Daily Bread

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6, he taught them to pray “Give us today our daily bread.” What has interested me these last few days is that just before Jesus launches into the Lord’s Prayer, he prefaces it by saying, “When you pray, don’t keep on babbling… your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” If God knows what we need for our daily sustenance and survival, what is the point of asking Him for it, especially if we are to avoid unnecessary words? Also, just a little while later, Jesus instructs us not to worry about what we are going to eat and drink because we are precious to our Father and just as he feeds the birds of the air, so too, will He feed us.

So it got me thinking — is Jesus instructing us to pray for something other than daily food and water? Is “daily bread” a cryptic form of instructing us to pray for another type of sustenance and, if so, what are we to be praying for?

In John 4, Jesus has sent his disciples into the city to buy food. While they are gone, Jesus has a nice chat with the woman at the well and reveals to her that he is, indeed, the Messiah. Upon the disciples return, they urge Jesus to eat the food they have just brought back, but Jesus replies, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about,” John 4:32. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work,” John 4:34.

Jesus obviously needed to eat real food, but there was another type of food that sustained him – spiritual food – daily bread.

I believe that our Daily Bread is to do the good works we were created to do. Our Daily bread is to overcome the enemy, prevail in prayer and set up the Kingdom on the earth. I’ve often wondered if Jesus drew from the story of Caleb and Joshua when he taught his disciples to ask for daily bread.

To recap: Joshua, Caleb and 10 other spies are sent into the Promised Land after their Exodus from Egypt. They were to bring back a report of the land itself and also its inhabitents. Upon their return, the spies related that the Land was exceedingly good, but that it was inhabited by giants. 10 other spies urged the people to not go in, but Joshua and Caleb protested. They said, “Do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

Joshua and Caleb saw the giants as bread. Conquering them would sustain the conquest of the Promised Land and inspire the Israelites to greater glory. Sadly, the Israelites gave in to fear and spent the next 40 years wandering until every last one of them died.

I wonder if Jesus was trying to get us to pray big prayers. I wonder if he was inviting us to ask our Heavenly Father for giants to overcome. I wonder if he was hoping that we would lay hold of our identity as “more than conquerors” and seek out those things that seem so large in the eyes of men and overcome them through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The more I wonder, the more I ponder, the more certain I become – Daily Bread is the establishment of the Kingdom of God through the hands of His Saints. Daily Bread is healing the sick, raising the dead, and making demons homeless. Daily Bread is bringing people to salvation through Christ. Daily Bread feasting on the fruit of answered prayer.

This revelation has changed how I pray. I used to think that asking for daily bread was asking for the grace to scrape by. I now think that asking for Daily Bread is asking for supernatural empowering to overthrow demonic strongholds and to eat giants for breakfast.

One last thing. Jesus taught us to pray in the plural. We ask for OUR daily bread. I can’t win the Promised Land by myself – I need an army behind me. Once again, the story of the Israelites becomes pertinent.

In the course of their wandering, some of the Israelites became content with life outside the Promised Land. The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh all found life outside the Promised Land quite satisfactory and they wanted to stay outside, they didn’t want to fight. But Joshua made them. Joshua made the men fight until their brothers had inherited their portion from The Lord, only then could they all rest secure.

It isn’t enough for me to fight for and secure my own portion, I have to fight for and secure yours along with you. Until the whole people of God have stepped into their inheritence, none of us can rest. We have a responsibility to our brothers to fight for them, to see them secure in their identity and destiny. Any less than that is to work against what Jesus taught us.

I hope that this revelation sparks a fire in you. I hope that you begin to pray big prayers. I hope that you really come to understand that you are more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus who loves you. I hope that you dream big dreams and fight for the dreams of your friends. We need you.

Personal Prayer and Corporate Prayer Revisited

My last post was mostly about the need for corporate prayer and intercession, so before I circle back around to talk about personal prayer, let’s recap what we learned about intercession.

*Intercession, entychano literally means, “obtaining the promises of God,” “laying hold of the Kingdom and pulling it into our circumstances,” or “causing things to unfold in a certain way.”

*Intercession is absolutely essential to the unfolding of God’s plans and purposes. “You do not have because you do not ask,” says James. Without prayer we won’t receive many of the things God would willingly give.

*We always pray corporately, even when we pray privately. Jesus taught his disciples to pray in the plural – “Our Father… give us today our daily bread.” There is an understanding in Christian theology that I can’t be full unless you are. I can receive my inheritance unless you receive yours because part of my destiny won’t be unlocked until you succeed. Intercession is fighting for the dreams of our friends.

