The Prayer of Jesus: Our Daily Bread
“Give us today our daily bread.” Matthew 6:10
Pretzel Prayer & Other Assorted Prayers!
I loved Kelly’s story of the Pretzel Prayer from last week. I had never heard that before, and assumed that a pretzel was just that…. a pretzel.
I didn’t know that an industrious little monk from the 16th Century didn’t want to see the leftover bread dough just thrown out. Instead he gathered it up, and came up with a unique pretzel formation
For him, that specific pretzel formation was just what busy little children should do when praying. They should fold their arms the way of the pretzel instead of being distracted.
It was almost like a self-imposed straightjacket for effective prayer J!
It reminded me of how I prayed as a kid. I used to imagine prayer like driving the autobahn with different stops along the way. I had to make all the right stops in order to get to the destination, which was then the end of the prayer.
Stops along the way included praying for God to forgive my sins, and another stop was for God to bless my family. Another one was for God to be with my relatives and so on.
I usually kept this routine up, as a way for me not to forget what to pray for.
In some ways it’s what the Rosary is to the Catholics where each bead represents a particular prayer such as a Hail Mary, Glory Be, the Lord’s Prayer, etc.
Before you dismiss this as sounding too religious, please keep in mind that there’s something about us that requires reminders or tags along the way. This is so that we don’t get stuck in a rut, head into a wrong destination, or run out of fuel when it comes to prayer.
Of course, the assumption is that a child of God will be heard by God because they are God’s child, but even children of God can get stuck in ruts, run in circles, or ride hobby horses when it comes to prayer.
This is why Jesus gave us what we call the Lord’s Prayer, as a way to keep us on track, and to cover all the essentials in prayer.
Frankly, the Lord’s Prayer is not a child’s prayer. It is an incredibly challenging way to pray.
Ø Speaking into our lives about such heart issues as the need to be born again so that God becomes our Father;
Ø Learning that it means each of us is not an only child but one of many, and that God’s answers are always balanced to benefit all and not just for me, myself and I;
Ø Remembering who is holy and who is not, and how to reverence our holy God;
Ø Then there’s the whole question of God’s reign coming into our broken lives and our broken world.
These are all tough aspects in an effective prayer life; not to mention next week’s sermon on forgiving others so that we might be forgiven, and the need not to let the challenges of life become temptations and opportunities to sin.
None of this stuff is easy. The Lord’s Prayer is challenging.
Which is why at a glance you would think that today’s topic of “Give us today our daily bread” is somewhat of a breather.
It doesn’t get under our skin. It doesn’t call us to stand in the gap for intercession. It doesn’t probe our hearts for submission, forgiveness or surrender. None of that stuff.
It is a prayer for our daily bread… and who of us doesn’t love a freshly baked loaf of bread every day?
Ah, the fragrance of freshly baked bread! It’s the fragrance of life, feasting and abundance. Bread is the symbol of sustenance, nourishment, physical needs met. (Satt Gegessen!)
So yes, to a line in the Lord’s Prayer that for once goes to where my natural instinct takes me, namely into the world of physical needs more than met.
Freshly baked bread. Yes!
The Bread of Life
Well, what if I were to tell you that the early Christians and church fathers never saw this prayer as being about physical sustenance?
From earliest times on, this was about spiritual sustenance with a view toward a future feast in the heavens.
This bread was a reference to the Lord’s Supper. The bread on the table at Communion was “our daily bread”, and hence the Lords’ Supper and the Lord’s Prayer were to go hand in hand.
When “Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body,” (Matthew 26:26), that this is what “Give us today our daily bread,” was all about.
In other words, this prayer is the desire to be nourished by the spiritual food of Christ’s broken body and shed blood, which makes this an expression of our longing to be spiritually nourished.
So, in many ways, this sees Jesus as the ‘bread of life’.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
The Day of the Great Feast!
Jesus stills our greatest hunger, which is the hunger of the soul, and with it points to a future day of celebration where all hunger will truly be stilled.
Some day there will be what is known as the great ‘Marriage Supper of the Lamb’!
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Rev. 19:7, 9
On that day and at that event, the Bride and the guests will truly feast and the deepest longing of the loneliest heart will be fully stilled and satisfied.
