For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Captive Thoughts” is dedicated to bringing every thought captive to Christ through the study of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with primary focus on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This effort is a compilation of several years of catechetical study conducted at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster, California, by its Christian Education Committee and the author of this site.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q104

We come to the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, where we are instructed to seek our daily needs in this simple request: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Do you remember the “worry passage” at the end of Matt. 6, where Christ speaks of the Father’s care of the lilies of the field and birds of the air? We sometimes read that passage with sort of a “think happy thoughts” or Hallmark card mentality. We quickly agree that “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” But the command to “take therefore no thought for the morrow…”—well, let’s face it, that’s not so easy. In many ways the fourth petition is a rubber-meets-the-road statement where we often lose traction in our faith. We are tempted to mouth these words like some sort of religious chant (which our Lord very much warns against), or breathe them with a degree of doubt.
Yet Christ’s teaching on worry follows in the immediate context of the Lord’s Prayer. In that same chapter, he tells us to make our heavenly calling, the Kingdom, our first priority. Our “heavenly Father knows that [we] have need of” earthly things, too, and we are to come “boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need”—even as we need daily bread. We are prone to wander in unbelief, and we need to be reminded each day that “the fowls of the air…sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
This fourth petition is as significant as all the others, to be learned and performed in faith to the honor of our Lord. Let’s us not pass over it lightly, but rather consider it right well and prayerfully ask for its true meaning to be impressed upon our thinking and daily doing.
WSC   Q104. What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
A.   In the fourth petition, which is, Give us this day our daily bread, we pray that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them[a].
[a] Prov. 30:8-9; Matt. 6:31-34; Phil. 4:11, 19; I Tim. 6:6-8
Question 104 asks what we pray for in the fourth request, and answers that in the fourth request (Give us today our daily bread) we pray that we may receive an adequate amount of the good things in this life as a free gift of God and that with them we may enjoy his blessing.
Each time I come to one of these catechism lessons, I’m struck by the fact that there are many possible approaches. Volumes have been written on each of these gems of truth, tempting me to make reference to authors better suited to the task. Be that as it may, it is prudent for each of us to consider what more can be gleaned from the infinite field of God’s wisdom.
The first thing we might observe this time is the positioning of this petition in the Lord’s Prayer. The first three petitions deal with hallowing God’s name and the promotion of his kingdom and will. The last two petitions and conclusion speak to the issue of sin and forgiveness, sin and sanctification, and God’s glory and rule in all things. Wedged in the middle is the fourth petition, concerned with our material needs.
One might reason that our material needs would fall further down the list. Philosophers like the ancient Greeks really struggled to reconcile the importance of material versus spiritual needs. Such thinking has had its effect on the church as well. But the fact is, as demonstrated here in the positioning of this petition, that God sees the whole man—who we are and our particular needs. Even as our Lord says, “Take no thoughtfor your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on” (Matt 6:25, KJV), he acknowledges that we do have needs. After setting the right priority concerning the kingdom, he promises, “All these [earthly] things shall be added unto you” (6:33b). No, the issue is having the right priorities; we may even say it is a matter of balance, with kingdom priorities always rightly in view. It is not either/or, but both/and; God cares for both our spiritual and our material needs.
The petition is for a competent portion of our daily bread, representing our daily physical needs. Our supermarket and ATM mentality make it difficult for us to understand the importance this phrase. Christ’s disciples would not always have known where the next meal would come from, and the making and preserving of fresh bread was no simple task. This was a serious prayer request.
It is said that an army travels on its stomach; it is unfit for battle if it is preoccupied about its next meal, or in want of necessary food—or if it is undisciplined with the dainties of this earth. See here the jewel of wisdom from Solomon in Prov. 30:8-9—“Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches—Feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.” Thus, we pray that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life.
G.I. Williamson, in his Shorter Catechism Study, Vol. 2 (which I highly recommend), says there are three things we can learn from the mention of God’s free gift: 1) we deserve nothing from God, 2) we are utterly dependent upon the Lord, and 3) we ought to be thankful and content in all that we receive. Not only do we pray for our daily bread (material needs), but for the strength, skill, talent, will, and wisdom to get for both ourselves and others the good things of this life. God has made us material beings; and, as seen in the physical resurrection of Christ, in the new creation, we will remain so. Thus for our material wellbeing, we must possess a competent portion, enabling us to glorify him in all that we do (I Cor. 10:31).
