Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Teach Us To Pray : Provision

“Give us today our daily bread.”

God wants to speak with us about his provision. This flows from his character – God reveals himself as, among other things, our Provider – and is made manifest in his kingdom – that is, wherever the rule of the Provider extends, there in that place there is provision for those who live in that place. As we experience God’s character and kingdom, we experience his provision as a daily reality in our lives: and as we share in God’s character and in the exercising of his kingdom rule, we become people who extend provision to others.

When God’s people lived in the wilderness, between being slaves in Egypt and entering into the land God had promised to their forefathers, God provided them with manna: the bread of heaven. It came with instructions: only take what you need for the day ahead; except on the day before the Sabbath rest, where they were to take enough for two days. Those who took more than they ate found that by the next morning what they had kept back had become riddled with maggots. But, we are told, those who took little did not have too little, and those who took much did not have too much.
Jesus reveals himself to be the bread of life, that comes down from heaven: manna: God’s provision for a people in the wilderness between slavery and the land they will inherit: which is a good way to describe the place those who follow Jesus live – those who have been set free, but do not yet experience what we hope for.

Jesus took five loaves of bread, blessed them, broke them, distributed them to feed a multitude, and instructed that what was left over be gathered up: twelve basketsful, one for each tribe in the wilderness (Matthew 14:13-21). Later, in a similar way, he fed another, slightly smaller crowd (4,000 men, plus women and children; as opposed to 5,000 men, plus women and children) with seven loaves, and had gathered-up seven baskets of leftovers, the symbolic number of perfection (Matthew 15:29-39).

If, moved by compassion, Jesus feeds crowds with bread, then he is concerned with physical provision. But if Jesus is himself bread, then he is also concerned with spiritual provision. Spiritually, he is enough for us, day by day: neither too little to satisfy, nor too much to be digested. Physically, he gives more than enough: in order to make a point: God’s provision is restoring the kingdom that is in turn the outward expression of his character.

If we are honest, we don’t really believe this. It is too offensive: we see people go hungry, and we listen to the whisper that says, “God does not always provide...” or we listen to the whisper that says, “How can you, who has so much, dare to ask God for anything when others have so little?” and so we fall silent. Instead, we feed ourselves – food, and more – and fail to satisfy our appetites: and so we consume and consume, or we lament absence in our lives, until we become sick.

Jesus tells us to pray asking that God would provide us with our daily bread. Jesus tells us to do so because the nature of our relationship is this: God is our provider, and we are to receive his provision, and to use what he provides to provide for the needs of others. As Jesus also says, freely you have received, freely give. Which requires two things of us: first that we receive what God wants to give us; and then that what we have been given, we bless, break and distribute...and finally gather-up the leftovers – the evidence of what has happened here, whatever that may be – as a testimony to God’s provision.

How would our experience change if we started to pray, “Give us today our daily bread”?

What does God want to say to you concerning his provision?

Does he want you to be able to receive something?

Does he want you to give away what you have received?

No comments:

Post a Comment