Teach Us to Pray (5): Daily Bread
February 8, 2015
Intro – An old Scottish woman sang in the choir of a church where a young pastor tended to pray long with hard theological words that few could understand. One day, she tapped him on the shoulder and said, “A word of advice on your prayers, Pastor. Just call Him Father and ask Him for something.” Well, that’s pretty good advice, and it squares with Jesus response to the request, “Teach us to pray.” God is addressed as Father, there are no long words, the prayer is short and consists of 5 petitions.
I. Needs Related to God – Petitions 1 & 2. They orient us. Our life is meant to be lived by His will and to His glory. We are made for Him, not the other way around. Prayer is about aligning me with God’s will, not Him with mine. That’s the first 2 petitions.
II. Needs Related to Us
This should greatly encourage us. Within the greater framework of God’s will, He has concern for our personal needs. We can’t be the center of our universe, but God is very interested in what happens on our planet as it orbits His sun. We can bring our everyday requests – a coat, a car, books, a vacation, a bicycle. God meets us where we are. He cares about us personally.
A. Give Us Each Day Our Daily Bread
Simple request. Enough food for one day, and by extension provision for all our physical needs. We are invited to pray for them. But in this simple phrase, some eye-opening lessons are implied when it comes to our physical needs.
1. It teaches us to be thankful
I have long thought it interesting that the Lord’s prayer doesn’t include thanksgiving. But in re-studying this passage, I think it is there hidden in plain sight. The verb here is “Give.” Implies gift! Give what? Our daily physical needs. Of course, God already knows what we need. We’re not giving Him new info. So why ask? I think as an act of humility. It recognizes the truth of James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” By asking for what I need, tho He already knows, I acknowledge Him as the source of all good things, and my asking is at once an act of humility and an act of thanksgiving.
Meeting my needs is His gift – hence something to be thankful for. I ask; He gives. The only appropriate response is gratitude. Jesus exemplifies this. There He stands one evening before 10-12,000 tired, hungry people. Andrew has scrounged up one little lunch – 5 barley loaves (small) and 2 fish (sardine type). What would you have done? On my best day – my best day, I’d have been praying desperately for a better solution. On my best day! What did Jesus do? John 6:11, “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated.” He gave thanks? For 5 rolls and 2 sardines? Yes. Why? He trusted the Father. What a lesson for us. Gratitude for whatever we have is the first step to unleashing God’s power. That’s the attitude suggested in, “Give us each day our daily bread.”
2. It teaches us to be dependent
No one wants to be dependent. It is un-American! But think about this. The one physical need Jesus urges us to pray for is what? Bread, right? Daily bread. That’s as basic as it gets. And the fact that Jesus urges us to pray for it implies what? It implies we can’t do it on our own. This implies that we are inadequate for our most basic need. Wow! Are you ready for that? We say, “Wait a minute. I work hard to provide for my family. So now I’m supposed to give that up and just pray bread onto the table? Is that the plan?”
No! Jesus isn’t suggesting we give up our day job! If we ask God to do His part, we need to do our part. That’s why Paul instructs in II Thess 3:10-12, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” So keep working, right? But why ask God for daily bread if I’m already earning it? Because, Beloved, altho we are doing our part, God needs us to see we need Him. Who put us in America, the land of opportunity? He did. Who gave us the skills to do our job? He did. Who protects our health? It’s a gift from God that can be gone in a moment. Who brings success of our company? Sure people are working at that, but there are a thousand things that could take it all away tomorrow – a downturn in the economy, new technology that makes the product obsolete, a new employee who is better – a thousand things. Listen – you and I are as dependent as newborn babies. Do you see? And that’s just where God wants us. Acts 17:28 reminds us that it is “in Him that we live and move and have our being.” Without Him we are nothing, Beloved. This is intended to remind us of that.
Turn to Exod 16. Two million Israelites have escaped Egypt due to God’s mighty intervention. But now they have no food. So look at God’s provision. Exod 16:4, “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.” Note, God provided one day at a time. Daily! On the 6th day they could gather double to keep from working on the Sabbath, but otherwise – a day at a time. What is He teaching them? Dependence – a day at a time. Not a year, not month, not a week – day at a time. And also please note, God didn’t just put it on the table, did He? He could have. He could just have easily put it in each tent as to spread it around the desert floor, but what is He teaching? You are dependent on me, but you are to work for what you get. A day at a time.
So, how did they do? V. 19: “And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. 21 Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.” That would have been me. Plan ahead. Save up. But that wasn’t the plan. What is God teaching? You need Me.
So, does this mean no savings, no plans for retirement, no contingencies? No, that is not the point at all. Elsewhere God urges we consider the ant. Prov 6:8, “she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” Planning ahead. Being prepared. God commends it. He is not against being prepared. What He is saying is, “Don’t depend on the job. Don’t depend on the bank account. Depend on Me. Plan ahead – but trust in Me. I’m your security.”
I learned a lot about dependence in 1988. I went to Fla to check on acceptance testing of a statewide AFIS project being run by a PM who worked for me. I found a project in deep trouble. I ended up spending 3 months there myself with a team of 20 engineers, 16-18 hour days. Didn’t think it could be done. Nor did the customer. They imposed a huge bond that would have sunk our company if we failed. I quickly learned God is in charge. We’d scramble each day, then I’d tell the Lord, “It’s over to you.” I learned dependence. I still remember the day a week before our deadline – for the first time I thought – maybe. And God brought us through. Truth is, we’re just as dependent every day, we just don’t see it – until God makes it crystal clear. I am the source of your daily bread, not your job, not your boss, not yourself. Me.
