“Give us this day our daily bread”
Three things come to my mind when I pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”:
1: What I am praying for is a daily matter. This prayer anticipates that I will come back to God day after day with the same request.
The Greek word translated here as “daily,” epiousios, is not found anywhere in classical Greek literature. For centuries, Biblical scholars suggested that Matthew or Luke made up the word and/or that it had deep spiritual significance. In 1947, however, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were first being studied, a seemingly insignificant fragment of papyrus was found among the ‘more important’ scrolls. This fragment of papyrus was simply a portion of a shopping list. On that shopping list was found the word epiousios. The word was used to refer to certain products that needed to be bought on a daily basis. In days prior to refrigeration, items such as milk, eggs and meat had to be purchased on the day they were to be used. Those were the kinds of items listed under the word epiousios—the kinds of things that needed to be bought on a day-by-day basis.
This prayer helps me to recognize that I do well to come before God every day—and throughout the day—asking God to meet the needs that I have each day and each moment.
2: What I am praying for are the most basic matters. This prayer helps me to know that if I can talk to God about something as menial as bread, then I can talk to God about anything.
Sometimes we get the impression that God is so busy taking care of the important things in the world that he doesn’t have time to care about the ‘little’ things in our lives. But Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” Peter came to that conviction after spending day after day with Jesus for several years, watching Jesus’ concern for the daily cares of others. When wine ran out at a wedding and Jesus’ mother worried over the embarrassment of the groom, Peter saw Jesus meet the need by turning water into wine. When a crowd of 5000 people grew hungry after listening to Jesus all day, Peter saw Jesus meet their need by turning a few loaves of bread and some fish into a banquet for the multitude. When the disciples sat down at the “Last Supper,” sweaty and dirty, Peter saw Jesus meet their needs by washing their feet. Day in and day out, Peter had seen the evidence that God “cares for you.”
This prayer helps me to recognize that nothing is too big for God to handle or too small for God to care about.
3: What I am praying is inclusive; I am not praying merely for me to get my daily bread, I am praying for us to get our daily bread.
Leonardo Boff argues, “God does not hear the prayer that asks only for ‘my’ daily bread.’ An anonymous writer comments, “You cannot pray the Lord’s Prayer and even once say ‘I.’ You cannot pray the Lord’s Prayer and even once say ‘My.’ Nor can you pray the Lord’s Prayer and not pray for one another. And when you ask for daily bread, you must include your brother. For others are included in each and every plea. From the beginning to the end of it, it does not once say ‘Me.’”
In his book The Dangerous Act of Worship, Mark Labberton writes, “Imagine how shocking it would be if the foremost reputation of the church was ‘the people who endlessly love’ or ‘the people who sacrificially put others first’ or ‘the ones who always remember the poor and the forgotten.’”
This prayer helps me to recognize that we are dealing with a God who cares for the whole world and who continually calls us to join him in caring for others as well.