Give us this day…
Some of my best memories from early childhood are of smelling and eating Aunt Hannah‟s bread. She cooked on an old fashioned wood-fueled stove—perhaps that was her secret. She raised six kids and baked about that many loaves of bread each week. Coming into her tiny house as she was taking the bread out of the oven and putting it on the bread racks meant we had to be patient only a few more minutes before we could cut into it, spread a large quantity of butter and perhaps some fresh berry jam on it, and savor the experience.
“Give us today our daily bread” is a line I‟ve prayed for many years. One day in the spring of 2000, the aroma of this line became much stronger for me than it had ever been before. It culminated in these words:
Give us this day our daily bread
Feed us, O Lord, or we‟ll not be fed
You are our life, You are our Lord
Feed us again from Your Living Word
Humbly we come, looking to You
Not just for bread but for all that we do
Feed us, O Lord, from Your gracious hand
Help us to hear Your daily commands
But more than the bread, more than anything else
What we need most is more of Yourself
Feed us, O Lord, from the Living One
Give us, O Lord, more of Your Son
This opening line in the second half of the Lord‟s Prayer can be easily overlooked. But if we do, we will miss some very valuable lessons. This line instructs us, humbles us, reminds us of what‟s really important, challenges us to a daily walk, and points us directly to the Savior.
This line tells us first of all how often Jesus wants us to be praying this entire prayer: daily. It would be appropriate to add a “today” to the prayer‟s other lines: “Let Your will be done today,” for example, or “Forgive us this day as we forgive others.” Embracing this truth moves the entire prayer from historical appreciation to present application. It tutors us to be aware of God‟s presence and activity as we move through each day.
This line also indicates what part of the day to pray this. If we‟re to ask Him for daily bread, He obviously wants us to ask before we eat it! Without any sense of legalism, I believe Jesus had in mind for us to pray through this prayer sometime early in the day—at least before we get hungry.
The emphasis on “today” in this line reminds us of two familiar Old Testament passages. InJoshua 24:15, Joshua challenges the people to “choose this day whom you will serve.” Though given in a specific context, that challenge is a good reminder that on a daily basis we should be making that same choice to serve Him.
And in Psalm 118:24 we find the often-quoted verse, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Yes, each day is a special gift from the Lord to be celebrated. But notice the two prior verses in this psalm; this day the psalmist mentioned is when “the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (vv.22-23). It‟s the day when Jesus (the rejected stone) becomes the most important stone in the building—the day we celebrate the lordship of Jesus Christ.
So we can be reminded by two words in the prayer of our daily opportunity to surrender to Christ’s lordship by choosing to follow Him fully throughout our day.
The phrase give us tells us that when we come to Him, we‟re needy. We have needs we can’t meet ourselves. As much as we‟d like to think we‟re self-sufficient, we really are desperately dependent on God.
There‟s a story about a group of scientists who wanted to challenge God to a creation contest. With their increasing abilities to clone, they were feeling pretty confident about their chances. But as they scrapped some dirt together to begin their challenge, God told them, “Wait a minute. Get your own dirt! This is My dirt.” It’s His dirt. It’s also His air, His water, His trees, His everything. So much for the “selfmade” man.
Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Sometimes we may think that doesn‟t apply to our situation. But whatever we think we‟ll accomplish apart from Him really does end up being “nothing.”
When it comes specifically to prayer, Paul says that “we don‟t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray” (Romans 8:26 NLT). We‟ll pray better when we understand how much we need His help even in the process! This is consistent with what Jesus says in Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Recognition of our own spiritual poverty is the starting point for effective prayer and deeper personal relationship with the Savior. The best we have to offer God is simply our acknowledgment of our need of Him. Then He‟s free to work through us.
Note that Jesus doesn‟t invite us to come buy our daily bread. We have nothing anyway that would pay for it. The truth is, we‟re spiritually broke. There is no formula that will put us in a place where God is obligated to act in a certain way. Our only option is to come with nothing in our hands and simply ask. He wants us to come regularly with this understanding and ask Him for what we really need. When we do, our life and our prayers work better.
This is especially necessary when we‟re doing things we‟ve done many times before. That‟s when we tend to think we‟re not nearly as dependent. I‟ve preached countless times, and have facilitated prayer in many different settings. So when I do those things again, I need to be deliberate in recognizing my need for the Lord. My greatest danger on those occasions is to sense I could do this without Him!
This phrase (give us) reminds us that God is our only sufficient source. He‟s the only one qualified to meet our needs.
These words also tell us that He‟s not only able but willing to meet our needs. What would it be like to live in a world where God was able to meet our needs but was always grumpy, or stingy, or uncaring? But He invites us to come to Him and ask because He’s compassionate and kind. He is good.
Bread is a staple, and a symbol of our need for food. It‟s also a symbol of every physical need we have. Jesus wants us to come to His Father regularly and ask Him to meet all our basic needs. We should be careful before asking for too much beyond this, according to the advice of Agur in Proverbs 30:8-9. He asks that the Lord would give him “neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say „Who is the Lord?‟ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” Asking God for His balanced provision for us is part of the purpose of this prayer.
