Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

011_003.TIFSometimes prayer becomes a laundry list.  “God, please help me get this job.  Please heal John’s gout.  Please help Marie with her sciatic pain.  I’d love to have good weather for Sunday’s picnic.  Also…peace on the earth.”  And so on.

We all have stuff we’d like to have from God.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  Jesus teaches us to ask God for things.  It is fascinating, though, to see the kinds of things Jesus teaches us to ask for, and the kinds of things he doesn’t mention.  There are seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer.  We’ve already examined the first three.  The fourth petition, “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread” is the subject for today.

This fourth petition differs from the first three in a couple of interesting ways.  The first thing that is different is that the first three petitions focused on God’s name, his kingdom, and his will.   They are concerned with God, not with us and our needs.  Obviously, Jesus wants us to learn something from this.  Don’t focus first on yourself, but upon the Lord and his purposes.

The fourth petition and those that follow also shift from third person passive petitions “Let your…” to second person active petitions.  The first three petitions really focus on an attitude that seeks first God’s purposes, the last four petitions really zero in directly on making requests on behalf of the petitioner.

The subject of this fourth request: daily bread.  Actually, in Greek, the petition is somewhat repetitive: “Give us today our daily bread.”  Translations don’t translate it this way, probably because it is awkward and redundant.  But that’s what Jesus says.

It is impossible to consider this petition without having in view the Old Testament context of the manna miracle.  When the Israelites were delivered from captivity in Egypt, they grumbled against Moses.  What were they to eat in the wilderness?  The answer was manna – God brought daily bread from heaven for the next forty years of wilderness wandering.

Every morning the Israelites would gather their bread for the day.  They were strictly forbidden, however, from storing any up.  They could only gather the manna for one day’s use.  Any more would spoil and get maggoty.  On the day before the Sabbath they gathered double so they wouldn’t need to violate the command for rest.  On this day alone the stored manna didn’t spoil.

What was the purpose of this daily manna miracle?  It forced Israel to learn to depend upon God every day for their very survival.  It made explicit what is always true everywhere for all people.  Everything we need (air, food, water, shelter) comes from the gracious hand of God.  We are absolutely dependent upon him to provide what we need.

Jesus reminds us of that absolute dependence.  When you pray, ask God to give you your daily bread.

Practical applications:

  • Don’t worry about the future; Trust God.

It is human nature to seek long-term solutions.  To plan.  There is nothing inherently wrong or sinful about this.  In fact, the wise man (scripture teaches) will do these things.  But this wise tendency is easily overcome by subtle sinful twists.  Particularly worry about the future.  The fourth petition teaches us not to worry about the future.  Just focus on the needs of today.  You don’t have to spend your life fretting over possible future calamities.  You need to trust your heavenly Father, and simply ask him to provide what’s necessary for you today.  This is what Jesus is also teaching in his famous don’t worry teaching:

Matthew 6:31-34   31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

  • Don’t ask God for what you want; Ask him for what you need.

Jesus doesn’t teach us to pray for what we want.  He teaches us to pray for what we need.  Anyone with children knows their tendency to amplify their wants into perceived needs.  “Mom, I have to have some lunch, I’m starving!”  Not actually.  We’re often like this spiritually.  We need to keep in perspective what we actually need, trust in God to provide this, and let go of some (most?) of our wants.  This leads to simpler living, greater contentedness, and deeper faith.