Text: Mt 6:11
The Lord’s Prayer is a wonderful prayer: wonderful in its simplicity, and wonderful in its comprehensiveness. Its several petitions have been likened to the colours of the rainbow. And, like the colours of the rainbow, there is a definite order here: we are taught to pray first about God’s things (his honour, kingdom, and will), and only then about our things (daily provision, pardon, protection).
Just six words, but full of meaning:-
1. ‘Bread’ stands here for the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, clothing.
It’s good, isn’t it, that God is interested in these everyday aspects of our lives? Supposing God had said, “Don’t bother me about bread, I’ve got a universe to run? Come back and see me on Sunday when we can talk about really important things like the kingdom of heaven.” But God is not like that. He is not just a Sunday Father, interested only in our spiritual welfare. He is an everyday Father, concerned about our stomachs as well as our souls.
But we are taught here to ask for the necessities, not the luxuries of life. Now, of course, the example of Jesus himself shows us that there is a place for the occasional feast. We too can welcome luxury, comfort and relaxation as occasional guests, but if we allow them to take up permanent residence in our lives they will enslave us. This prayer is for enough, not for more than we need:-
Prov 30:8f ‘Give me 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.”
2. ‘Today..daily’. This petition teaches us to pray for our daily bread, bread for the coming day. It teaches us to live one day at a time, and not to be over-anxious about the distant and unknown future.
When Jesus taught his disciples this petition, it is likely that his mind was going back to the story of the manna in the wilderness (Ex 16:1-21). The children of Israel were starving. and God sent them the manna, the food from heaven; but there was one condition–they must gather only enough for their daily needs. If they tried to gather too much, and to store it up, it went bad. They had to be satisfied with enough for the day.
‘In Jesus’ day, labourers were commonly paid each day for the work they had achieved that day; and the pay was frequently abysmally low that it was impossible to save any of it. Therefore the day’s pay purchased the day’s food. Moreover, the society was largely agrarian: one crop failure could spell a major disaster. In such a society, to pray “Give us today our daily bread” was no empty rhetoric. Living a relatively precarious existence, Jesus’ followers were to learn to trust their heavenly Father to meet their physical needs.’
Even in modern Britain, we receive reminders (the Foot-and-Mouth crisis of a few years ago, for example) of just how vulnerable our own food supply is; just how dependent we really are. But why wait for a crisis to drive us back to a God to whom we owe everything?
3. ‘Give us today our daily bread. Jesus did not teach us to pray: “Give me my daily bread.” He taught us to pray: “Give us our daily bread.” In uttering this petition we have the needs of others, as well as our own needs, in mind. Especially because we know that so many people do not have daily bread.
You cannot pray the Lord’s Prayer and even once say “I.”
You cannot pray the Lord’s Prayer and even once say “My.”
Nor can you pray the Lord’s Prayer and not pray for one another.
And when you ask for daily bread, you must include your brother.
For others are included … in each and every plea,
From the beginning to the end of it, it doesn’t once say “Me.”
We offer this petition, then, in the spirit of Gal 6:9f ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’
4. We are thus taught to pray to God for our daily bread. And he has richly answered our prayers. Few of us here have suffered even one day of real hunger in our lives. Few of us have ever lacked clothes to wear. Few of us have ever been without a roof over our heads. But what if God does not give us our daily bread? What if God says ‘no’?
Do you remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel? Remember the reply they gave to King Nebuchanezzar when he threatened to throw them into the blazing furnace? Dan 3:17f “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
The God we serve is able to provide us with our daily bread. But even if he does not, let us resolve to continue to love and serve our heavenly Father who has given us not only so many temporal blessings to enjoy, but also every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. And though moth and rust destroy our earthly goods, our treasures in heaven are safe.
Phil 4:11-13 ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do [all this] through him who gives me strength.’
Hab 3:17f. ‘Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.’