We’re all toddlers.
When our son Nijel was just a little guy he’d say “I’m hungry” whenever he got over-tired. We’d take him to bed – sometimes kicking and screaming. Without fail, he’d be sleeping in no time.
While sending an over-tired child to bed is just good common sense, reasoning with a toddler is nearly impossible. No amount of explaining our actions ever resulted in Nijel wiping the tears from his eyes and saying, “Well alright then, there you have it. Thanks for caring for me in such a wise and loving way.”
Children are so consumed with their own will, they can’t see how the will of their parents could be good when it contradicts theirs. Compared to the wisdom of our Heavenly Father – we’re all toddlers.
He knows what we need before we ask Him – yet He invites us to ask.
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus instructs us to ask our Father to give us what we need – daily. That tells us something.
Jesus teaches us to ask for what we need daily because we are dependant, humbly because God is wise and confidently because we are loved.
It’s helpful for those of us who tend to make toddler-like prayers to remember that asking for our daily bread is in the middle of the Lord’s prayer for a reason.
Before we get to asking for anything, the Lord’s prayer guides us into a restful reorientation in our souls.
First we are told to come to our Father and ‘hallow’ His name. This is time spent in praise and adoration. In doing this, we reflect on the grace that enables us to come in the first place. As I heard it once said, you can’t walk into the throne room of a great king and ask for a glass of water – but you can if you’re his child.
Then we submit our will to His will and pray, ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done‘. If you’re anything like me, submitting your will takes more than the three seconds required to simply utter that phrase.
Then, with our hearts and minds reoriented into peace, rest and trust, we are invited to ask our Father to give us what He knows we need – daily.
Now, if I can’t be happy unless God gives me a certain thing, I’m definitely asking for the wrong thing. Even if what I’m asking for is a very good thing, if I make it my ultimate thing, it’s become the wrong thing. The reason is because I will always centre my life around what I make ultimate. To borrow from Jared C. Wilson, the switch in my heart labeled ‘worship‘ has been stuck in the ‘on’ position since the garden. Whatever I make ultimate is my god. [a]
I’ve done plenty of emotional kicking and screaming, angry at my Heavenly Father for not answering my prayers as I have prayed them. In those moments, I can’t understand how anything other than my request could possibly be loving, wise or in the end, be used for the good of my salvation.
The gospel frees us from coming to prayer anxiously or presumptuously, telling God what has to happen. His grace on display at the cross reminds us that His highest and best for us has already happened. Asking for daily bread is downstream from resting in His grace.
In Matthew 6, Jesus gave his disciples a picture of God’s loving provision and care. He told them to look at how God faithfully cared for the birds and the flowers. Then He said, ‘don’t worry’.
If you’ve ever been up to your eyeballs in worry, you know that having somebody tell you not to worry is useless.
Is that what’s going on here?
Is the King of Kings offering trite, unhelpful advice?
Has Jesus missed something – or have I?
When Jesus says ‘don’t worry’ He invites us to see our smallness in relation to our Father’s greatness – because that’s where the rest is.
When a toddler runs into their parents room during a thunderstorm and dives into their bed, the parents first words are ‘don’t worry’. From the child’s point of view, they have every reason to worry. They know the story of the three little pigs and the huffing and puffing they hear outside has their little minds convinced the house is coming down. From the parents point of view, the child is completely safe.
Good news. The One telling us not to worry and instructing us to ask for daily bread also said this:
“I am the resurrection and the life.
Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”
If by the grace of God we are united to the death-proof Saviour of the world, then in the end, death itself will not hold us. From Jesus point of view, we have nothing to worry about because by His grace He has already solved our biggest problem. That’s where He’s coming from.
So ask for your daily bread, little one.
Daily, humbly, confidently.
Your Father’s answer is perfect. You may not understand it, but you can put all your chips on it and trust in it.
Perhaps your reading this and having a hard time with all this talk about God answering our prayers in a way that differs from our requests.
I am not writing to solidify the encouraging truth that there are times when God answers our prayers precisely as we have asked them. Many of us have these testimonies and they’re amazing. God is faithful.
I am writing to encourage those of you who have asked and asked and asked – and by all appearances, prayer is a futile exercise. You hear ‘ask for daily bread’ and your heart cries, ‘why bother.’ Let me encourage you: God is faithful despite all appearances to the contrary.
Prayer is a gift that brings us to terms with our smallness and invites us to rest in His greatness.
We have a Father/child relationship to God in prayer, not a Genie of the lamp relationship. When our prayers appear to go unanswered, we’re quick to demand that God explain Himself, but He loves us more than we know.
If we want to know what God is like, we look at Jesus.
If we want to how God feels about us, we look at the cross.
Now, analogies can only go so far before breaking down. Here’s where my ‘toddler’ analogy breaks down.
Jesus was no spiritual toddler, yet we find that even He received an answer to His prayer in Gethsemane that didn’t seem to resemble His request – yet the Father’s answer was perfect. The author of Hebrews gives this to us:
‘When Jesus was on earth He went to His Father with loud crying and tears to be delivered from death and He was heard for His reverent submission.’
Jesus asked to be ‘delivered from death’ in the garden. Approximately 12 hours after He made that request, He was beaten, bloodied and crucified on a Roman cross.
That was having His prayer heard?
As Jesus cried out, ‘It is finished’, it seemed that the Father had completely ignored the Son’s request. Three days later, by the power of the Spirit, the Father delivered His Son from death.
The cross looked like the worst possible scenario from the disciples point of view, but it was the best possible scenario from the Father’s point of view.
The son of God was heard in prayer.
You are a child of God and heard in prayer.
When He answers our prayers in the same manner we ask Him – praise Him and rest in His grace. If He doesn’t – praise Him and rest in His grace. His answers to our prayers are what we would have asked for if we knew everything He knew. 
Ask Him for bread daily because you are dependant.
Ask Him for bread humbly because He is wise.
Ask Him for bread confidently because you are loved.
You are in very, very good hands.