The Prayer of Dependence

Steve Viars January 27, 2007 Matthew 6:11-14

 

- often in January, a number of followers of Christ set out to read through the Bible in a year...

- that is a good goal to set, and there are a variety of schedules that have been developed to help you read a certain numbers of chapters a day in order to make it through...

- if you’re one of the persons, you have probably been spending a fait amount of time in the Pentateuch...the first five books of the OT...

- those books explain how God came to a man named Abraham and made a marvelous promise to make of him a great nation...

- that covenant was repeated to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph...

- at the end of the book of Genesis, the children of Israel find themselves in bondage in the country of Egypt, but then calls a man named Moses to lead his people to the promised land...

- the rest of the Pentateuch tells that incredible story...

- many times people who try to read through the Bible in a year give up at about Leviticus, or maybe Numbers but the truth is...those books become an important foundation for the rest of Scripture...

- one of the key themes that is developed is that of dependence...

- God desires and even promises to provide for His people...but He in turn expects us to live in a way that shows our love for Him, and our humble dependence on Him...

- so God gives Moses the law...showing that His people are to depend on Him to know right from wrong, and for direction for daily living...

- of course because we so often fall short of God’s commands...we find extensive discussions about sacrifices that God’s people could make...to show their dependence on Him for forgiveness...

- they were to come to Him in humility, bringing offerings without spot or blemish, so they could be restored to a loving relationship...

- there’s also the theme of dependence on him for the theme of provision...

- one of the obvious first questions after setting off on a march to the promised land was...what are we going to eat...there’s no MacDonald’s in sight...

- and what was God’s answer to that?...

- manna...do you remember its description in Scripture?...

- Exodus 16:13-15 - ...in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground.  When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.

- now, how many of you like bread?...are you like me...a lot of times on these cold days Kris makes homemade soup and then bakes some fresh bread to go with it...its the perfect meal on a cold day...and that fresh bread with butter melting down the side...its great stuff...

- you may have a particular restaurant you like to go to, just because of the bread...

- now picture this...bread that God made...imagine that recipe...imagine that texture...imagine that flavor...that’s what manna was...

- but there was something about the way God provided the manna...regarding the amount...how much were the people to gather?...one days worth, except before the Sabbath where they were to gather two days worth...but they weren’t supposed to hoard it...and what was Moses’ specific command?...

- Exodus 16:19 - Moses said to them, “Let no man leave any of it until morning.”

- why?...so the people could demonstrate their thankfulness for the day’s provision, and their trust that God would take care of them tomorrow...

- I wonder if everybody did what God said?...

- surely if God was powerful enough to provide for them in such an unusual way today, they should trust Him to be able to provide for them tomorrow...

- Exodus 16:20 - But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them.

- can you imagine people who said they knew the Lord, and had been faithfully provided for up to that point...but were still unwilling to trust Him and depend on Him for their needs tomorrow?...

- and many of us would probably hang our heads a little bit on that one...or perhaps a lot on that one...why?...because living in dependence on the Lord does not come easy or natural...especially if it is dependence that ought to be daily...

- now let me ask you this...do you think there might be a relationship between learning to live in daily dependence on God...and our ability as individuals and a church to reach new heights?...maybe so...

- and then the question becomes...how is that related to the way that we...pray?...

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to Matthew chapter 6...[page 4 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- our theme this year is Reaching New Heights...

- we want to be prepared for all the Lord has for us in the coming months and we understand that we have both the privilege and the responsibility to be getting to a better place in our walk with Christ and our ministry effectiveness so that we are in the best position to be used of God...

- so it doesn’t really matter where you are...what is really important is...are you getting better...are you advancing the ball...are you taking steps up the mountain?...

- this month, we’ve been focusing on Jesus’ instructions to disciples about how to pray...because I think most of us would say that if we are looking for areas of our relationship with God in which we could get better...we don’t have to go any further than that...

- by the way, can I ask you...are you changing?...are you getting better?...the Christian life is all about taking steps of growth---is that happening for you...

- I hope so...and from a corporate perspective our ability to honestly ask God to bless us is dependent on everybody in the family trying to get better...

- so far we’re studied The Prayer of Adoration – Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

- and The Prayer of Submission – Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

- this morning we would like to complete this study, by focusing on The Prayer of Dependence...let’s read through our passage one more time – read Matt. 6:1-15

- verses 11-15 give us Three ways a believer’s prayer should express dependence on God.

- how can we be the polar opposite of the children of Israel who offended God by refusing to be moved by the miracle of the manna?

I. Dependence for Provision.

- Give us this day our daily bread.

- now right off the bat, I realize you might say...does the average American really need to be praying for...

A. Daily bread?

- maybe we need to pray for daily exercise...or a daily lowering of the carb intake...

- that’s a good question...