Now we should turn to the Scripture passages our fathers referenced on this point. Let us return to Matt. 6:31-34.  It is interesting that our fathers would pick this passage to instruct us to pray for our material needs, as it seems to say just the opposite—that our heavenly Father is supplying regardless. But again, a text must be taken in context to avoid being a pretext; our Lord was dealing with worry as He heard the conversations, watched the body language, and knew the hearts of his disciples. As he equipped them for what was to come, he added emphatically, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matt. 7:7ff)  In Matt. 6, he does not say NOT to seek their material needs, but rather to get their priorities straight.
Along those lines, Paul writes, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11); and also, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). Earlier in that chapter, he writes, “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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” It is this anxiety for the things of this world (Matt. 6: 27ff) that causes us to loose the peace of God, that quiet confidence and joy that is to be our strength (Is. 30:15, cf. Neh. 8:10). This joy eludes so many who never learn contentment with God’s answer to the fourth petition: a competent portion of the good things of this life, and his blessing with them. As Paul writes to Timothy, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (I Tim. 6:6-8).
Contentment is rooted in the noun content, meaning “that which is inside of something.” Contentment is “being satisfied with one’s present circumstances.” The English word comes from a Latin verb meaning “to hold together, bind; limit; enclose.” So, in teaching this Christian character trait at school, I brought a box as a visual aid for the lesson. When we think of contentment, we sometimes think of it in negative terms—as a lack of something. Buttrue contentmenthas to do with what we already possess; it is appreciation for what we already have rather than the anxious pursuit of what we do not have. Thus the definition for contentment is “the state, quality, or fact of being satisfied; being comforted; not craving something more or different.” As I challenged the children at school to think about it, if we were to open the “box of your desires, what contents would we find in the container?” Peace or anxiety? For all too many, praying for our “daily bread” is not enough, though it should be. James 4:16 comes to mind here.
To God alone be the glory!
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.       Read Ps. 145:15-16. When we pray for our daily bread, we are not asking for bread only. “Our daily bread” means any of the things that we need to live. It includes all our food, our water, our clothing, and our shelter. This is the only one of all the requests in the Lord’s Prayer that asks for things for our bodies. According to Psa. 145:15-16, how are we to look to the Lord for our daily needs?
2.       When we pray for our physical needs, we acknowledge our dependence upon God for all that there is. What attitude should this foster within us? See Psa. 65:9-13
3.       When it comes to physical needs, there are problems both when we do not have enough and when we have too much. How does Prov. 30:7-9 speak to this?
4.       When we acknowledge where all that we ask for and have comes from, what else are we seeking from our Lord according to Deut. 28:1-8? (1)
5.       Again, when we acknowledge where all that we ask for and have comes from, what must be our heart attitude, and how should it be expressed according to Matt. 15: 35-37? (2)
(1)  God’s blessing
(2)  Thanksgiving
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q104, WLC Q193
Q.  104. What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
A.  In the fourth petition, which is, Give us this day our daily bread,we pray that of God's free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them[a].
[a]  Prov. 30:8-9; Matt. 6:31-34; Phil. 4:11, 19; ITim. 6:6-8
WLC Q193. What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
A.  In the fourth petition, (which is, Give us this day our daily bread[a],) acknowledging, that in Adam, and by our own sin, we have forfeited our right to all the outward blessings of this life, and deserve to be wholly deprived of them by God, and to have them cursed to us in the use of them[b]; and that neither they of themselves are able to sustain us[c], nor we to merit[d], or by our own industry to procure them[e]; but prone to desire[f], get[g], and use them unlawfully[h]: we pray for ourselves and others, that both they and we, waiting upon the providence of God from day to day in the use of lawful means, may, of his free gift, and as to his fatherly wisdom shall seem best, enjoy a competent portion of them[i]; and have the same continued and blessed unto us in our holy and comfortable use of them[j], and contentment in them[k]; and be kept from all things that are contrary to our temporal support and comfort[l].
[a]   Mat.6:11
[b]   Gen. 2:17; 3:17; Rom. 8:20-22; Jer. 5:25; Deut. 28:15 to the end
[c]   Deut. 8:3
[d]   Gen. 32:10
[e]   Deut. 8:17-18
[f]   Jer. 6:13; Mark 7:21-22
[g]   Hos. 12:7
[h]  Jam. 4:3
[i]    Gen. 43:12-14; 28:20; Eph. 4:28; 2Thes. 3:11-12; Phil. 4:6
[j]    1Tim. 4:3-5
[k]  1Tim. 6:6-8
[l]    Prov. 30:8-9
Question(s) for further study:

Once again we see how the Larger Catechism expands on the answer to the Shorter by listing how many scriptural proofs compared to one set in the Shorter?  What significant and basic assumption does the Larger Catechism go at length to make before affirming that we ought to pray for the good things of this life?  Besides material blessings, what else are we to seek, and how else are we to pray?

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