Summary: When we pray for our daily bread, we TRUST God to provide, we live day for TODAY, not borrowing anxiety from tomorrow, and we pray in a SOLIDARITY with others (OUR daily bread).
Read Matthew 6:5-13.
The Lord’s Prayer has a deeply spiritual focus. Our spirits soar as we pray to our Father in heaven, asking for his kingdom to come and his will to be done. We meet God in the depths of our spiritual journey, as we pray for forgiveness and deliverance from evil. In the middle of all that, Jesus tells his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” That doesn’t sound quite so spiritual!
Some interpreters have tried to spiritualize the bread, speculating that Jesus was referring to the bread of communion, or the bread of the word of God. (The most popular devotional guide in the United States is “Our Daily Bread,” and the word of God does feed us spiritually.) Yet when I read the Lord’s Prayer, I think that when Jesus told his disciples to pray for bread, be meant the kind of bread they could eat.
Of course, for people who don’t have enough to eat, praying for bread IS very spiritual. They are depending daily on God to meet their most basic needs. They are crying out in desperation to their Father, asking for his will to be done, by giving them something to eat.
I am not one of those people! Our pantry is full, and so is our freezer. Yet Jesus tells people like me to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
What is he telling us about prayer?
WHEN WE PRAY, WE SHOULD HUMBLY DEPEND UPON GOD TO MEET OUR NEEDS.
When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, they lived in the wilderness of Sinai for 40 years. What would they eat? (Preacher: projecting a picture or two will make the problem obvious.) God provided for them, by giving them manna to eat. (“Manna” is literally, “What is it?” It was white like coriander seed, and they picked it up from the ground every morning.) It was their “daily bread.”
Manna was not only about survival; it was about God’s provision for their needs. In Deuteronomy 8, as the wilderness wandering is coming to an end, Moses speaks to the Israelites, saying (Deuteronomy 8:2-3), “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to HUMBLE and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. God HUMBLED you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to TEACH YOU that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” In the wilderness, the people learned to depend on God for their basic needs.
Now, the 40 years in the wilderness are ending, and God’s people are finally ready to enter the Promised Land. Moses continues to speak, warning about the dangers of pride and forgetting God. Read Deuteronomy 8:6-14.
In our culture, where most people lack nothing of the necessities of life, it is easy to become proud, and to think that we don’t really need God to provide for our needs. In fact, we might begin to take credit for our wealth and success, and even our good health and stable family life. We would not say it aloud, but we start to think, “I got this. I got where I am by being wise and responsible, and I have built up enough of a reserve to take care of myself and my family.”
But can we really take credit for our success and security?
Sure, you are smart—but did you choose your parents? You could have been born with a dependence on drugs, with effects lasting a lifetime. You could have been malnourished, or never had an opportunity for even the most basic education.
Sure, you made good choices—but how did you learn to do that? You could have been neglected by your parents, or spoiled rotten and never disciplined. You could have had your spirit broken by abuse or criticism.
You work hard, yes—but does that guarantee opportunity and success? Did you arrange to be born in a land of opportunity? You could have been born as a woman in rural Afghanistan, a lower caste peasant in India, or a child in Central Africa whose parents were killed to force you into child warfare. Your community might have been overrun with gang violence, your school not meeting minimum standards, and expectations so low that your potential was squashed.
Moses has some humbling words for us: Read Deuteronomy 8:17-18.
You didn’t get where you are without God. So be thankful for what God has given you, as you humbly pray every day, “Give us this day our daily bread.”