Jesus’ prayer thus far has taken us on a journey that radically decentralizes the “self”. We are called to approach God not first of all in a spirit of “gab”, blabbering on and on to God about whatever happens to pop into our heads, and neither with a laundry list of narcissistic items for our individual lives. Instead, we are challenged to join with “all the saints” in opening our eyes and souls up to the sheer grandeur of the Story that we find ourselves in… God, his Glory, and his Kingdom. Jesus’ prayer will usher us into the wide open places of a breathtaking narrative. We are not the center of the universe. And it is for our good that it should be so, and that we should see it.
But lest we should think therefore that the concerns of our little lives don’t matter, Jesus instructs us to pray next:
Give us this day our daily bread…
We are called to ask for bread. Our hungry stomachs matter to this God.
But it is the nature of the bread we are called to ask for that is perhaps shocking to our ears. We are not called to ask for huge mountains of bread that we can then shove in plastic bags and freeze up so that when times are lean, we’ll have enough. No, it is “daily” bread. “Today” bread. Sustenance for this moment. Provision for the immediate future – this coming day, hour, minute, second. And not beyond.
When we read this talk of “daily” bread we will likely recall the Exodus tale of the Israelites gathering manna – “what is it?” is what “manna” means in Hebrew – on the floor of the desert each morning. The Lord their God promised them that even in the desolate wilderness, provision would be there. Always enough. For each household. And the recollection of Old Testament writers was that “he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed” (Ex 16:18). Everyone had just enough.
There was a catch, though. And the catch was that no one was to store the miracle bread up for the next day. For if they did, it would immediately spoil. And some of them did try to store it up. The result? The next day the bread was “was full of maggots and began to smell” (16:20). And Moses was angry.
The bread “began to smell.” What an apt description of the absence of simple trust. It smells. The act of gathering up manna, trying to save it for the next day, was an act of pure, straightforward unbelief. Yahweh promised bread. Daily bread. Miracle provision. On the floor of the desert. They got it once. But some did not trust that Yahweh would be Yahweh-for-them TOMORROW too. They hedged their bets against God. I think this broke God’s heart, deeply disappointing him.
I think we do this all the time. We pray for provision, but it is not the “daily bread” sort of provision that Jesus calls us to pray for. Instead, we pray that we’d get “that job” that pays really well. And even though it is not wrong to pray for such things, yet in our hearts, if we’re honest, the reason that we’re praying for “that job” that pays really well is because we’re hoping to break out into a situation in which we no longer need to trust God for “daily bread”, because such trust is not comfortable. It is precariously uncertain.
Perhaps you don’t know this, so it is worthwhile to say – God never intends to graduate us from moment-by-moment dependance on him. We are called to live continually under the canopy of his care, and it is a sign that deep down we don’t really believe his goodness that we are constantly trying to escape that canopy and build our own.
How ironic that the vehicle of our unbelief so often is prayer. Prayer that is intended to unite us with the Father for many of us becomes yet one more way our mistrustful hearts find expression…
Would to God that we would be able to pray, in simple trust, like children with their parents, “I’m going to need to eat today, Father. Please make sure there’s enough for me.”
“Give us this day our daily bread.”