Part 9 in our series on the Our Father.
The Lord’s Prayer does not encourage us to ask for a Mercedes-Benz. “Our daily bread” is right at the middle of the prayer, and it sets the tone for how we relate to Our Father.
First, it is remarkably late. The Lord’s Prayer puts our focus first on God: his name, his kingdom, his will. We begin by asking not for ourselves, but for his glory.
Notice that this puts “our” daily bread in an interesting light, too. Throughout the prayer, the word “our” keeps us very much socially focused. I pray not just for my daily bread, but for that of those around me, for all those who call God, or could call God, Father. But by postponing our daily bread until so late in the prayer, Jesus draws us to a deeper sense of the “our.” It is not “our bread” for “our kingdom,” but for his. The kingdom of the God who tells us to call him Father and provides us our daily bread is a loving kingdom, a more generous kingdom than we would be inclined to pray for. The postponing of the daily bread frames that petition in a bigger picture, of God’s goodness throughout his kingdom.
And then, when we finally move on from “thine” to “ours,” when we pierce the clouds to this world below, we very quickly move on from our daily bread. This is not like sitting on Santa’s lap: “and then I want a new refrigerator, and a kitchen renovation, and then a trip to the Bahamas.” No, quickly after we mention our daily bread, we go on to much humbler, and more specifically spiritual goods: forgiveness, and freedom from sin and evil.
Finally, our daily bread itself is such a humble petition. Jesus has us stand in the posture of St. Francis, every day asking only for what we need, and only for today. Not a membership in the wine-of-the-month club: we have bigger concerns, things we love so much more than that. If someone gives us such a membership (my birthday is coming up!) let us never forget that it is so much less precious than my daily bread, or my longing for God’s kingdom, and for a heart that forgives.
“Our daily bread” reminds us how little we really need, and how our relationship with Our Father is about much more wonderful things than what we often focus on.
On the other hand, Jesus does tell us to ask for our daily bread, and that is also interesting. In a sense, not to ask God for what we truly need is disobedient – or, more deeply, a violation of our relationship with Our Father. He does provide, and he wants to provide. We don’t ask Daddy to buy us a fancy car, but we do live in the household where he will always take care of us.
This, in fact, is an interesting flipside to Christian simplicity. On the one hand, as we saw above, we should have a kind of “contempt” for the things of this world – or, let us say, the things that are only of this world. Fancy cars and kitchen renovations you can’t take with you. But things like love and forgiveness and freedom from sin (defined in terms of love and forgiveness) are things of both heaven and this world, things we should not have contempt for! So the Our Father teaches us to love the things of this world that matter, and not the things that don’t.
But on the other hand, if we live true Christian simplicity, we will always need to rely on Our Father, even for our daily bread. If we are truly generous with those around us puts us always in a place of needing to beg God to take care of us. Let us feed our neighbors, knowing that Our Father will always feed us.
Finally, what is our daily bread? What does sustain us?
On the one hand, this prayer is an important reminder that we have bodies. We really do need to eat (and sleep, etc.)!
On the other hand, Jesus says, “my food is to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34) and that he himself is the bread from heaven that will satisfy our hunger and thirst. Let us pray, too, that union – communion – with the good God will be our deepest sustenance, the source of our strength.
What kind of “daily bread” do you need to pray for?