The phrase daily bread can also refer to our nonphysical needs. Though many Scriptures indicate that our good Lord has provided for us all that we need (Psalm 23:11, 2 Peter 1:3-42, Ephesians 1:33, 1 Corinthians 1:74), it is still right that we present all our needs before Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6-75).
One of our greatest needs is for grace. God has invited us to come before His throne and ask for grace when we need it (Hebrews 4:166)—which is all the time. In our lives and relationships, grace is like oil to an engine, which won‟t run smoothly (or long) without it.
When others get the credit I think I deserve, I need grace. When others are invited and I‟m not, I need grace. Scripture says God “gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; and 1 Peter 5:5). Every time I‟ve intentionally humbled myself, I‟ve felt a greater sense of His grace.
The “fruit of the Spirit” listed in Galatians 5:22-23 and the beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-10 are other examples of our nonphysical needs. So is “wisdom from above” (James 3:177), which is available for the asking to those who lack it (James 1:58).
All these things are loaves of the daily bread Jesus is baking in His oven, and He‟s willing to give it to us when we ask. Can you smell the aroma?
The bread can also represent God‟s provision which requires our response. I have been told that this phrase has been used in non-biblical writings to refer to military “rations.” In biblical times, the captain was the one who recruited the troops to serve in his army (2 Timothy 2:49). The captain provided the goods and the soldier followed the orders. In a very real sense, the orders were attached to the rations. If the recruit picked up the MREs (meals ready to eat), he was also committed to fulfilling the orders for that day. In a similar manner, as we pray in this way, we are recognizing that receiving God‟s provision s is also our commitment to obey His orders for the day. “If we eat His bread, we do what He‟s said.”
This daily bread also reminds us of the daily truth God wants to give us from His Word.Deuteronomy 8:310 and Matthew 4:411 tell us that God wants us to be living by “every word that proceeds out of the 2 2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
The manna God gave to the Israelites was to remind them of their continuous (daily) need for what God had to say to them. Each day God has fresh-baked bread for us. The first responsibility of the priest of the Old Testament (according to Leviticus 6:1212) was to keep the fire burning by putting another log on. We keep the fire of our devotion to Christ alive by putting another “log” from His Word onto our life each day. The pattern of Adam and Eve, was, evidently, a daily walk with the Lord in the evening (Genesis 3:813). There‟s a blessing for those who listen to Him, “watching daily” at His doors (Proverbs 8:3414) like a servant always ready to hear and do the master‟s bidding.
As we pray for daily manna, we‟re asking God to give us the truth we need for the situations we‟ll be facing—both for ourselves and for those around us. We need His daily perspectives to live righteous lives in the midst of an unrighteous world. And as we ask Him, He delights to give us just what we need. Many times as I‟ve prepared to preach a sermon, a spiritual truth I just “happened to come across” in my personal time in the Word, from a passage seemingly unrelated to the text I was working on, became a key part of the message. Many times a truth I saw in my personal time in His Word became exactly what was needed by someone I had contact with later in the day. Because I got the bread in the morning, I was able to share it with others throughout the day.
The ultimate question about this daily bread is not what it is, but who. Jesus said He Himself is the manna, the bread that came down from heaven (John 6:32-3515). He‟s not only the Supplier, He is the Supply as well. The best gift we could ever receive from the Father is the gift of His Son (see2 Corinthians 9:15). Having Him, we have everything we need (see Colossians 3:1217). Ultimately, what we need most isn‟t more stuff or truth or principles or resources, but more of Jesus.
God speaks a very significant truth to His people in the Old Testament through Jeremiah the Prophet. He says, “My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13). Catch this: the issue is not simply that the people turned away from the wonderful river (the bountiful supply of a relationship with God). It is that they also preferred their own cisterns (the best life they could produce apart from God) over The River, even though their cisterns were broken and could not satisfy.
“Receiving” Jesus Christ doesn‟t end when we accept Him to be our Savior. That‟s where it starts! (See Colossians 2:618) Receiving or rejecting Jesus (for all that He is and does) is one of the most important moment-by-moment choices we make each day.
A friend of mine described all temptation as an invitation to replace Jesus with something less than He really is. The Bread from heaven is available to meet all our real needs. If we depend upon anything else—any relationship, objective, activity, or possession—to fill what only Jesus can fill, we won‟t be satisfied, and the Lord will not be honored.
So as we use this line as a pattern for our own times of communion and communication with the Father, it leads us directly to Jesus as the only true source of all that we really need. He deeply desires that we would eat and drink of Him. He wants us to make full use of His provision.
- In what meaningful ways have you seen that Jesus is not only your Supplier, but your Supply as well? Thank Him in prayer for the many ways He supplies you every day.
- Refer back to things the daily bread can represents. Pray that He would increase one or more of these things in your life.
- Pray through some of the prayers from Part Three that relate to this line (39-47)