Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Tonight, we’re exactly halfway through the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve covered the introduction and first three petitions. This fourth petition serves as the pivot for the prayer. And the rest of this Lenten season, we’ll finish out with petitions five, six, and seven as well as the conclusion. This center petition is interesting in a number of different ways.
First, it marks a shift from petitions about God to petitions about us. “Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” All about God. But here things shift. “Give us… Forgive us… Lead us… Deliver us.” All about us. Second, this petition is the only request in this prayer about our physical well-being. Six out of seven directly apply to the spiritual realm. This is the only one to deal directly with the physical realm. And third, there’s a lot of confusion about this petition. Before every one of these sermons on the Lord’s Prayer, I’ve been reading through a stack of books about a foot high to make sure I know what I’m talking about. Of the authors I read, they’ve had more to say about this petition than any of the rest. Why? Because of all the words in the Bible, scholars struggle with the word translated “daily.” Long story short, this prayer is the only place in the entire ancient world that we know of to use this exact word. That leads to a lot of speculation as to what it means and a lot of fodder for theologians to play with. Does it mean bread for today? Bread for tomorrow? Bread that you need? Bread to survive? Bread that is coming? Bread that will last forever? Long story short, no one really knows for sure, and it’s best to just leave it as “daily” bread until we know any better.
But that still leaves us with a lot to deal with apart from the word “daily.” So tonight, we’re going to briefly reflect on four aspects of this prayer that’ll be helpful in our understanding and our praying.
First, when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” notice what we’re asking for. We’re asking for bread, not cake. We live in a world where entire industries are built around getting us to buy what we don’t need. We’re told that “enough” doesn’t exist—you always need more. More money to buy more stuff. A bigger house to put all that extra stuff in and a pole barn when your house gets full. Never be content. Always strive for more.
But in this prayer, Jesus reminds us that we ask for what we need. Not overflowing in excess, not the most extravagant there is, but enough to keep going. To be sure, He can and often does provide an overabundance, but it’s not guaranteed and it’s not the goal. When we have more than we need, it’s very easy to get comfortable with excess and forget God, or blame Him when that excess goes away.
Next, when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we’re asking for our bread, not my bread. This is a communal prayer. Just as we pray to our Father, we pray for our bread. You and I are not alone in our needs. As Christians, we should care for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Especially when these siblings in Christ live not halfway around the world, but in our very communities and neighborhoods, we pray that God would give us all what we need.
While prayers on their own are good and right, this prayer should never be alone. We shouldn’t pray for our daily bread and let our neighbors starve while we throw food away because we didn’t eat it fast enough. This prayer should be coupled with action, with an intentional effort to care for the poor, feed the hungry, and quench the thirsty.
All this becomes clear when we recognize that our daily bread is a gift from God. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we’re recognizing that everything we have is from God. In many ways, this prayer is unnecessary. Quite often, God gives us what we need even when we don’t ask for it. In fact, look at the Muslims and Atheists and general non-believers all over the world who routinely receive what they need and more each and every day. They’re not praying that God would give them their daily bread, but they receive it nonetheless.
But we pray this petition not to push the right buttons and get something out of God, but to recognize that we are completely and totally dependent on God. Everything that we have comes from Him. When we pray this petition, we are acknowledging that our daily bread is a gift from God and He deserves all that thanks and recognition for it.
And finally, when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we’re praying for more than just food. In order to eat a loaf of bread, you either have to buy it or bake it yourself. Most likely, you get those ingredients at the grocery store. Someone stocked those items on the shelf. Someone hauled them from the factory to the store. Someone worked at the factory to make the bread. Someone had to grow the ingredients to get to the factory. I could go on and on. To pray for our daily bread is to pray for every step along the way: farms and farmers, trucks and the whole trucking industry, gasoline and the drilling for oil, factories and their workers, a healthy economy and the government that sustains it, let alone the God who caused the seeds to grow in the first place.
And then we have the spiritual aspect that Jesus makes clear in tonight’s Gospel reading. More than the manna in the wilderness, more than the bread on our tables, Jesus Himself is the bread we pray for. “I am the bread of life.” In this petition, we pray for Jesus to come and for Him to be all that we need, that we would recognize who He is and the role He plays in our day-to-day existence.
So we pray: Dear Father in heaven, all good things come from you. You provide all we need and more, even when we’re unaware of Your role. Give us, and all people, what we need for the day. Give us a sense of contentment for what You give us and help us to share Your goodness with those around us. Above all, give us Your Son, the Bread of Life, so that we may survive not only for the next few days, but eternally. In His name we pray. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
Lobe den Herrn
B. A. Woell