Bread for Today

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Exodus 16:4-8
Deuteronomy 8:1-3

After the soaring concerns for God’s name, kingdom, and will, Jesus calls us next to ask for daily bread for ourselves and for others.

Welcome to this fifth in our series on the Lord’s Prayer! Let me review a bit where we’ve been. The Lord’s Prayer, this brief prayer that we all know by heart, but the depths of which none of us have really plumbed, is the only prayer Jesus taught his disciples. When they asked him to teach them to pray, he began by telling them how to address God. “Whenever you pray, say ‘Father.'” We saw how in the first three petitions we put God first, and in that we recognize that “as we pray, so we live.”

Everyone has a “life-prayer,” something they want more than anything else in the world, and most of those that we cherish center around ourselves. When we become believers in Christ, we begin to have a new life-prayer. It’s not our name, our kingdom, our will anymore, but God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. And as we pray for these things, our lives are more and more drawn in that direction. We become people who want and labor for the glory of God, the coming of his kingdom, and the doing of his will.

Now today, we look at this next petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” That is quite a transition here from concerns for God to a concern for our human needs. This prayer, coming at this point, takes us by surprise. We’ve been praying for the grandest, most significant things that can ever happen??”that God would be glorified, that he would take his power and reign, that his will would be done on the earth. Now we go from that to the most common, mundane thing imaginable??”bread.

What’s more, the two requests that follow this one are seemingly for more profound human needs: “Forgive us as we forgive”??”asking for gifts that bring us into right relationship with God and with other people??”and “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”??”praying about the future, that we will be kept from sin and delivered from every evil and the Evil One. Yet before these crucial, tremendous concerns is this prayer for daily bread. That’s a shocker. What did Jesus have in mind when he wanted us to pray like this?

What Does it Teach Us About God?

I love what this teaches us about God. He’s the exalted Lord of everything, but he cares about simple, elemental human needs. I marvel at those words in Psalm 113 about how God is so majestic that he looks far down upon the heavens and the earth, yet has a tender concern for the poor and needy, the barren and the heart-broken. That’s what Jesus taught, wasn’t it? God cares??”imagine it! He has a tender concern for the least and lowest. We know much more about that from the ministry of Jesus??”his care for the poor, the lepers, the afflicted, and the outcasts.

I think of one touching little moment when Jesus had brought Jairus’s daughter back to life. Right then, he said to her parents, “Give her something to eat” (Mark 5:43). Imagine it??”from the mighty miracle to a bit of food.

That’s why this petition stands here, even before the weighty ones about forgiveness and deliverance. These are tremendous needs but we can never begin to experience their fulfillment unless our lives are preserved and sustained. God wants us to survive, to live, and then to experience his mercies. We’re never to overlook or minimize peoples’ need for food. It’s a huge priority with God that people should be fed.

We also learn here of God’s desire that we bring our common, everyday needs to him. He knows our needs far better than we do and he prizes our asking. He wants us to pour out our hearts, to come freely and confidently to him for help.

Now since God knows our every need, loves us and delights to give, why does he want us to keep on asking for something as simple and regular as food? For one thing he wants us to recognize and express our total dependence on him for every crust of bread. The fertile soil, the sunlight, the vital rains, are all from him. Everything nutritious that grows on the earth, is his provision. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are saying that we need his gifts each day, even when the harvest is plentiful and when the pantries and freezers are full.

And then there’s the matter of gratitude. Some say that we shouldn’t ask God about little things, ordinary needs. I think that’s dead wrong. Life is made up of little things. And when we ask and receive we’re more likely to offer thanks for the gift. We have so many more occasions to give praise to God.

But there’s much more in God’s desire. I like this quote from C.S. Lewis’s mentor George MacDonald, “To bring his child to his knee, God withholds that we may ask.” God is seeking more than our sense of dependence and even our gratitude. He seeks fellowship with us. Wonder of wonders, he desires relationship with us. I savor that line from a hymn, “You have stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart.” He prizes our seeking him, talking to him, pouring out our hearts before him. He wants us to listen to him, to his promises, and then respond, pleading those very pledges.