Personal prayer, proseuchomai, has the all encompassing definition, “to pray.” This type of personal prayer includes a wide range of heart postures including petition, thanksgiving, praise, worship, confession, intercession, lament and so on. Every type of emotion or experience can become a seed bed for prayer, as attested to in the Psalter. What is less understood is that personal prayer also encompasses a wide range of activities. You can journal, paint, soak in a bathtub or in music, stand, kneel, dance, lie prostrate, raise your hands or sit by a creek. Any type of activity can be partnered with prayer so long as prayer is your primary goal.

So that is a little bit about what prayer is, but now comes the deeper question – why? Why does God want us to pray? I’ll attempt to answer that question by telling you a story.

On the morning of June 30, 1859, Charles Blondin became the first man to ever cross Niagara Falls in a tightrope. Monsieur Blondin would go on to cross the Falls over 300 times, each time upping the ante. He was famous for crossing the Falls blindfolded, stopping to cook and eat an omelet halfway through and pushing a wheelbarrow filled with 350# of concrete safely across.

Legend says that Blondin once asked the crowd if they thought he could push a person across in the wheelbarrow. Seeing one man cheering wildly, Blondin asked the man if he would like to get in. The man declined.

I don’t know if that particular story is true, but I know this one is.

Several weeks after Blondin’s initial crossing, he showed up to cross with his manager, Harry Colcord, clinging to his back. Before they started their crossing, Blondin was overheard telling his manager, “Look up, Harry.… you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place be a part of me – mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do we will both go to our death.” The two went on to make a very successful crossing to the amazement and thrill of the 50,000 onlookers.

I love the words Blondin spoke to his manager. They are equally appropriate words for Jesus to speak to us – “Look up. You are no longer you, you are Me. Be a part of Me – mind, body and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do this by yourself. If you do, you won’t make it.”

The goal of prayer is conformity with Christ. It is to make us one in mind, body and soul. It is to help us think how he thinks, feel what he feels and act as he acts. Prayer is anything but a disembodied experience that begins and ends when we enter our prayer closet. Prayer is a continuous, ongoing experience where day by day, even hour by hour, we have an ongoing dialogue with God and are led by His Spirit.

The chief goal of prayer is to pray until God’s will becomes ours and our will becomes His.It is the only goal we need. I get uncomfortable when people offer up a dozen reasons to do something because it feels like they are trying to convince me to do something I wouldn’t want to do. All we need is one really good reason — and letting the Word come alive in our flesh in the place of prayer is the best reason of all.
The only other reason to pray worth mentioning, in my opinion, is that prayer gets us involved in eternal things. When we give ourselves to the place of prayer we become co-laborers with God, bringing about the Kingdom of God. I say this because prayer is not prayer in the biblical sense unless it is accompanied with action. We can’t pray for God to feed the hungry and not do it ourselves. We can’t pray for God to care for the orphans and not take them into our homes. We can’t ask for God to bless marriages and not give everything we have to building up our own. Unless prayer is followed up with action it is nothing more than good intentions – it is powerless and hypocritical.

Prayer is the place of transformation, of conformation. Prayer is where the power is because it is the place where we touch God’s heart and get His perspective. Prayer is where we deal with our own brokenness and sin, it is where we fight our lions and bears so that, when we are faced with Goliath’s in public, we have the power and authority to deal with them. This is why I say that prayer is the proving ground.

I once heard Bill Johnson say, “I can pray for you to do what I can do, but I can’t impart my history with God to you. You have to make that for yourself.” We all need to make history with God and that happens in the place of prayer. It won’t benefit us or the world to work miracles if we don’t have the character and integrity to stay faithful to God and in love with His Son Jesus.

We live in an age that loves individualization. We want our own personal plan for discipleship. We want Jesus to cater to our needs and make us holy without much effort or inconvenience on our part.

That just isn’t going to happen.

The method of transformation and discipleship is unchanged in 2,000 years of church history and has been making high caliber saints the entire time. The plan is to pray. Pray and read the word. Pray and fast. Pray and worship. Pray and give. Pray and serve. Pray for your enemies and everyone who hates you. Pray by yourself and pray with the community. Pray, pray, pray – pray without ceasing and devote yourself to prayer.

