Amos 8:11)
To the living soul of a human, in addition to the food for flesh, the ‘word of God’ is necessary. Our spirit can live when we eat the word of truth from God. Our problem is that we know how to fill our stomachs, but don’t know how to fulfill the spiritual hunger. No matter how much good food we eat and enjoy, there are times when we are flooded with strong fatigue and skepticism. That’s because of spiritual hunger that cannot be fulfilled by food. The spiritual hunger can only be fulfilled by God’s word. When our spiritual hunger is fulfilled can we live as living souls.
The Word of God was revealed like crystal in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Word that became flesh (John 1:18). So in today’s scripture Jesus says:
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51)
Eating the bread means receiving Jesus Christ, learning his teachings, and following him. When we do this, then our inner hunger is fulfilled, and our inner thirst quenched. Therefore, when we pray "Give us today our daily bread," we must remember that we need Jesus Christ, the real bread of life. We must remember that Jesus Christ is needed not just for myself but to “us,” all the mankind.
Today is Easter Sunday, which celebrates the resurrection. The fact that Jesus is resurrected among the dead is significant in several ways. One of them is that what we see with our eyes is not everything. There is more than the world that we can see with Hubble telescope, and there is more than what we can observe with the microscope. There is more than the flesh and there is more than the materials. There is more than pursuing physical wellness. Human beings are more than that, and the world we live in is more than that.
People think that the resurrection is contrary to the rule of science. They think that the resurrection must be denied if the science is upheld, and the science must be denied if the resurrection is upheld. It is not true. The resurrection is not contrary to the rule of science; rather, it transcends the rule of science. The rule of science can explain the world that we see with our eyes. Yet, the resurrection is an event that transcends the world that we see with our eyes. Therefore, those who truly believe in the resurrection respect the rule of science. It is because the science has its own value and part. On the other hand, those who believe in science must open their hearts to the resurrection. The world we live in is not limited by the knowledge which can be discovered in the laboratory.
Those who have opened their eyes to this truth can properly pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” These people can offer the prayer of trust entrusting everything under the reign of God; they will not be content with just taking care of the physical food, and will not procrastinate for the spiritual food. If our living souls become whole by having the spiritual and physical food in such a way, we will be content with what God has provided to us, and proactively extend our hands to help our neighbors all the time by humbling our lives.
Therefore, to those who only think about themselves, place all their hope in the materials, and whose primary goal is to eat well and live well, the prayer saying, “Give us today our daily bread” is a very dangerous prayer. It is an uncomfortable prayer, because their conscience will be agitated all the time by this prayer. Pursuing such a life may have some hope in this world, but there is no hope in it in front of God. I wish that we would all know how unfortunate it is to have no hope in front of God.
Many times, things which seem to be dangerous in the eyes of the flesh are the safest route in the spiritual eyes. Thus, the Lord’s Prayer is a very dangerous prayer, but it is also the prayer which transforms us in the safest way. We just need the courage to entrust ourselves to the Lord’s Prayer so we can be swayed when the Lord’s Prayer sways us. I pray that the Lord may grant this courage to you and me.
Lord of resurrection,
Help us so we may believe the resurrected world.
Reign in the presence of the Lord,
And rather than just having the physical food,
Allow the spiritual food as well.
Let our living souls grow
So we can be content with the materials that we have.
And share ours,
To help the sufferings of our neighbors.