My Abundance of Stress, My Lack of Control, & the Old Man Who Prayed

Growing up I remember this picture of an old man praying over a loaf of bread* hanging on our wall. Maybe you’ve seen it, or maybe you have one too. A lot of people had this picture in their house, but I just remember it sitting there on the wall telling me that food (and prayer) was more important than I might think. I wasn’t a Christian, we didn’t attend church, or talk about Jesus, but that old man helped me realize that Somebody was listening…even if I didn’t know who it was at the time.

In Matthew 6 Jesus’ disciples say to Him, “Hey Jesus, teach us how to pray” and Jesus says, “Ok, talk to God as your Father, ask for Him to make Himself really big in and around your life. Ask for His will to be done in your neighborhoods and schools and home.” Then Jesus went super practical…”Ask your Father to give you enough bread for today.” (Matthew 6:11)

If you’re like me, sometimes I have so many stresses on my plate that I’m not thinking about today’s bread, I’m thinking about every single thing going on in my life over the next week, month, or even year. Sometimes I come before God and think, “Where do I even begin?” If I was to actually stop and pray about everything I think I need I would be locked in my room for the next week. Sometimes the thought of that even makes me not pray. Sounds crazy right…but sometimes I’m so overwhelmed with not knowing where to start I don’t ask God about any of it. I think this is because down deep I just can’t handle not being in control of everything in my little world, so the million things on my mind remind me of how out of control I really am and I shut down.

But Jesus is the sovereign Lord of all…”in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Just a few verses after He tells us to ask for bread He reminds us that our heavenly Father is the one who is really in control (Matthew 6:25-34). He is in control of your food and your drink, but not just your food, He’s in control of everything. He’s in control of your parents, your friends, your siblings, your teachers and bosses and coaches. He’s in control of your present and your future and every perceived stress on your plate. He is in complete control of “our” little worlds, because our little worlds are not ours at all…”the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1) So when Jesus says, “Hey ask for today’s bread” it’s because He knows who is in control, so He centers us on this fact: all we need to focus on is what we need today. As J.I. Packer reminds us, “bread…stands here for all of life’s necessities”** so Jesus is not just talking about bread, He’s talking about everything you need to keep you going, to sustain you…today.

So why should that comfort us? Why is the fact that God is in complete control good news?

Because the one true God, who created all things and controls all things…loves you. When Jesus tells His disciples not to worry He says that it’s because they are valuable to their God (Matthew 6:26). He says that if God feeds the birds that He simply spoke into existence, how much more will He feed those who He “knit together” (Psalm 139:13) with great care and love? How much more will He feed and care for you, whom He sent His own Son to die for? (Romans 8:32)

If God were a tyrant king waiting to strike us down at the first sign of distrust or lack of faith we would need to worry, but He’s not. God is a loving Father who “knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). So pray often, pray boldly, pray fearlessly; your Father will give you bread…and every other need for the day.

Then we can all join that old man in the picture and give Him thanks.

May we trust in the sovereign God who is in control of all things.
May we come to the Lord as a child to a loving Father.
May we learn to follow.

*The picture was Grace by Eric Enstrom
**Praying the Lord’s Prayer by J.I. Packer, pg 73-74