The Lord's Prayer: "Give Us Today Our Daily Bread"

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 19, 2021 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

I enjoy food - lots of different kinds of food in fact, like Mexican food, Italian, pizza, cheeseburgers, and of course, chocolate! For me, food is much more about enjoyment than simply getting the nourishment that my body needs; and too often, I eat based on what I want rather than what’s healthy.

This next phrase of the Lord’s Prayer is “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). When I was a small child learning this prayer, I wondered why we would just want bread every day; why couldn’t I pray for God to give me today my daily chocolate? This phrase is about God’s provision for our physical needs, which are not necessarily the same as our physical wants.

The Greek of this phrase is not much different from our common English translations. Literally, it says, “The bread of us the daily give to us today,” but a smoother translation would be, “Give to us today our daily bread.”

But does that just mean “bread”? The word for bread in Greek (“artos”) can literally mean bread or a loaf of bread, but it also means food in a more generic sense. It can also refer to food as specifically what we need to survive. I do enjoy bread and feel like I could just live on bread sometimes; my dad’s nickname in our family is The Breadfather because of his love for bread, so I do get it honestly! But we know that our bodies need many more nutrients than just those that are found in bread products.

Some early Church teachers equated this mention of bread in the Lord’s Prayer to be a reference to Communion or the Lord’s Supper. However, there’s no evidence in the text that this does not refer to simply physical nourishment, so the bread here does refer to real food.

In today’s culture in the United States, many of us are not used to living focused just one day at a time. In Biblical times, many workers were paid every day for the work they did that day. Being sick or injured for even a few days could be disastrous, as they would not have income for those days. Without food preservation methods like we have today, they couldn’t just go grocery shopping once and be set for a few weeks; they’d need to harvest or purchase the food they would need for that day or maybe a couple of days. The culture was very much a “daily” one.

Today, however, we can buy groceries every week or less often and have plenty to eat; many of us would have enough food to last a month or more, though our selection might become less than we’re accustomed to after a while. Many people get paid for their work every week or twice a month, rather than on a daily basis. Some people still do live day-to-day, but it’s different than Biblical times with modern things like refrigerators and freezers to preserve our food for longer.

I appreciate the phrase from one Biblical commentator who says, “The prayer is for our needs, not our greeds.” When we pray for our daily bread, we’re not praying for the extravagancies of life that we may want, but for necessities that may be much simpler. We pray for God to take care of what we need for that day; it’s a very present-tense prayer rather than a future-oriented one. We’re not praying for God to take care of our needs for the next few months or years, but just for this one day. God, give me what I need for today, then tomorrow I’ll ask you to take care of me for tomorrow.

The daily-ness of this prayer also reminds us that our days are never guaranteed. We pray for today because we do not know if we will live to see tomorrow. We only need to worry about each day that God gives us, whatever number that ends up being.

This part of the Lord’s Prayer would have reminded Israelites of their ancestors wandering in the wilderness when God provided manna (a form of bread) for them each day - see Exodus 16 for more on that. God’s instructions for the people were: “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days” (Exodus 16:4-5). They were not to gather extra, and if they did, it became rotten before they could eat it. The people of Israel needed to trust that God would provide exactly what they needed each day, rather than trying to store it up for themselves. The only time they were to gather extra was before the Sabbath, so they could spend that day focusing on God and not gathering food.

Are you trusting God daily for His provision in your life? Do you ask God for your “greeds” more than your “needs”? Let this phrase of the Lord’s Prayer remind you that anything God gives you beyond basic necessities is an extra blessing; He will provide what you need according to His good purposes and if He gives you extra, perhaps that’s an opportunity to bless someone else with it - thus God providing for them through your obedience to Him.

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