You see, no matter how many times we may fill our empty hearts with the Living Bread in the here and now, there will always be a sense of “a little more” and of “not quite full yet”.
With it comes the temptation to grab for the bread of this world, which differs for all of us ranging from food to booze, and everything in between.
That’s why the prayer for daily bread is so important, because yesterday’s bread doesn’t still this morning’s hunger. We need constant replenishment. We need daily bread.
The fact that we to ask for daily bread underlines this idea that like the manna of old it would only be enough for today.
We need manna every morning, so that in our spiritual hunger we don’t look around at this world’s bread and do as the children of Israel did who longed for the bread and pot of Egypt.
There will always be the remnants of this lingering hunger until we eat at the table at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, at which point all cravings and hunger will fall away.
We will then be fully satisfied for all eternity, which is what Jesus meant when he said: “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Luke 14:15
Until that day, how are you doing this morning? Let me ask you - when is the last time you feasted, really feasted on the goodness of God?
When’s the last time you had manna from heaven? When’s the last time He filled you up to overflowing?
When’s the last time you were so full of the Bread of Heaven that you had no appetite for the pleasures of this world?
Or maybe you have never feasted on the goodness of the Lord, and you have never known what it means to be fully satisfied with the deepest, most primal longing filled.
This is your moment! Jesus is here to fill you up to overflowing.
It was Jesus who said: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
I love the old hymn “All My Life Long” where it talks about this ageless hunger that can only be stilled in the Living Bread.
All my life long I had panted for a draught from some cool spring that I hoped would quench the burning of the thirst I felt within.
Feeding on the husks around me til my strength was almost gone longed my soul for something better only still to hunger on.
Poor I was, and sought for riches something that would satisfy,
But the dust I gathered round me only mocked my soul’s sad cry.
Well of water, ever springing, bread of life, so rich and free,
Untold wealth that never faileth, my Redeemer is to me.
Then the refrain, the answer: Hallelujah! I have found Him whom my soul so long has craved! Jesus satisfies my longings. Through His life I now am saved.
Don’t let this moment go by without you opening your heart for the sweet aroma of the living bread of heaven.
A Shopping List!
So the church fathers and earliest Christians understood this prayer “Give Us Today Our Daily Bread” to be a plea for spiritual sustenance in this bone-dry desert.
Until, that is, they found the papyrus fragment.
There have always been those who have wanted to push the prayer into the physical realm, suggesting that God is concerned about our physical bread and life.
The problem was that there was no evidence that the wording ‘daily bread’ referred to anything other than Jesus as the living bread….. until they found the Epiousios Papyrus.
What is the Epiousios Papyrus, you ask?
Papyrus was the scroll-like material that the ancients scripted on.
In the early part of the 20th Century, such a scroll was found and it contained the illusive word Epiousios, which means daily bread.
Up until that find, the only other place where Epiousios was found was in the Lord’s Prayer, as in ‘our daily bread’.
Matthew and Luke were the only ones ever to use that word, and most scholars thought they made it up.
To everyone’s surprise, the papyrus fragment not only used the word epiousios as in ‘daily bread’, but get this, it was a grocery-shopping list.
On someone’s shopping list, somebody wrote “and don’t forget to get today’s bread”.
“It was only in the twentieth century that a single additional use of the word seemed to be discovered. The document in which it was found is a 5th-century shopping list. The word epiousios is written next to the names of several grocery items. This seems to indicate that it was used in the sense of "enough for today." Friedrich Preisigke
Incredible! A 5th-century shopping list, with a reminder to buy supplies for certain food for the coming day.
This shopping list called it ‘Daily Bread’. Who would have thought?
With it, everything shifted. All of a sudden, a world of possibilities opened up in terms of what “Give us today our daily bread” means.
It does mean not just spiritual food, but also physical nourishment. God is interested in my physical well-being; that I have enough bread on my table.
“So very simply what this petition means is, ‘Give me the things we need to eat for this coming day. Help me to get the things I’ve got on my shopping list when I go out this morning. Give me the things we need to eat when the children come home from school and the men folk come in from work. Grant that the table be not bare when we sit down together today.’ This is a simple prayer that God will supply us with the things we need for this coming day.” William Barclay
Seeing his prayer through that lens opens up a world of possibilities such as:
1. God cares for our physical lives
To God our physical lives are as important as our spiritual lives.
