– J R Miller –
We are half-way through the Lord’s Prayer – and come now to the first request for anything for ourselves. We have learned that God must always be put first, and that the honouring of His name, the coming of His kingdom, and the doing of His will – are always to be thought about and sought for – before any matter of our own.
Yet it is a great comfort to know that we may bring our physical needs to God in prayer. Throughout the Scriptures, we are taught that nothing which concerns our life in any way – is too small to be of interest to our Heavenly Father. While the specific prayer here is for bread – all our physical needs are included. In an exquisite passage in the same sermon of Jesus, we are taught that our Heavenly Father cares for the birds and provides for them, and clothes the flowers in their gorgeous beauty which lasts for only a day. Then we are taught that the same love which thus provides for the birds and the lilies – will much more care for us! Nothing necessary for our life is too small or too earthly – to put into the heart of a prayer. This petition for daily bread, like all the sayings of Christ, is full of deep meaning. Every word has its rich suggestions.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” We ask God to “give us” bread. We thus recognise our dependence on Him for it. It is difficult to offer this petition with real meaning, when we have plenty in our hands and no fear of need. We can conceive of the very poor, with no bread, on the verge of starving, uttering the prayer and putting their whole heart into it. The bitter sense of need makes the cry a real one for them. But for those who have never felt a pang of actual hunger, and have never been without a store from which to draw for tomorrow’s provision, it is not easy to realise the sense of dependence, which the petition implies. This is one of the words of Christ, whose full meaning only experience can teach.
Yet it is true that whatever abundance may be ours, we are actually dependent upon God for each day’s bread! The story of the forty years of the miracle of manna in the wilderness, is but a parable of another miracle immeasurably greater – the providing of bread for all earth’s millions – for all the days of all the centuries! What we call the laws of nature are but our Father’s ordinary ways of working. The regularity of these laws – is but the proof of divine faithfulness. Suppose that for a single year, or but for a week – God’s miracle of bread should cease from the earth, what would be the consequences? The unbroken continuity of God's mercy of bread – hinders our appreciation of its greatness, and its necessity to us.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” This prayer implies, also, that all the bread of the world is God’s! “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof” (I Cor 10: 26). The bread belongs to Him, and what we need can become ours – only through His gift to us. We may take it and use it without asking Him for it – but, if we do, we take that to which we have no right. Even the food is on our table, ready to be eaten – it is not yet ours until we have asked God for it.
Yet those who pray not, nor even think of God – seem to be fed, as well as the righteous – and sometimes more bountifully. God “makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt 5: 45). But there is a difference. Those who ask God for their bread – get it as His gift and with His blessing upon it; while those who take it without asking for it, get it, and may be fed – but they miss the blessing of God that makes rich, that gives value to everything we have. This suggests the true meaning and the fitness of the Christian custom – of asking a blessing, or “saying grace” before a me
“Give us this day our daily bread.” The form of the prayer teaches the lesson of unselfishness. It is not “Give me” but “Give us”. We cannot come to God for ourselves alone. We must ask bread for others, for all – even for our enemies, if we have enemies. Especially must we think of the needy, the destitute, asking God to give them bread. If we are sincere we must be ready also, so far as we have opportunity and so far as we are able – to help to answer our own prayer for others, by sharing our plenty with those who lack: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (I Jn 3: 17).
One of the most beautiful commentaries on this teaching is in the account of the way the people of the New Testament church lived together. After the day of Pentecost, in the glow of the new-born love of the disciples, those who had abundance, gave to those who were poor – so that there was an equality – and none lacked. Only thus can any follower of Christ carry out the teaching of the Master. We must be ready to share our bread – with our brother who lacks.
(… to be concluded)