“Give us today our daily bread.” – Matthew 6:11
Prayers for what we need come rather naturally. From infancy, humans communicate their wants, needs, and desires by crying out. As we grow in maturity, sometimes this habit comes out in our prayers. Just as our human parents don’t always give in to what we want, but rather, supply for our needs, our Heavenly Father also meets our needs, but doesn’t give in to our selfish requests.
Bread is a recurring theme in Bible texts. We see God providing “bread from heaven” in the form of manna in the wilderness. The people didn’t understand it – calling it “what is it?” Although thankful for the provision, they also complained about what and how God provided for them. Deuteronomy 8:3 states, “God humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
In another bread story Jesus miraculously multiplied 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish to feed 5,000 people. In the temple, as the priest was lifting up the bread from the grain offering to God as Lord of the harvest, Jesus taught those gathered around him, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6) At the last supper with his disciples, Jesus broke bread and gave it to them and said, “This is my body, broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.”
God knows what we need even before we ask, so then why should we bother asking? In the act of bringing our needs and requests before God we are also opening our hearts to God. It is an act of humility and vulnerability to say, “I can’t do all things on my own. I need you daily to provide for my very sustenance.” Asking for our daily bread also reminds us that everything we have is a gift from God. It helps us to honor God and put nothing before God – it heals us of the idolatry of self-reliance. As we pray for daily bread, and all the other things we want and need, may we be ever mindful of the beautiful creativity and artistry of God’s provision.
Lord God, you know the ways of good and evil. You know the things that tempt us and the things that give us life. You know our vulnerabilities, and you know our sin. We confess that we have disobeyed your word, denying your providence and care; relying on our own anxious efforts. Have mercy on us, we pray: cover us with your grace, feed us with the bread of life, and re-create us in your image; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.