In fact, God cared so much about our physical lives that He sent Jesus into this world as a physical life form.
Jesus was greatly concerned for the physical well being of others. How many times did he heal people physically? How many times was he concerned when people had nothing to eat?
How can we ever forget the time he made sandwiches last until all were fed or even the time when he cooked breakfast for his disciples?
God cares deeply for our physical lives and so, yes, we can and should bring to God our physical needs such as finance, health, relationships, and the many things in between.
2. It’s One Day At A Time
Like the manna of old, this bread was only going to last for today. This is our ‘daily’ bread, and not our weekly or monthly bread.
This prayer says ‘help us to live one day at a time and not to be anxious for tomorrow’.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”
Matthew 6:25, 31-32
So this is a prayer about trusting God for the provisions needed for this day, while leaving tomorrow in His hands.
3. God Provides the Seed
This prayer also gives God the rightful place in terms of who provides what in our physical lives. This prayer says that at the end of the day it is God who gives us our daily bread.
It’s His seed that bakes the bread. We may be doing the baking but it’s God who provides the seed.
“Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Cor. 3:7
It takes away the arrogance of assuming that it’s all up to us. At any moment God can pull the plug. People in their prime can be cut down. We are not invincible.
Every breath is a gift from God and at the end of the day God provides the seed for us to bake our bread.
4. We Bake the Bread
Then there is the flipside to this, which says that God may provide the seeds but it won’t be bread until we bake it.
Praying “Give us today our daily bread” doesn’t mean that loaves and loaves of bread will start falling like pennies from heaven.
It means: “What must I do to see bread on my table? While at the end of the day God may make things grow, I will have to cultivate the seed, harvest that seed, and bake that bread.”
Paul’s words in I Corinthians, about God making things grow, also talks about our role:
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” 1 Cor. 3:6
Loaves of bread won’t fall out of heaven.
“If a man prayed this prayer, and then sat back and waited for bread to fall into his hands, he would certainly starve. It reminds us that prayer and work go hand in hand and that when we pray we must go on to work to make our prayers come true.”
So what is it you need to do? No one owes you anything. This is not a welfare state where we show up cap in hand. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and earn our living by the sweat of our brow.
As Paul said, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
2 Thess. 3:7-10
So praying for our daily bread is about us finding the “get up and go”, to do our part, to earn that bread.
5. Enough Bread for All!
Lastly, this prayer recognizes that the bread we have we share.
This is not ‘my’ bread any more than this is about ‘my’ Father in heaven.
Remember how we said that the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray ‘our Father’ instead of ‘my father’? This means that God is the Father of many, and that I am not an only child or somehow a princess?
Growing up in a family of many takes away some of the selfishness about me, myself and I. And when God answers your prayers, it is always within the context of making sure that none of his other children lose out or get hurt.
The same thing is true with “Give us today our daily bread”. It’s a prayer that all of us would have enough bread.
Did you know that we have more than enough food in this world to give everyone three square meals a day?
We have enough food in this world to feed 10 billion people and yet one billion people go to bed hungry every night?
This prayer concerns itself with that injustice and says we should remain bothered and restless about global injustice. Not only should we do our part to alleviate hunger, but also yearn for the day in God’s Kingdom when no one goes hungry.
“This prayer teaches us never to be selfish with our prayers. This prayer is not only a prayer that we may receive our daily bread; it is also a prayer that we may share our daily bread with others.”
Come to the Table!
So in closing, there is very much a physical dimension to this prayer. But I don’t ever want it to end there, because “man does not live by bread alone but by the living giving Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
First and foremost, the ancients understood this prayer to be for our spiritual bread.
As Jesus said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Mark 8:36
You can own all the breadbaskets in the world brimming to the top with loaves and loaves of bread, but if in your soul you don’t have the bread of life then you have nothing.
Your table may be full but if your heart is empty, you have nothing.
You do not live by bread alone! So this morning, this invitation for the bread of life is yours! As we will sing:
“This is the air I breathe, your holy presence living in me
This is my daily bread, your very word spoken to me
And I’m desperate for you. And I’m lost without you!”
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.