Jean’s Gospel:Introducing the Lord’s Prayer: Give us this day our daily bread
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
This petition reassures us that we have a Father who cares about our ordinary bodily needs. He is not a Father concerned only with our spiritual welfare, church life or extraordinary life questions; He is our every-day-of-the-week Father, who is concerned with all facets of our life, including providing us with our daily bodily needs. Jesus teaches us to ask and depend daily on our Father for our bodily needs.
“But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!” (Ps 141:8)
By using the words – “this day” – Jesus evidently composed this Prayer (certainly this petition) for daily use. Jesus understands our weaknesses. (Recall, for example, Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of red lentil soup.) It is precisely in the everyday, mundane activities of sustaining our bodily existence that we are tempted to turn to the ways of the world and our sinful nature for solutions. This petition redirects our mind to God in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:29). If we request our material needs from our Father on a daily basis, then our “eyes are toward you, O God.” (Ps 141:8)
The request for “daily bread” reminds us of God’s provision of manna for the Israelites in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. God fed them manna and quail, provided them with water and, after forty years in the wilderness, the Lord said: “Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet.” (Deut 29:5) Our Father wants us to trust in Him for our daily needs.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matt 6:31-32)
The Scriptures use the word “bread” to refer to a simple loaf, food generally, or even a whole meal. However, in this petition, Jesus may be using the word “bread” as a metonymy for the basic necessities of bodily life. Luther’s commentary captures this broader usage:
“Therefore we pray, in the first place, that he may give us our daily bread, that is, everything that is needful for the preservation of this life: food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, wife, child, good government, peace, and that he may preserve us from all manner of calamity, sickness … war, insurrection, etc.” (Martin Luther)
The reality is that if we lack, for example, health, clothing and shelter, then we will not survive long even with food. Therefore, as a pattern for prayer let us include in our meditations on this petition all the necessities for bodily life.
“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.” (Ps 104:14-15)
God created and sustains our planet, which He has blessed with fertility and abundant food. He “gives food to all flesh” (Ps 136:25). However, as Psalm 104 observes, God shares His work in the world with his creatures.
God’s Ordered Rule.
God provides for the welfare of the world through His institution of three orders: Church; home; and government.
- God entrusts His Word and the Gospel to the order of the Church, which is called to proclaim salvation in the name of Jesus Christ for all people.
- God gives the blessing of creating human life and entrusts the raising of children to the order of the home. Labor, which provides resources for the household, falls within the order of the home.
- God restrains evil through the order of government, so that our churches and homes may prosper in freedom and peace.
Through these three orders, God shares His work in the world with human beings. God is not absent or uninvolved, but His providential rule is worked through His creatures.
How does God provide us with a loaf of bread? God uses dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people working in their individual callings within the orders of home and government to provide a loaf of bread to our dinner tables. These callings include: farmers; seed and fertilizer companies; bakers; equipment manufacturers and operators; transportation workers; grocery store employees; police officers and soldiers; and homemakers (who may work in unrelated callings to earn money) to purchase the bread. God works through people, Christians and non-Christians alike, in their various callings to provide our tables with bread to eat. The numbers increase dramatically when we consider all of our material needs.
Therefore, our petition for daily bread may include any of the following prayers:
“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Ps 145:15-16) Father, we thank you for blessing us with fertile lands and seas abundant with food. Grant us wisdom for the conservation, use and distribution of these resources, which you have entrusted to our stewardship, not only for us but for all people and future generations.
“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matt 6:30) Father, strengthen our trust in you for our daily needs. Keep us from unhealthy anxiety about the future.
“You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.” (Ps 128:2) Father, grant us opportunities for education, training and employment.
“Remove far from [us] falsehood and lying; give [us] neither poverty nor riches; feed [us] with the food that is needful for [us]” (Prov 30:8). Father, “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Tim 6:8)
“The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.” (Ps 146:9) Father, bring the needs of the poor to our remembrance so that we do not neglect them.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Tim 2:1-2) Father, we pray for all those who serve in government, including elected officials, civil servants, members of the armed forces, police and other first responders: Grant them wisdom to restrain evil and defend justice and freedom in our land. Protect them even as they protect us.
In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
Next week we will continue with the fifth petition: “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
Copyright © 2016 Jean Dragon – All rights reserved.