Our Daily Bread

Jesus taught us, in the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, to ask the Father for “our daily bread.”

“Daily bread,” of course, is a metaphor for everything we need from the Lord. This includes requests for spiritual growth and piety, but we should never be embarrassed to ask God for physical blessings, as well. In Prayerbook of the Bible, a book on praying the psalms, Dietrich Bonhoeffer bemoans the fact that “there arises in many [Christians] the unhealthy thought that life and the earthly blessings of God are … a questionable good and … not to be desired.” However, in thinking this way, he says, these Christians “want to be even more spiritual than God is.”

Psalm 146 teaches us how to pray for our daily bread. This psalm shows us that God truly cares about the physical needs of human beings. He cares about our health, our finances, our housing, our physical comfort, our longing for relationship, and our professional development. Psalm 146 describes God as being intensely concerned about physical needs in the physical world. “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow ….” (vv. 7-9a)

In asking God for our daily bread, we are declaring our absolute dependency on God for everything in life. It is easy to be fooled into thinking that our future flourishing depends on something other than God – on our own effort, on the favor of others, on the strength of the national economy, etc. Psalm 146 reminds us not to trust in these things, but rather to trust in God. “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” (vv. 3-5)

Of course, it is significant that Jesus taught Christians to pray for “our daily bread” and not for “my daily bread.” Many of us have refrigerators full of food, enough bread for today and for the rest of the week. We might think that this portion of the Lord’s Prayer is not very important for people like us. But then we are reminded that we are not merely praying for God to feed us. We are praying for his provision for our impoverished brothers and sisters throughout the world. Praying for the needy on a daily basis will probably gradually begin to transform our hearts. We will find ourselves feeling more grateful for the blessings God has given us, and we will find ourselves moving more spontaneously to help others in need.