Give us this day our daily bread... (Matthew 6:11 ESV)Last Sunday, my church continued it's series on the Lord's prayer, using N.T. Wright's book on the topic. This week's sermon focused on the phrase "Give us this day our daily bread," examining the text from a variety of perspectives.
I enjoyed the sermon very much as a whole, but one portion in particular encouraged me. As the teaching drew to a close, Dr. Bolger outlined four ways that this phrase is significant. The first two were familiar, but at the same time, they were just what I needed to remember.
What does Jesus mean by "daily bread?" What is the significance of praying for "our daily bread?"
1. Our natural longings and desires for "bread (and all the human needs it symbolizes) are not "evil" or "wrong."
2. It is right to pray honestly for our specific needs, not just general requests. We pray to "our Father." Our prayers hsould not only be for "spritual" things.Bolger reminded the congregation that our loving Father knows all of our deepest desires and longings. He said that it is appropriate and right to pray and ask Him to "satisfy our desires for love, for marriage, for children, for success, for comfort, for fulfillment, for peace, for (whatever we desire), in (His) way and in (His) time."
I thought of the many areas of my life where I already have my "daily bread." I have a comfortable home, food on the table, a loving community. And I thought of the areas where I still am hungry. My family is still renting in town, though we have been trying to buy in the country for several years. I'm still single, though I have been praying for marriage for a long time. I still go through times where I struggle with worry and anxiety, though I've prayed for God to help me walk in an attitude of peace.
As I listened to the teaching, it was comforting to remember that we have a Father who sees these longings. It's encouraging to remember that His Son taught us to pray for Him to meet these needs.
It's not that we treat our Father like a genie, expecting Him to give us what we want. We begin the prayer to our Father in heaven with praise -- "hallowed be Your name" -- recognizing His glory and the honor He is due. And then, we pray for His will -- "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
It is only in this context -- recognition of our Father's glory and desire for His will above all -- that we can pray for our daily bread. We can trust that He will answer our prayers, though perhaps not always in the way we expect.
And at the same time, we remember that our Father has already answered our prayer for "bread" in the gift of His Son. We celebrate this gift, every time we eat the bread and drink the cup.
The Eucharist is both the highest form of prayer and the answer to our prayer. In receiving this symbolic feast we say "thank you." In receiving this symbolic feast, our deepest needs are touched as we taste the goodness of God's kingdom. (Bolger)We will never have our hunger completely filled until the return of our King. But until He comes, we can trust in the providence of our Father.