Summary: God will give us our daily bread without our prayers, but we pray in this petition that we will receive these gifts from God with thanksgiving.
Matthew 6: 9-15, 25-34 “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”
We often talk about the red-letter questions that we are going to ask God when we see God face to face. Most of us have quite an extensive list, and I must confess that I have my own list. Having grown up with an aquarium, I have always wondered if fish sweat. Because of my rather twisted theological mind, I have always wondered if Adam and Eve had navels. A more serious question that I have, along with many other people, is why does God allow the wicked to prosper. Another more troubling question is why does God, who is a loving God, allow poverty, hunger and suffering to exist in the world.
The petition, or section, of the Lord’s Prayer that we are examining today, “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread,” addresses these last two questions. Reflecting on this petition helps us understand how God moves in our world today, and what God calls us to as People of God and disciples of Jesus Christ.
Martin Luther asked the same questions that we find ourselves asking. When Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer and ask for their daily bread, they do so knowing that a multitude of people don’t pray at all and still receive their daily needs—they may even prosper more than the Christians who do pray. Christians also pray this prayer knowing that there are millions around the world who do not have the daily bread that they need for health. After reflecting on these facts, Martin Luther writes in his Small Catechism, “God gives daily bread indeed without our prayer, also to all the wicked; but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”
God loves us. God loves all people. There is so much of God’s love that it freely flows into the lives of the people who acknowledge God as the Lord of their lives, and then overflows to all of the other people of the world. God’s love is not dependent on our prayers (Praise the Lord!). We are going to receive our daily bread whether we pray for it or not, because God is love. Prayer does not increase our daily bread, nor does lack of prayer decrease it.
The purpose of this petition, “Give us this day our daily bread,” is not to conjure up more of anything. This petition reminds us to give thanks.
Image yourself in that increasingly rare event called a family meal. You have been designated “cook” for the meal—irrespective of your position in the family. You have decided, for some unknown reason, to go all out and prepare a great feast, using all of your talents as a culinary artist. When the meal is ready, the entire family gathers at the table to eat. At the table, one of three responses will take place, which I think reflect the way we receive all that we need fro daily life (our daily bread) from God.
¨ A member of the family may look at the elegant meal placed before them and say, “Yuk! I don’t like this stuff. Why are you always serving us this junk? My friends have it so much better than I do. Their parents let them eat cookies and ice cream for their meals.
¨ Another scenario is total silence; no one says a word about the food, nor do they communicate with each other. You, the chef, do not know if the food was liked or disliked. In fact, the rest of the family simply consumed the food and were sure whether or not they liked it either.
¨ The third response has you sitting down at the table after you have served all of the members of your family. After you have seated yourself, you hear your family talk to you. One person says, “Thanks so much for going to all the trouble of preparing this fantastic meal for us.” Another says, “You’re a great cook, and I always love the great meals that you cook for us.” A third family members gushes, “You love us so much. It is evident by the way to cook for us. Thanks for your love and for all that you do.”
Some of us may have heard the third scenario and thought to ourselves, “If that ever happened in my house, I would think that I had died and gone to heaven.” Ah, that’s the point. We want to experience as much of heaven on earth as we can. One way to do this is to cultivate an “Attitude of Gratitude” in our relationship with God—and with others.
Someone may decide that if they are going to receive their daily bread without prayer, then they might as well not pray. The Lord’s Prayer encourages prayer and it does not discourage it. Think how satisfying it is to the Master Chef to be interrupted, while he is preparing a great banquet, by the words, “Oh, am I ever hungry!” I’m sure that the chef’s response would be something like, “Great! Grab a seat, and I give this great meal to you, in just a minute.”