“Back to the basics: Give us this day our daily bread”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
Not quite forty years ago, back in 1985, fifty liberal biblical “scholars” and one hundred laymen formed a group they called The Jesus Seminar.
And as they met, they agreed to use four different colored beads to signify whether or not they believed certain words were words that Jesus actually said. A red bead meant the words came directly from Jesus, pink meant they were close to something He said, gray meant they were indirectly connected to His thought patterns, and black meant there was absolutely no connection at all. Those words, they said, most likely came from some well-meaning admirer or a completely different tradition.
And not only did they say Jesus had a human father whose name may or may not have been Joseph, that He was born not in Bethlehem, but in Nazareth, and that He didn’t walk on water, feed the multitudes with bread and fish, raise Lazarus from the dead or change water into wine, they said He was executed as a public nuisance, (not because He claimed to be the Son of God), and that He never really rose from the dead. That was just a vision of Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene.
In the words of its founder Robert Funk, “Jesus did not ask us to believe that He was the Messiah. He certainly never suggested that He was the second person of the Trinity. In fact, He rarely referred to Himself at all.” End quote.
And when they came to the words of the Lord’s Prayer, you can guess what happened. These so-called “biblical scholars” said there was only one word that truly came from Jesus’ lips--only one word that got the color red--and that was the word “Father.” All the rest, they said, deserved pink or black or gray.
Some two thousand years ago, Jesus had His own seminar. You can find it in the words of Matthew chapter 6. I’ll start at verse 5. Jesus said: “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray then like this: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:5-11).
Up to this point, this prayer has been completely about God--His name, His kingdom and His will. Now finally, when the prayer is half done, do we even begin to ask for something for ourselves.
As one author wrote: “We cannot pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ until we know to whom we are praying and where He lives. We cannot pray, ‘Forgive us our trespasses,’ until we honor His name. And we cannot pray, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ until His will is done on earth just as it is done in heaven.”
In this model prayer, Jesus seems to say, “If you would only come before Your Father in heaven humbly and sincerely, bringing glory to Him as you should, then everything else will follow.”
So now at this half-way point in the prayer, Jesus said this: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
What does it mean?
Luther wrote in the words of his Small Catechism: “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. And what is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”
And he wrote in the words of his Large Catechism: “When you mention and pray for daily bread, you pray for everything that is necessary in order to have and enjoy daily bread and, on the other hand, against everything which interferes with it. Therefore you must open wide and extend your thoughts not only to the oven or the flour-bin, but to the distant field and the entire land, which bears and brings to us daily bread and every sort of sustenance. For if God did not cause it to grow, and bless and preserve it in the field, we could never take bread from the oven or have any to set upon the table.”
Out of all the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, this one seems to be the least relevant of all. I mean, when was the last time you prayed, “Lord, I plead with You to provide me a meal. I’m so hungry that I can barely make it for another hour without food”?
More than likely, our prayer isn’t “Give us this day our daily bread.” Instead, it’s “Lord, please keep me from eating any more bread. Teach me self-discipline, for I not only have enough for me, but for several others as well.”
I mean, think about it. If anyone should pray this petition of the Lord’s Prayer, it shouldn’t be us. It should be those who live in Africa or Cambodia or Bangladesh. They’re the ones who are hungry. They’re the ones who desperately need daily bread.
Just think of how much we have here in America--so much that it’s beyond our ability to even imagine! Because of our technology and because of the richness of our soil and our sophisticated machinery, there’s really no way to understand just how much we have.
As we speak, scientists are testing grain that will regenerate, on its own, so farmers won’t have to reseed them. Geneticists are producing corn that will deposit its own nitrogen back into the soil and save millions of tons of fertilizer every year. Already, scientists have developed corn that grows with its ears up instead of out, so they’ll grow closer together so fields can double and even triple their capacity.
And the equipment we have is beyond our understanding. One combine can spew out hundreds of thousands of dollars of soybeans in a day. And what once took thousands of people and thousands of horses can be done, by one machine, in a single day. Science and machines and technology have given us incredible power and abilities and we say, “Give us this day our daily bread”?
