“Give us this day our daily bread…” (Matthew 6:11)
Many of God’s people have known what it is to go without. Many have known extremity. Without any doubt when bills cannot be paid with the resources on-hand tensions grow, tempers blow, and faith can take a pounding. Paul admonishes the comfort-softened westerner, “having food and clothing let us therewith be content.” We may well believe that he takes shelter for granted. Still, one wonders exactly what the Lord considers “our daily bread” and how different that might be from what we think?
At its most fundamental level “give us this day our daily bread” (or, even “our bread for the morrow”) is a plea for God to give us enough food and drink. But as God is Yahweh-Jireh (“the Lord who will provide”) we can be confident that by “bread” what is meant is “that which we need.” Luther believed, quite sensibly it seems to me, that “daily bread” comprehended not just food but also all those things which God has willed for men, women and children. Certainly, this does not extend to the luxuries of life, which in no way can be equated with necessities, nor with the main tenor of the prayer. But we may take confidence that this is the correct interpretation from Jesus’ words against undue anxiety in 6:25-34. There the Lord is referring directly to “your life.”
From this we may deduce that Jesus wants His people to pray every day for God to provide that which we need to live in this world. And this would include the particulars needed to pay the bills in the economies we live in. God is gracious and kind, and our acknowledgement of this fact should be present in our praying to Him, for otherwise it is difficult to be truly thankful.
But what does all this come to? What is this petition really about? The answer is as simple as the switch from the focus upon God’s causes and kingdom in the first three petitions, on to the creature in this petition. When we ask and keep on asking for our daily bread we are showing our daily dependence upon our good Creator. I make bold to assert that dependence is the foundation of true prayer. In point of fact, expressing our utter dependence on God is the epitome of proper creature-hood. It is us coming to ourselves; realizing who and what we are in the grand scheme of things. For what are we in this world if not utterly dependent on the Divine Benevolence? We can so easily be sideswiped by illness or tragedy or some other kind of trouble, and then our vaunted self-sufficiency comes to nothing. It is the purest sort of sanity to ask God to help through every day.