“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)
At this point in Jesus’s model prayer, our focus seems to take an abrupt shift. Everything thus far has been high-minded, downright celestial in scope:
Our Father in heaven,
Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
And here we come crashing back down to earth. We’ve been on this incredible identity journey, finding our source in the heavenly Father, realizing his holiness (his great “otherness”) and ours, partnering with God to bring the kingdom to earth.
And now here we are: needing to eat.
Needing food, like a dog or an ant or a horse needs food, and knowing that without it—and without it provided daily, regularly—we will die.
Humanity, we are a riddle indeed. Made in God’s image. Cosmic in our destiny. And yet determined by calories, by nutrients, by a good balance of carbohydrates and protein and fat.
The Humility of Being Human
To be human is, or should be, incredibly humbling. We think of ourselves as independent and strong, nearly autonomous sometimes. But our bodies will begin to shut down within a single day if we don’t eat.
If that doesn’t put things into perspective for us, nothing will.
We are indeed greater wonders than we realize. But at bottom, we are created beings. We are just as much created beings as rocks and trees and the neighbor’s cat are created beings, and we are just as dependent on the whole ecosystem of weather and life and death and balance as they are.
Which means that we are ultimately completely, totally, fully, devastatingly dependent on God.
Jesus said it best:
Without me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Nothing. Not breathe. Not think. Not hold our own cells together.
The Prayer of Dependence
Daily praying “Give us today our daily bread” reminds of us this. It’s supposed to. It’s the ultimate perspective we so desperately need:
We need God. We aren’t him. We are embarrassingly needy. And at the same time, God means to work out his purposes, his will, and his glory in us.
Right in the middle of Jesus’s prayer, heaven meets earth. The cosmic will of God takes form in this: that we should be fed every day.
The kingdom is built in our place of need. God’s will takes care of us, in the most humble and basic and foundational of ways.
The point of Jesus’s prayer, I want to be careful to say, is not scarcity. This is sometimes read as though we are asking, “Do not give us anything except the bare minimum each and every day.” That’s not in keeping with the Bible’s vision of kingdom abundance and prosperity, as the Sermon on the Mount itself will point out (we’ll get there).
The point is daily, faithfully connecting our need to God’s willingness to provide. It’s daily, faithfully recognizing our smallness and God’s love for us. It’s expressing our dependence.
And this should go without saying, but … it’s asking. Prayer is action. Prayer causes things to happen. Prayer is an exercise of faith, and faith “is the substance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). So in a very real sense, prayer is connected to provision.
(“You do not have,” James tells us in his typical blunt way, “because you do not ask”—James 4:2. So ask.)
Asking Every Day
The Greek term for “daily bread” means exactly that: essentially it means fresh bread, bread that just got baked this morning and that we can pick up at the market to eat this afternoon. It’s a very immediate and relatable term in any culture where meals tend to come from the market or the backyard or the field exactly when you need them.
In our culture, where we buy hundreds of dollars’ worth of food at once and stick it in the freezer, the term loses some of its power. So does the whole concept. When you have a little money in savings, an RRSP, a biweekly paycheck, and a pantry stocked with food, the whole “daily bread” thing may feel overly conceptual.
But the reality is we are no less needy because of all this. We’re just less in touch with how urgently dependent we actually are.
So I recommend actually practicing this part of the prayer every day. And not just by repeating the line “give us this day our daily bread.”
Personally, I ask the Lord for:
Food for today.
Money for the specific bills that are due.
Provision to carry out specific projects or meet specific needs in my business or ministry.
Money to give where I see a particular need.
And then I expand it. It’s not just bread or money I need. I need energy for a meeting this afternoon. I need clarity for a piece I’m writing. I need emotional healing from an encounter or memory. I need physical health. I need courage to jump off my latest faith cliff. I need to hear from the Lord. I need help with my attitude.
Our culture shames us for expressing need. God does the opposite: he invites us to express it.
This is the reality of being human: we are endlessly needy.
This is the reality of being God: he wants to meet our needs.
So ask. Invite him into your life in this way, specifically, daily, expressing requests and gratitude every time you talk to him.
James has another comment for us when we’re willing to live this way:
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble … Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. (James 4:6, 8)
(This is Part 64 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)