In this series, I’m discussing The Lord’s Prayer, and why I believe it reflects Jesus’ most radical and challenging ideas. The prayer is meant to be descriptive of how to pray, not prescriptive on what to pray. In Part 4, we think about what it means to ask God to give us our daily bread.
Jesus taught that our prayers should first acknowledge God as “father,” and that we should ask God to bring the Kingdom of heaven to earth through us. He then instructed the disciples to stop being so doggedly “independent.”
When you pray, say…
“Give us each day our daily bread.”
It’s a highly probable historical fact that Jesus was an itinerant sage or preacher, who sometimes lived off the generosity of others. So, it’s not unreasonable to believe that at some points in his life, Jesus didn’t know where or when he and the disciples would be eating again.
But, for most of us, here in 21st Century North America, asking God to “give us our daily bread” has no real meaning, because it is the prayer of someone who lives from hand to mouth on a day-by-day basis – if they are so fortunate.
Most of us are fortunate enough not to live that way. And, some of us even look with considerable disdain, or at least with pity, upon people who are willing or have no choice but to survive one day, one meal at a time.
For most of us, one of our deepest commitments is to achieving a level of income and a stock of assets that will ensure we will never have to depend on anybody else for our daily bread.
But, Jesus knew that when the Israelites were destitute in the Sinai desert following their deliverance from Egypt, God provided “daily bread” in the form of “manna.” The only catch was, God prohibited them from gathering more than was enough for one day, because otherwise they might lose their deep sense of dependence upon God; and that would have led to a loss of belief and trust in God’s faithfulness in meeting their needs.
Jesus knew affluence undermines opportunities for us to depend on one another. It destroys our need to depend on anyone other than ourselves. And, that severs our connectedness with one another.
The reason Jesus taught that it is hard for rich people, such as ourselves (yes, by worldly standards we are rich), to enter the Kingdom of heaven is that committing to God means being able and willing to live day by day, depending upon God, without inordinate concern for the future.
Being willing to ask God to “give us this day our daily bread.”
It doesn’t necessarily mean giving up what we have, although it might for some of us. Jesus’ point was to show us that it is tremendously more difficult to truly depend on God, to depend on our enter-connectedness, when we are all so self-reliant.
Some people have discovered the wonderful liberation of depending on the way the spirit of God, the spirit of love, connects us all. There are others of us who have not … and who don’t want to.
Because, that is a radical and very challenging way to live.
Yet, until we want to surrender our self-reliance and are willing to do so, the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” is essentially meaningless.
So, in following Jesus’ radical teaching, “give us each day our daily bread,” I offer this suggestion:
When you pray say, “we commit ourselves to strive for what we really need and not for what we might need or should need or even don’t need. Remove the things in our lives that undermine our dependence on each other and on you.”
Up next: When you pray, say…
“Forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone indebted to us.”