There is more to be said, however, on “give us this day our daily bread” (see here for part 1 of this post).
As we have already seen, Jesus’ mention of “bread” provokes the remembrance of miracle bread (manna) on the desert floor for the Israelites each day during their time of wandering in the wilderness. Exodus 16 declared that when the Israelites went out to gather, each one gathered as much as they needed (Ex 16:18), and Moses recalled in Deuteronomy 2:7, after 40 years of shepherding the people of God, that “These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.”
“Not lacked.” The 40 years of wandering may not have been particularly pleasant, but the Israelites always had exactly what they needed, when they needed it. Why? Because their God was WITH them, as a Father, present and near.
“There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” (Deut 1:31)
As a father carries his babies, so Yahweh carries his people. What a beautiful image. In like manner, Jesus teaches us to know God as a father, who is present and near to us, meeting our needs on a moment by moment basis, out of his illimitable kindness. And so we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread“, for daily bread is exactly his specialty. “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it”, says Yahweh in the Psalms (81:10). He fills our mouths with bread.
The early Christians also of course remembered the Exodus story. In fact, their reading of the Old Testament Scriptures was such that they saw the meaning of the events of the Exodus as coming to a climax, being “filled up” in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, in the pouring out of his Spirit and the gathering together of a people, his Church. That in the same way that the Israelites had been delivered from Pharaoh’s Egypt through sacrifice, they had been delivered from Satan’s dominion by sacrifice. And in the same way that the Israelites had passed out of Egypt through water (the Red Sea), they had passed out of the land of Sin and Death by water (baptism). And in the same way that the pillar of fire and the cloud of God’s presence guided them through the wilderness until they reached the promised land, so they were being guided by the Spirit as aliens and sojourners until they came to final rest in the New Heavens and the New Earth. They saw Exodus EVERYWHERE in their life.
Including the matter of provision. In an incredibly significant passage in 2 Corinthians 8, Paul is encouraging the Corinthian believers to help supply aid to some churches who had been affected by a severe famine, saying:
13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality,
And then, in a stunning interpretive maneuver, he adds:
15as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”
“He who gathered much…” HE IS QUOTING EXODUS 16:18. But whereas in Exodus, the miracle bread came, as it were, out of “thin air” for the people of God, NOW IT IS COMING STRAIGHT FROM THE HANDS OF GOD’S PEOPLE TO THOSE IN NEED.
The miracle is being recapitulated, but in an astounding, surprising, and deeply challenging way.
We must remember that at least as often as the early church prayed the Lord’s Prayer by themselves, they prayed it together. And what did they pray? Not, “Give ME this day MY daily bread…” but, “Give US this day OUR daily bread…”
Think about the effect that praying this prayer would have had on their corporate life. Imagine them sitting together in one of their houses, praying “Give us this day our daily bread,” and then looking around and seeing a severely handicapped person, a beggar, and a widow sitting in front of them. Would they not have jumped at the opportunity to be part of the Father’s answer to this prayer? We know from history that in fact they did:
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4)
To pray “Give us this day our daily bread” is both a prayer for individual provision and a profound act of communal self-discipline, for we are called to be part of the Father’s miraculous provision of bread on behalf of others. How shall we pray this prayer together with the people of God, and then turn a blind eye to the needs in our midst, when our cupboards are full? We would perhaps be better off if the food in those cupboards turned to maggots and stank the next day, for we have the opportunity to be the Hands and Feet, and selfishly we refuse.
Part of the problem here, though, is that the rampant individualism and isolation of our lives puts us in a position where, even if we attend church on Sundays, we do not share life deeply enough with other people to be able to be able to pray this prayer in the way that it was meant to be prayed. “Give us this day our daily bread” becomes yet one more way in which the God of the Bible, the Exodus God, becomes the Coke Machine god for our self-centered, narcissistic, American-dream centered lives.
We are called into the Body, called to make manifest the miracle of the Father’s never-ending provision for his hungry kids. May we not pray “Give us this day” unless we’re ready to put bread in the Father’s hands for him to give to others.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20They all ate and were satisfied… (Matthew 14)
Here is our bread, Lord Christ. Take it. Bless it. And feed the hungry with it. Far beyond what we could ever ask or imagine.