Maslow and the Lord’s Prayer

by Liezl Durie

Has the world gone completely insane? This refrain plays through my mind whenever I read news headlines. Here is a man marrying a crocodile as part of some ritual; there, the world’s smallest handbag is sold for more than $60,000 (microscope included, as the handbag is invisible to the naked eye). And this is beside all the things people do to one another, the lengths they go to to get attention, the things they do to make money. What makes people act this way?

Hierarchy of human motivation

At school, we learnt about Maslow’s pyramid:

This so-called hierarchy of needs, Maslow claims, is the driving force behind human behaviour. If someone is hungry, they make/buy/steal food; if someone wants friendship, they strike up a conversation or lend a hand. In theory, it’s simple: as long as you make sure your needs are met, you will be happy and ultimately fulfil your full potential.

So, what is the problem? The problem is that no human being is always one hundred percent sure of what they’re doing, nor do they have one hundred percent control over any situation. I can love someone, but I can’t force them to love me back. I can be exhausted to the point of illness, but if my colicky baby is screaming, there can be no sleep. I can work diligently, but I can’t prevent my job from being axed when the company needs to restructure. I run around like a headless chicken in an attempt to maintain control of my life, to fulfil my needs, until I twist myself into knots and burn out.

According to the WHO’s data, approximately 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. There are more than 700,000 suicides every year, and for each successful attempt there are 20 or more unsuccessful attempts. It’s clear that we as humans are not qualified to fulfil our own needs. So, what do we do now?

The way, the truth and the life

Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 6. In this passage, he teaches the disciples to pray and gives them (and us) the Lord’s Prayer, which covers Maslow’s whole pyramid:

               Our Father in heaven,

               hallowed be your name,

               your kingdom come,

               your will be done,

               on earth as it is in heaven. —-> [self-actualisation]

               Give us today our daily bread. —-> [physiological/basic needs]

               And forgive us our debts, —-> [love/belonging]

as we also have forgiven our debtors.—> [self-esteem – forgiveness requires self-respect and dignity

               And lead us not into temptation,  

but deliver us from the evil one. —-> [safety/security]   (New International Version)

This prayer covers the whole pyramid, because God, as loving Father, takes care of the whole pyramid. In Matt. 6:32 (NLT), Jesus says: “These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.” That’s why we can hand the reins over to Him at the very start of the prayer, by saying, “Let Your will be done.” We don’t need to be in control because God is in control.

As a child of God (Rom. 8:17), I can therefore be in the world without being of the world. My behaviour is not motivated by my needs, but by the One who provides for my needs.

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