- John Stott, in his book Christian Counter Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, spoke about the great reformer Martin Luther and his view on this verse...he observed this...to Martin Luther...

- “Everything necessary for the preservation of this life is bread, including food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, wife, children, good government, and peace.” 

- now, you can decide whether you agree with Luther’s interpretation or not---that is certainly up for discussion...but I think we would all agree with him here...

- Jesus’ point was the importance of praying and asking God to meet our daily physical needs...

- it’s not as if Jesus heard one of his disciples later pray and ask God to provide their daily fruits and vegetables that he would have said---I said bread---you can only pray for bread....

- the point is, praying and asking God to provide daily all we need for our physical existence...

- now, how does that kind of prayer help us...

B. An antidote to complaining.

- one of the amazing themes in the Pentateuch is how frequently God’s people complained...complaining to Moses, complaining to Aaron, complaining to Miriam, complaining to God...

- and if you think, God probably didn’t mind that very much...the truth is, God minded that a lot...that kind of ungrateful heart, and ungrateful life is deeply offensive to Him...in light of today’s provision that He has already made, and tomorrow’s provision which He has already promised...

- and when a believer humbly comes to God and says, Lord, would you please just give us what we need today...and we will trust you for what we need tomorrow...that brings great honor to Him...

- now the skeptic might say---God is not giving me daily bread---I’m the one who earned it, and I have no i9ntention of being thankful or dependent...

- Moses had an answer for that too --Deuteronomy 8:18 - But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

 - the person who fails to acknowledge God’s grace in giving us the strength and ability to work is at a very dangerous place spiritually indeed...

- now, what is the other side of that?...

- when a follower of Christ learns to trust God and be content with today’s daily provision...that is a beautiful expression of dependence on Him...

- Paul said this to the Philippians - Philippians 4:19 - And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

- that is a promise of God...

- that is why Paul told Timothy-- 1 Timothy 6:6 - But godliness with contentment is great gain.

 - that is why the writer of Hebrews said --Hebrews 13:5-6 - Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”

- now, let’s put some of this together—there is a direct relationship between people who learn to humble pray to God for our daily needs and the contentment in our hearts and lives...

- that leads to a rather obvious question, doesn’t it?...are you cultivating a daily prayer life of dependence on the Lord and is that evident in part by the contented way in which you live?...

- now, please broaden that out corporately...

- in a couple of weeks there will be over 1300 persons here at a training conference we have the privilege of hosting here on biblical counseling...

- and one of the questions you may be asked is...how does this church accomplish what it does?...

- and of course the major answer is – by the marvelous and surprising grace of God...

- but from a human perspective, one of the central answers is...because we are trying to learn to major on the majors...to focus on our mission, and not get caught up in petty griping about things that don’t really matter...

- cf. the interior finish selections in the community center --- how were those decisions made?...we hired an architect...some churches would argue about those kinds of things forever---some churches have even split over the color of the carpet in the church house....

- and we all understand that there will be things to like about the community center, and things to not like...but the key question is...will the facility provide more opportunities to accomplish our mission --- absolutely --- then who cares about the colors and whether I like them or not?...I’ll be content and thankful with God’s marvelous provision...

- we had to make a decision about next Sunday’s schedule --- we are planning a church family night because we have to pray about, we need to be sure we are bathing this BCTC in prayer, we also have a good number of people that God has given us as potential new church members and we want to celebrate with their testimonies, a number of folks will be baptized, there is also someone seeking to restored to our church family which will be a greater victory than any football game regardless of who wins...

- but on the other hand, we understand that the Super Bowl involves 2 teams from this area---a lot of people are planning special events including ones with their neighbors...so our leaders got together and said---let’s just have the church family night at 4:00...so that’s what we’re doing....

- you might think that’s the smartest decision in the world...or the worst decision in the world...but regardless, mature people understand this...God is blessing this church’s mission daily...in incredible ways...

- so we’ll never let complaining about minor things take our focus off thanksgiving for daily provision to this church that is astounding...

- this kind of prayer is also...

C. An antidote to worry.

- now, we believe in future planning...we would encourage you to have an emergency fund, we would encourage you to be saving for retirement, and for your children’s college if that is your life situation...

- but part of the prayer of dependency is asking for our daily bread...not some sort of guarantee of six months from now...

- later in this same chapter Jesus is going to teach...

- Matthew 6:31-34 – “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

- there will be some people here today, if the truth were known, need to replace sinful worry which dishonors the Lord with daily trust and dependent prayer which please Him.

- another great passage on that topic is Philippians 4:6-7 - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

- this is also...

D. An antidote to hoarding.

- another constant theme in Scripture is that we give to God first...and trust him to provide for us...

- we believe we can do more with 90% of our income and God’s blessing, than 100% of our income on our own...

- that is why Malachi said...Malachi 3:10 – “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.

- he went on to say...Malachi 3:12 - “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts.

