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.”
If, in order to be a faithful pastor, God thinks it’s necessary for me to have a good computer and a nice study, he will provide those things. If he wants you to be a good electrician or mechanic, he’ll give you the brains and the brawn you’ll need for the job. If he wants you to be a successful musician, he’ll bless your hours of practice and open the doors into the industry. On the other hand if he sees that what we need is to bear the cross for a while so that pride or self-sufficiency is quashed, he will give us a crisis to send us scurrying back to him and his Word.
The bottom line, Friends, is that God will take care of you whether or not there is bread around. Didn’t he demonstrate that in the life of Jesus? When Jesus went without food for 40 days in the wilderness shortly after his baptism, Satan came to him and suggested that he turn stone into bread to feed himself. Jesus refused however, not because the suggestion had come from Satan, but because Satan was trying to get Jesus to start relying on himself instead of his heavenly Father. But for 40 days his heavenly Father had successfully sustained Jesus without bread, why would he stop now? That’s why Jesus replied: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). When a friend invites you over for dinner do you pack a few sandwiches in case your host fails to feed you adequately? Of course not! You know that your friend will feed you something good and that there will be plenty of it! If we can entrust ourselves to our friends who are weak and frail human beings, we certainly can trust that our heavenly Father will give us what we need since he has promised to do so.