You who are fathers and mothers, are your hearts satisfied if your children never come to you? Never talk to you? Never ask of you? How much more is that true of God? He wants you to draw near. In giving you his gifts, he wants above to give himself to you, his own life.

What Does He Teach Us to Request?

What does he teach us here to request? Bread, yes, but more than that. It’s comprehensive??”all our bodily needs. Not only bread, but every kind of food, not only food; but everything else we need to survive and thrive. We are asking for air fit to breathe, for drinkable water, for shelter and protection. We ask for healing from our ills. We ask for the love and hope we need to live fully.

Yet in this simple prayer we are asking not for luxuries, but for necessities, for what we require, as we say, “to keep body and soul together.” This is a matter of needs and not impulsive wants.

Further, it’s for today??”this day, our daily bread, not necessarily an abundant store for future years. Our friends in Uganda have talked to us about this. I asked them, “How many meals do you usually eat in Uganda?” “Maybe one a day.” “And how many items are on the menu?” “Usually, it’s just one. Or perhaps two.” And so when they pray for daily bread, they aren’t certain always that there will be enough for that day or for tomorrow. When we pray it, it’s often with a supply of food on hand for some time. It’s a different perspective.

It’s so easy for us to forget our dependence, to trust in lands, bank accounts, and investments. It’s so easy to stop being grateful, stop coming to God at all, living as if we didn’t need him, as though our future security were in our own hands. We’ve forgotten what God said to the man with the plan to build bigger barns, “You fool!” (Luke 12:20).

For Whom Are We to Pray This?

For whom are we praying when we ask, “Give us our daily bread”? Obviously not for ourselves alone: “Give us“: Just as the next requests are also for us: Lead us not, forgive us, deliver us. We’re always to pray this as members of a community, never as a solo bid for our private interests. In a real sense we pray for this as family units who come to the same table. It’s our shared need. But even this can become narrow and introverted: “Bless me, my wife, my two kids, we four, no more.” And where it isn’t that crass, it can still be nearsighted.

We always pray as members of a larger community, the community of God’s people for whom we have a special concern, and the wider community of the whole world, because every person in this world needs bread. And just as Jesus’ compassion was wide enough to feed the multitudes and just as he wanted everyone on earth to hear his good news, so our prayer for bread is as expansive as the worldwide human family.

As we saw last time, this kind of prayer involves a risk and even a danger. We who have bread enough to spare are asking that all the world’s peoples may have food to eat. Remember how Jesus sometimes would say to his disciples, “You give them something to eat.” He sometimes wants to use our generosity as a means of answering our prayers.

And can we really pray this prayer for daily bread for ourselves and others if we are not willing to share what we have? That may not always be an easy thing to arrange, but there are surely ways to move in that direction. World hunger is not simply the problem of government agencies and charitable organizations. It’s our problem, and we who have more than enough are surely part of God’s intended solution.

It’s sobering to read the account in Luke 16 of the rich man who feasted sumptuously every day and the poor, hungry Lazarus who wasn’t even given the scraps from that feasting. What a radically different future unfolded for those two! So, if we have more than we need, it’s a risk to pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” But it’s also a beautiful opportunity to help and to show the Savior’s love.

What Does “Bread” Point Us Toward?

When Jesus spoke of bread, as he did here, what was in his mind? Was it only edible food? No, he apparently thought of much more. Listen to these words of Jesus when he was asked about the manna in the wilderness (John 6:30-32). He called it “bread,” and then he quoted and alluded to the fact that we don’t live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. And for Jesus, that was the bread that we need even most deeply.

But Jesus also taught us here of more than the manna, more even than the Scriptures. Jesus himself is “the living bread who has come down from heaven.” Remember these words from John 6:35: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

He thought also of bread as his body broken (Luke 22:19) and his flesh given up to death (John 6:49-51). Yes, his life, his body, his flesh given over, that we then may partake of him and find eternal life.

Was all of this in Jesus’ mind when he gave this prayer? We can’t know for sure. But the final fulfillment of our hunger for life is found in him alone, crucified and risen for us. So our deeper prayer, as we pray for daily bread for all, is captured in these words from John 6:34: “Lord, evermore give us this bread!”??”your own risen presence??”all the days! Amen.