Teach Us to Pray: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

By Daniel Darling

This is part of an occasional series of posts on the Lord’s Prayer. You can read the previous entries in this series here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Today’s post looks at the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” from the Lord’s Prayer. This is the first in a series of three so-called “earthy” requests, in contrast to the first three “heavenly” requests.

“Give us this day”, we are to pray, “our daily bread.” What does it mean to pray this prayer? Even in what seems like a rather simple request like “Give us this day our daily bread,” we find six important qualities God wants to grow in us through prayer:

1)   Worship

The first thing we learn from this simple line of request is the nature of worship. You notice that before we get to our concerns, we have prayed through God’s concerns. This is an important life principle, when it comes to prayer and when it comes to our spiritual lives. This prayer begins first with God’s concerns—that His name be glorified, that His will be done, and that His kingdom come.

God cares deeply about our most basic needs. He knows the hairs on our heads. In fact, God is more in tune with our needs than we are. Jesus in Matthew 6:32 says that “Your Father knows you need these things.”Jesus was speaking to people for whom daily bread was sustenance.

Yet God tells them that they must put the Kingdom first. Today, it might look a little different. It might mean we’re praying for a job, or a car, or a house or a baby or some extra cash to pay the bills. It might mean praying for health, for our insurance to cover an expensive operation, for us to find a deal on a new water heater.

These things sound so pedestrian, so un-kingdom like and yet we know from this that meeting our basic, specific needs is exactly what God delights in doing.

But we pray for this things with a kingdom filter. We first align our hearts to God’s so that His purposes are our purposes. It involves putting God’s concerns above ours in such a way that we trust Him to provide for us. This really shapes the way we pray. It filters out the frivolous. It adds more weight to our needs.

2)   Stewardship

The second trait we learn from this simple request for bread is “stewardship,” which is bound up in the idea of gratitude and ownership. You notice the words, “Give us” – this acknowledges a simple fact: that it is not us who generates our daily bread, our sustenance. It is God.

This idea says that everything we have belongs to Him and we are simply stewards. Everything good we have comes from his hand. We typically think of our possessions, our basic needs, in terms of ownership. This is my house, my car, my bread, my stuff. But God says our possessions are not ours. He gives and he takes away and he is the sustainer of all of life.

If there is a sin that most tempts American Christians it is the sin of ingratitude. We are so blessed, so prosperous. Most of us don’t ever wonder where our next meal is coming from and yet rarely do we acknowledge God. In many ways, when we bow our heads to pray for our meals, we are not simply praying for the food to nourish our bodies, but we are, first, thanking God for putting food on our table in the first place. We are acknowledging that we are not the original source of our provision. 

3)   Dependence

The third thing this prayer forces us to do is to live in daily dependence on God for our physical needs. We are to pray “give us this day our ‘daily’ bread.” It means something like, “give us what we need for tomorrow.”

Wondering if we will have enough food or shelter or necessities for our daily existence is not something many of us have experienced. Most of us have never been in a position where we literally do not know where our food will come from today or tomorrow.

But even though we don’t understand this, we are still called to live daily. There is a certain importance to living in dependence upon Gods, of praying, “God give me today what I need for this day.”

God wants us to bring our everyday, seemingly trivial concerns to him. I have to admit that I struggle to live this way. Maybe it’s a feature of being young, but my default position is to try to get myself through the day, with my ingenuity and planning and grit. This might explain why I often stress or get frustrated.

What if we said to God, “God I’m going to depend on you?” What if we took our deepest needs to the Lord and trusted him to provide, every day? This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t engage in long-term planning and intentional living, but we should hold our plans loosely. We should recognize that we need special grace and provision for today, then new provision for tomorrow.

4) Contentment

This passage calls us to be satisfied with exactly what we need. There is a sense, too, in this verse that we are to pray for exactly what we need. Bread was and is today a basic staple, enough to sustain us.

This speaks of contentment. That we are satisfied with God provides. That what we have from the good Giver is exactly what we need.

Sometimes God gives more than bread. Sometimes less. If you’re wealthy, praise the Lord. If you struggle from week to week, praise the Lord. That was Paul’s attitude. He knew what it was to have the luxuries of life and he knew what it was to live sparsely. And Paul’s attitude was, “I have learned to be content.” And do you know what helps us learn this way? Praying the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Our prayer should be a prayer of contentment. “Lord give me just what I need. Nothing more, nothing less.” And sometimes God chooses to shower us with more than we need—if you’re a middle-class American you enjoy much more than what God promises—so we should enjoy it as God’s rich and good gifts. Don’t feel badly about it, but don’t let it drive you to materialism.

5) Generosity

Fifth, praying this prayer should drive us to generosity. You can’t help but notice that this is a “plural” prayer. Give “us” this day our daily bread. We should pray not simply for our own needs, but for the needs of others. Millions around the world die every day from a lack of good water and proper nutrition. This tells me that we should care about poverty.

And not just care, but we should share. Imagine praying this prayer, “Give us our daily bread” and yet you and me have enough daily bread to last for many years and our fellow brothers and sisters have nothing? Can we pray this prayer with integrity if we are doing nothing for the poor?

Too many of us accumulate lots of bread and pray to God, “Give me my daily bread.” And I think prosperous Christians will be judged more harshly by God in the end for how wealthy we are and how indifferent we are to the needs of the poor around the world. I’m amazed at how many references the Scriptures make to the poor. Do we care when others have nothing to eat? We should.

It’s praying this, “Dear God, we are a needy people. Care for us, provide for us this day with exactly what we need to get by today. Give us no more or no less than we need.”

6) Spiritual Hunger

We cannot conclude looking at this phrase of The Lord’s Prayer without seeing how it points us back to the One instructing us to pray. Jesus is our spiritual bread. Bread in those days was the main sustenance of life. When you said, “give us our daily bread” you are saying, “give us the food we need to eat.”

Christ is our spiritual sustenance. He is our bread of life (John 6:35). Just as the Father gave manna each day, fresh provision, for the physical hunger, so Jesus is the manna we need every day to feed our starving souls. That deep-lasting, longing hunger can only be filled by Jesus, the bread of life. Too often we have full stomachs, but empty souls, physically nourished, but spiritually starved.

photo credit: I am Tester