- dependent people who are looking to God for daily sustenance exhibit a kind of faithful life that is a powerful example to others around them...we are saying in essence that we believe God will take care of His people and keep the promises He has made to us...

- now, another question you might have is....

E. What about the poor?

- what about people who do not have the ability to earn money and buy bread?

- and what’s the answer to that?...we can be part of God’s answer to this prayer for them...

- The Bible is filled with answers to that question...

- Psalm 41:1 - Blessed is he that considers the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.

- Proverbs 19:17 - He that hath pity upon the poor lends unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.

- Proverbs 28:27 - He who gives to the poor will never want, But he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.

- Proverbs 29:7 - The righteous considers the cause of the poor: but the wicked regards not to know it.

- now, we are also told in Scripture that we have a special responsibility to meet the physical needs of people in the church family --- Paul explained that in  -- Galatians 6:10 - So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

- and here’s how all of this is connected...every time you give to a person who is poor to help provide his daily bread...you are in turn trusting God that He will provide yours...

- could develop the commitment we were able to make this week to the Red Cross to attempt to serve 2000 children next year through CFE...

- by the way, this is one of the reasons why we have a food pantry/clothing exchange right in the center of main street in the community center...

- and I am very thankful for the good work that is already going into that...

- now, while we’re talking about the community center, let me tell you something else about the other side of the body spectrum...and I only intend to mention this once just like I did when we started our school...

- when we opened the school 10 years ago, I explained the way it worked one time...

- and we’ve never pressured anybody to send their children to our school...

- but we wanted our church members to have the first opportunity to fill the openings if they wanted to before it was opened up to the general community...

- and here’s the principles...we do as many things around here as we can for free...

- whenever we have to charge, we make it as low as we possible can...

- if a service is involved, church members pay the same...

- because we don’t give in order to get something in return [not, the church built the school building so they should have a discount...]

- if we are providing the ministries for the community, it would be a serious misstep to create a tiered approach in pricing between people from the church and those who aren’t...

- in the community center, many of the programs will be free...

- others will be pay one time for the service...like a baseball league or soccer program...

- but we explained when we started this project that it would operate like a YMCA in many ways...

- so there is a fitness center and a pool out there, and there will be monthly fun and fitness memberships for anybody from the church or community who wants them...

- that is as much a need in our culture as ministering to the poor...

- now, that information is about to be public...and we will begin accepting memberships for people who desire them...

- but there’s a limit....we have no idea how many people will be interested and there is a point at which it would be too many to serve well...

- so the way we address that is by providing charter memberships...they are very reasonable, but they are limited...members of our church have the first crack, but they will be made public in a few weeks...if you’re interested...see Danny Little...

- now, what’s the main point thus far?...

- friend, if we were to evaluate your prayer life...would its tone, and its frequency, and its content lead you to greater dependence on the Lord?....

- and as a result, is your life more free from complaining, and free from worry, and comprising of financial faithfulness and generosity today because you are joyfully and thankfully trusting God for your needs tomorrow?

- now, what else do we see in our passage?...

II. Dependence for Forgiveness.

- Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

- it is not just a daily need for physical provision, but also...

A. Our daily need for spiritual cleansing.

- some people like to use the acronym ACTS to remember the basic elements of prayer...

A – Adoration

C – Confession

T – Thanksgiving

S – Supplication

- can I ask you --- how are you doing at the matter of regularly and specifically confessing sin to God?

- Arthur Pink - An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount - As it is contrary to the holiness of God, sin is a defilement, a dishonor, and a reproach to us as it is a violation of His law. It is a crime, and as to the guilt which we contact thereby, it is a debt. As creatures we owe a debt of obedience unto our maker and governor, and through failure to render the same on account of our rank disobedience, we have incurred a debt of punishment; and it is for this that we implore a divine pardon.

- John Stott – Confess Your Sins - One of the surest antidotes to the process of moral hardening is the disciplined practice of uncovering our sins of thought and outlook, as well as of word and of deed, and the repentant forsaking of them

B. The clear prerequisite.

- what does verse 14 clearly tell us we have to do if we expect God to be willing to forgive our sins as we pray to Him?

- to forgive others...

- what obvious question flows out of that?...is there anybody in your life with whom you are living in an unreconciled state?...whom you have refused to forgive...

III. Dependence for Victory.

- And do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil.

- this aspect of the prayer is a bit challenging because on the one hand...we know that God does not tempt us to sin...James 1:13 clearly teaches that...

- on the other hand, we know that trials of our faith can actually be good because they purify our faith....

- so in what sense are we praying...lead us not into temptation?...

- it really functions as a reminder to ourselves of how horrible failing in temptation is...and our dependency on the Lord to keep His promise that He will never give us more than we can bear...

- just like the other aspects of the prayer...this too is an acknowledgement of just how much we need the Lord...

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video