What’s more, take a trip to most any grocery store and do you know what you’ll see? You’ll see an entire aisle of shelves dedicated just to bread. There’s Italian bread, French bread, Sauerkraut bread, white bread, wheat bread, whole wheat bread, cracked wheat bread, 12-grain bread, pumpernickel bread, and New York rye.
And walk on over to the cracker aisle and you’ll find graham crackers, Matzah crackers, saltine crackers, and Wheat Thins, not to mention a couple of my favorites, “Vegetable Thins” and “Chicken-in-a-Biskit.”
And take a few steps over to the cooler and you’ll find corn tortillas and flour tortillas, biscuits, crescent rolls, pita pockets and English muffins.
We have all this and so much more, and Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread”?
So this petition, if we’ll understand it correctly, is about far, far more than just “daily bread.”
So how good and how thrilling it is to know that our almighty and all-powerful God, our God who is beyond space and time, who is infinitely holy and holds the universe in the palm of His hand, cares about us. He cares whether or not we have a meal to eat, clothes to wear, and a place to lie down and rest.
“But wait just one second,” you say. “I make my own living. I earn my own check. I buy my own bread. Now tell me, what do I ever owe God?”
But what would happen if, all of a sudden, God chose to stop the rain? What would happen if He took all of our “natural resources” away? What if He struck our animals with disease or sucked the oil and minerals out of our soil? What then?
So you see, everything, absolutely everything, is a gift from God. It’s God who sends rain to make things grow. It’s God who cycles the seasons. It’s God who produces the minerals in our soil to make the earth fertile. It’s God who provides the plants and animals from which we make our food and clothes.
Even more, just think--God could have designed our bodies where all we ate was mud. “Mom, what’s for breakfast?” Mmm, mud!” Or “I always look forward to those school lunches. They serve mud!” Or “Hey, it's late and I’m hungry. I think I’ll check the fridge. Anything good to snack on tonight? Ah, my favorite--mud!”
But God didn’t choose to do it that way. Instead, our God is a God of variety. Not only has He given us food, He’s given it to us in different shapes, different flavors, and different colors.
There are vegetables of all kinds--cucumbers, onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, melons, and beans. There are spices--dill, mint, oregano, mustard, cinnamon, rosemary, and sugar cane. There are fruits--grapes, raisins, apples, peaches, olives, oranges, grapefruit, bananas, pineapples, pomegranates, and tangerines. There’s meat--beef, lamb, venison, pork, elk, and buffalo. There’s fish--northern, walleye, bass, crappies, salmon, trout, and sunnies. There are fowl--partridge, quail, cornish hens, chicken, turkey, duck and roast goose. And there are dairy products--milk, curds, butter, and cheese. Everything, absolutely everything, comes from the beautiful, amazing, creative hand of God.
Even more, God has set up a remarkable system all designed to feed us. In order to feed man, He has to feed the food that feeds man--an incredibly balanced network of minerals, plants and animals, just to put food on our tables.
“But I earn my own bread,” you say. I’m sure you do. But if you can bend your back, it’s a gift from God. If you can open your mouth and talk, it’s a gift from God. If you can drive a car from one place to another, it’s a gift from God. And by the way, that money you carry in your wallet, that money you use to buy your bread, God made that too. The paper came from trees and the coins came from minerals.
In the words of I Chronicles chapter 29: “Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand” (I Chronicles 29:14).
One more thing--notice that little word, “daily.” “Give us this day our daily bread.”
In this petition, we’re not asking for a week’s worth, a month’s worth, or even a lifetime supply. We’re not asking the Lord to give us whatever we want or the best this world has to offer. Instead, we’re asking for only enough to make it through the day.
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
That is, after all, what Jesus said in the words of Matthew chapter 6: “Don’t worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ The pagans run after all these things, yet your heavenly Father knows you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).
Once a long time ago, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” And Jesus answered, “When you pray, pray like this.”
When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” dear Father, we’re praying for far more than we could ever know or understand. Grant us the grace and the wisdom to thank You and praise You for all that You give by Your gracious hand, for Jesus’ sake. Amen