Eighth in The Lord's Prayer Series, "The best prayer to pray in times of stress"
Let's envision a scenario where we may need food and have none. It will be a comfort then to recall the Lord's encouragement to pray for daily bread. Yes "…it is permissible and lawful to supplicate God for temporal mercies." (-A. W. Pink).
In this request we will remember the widow of Zarephath to whom the prophet Elijah was sent during a famine to seal his survival with hers. We will look at this story for a few insights in addition to the Lord’s Prayer petition that we are studying in this post. Man does not live by bread alone…!
Israel was in a drought. The Lord had commanded Elijah, to proclaim: As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word. (1Ki 17:1) Then he removed himself to an area with a brook and was fed by ravens, but the brook dried up. This part of Scripture has comforted me over the years. Yes, God does provide brooks in our lives, and yes, at times they dry up and we must move on.
Then, God told him: Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you. (1Ki 17:9)
The widow lived in Phoenicia, an area just north of Israel also affected by the drought. When Elijah arrived, he asked her for water. She went to get it.
When Elijah asked her for bread, her reply was: "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die." (1Ki 17:12)
This woman who was outside the nation which God had elected to enlighten the world, had been enlightened by Israel despite their current plight. She understood that their omniscient God knew she had only a handful of meal and a little oil. Understanding that God knows us personally is the wonderful underpinning of a simple faith, even when we feel very discouraged.
Elijah then said to her, "Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’" (1Ki 17:13-14)
The LORD watches over widows and has pity on fatherless children. (Jer 49:11)
She did what he asked her to do. We must hear and do. If you only hear God's word and do not put it into practice, you are deceived. (James 1:22-24)
They had bread for many days, but a different challenge came: ...the son of the woman… became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. (1Ki 17:17)
This is a reminder that our daily bread is not more precious than the people we love, but the event occurred to introduce the widow to the God of Israel.
When her son died she cried, "What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!" (1Ki 17:18) Her tiny faith collapsed.
Then Elijah revived the boy and she said, "Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth." (1Ki 17:24)
This story provides an Old Testament glimpse into God’s power to resurrect the dead, along with the verity that He is able to provide our daily bread. As we share our daily bread with others, God is at work to save the lost and strengthen the fainthearted.