“He Knows Just What I Need”
1. Some of the most familiar phrases of the Bible are instructions to pray: they tell us to call upon the Lord, to seek his face, to draw near to him, to humble ourselves before him, and to cast our cares upon him.
2. One of the favorite paragraphs of the Bible is a beautiful, but profoundly simple, model of prayer–the example given us by Jesus in Matthew 6:9-13.
3. Have you thought about why? Why do these words of prayer strike such a note in almost everybody’s heart?
a. It will help if we look at the model prayer from another angle.
b. Assuming that praying is asking for what we need most, we might learn here what all human beings need most, what it takes to live an emotionally balanced and satisfying life, and what it takes to be material out of which a family or a community or a congregation can be constructed.
c. The phrases of the model prayer may be thought of the word of Jesus on what I need.
4. “Our Father in heaven...” I need to be related to the eternal, living God like a child to his Father.
a. There is nothing you can call God that will please him more than “Father.”
i. Jesus consistently taught his disciples to call upon his Father as their Father.
ii. He knew that we need above all else to relate to God as:
(1) the Father who understands and has compassion (Ps. 103:13,14).
(2) the Father to whom we submit and who works on us for our good, even through difficulty (Is. 64:8; Heb. 12:9,10).
(3) the Father who provides and protects (Matt. 7:11).
iii. A prayer is a family communication, the heart’s concern of a son or a daughter expressed to the One who is dearest and most respected of all.
b. That is why the “our” is important: it places my needs in a family context.
i. When I say “our Father in heaven,” I am admitting that I am not alone, or autonomous, or above others.
ii. I am acting as a member of the household of God, and that I am seeking the company and the blessing of the Father of us all.
iii. I am realizing that I can’t call on him as Father but speak of his family as if they were somebody else.
c. “In heaven” is my confession of how much authority he has, and where our home is, and what the direction of my life is.
5. “Hallowed be your name...” I need a deep respect for what is holy, a recognition of the place of God in the order of things.
a. The phrase means “let your name be kept holy” or “let your name be treated with reverence.”
i. Jesus said he had manifested the Father’s name to the world (Jn. 17:6) and made his name known to his disciples (Jn. 17:26).
ii. He meant simply that he had made God known for who he is; he had shown what the Father’s character and love are like.
iii. When we pray like this we are expressing our longing for God to be given his true place in the world, our desire for him to be treated with the highest honor.
b. The Lord was saying that I need that spirit in my life.
i. I so badly need to stand in awe of holiness (Is. 29:23; Lk. 1:49), and I need to sense of wonder and reverence that will bring.
ii. My life needs some depth and thoughtfulness to it.
iii. Prayer is the place where we begin to move away from the shallow and the trivial and the preoccupation with ourselves that makes us that way.
6. “Your kingdom come...” I need the purpose that comes from devotion to a cause worthy of my being, one much larger than myself.
a. Because he is our Father and we want him to be honored, we long to see his kingdom come into the hearts of people in all the world, and each one of us needs to understand ourselves as having a role in that happening.
b. The kingdom had a place like that in the thinking of Jesus.
i. He came preaching that the kingdom was at hand (Matt. 4:17), promising that it would come before some who heard him died (Mk. 9:1).
ii. He spoke of building his church and giving his apostles the keys of the kingdom, as if the church and the kingdom have the same citizens (Matt. 16:18,19).
iii. Following his resurrection, people who are forgiven of their sins are added to the church (Acts 2:41) and people who are loosed from their sins are transferred into the kingdom (Col. 1:13,14), suggesting that the kingdom in this world is people who have been redeemed by Christ.
c. Here is a purpose worthy of my life, too: that God’s people increasingly reflect his love, obey his laws, honor him, do good for people, and proclaim the good news of the kingdom.
7. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven...” I need to delight in our Father’s will, submitting to it in my life and having confidence that its sovereignty over the universe.
a. Someone observed, “The purpose of prayer is not to get God to submit to our will, but to learn to subject our will to His.” (D. Roper, The Life of Christ 1:250)
b. When I pray like this I am facing up to one of any human being’s greatest needs.
i. My life depends, not merely upon my plans, but upon the will of our wise and loving Father (James 4:13-15).
ii. It is neither driven by fate nor caught in a meaningless, repetitive cycle of history, but it does have a place in his eternal purpose for us all.
iii. My task is to actually do his will that he has revealed (Matt. 7:21; 12:50).
c. In asking this and acting accordingly, I ground myself in reality, regain my sense of identity, and renew my confidence that “everything is going to be alright.”
8. “Give us this day our daily bread...” I need to be secure in the physical necessities that are required for the sustaining of my life.
a. Some think the phrase should be translated “our bread for tomorrow.” Either way, it includes by implication my food, shelter and clothing for each day.
b. None of us can function well when we are anxious about these immediate things, and all of us are expected to do our part in providing for them.
i. But when I pray I am confessing that these things are, after all, gifts.
ii. I am asking the Giver to bless my work with good fruit, and thus to make joy and gladness fill up my day.
iii. And, I am reminding myself that all I really need is bread for the day.
c. There is something lovely about this: responsibility with simplicity, realism without anxiety, contentment that leads to thankfulness. In this one request, there is a healthy view of material things in the life of a whole person.
9. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors...” I need the maturity in my relationships that comes from being forgiven and being forgiving.
a. If there is to be a sense of well-being in my life, both these things are necessary.
i. Life is such, and human beings are such, that offenses occur on the part of myself and others.
ii. I need to “let them go,” and I need others to “send away” mine.
iii. That’s what forgiveness is; that’s what the word means.
b. There is a sense of both humility and mercy in this request, and both are rooted in a true understanding of the human condition: things are not perfect, and it’s not just other people’s fault.
c. But in this petition there is also a high value placed on relationship, and on my responsibility in it.
i. Grace can enter the picture.
ii. My recognition of how dependent I am on mercy must open my heart to extending it.
iii. I have to come to the place where not every “rub” is a big deal.
10. “And lead us not into temptation...” I need providential care in keeping myself out of circumstances and away from crowds in which I would be tempted beyond my ability.
a. This is not to suggest that God would otherwise try to get me to do the wrong thing in order to have something against me, because he cannot be tempted by evil and he does not tempt any person in that sense (James 1:13).
b. But praying like this does say some important things about my understanding of myself.
i. It means that I recognize that I am subject to being lured by my own desires, and that I am weak enough to be caught unaware and to get in over my head.
ii. It means that I truly do not want that to happen.
iii. And it means that I believe our Father is involved enough in my life through his providence to lead me away from being overcome by my own weaknesses.
c. Asking this is very much like what Jesus advised his friends to do in the garden of Gethsemane, according to Matthew 26:41.
11. “But deliver us from evil...” I need rescue from the evil which would otherwise enslave me to condemnation.
a. There is some question whether this is “the evil” or “the evil one.”
i. Either way it’s true: there is evil in human experience, and there is an enemy who promotes it (Matt. 13:19,25).
ii. Jesus prayed that his disciples might be kept from him (Jn. 17:15).
iii. I, like everybody else, need to be delivered–rescued, saved–from his designs.
b. Prayer like this means that I want to be delivered from such things, that I hunger for it, that I’m willing to accept it, that I will let God say how, and that I will be grateful for it.
c. It also means that God is willing and able to grant such a request (2 Th. 3:3).
12. This past week I saw a report about how the last few generations have responded when asked to identify themselves by religious outlook.
a. Percentage wise, only about half as many of the “Millenials” identify themselves with any organized religion as the generation before them, and that generation only about half what the one before them did.
b. The same percentage as before say they believe in God and heaven and so on, but they are not committed to any particular cause.
c. The model prayer suggests to me that our culture will increasingly feel the lostness of unmet human needs, and that we will flail away in the frustrating search for answers from sources that cannot provide them: government, education or entertainment.
13. In the model prayer, the one who knows just what we need has told us.
14. Is the family identity implied in this prayer present as a reality in your life? Galatians 3:26,27 tells us that it can be, and how it is to be established.