3. It teaches us to be trusting
Isn’t trust the same as being dependent? Not really. You can be dependent, but not be trusting. Your life would be characterized by constant anxiety. But God doesn’t want us dependent and wringing our hands. He wants us dependent and trusting. We are to pray “Give us each day our daily bread.” There is an obvious question here that usually gets skipped right over. Why does Jesus say “each day” and “daily.” Wouldn’t one or the other be sufficient?
Everything hinges on the word “daily” (επιουσιος). It’s a difficult word, not used anywhere else in the Greek language – not only in the NT, but in any Greek text. It is unique. It has traditionally been translated “daily” but it must mean more because that would simply be a restatement of “each day.” Kenneth Bailey, a scholar who has lived most of his life in the middle East suggests we get a hint from a 2nd century Syriac translation of Luke. Syriac was closely related to Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. This 2nd century Syriac translation, uses “ameno” which means “lasting, never-ceasing, perpetual.” Thus, Jesus’ phrase would read, “Give us each day our bread that does not run out.” We’re asking God to give us a daily allotment from a supply with our name on it (ours) that never runs out! I don’t know about you, but I think that is cool. That is the ultimate invitation to “Trust me.” Trust me. Your supply is unending! It’s just that it gets doled out as you need it.
There is a wonderful promise in Deut 33:25, “And as your days, so shall your strength be.” That reminds us that God gives us what we need when we need it, but from a never-ending resource. A naval officer called the Navy’s central-supply computer complex for a vital piece of equipment. After putting him on hold to check the computer, the supply officer came back with “Sorry, sir, that part’s not in stock anywhere in the world; you'll have to try somewhere else." Somewhere else?! There is nowhere else! But for the believer there is – a supply depo for needs that is literally out of this world. It is permanent; it’s never-ending and by this prayer Jesus us urging us – use it! Trust Me.
4. It teaches us to be content
“Give us our daily bread.” Nothing about dessert there! Does that mean that Jesus doesn’t want us to have and enjoy good things? Not at all. I Tim 6:17, assures us it’s “God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” It’s not a matter of how much we have or don’t have, but a question of where our hope is. Certainty is in God, not in riches. So we are to be content with what God has provided through our efforts whether it’s a little or a lot.
God thru Solomon says in Prov 30:7-9: “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: 8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” This is exactly the spirit that Jesus’ prayer encourages – trusting God for physical needs, but seeing the danger in wanting beyond that. Paul said it even more succinctly in Phil 4:11-12, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Contentment allows us to focus on the things that really matter.
But there is a lot of misunderstanding about contentment. Some think it means lack of ambition. They suggest it means you should never seek advancement, improvement, a new and better job or whatever. Actually, it doesn’t mean that at all. But the question that should drive us is will this advance the mission that God has made me for? Or am I wanting this to advance my own cause, to in James words, “spend it on my own passions.” And the second question to ask is will I be content with whatever answer God gives? Contentment is not a lack of ambition. Contentment is ambition under the control of a loving heavenly Father. Contentment is a willingness to accept graciously and willingly any advancement or even any demotion that He may choose for me. But contentment is not inertia – doing nothing. Do you see? Contentment is found in doing whatever I can, but accepting as God’s will whatever outcome He arranges.
Contentment means to commit all my efforts and ideas and dreams to God allowing Him to take it from there, realizing that whatever He answers is for the best. That’s the only way to live. Did you hear about the two teardrops floating down the river of life? One asked the other, “Who are you?” The second replied, “I am a teardrop from a girl who loved a man and lost him. But who are you?” The first one answered, “I am a teardrop from the girl who got him.” That’s where Jesus is going with His prayer, “Give us each day our daily bread.” Be content with the daily needs and let God add on as He sees fit what He knows will be best in the long run.
5. It teaches us to be generous
In interpreting the Bible, it is often helpful to notice what is missing as well as what is there. And will you notice that while that God cares deeply about us personally, the words “I” or “me” are totally missing from this section. Jesus does not suggest we pray, “Give me each day my daily bread.” He doesn’t say it that way, does He? Instead He says to pray, “Give us each day our daily bread.” This suggests that in the process of making request for myself, I must also be faithful to pray for others. It is not just me, but those that He has put in my sphere of influence that I need to pray for, right? For many of us, the prayer often sounds like, “Lord, please bless me and my wife, and our son John and his wife – us four and no more.” We’d probably not add that last phrase overtly, but by selfishness of our prayer life, we infer it. Jesus is teaching us to see beyond our needs equally to those of others.
Conc – So, this passage is teaching we acknowledge we need God, even for the basics. The story is told of some scientists who sent a delegation to tell God, “We no longer need you. We can clone people, walk on the moon, split the atom – we are self-sufficient.” God said, “Okay, but let’s test your theory.” The scientist replied, “Great. What’s the test?” God said, “Let’s create a man from dust, just like Adam.” The man said, “Sure,” and reached down to grab a handful of dirt. But God said, “No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!” Turns out, we need God a lot more than we think! That’s what Jesus reminds us by teaching us to pray, “Give us each day our daily bread.”
But the good news is Phil 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” That’s how Jesus is teaching us to pray with this petition – pray for our needs and the needs of others – not for wants, but for needs. God is ready to supply them out of the vastness of the riches in Jesus. That’s more than we will ever need.
Paul Miller in A Life of Prayer tells how once in his life he and wife Jill ran out of bread. He was in college and supporting a wife and daughter by painting. But on New Year’s Day 1975 they had run out of food, money, and work. They had sold their books, jewelry, and high-school rings. Having done all they could they down at our kitchen table and prayed for food. The minute they finished praying, the phone rang. It was a painting customer. Could he come the next day? The next day Paul not only told the customer about how she was an answer to prayer, and she paid in advance. “Daily bread.” That’s the recipe. Do all you can, but trust God to meet your needs – and He will. Let’s pray.