“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11 NIV)
There is a sense of justice that kicks in quite naturally with children, an innate sense of fairness and unfairness. This sense continues into adulthood and never fully leaves us. And it is seen in the simplest of settings: waiting in line.
“They cut in line!” a child objects at the ice cream parlor.
“Don’t cut me off!” a driver insists from the confines of their own vehicle, aimed at the offending fellow driver yet spoken to no one in particular.
We have a sense of justice and order and believe it is important to preserve that order except in the most unusual cases.
When we look at the prayer Jesus taught us, we find an order. The first half of the prayer is more or less dominated by the pronoun “your,” in reference to God. And the second half is more or less dominated by the pronouns “us” and “our.” This makes it clear who the petitions of the prayer concern.
We begin by praying in reference to God–his character, name, kingdom, will. God’s agenda is our primary concern.
We shift to praying in reference to ourselves–our needs, our relationships, our moral character.
Now, I’m not saying that God doesn’t want to hear us cry out for help when we need it, or that we need to insert a perfunctory moment of praise before getting on to asking what is weighing down our hearts. He will hear us when we pray and he welcomes our prayers.
But as far as our habit of prayer–our regular praying, goes, praying as Jesus taught trains us to put ourselves and our concerns in line behind God and his concerns. There is an order that is healthy for us in our daily prayer.
Like a child who needs generous love and to know they are not the center of the universe, we too need to know the depth of God’s love for us, and to remember that we are not the center of everything.
Learning to wait and to put God first in our regular praying forms in us a healthy perspective on our needs and wants, and instills in us trust that God has the whole world in his hands, including us, and we don’t have to push our requests to the front of every prayer in order have them heard and answered.
Practice: This weekend, practice praying through the Lord’s Prayer slowly, line by line. As you feel comfortable, add specifics to the words of Jesus. For example, praying for God’s will to be done in a specific situation, or for daily provision of a particular sort for yourself or others, whether “daily bread” or something else.
Prayer: God, I’m impatient and I’m thinking about what I need and want. In my praying, teach me to trust you. Teach me to have a heart for your concerns and will. Teach me perspective. Amen.