Only prayer will transform you. Only prayer will result in a life of communion with God. I don’t want to undermine the importance of Scripture, but many of the greatest saints of history were illiterate. They couldn’t read or study, so they prayed and the course of our world was radically adjusted because of their intercession. Of course, if you’re reading this, then you can read and you should study the Scripture dilligently, letting them form your imagination and give you language and passion for your pursuit of God. My point is simply to say that prayer, more than any other discipline, is essential to the work of sanctification.

Daniel, Peter, John, Paul, Jesus – all these men had set times for prayer. If you want to do what they did, you must do what they did. Before we can go around “doin’ the stuff” we first have to get “the stuff.” And “the stuff,” the anointing of the Holy Spirit, only comes in prayer (see Luke 3:21, Acts 2:1).

There is no single enterprise that is more important, more inspiring and more impactful than the work of biblical prayer and intercession – that is, making a petition with the full intention of being the answer to your own prayer. Did you pray for The Lord to heal Aunt Sally? Then you’d better call Aunt Sally and release healing over her. If at all possible, The Lord wants to use you to answer your prayers; prayer is a full contact sport, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

One last thought. When David wanted to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, he first tried to bring it on a cart. The cart hit a bump and Uzzah payed the price. After further investigation, David found that the Ark, the very Presence of God Himself, could only be carried on the shoulders of the priests. The take-away is this: God doesn’t anoint methods, he anoints men (and women!). No program is going to usher in the Presence of God into your congregation, only prayer. When the people of God step into the Priestly model that Jesus lays out for us in Hebrews 7:23-25 we will once again see the Presence of God being carried by the People of God. Amen, let it indeed be so!

Personal Prayer vs. Corporate Prayer

I just had a mind-blowing revelation about prayer that I wanted to share with you. I seriously think this message can change the prayer culture in our congregations if we can get ahold of this.

The greek word for personal prayer in the New Testament is proseuchomai. It means, “to pray, to wish for.”

The greek word for corporate intercession in the New Testament is entychano. It is a conjunction of en “in, or into” and tychano, which means “to take part in, to obtain or provide, to (cause to) happen in a certain way.” Corporate intercession in the New Testament has the connotation of obtaining the promises of God, manifesting the Kingdom by taking it out of the theoretical and into the tangible through unity in prayer – that is pretty exciting!

There is something about agreement and unity in prayer that God finds irrisistable. Breakthrough, answered prayer, happens more frequently when a community prays in a concentrated manner rather than with scattered individuals offering up their own private wish lists. Corporate agreement in prayer is part of the Church’s mandate to make things “on earth as they are in Heaven.” It is the Church living out its mission of ekklesia, “the ones called out by Jesus to gather in his name for the purpose of exercising his governmental powers for the well-being of the city” (Alexander Venter, “Doing Church,” p.36).

Thomas Rainer has noted that the most effective congregations in evangelism and discipleship are the congregations that have a high value for corporate prayer. He also notes that, as the value for corporate prayer and intercession decline, so does the health of the congregation.

Corporate prayer and intercession is an essential ingredient in the Christian life. Corporate prayer and intercession isn’t for the super spiritual, the super anointed, or those who have a “passion” for prayer. It is for everyone. When Luke summarized the key components of the Early Church, he described them as being “devoted to prayer.” The word “devoted” is used 10 times in the New Testament, 6 of those times it is used to describe how Christians should be in prayer. To be devoted is to be set apart. To be devoted is to be in a particular habit or pattern of prayer that frequently draws you away from regular life and into the secret place. Only you and God know if “devoted” is a word that described your prayer life, but if it doesn’t then I encourage you to make the necessary changes to come into alignment with this biblical standard.

Corporate prayer is sorely lacking in my congregation right now. It isn’t part of the DNA of my tribe and that is a major hole. I believe that sustained corporate intercession is the key to transformation. Intercession, entychano, is what is needed to obtain God’s promises, to pull the potential into the concrete, to enable us to declare “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Nothing less than anointed men and women coming together in corporate agreement with the Kingdom of God will result in changed hearts and lives. Prayer is the proving ground, the place where our hearts are overshadowed by His heart. It is the place of transformation and innovation. Prayer enables us to work more effectively because God is working with us, preparing the road ahead of us.

We don’t need more or better methods of churchmanship. We don’t need to decide if we are “missional,” “seeker sensative,” “attractional,” or “emergent.” We need to be people of prayer. We need to be people available for the Holy Ghost to use whenever and wherever He so chooses. Amen.