Summary: An explanation of the Fourth Petition: "Give us today our daily bread."
Ordering at an ethnic restaurant can be a daunting experience. For one, many of those places have a menu that’s as thick as a phone book. If you diligently read through all the entree choices, it may take you longer to pick your meal than to eat it! For another, unfamiliar words like pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), lamakun (Turkish pizza), and shabu-shabu (a Japanese meat dish) make the ordering experience that much more agonizing. What if you pick something you absolutely can’t stomach? It’s best to go to such restaurants with someone who knows the food. Better yet, go to an eatery where the chef knows you. Then you can simply order whatever the chef suggests trusting that, because he knows you, he will cook up something you’ll like.
I’m talking about food this morning because we’ve come to the Fourth Petition in our sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we’re entrusting our physical needs to our loving heavenly Father who knows us well. In a way we’re saying, “I’ll have the Chef’s Special!” With the Fourth Petition we’re expressing our thankful trust that God will give us whatever we need, whenever we need it.
Let’s begin our study with a closer look at the last word of the Fourth Petition: “bread.” Bread is one of the basic foods at any meal in just about every culture. Even when we serve pasta we like to have a bit of French bread to mop up our sauce. So with the word “bread” Jesus is teaching us to ask for the basic necessities of life – not just for food but for clothing as well. But why ask for these things when Jesus himself tells us that God has already promised to give them to us (Matthew 6)? When you work long hours to put food on the table it’s easy to start thinking that you provided the bread. But you wouldn’t have been able to go to work had your heavenly Father not given you the strength and smarts for the job! And so with the Fourth Petition we’re not so much asking as we are gratefully acknowledging that God has given us what we need.
But has God really given us all that we need? You’ve been praying for a job with better pay and benefits but nothing has come along yet. You asked for a Mercedes Benz but got a Mitsubishi instead. You also asked to be spared the flu bug but it still put you flat on your back for a couple of days. Is the Fourth Petition a request that God does not intend to answer all the time? It may seem that way but remember, Jesus taught us to ask for our daily “bread” and not our daily “cake.” Nowhere has God promised to provide us with the luxuries of life, and much of what we ask for are luxuries. Instead the Apostle Paul said that if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that (1 Timothy 6). And so with the Fourth Petition we pray for God to supply our need, not our greed.
That’s a struggle for us though when we look at what God has given to others and wonder why we don’t have as much. I confess that when I pray the Fourth Petition I’m often really thinking: “Give me this day Bill Gates’ daily bread. Yeah Lord, make me rich like he is so that I can eat out every day if I wanted to, and travel to exotic locations in my own private jet.” But that isn’t what we are to pray. Instead we are to ask, “Give us this day our daily bread. Lord, give me what I need this day. I trust you know what that is better than I do.”