Give Us Today Our Daily Bread: A Prayer Not For Me – But For ‘Us.’
I love bread. It is irresistible to me, especially when it is warm and slathered with butter. In fact, I may love bread a little too much! The aroma, the earthiness, the memories of home. Mmmm.
But for many children around the world, bread is not just a delicious indulgence. It is the sustenance of life. Bread is what fills a swollen belly and staves off the pangs of hunger. It provides nourishment and essential nutrients for life.
Over the last couple of months, various Stadia staff members have guided us through the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This month we come to my favorite portion of the Lord’s Prayer. The fourth petition, “Give us today our daily bread.”
The first three requests have been traditionally referred to as the “thou petitions.” These are requests we make to God for Him to do something that makes His name known, that proclaims His greatness and furthers His purposes.
“Give us today our daily bread” begins the final three petitions known as the “we petitions.” These final three requests offered up to God relate to the here-and-now world that we live in and relates to our needs and guidance.
Bread was, and is, the staple food for middle eastern culture. And all throughout the Bible, bread universally is used to symbolize all that we eat, our nourishment, that food which sustains us. That’s the undebatable meaning of bread in this passage.
I want to highlight two words in this phrase that I believe hold a richness and depth we often overlook. Those words are ‘daily’ and ‘our.’
‘Give us today our DAILY bread.’
DAILY. This peculiar Greek word “Epiousios” (ep-ee-oo’- see-os) that our bibles translate as DAILY, doesn’t appear anywhere else in scripture. So, it is a unique word packed with meaning.
Many scholars believe this DAILY request for bread is not one of excess, but rather one of sustenance. “Give us today just enough to meet our needs.” One of the earliest translations of the Lord’s Prayer into old Syriac (a language that very closely parallels the Aramaic language Jesus spoke and predates English by centuries), reads “give us today the bread that doesn’t run out.”
One of the most basic of human fears is that of not having enough. What if in this prayer Jesus is teaching us that prayer can help release us from that fear? If we pray “give us today the bread that doesn’t run out”, it includes the bread of today, it includes the bread of the future, and enough to keep us alive–– all that we need, all that we will use.
The fear of not having enough in the right now, that basic human fear, it can destroy a sense of joy in the present and erode a hope for the future. I believe that we find a broad application if we lean into this ancient Syriac translation–– where we pray for God to deliver us from the fear and angst of not having enough to eat. “Give us bread for today and with it give us confidence that tomorrow we will also have enough.”
But it can be hard for us in our culture of abundance to understand a prayer that frees us from the DAILY fear of not having the basics to sustain life. But again, so many children around the world go to bed dreaming about, hoping and wishing for a piece of bread. This is the world that scripture was originally written to. To people with fears of DAILY sustenance.
Now because we have so much, does that mean we don’t need to pray this portion of the prayer? I mean, most of us will never experience malnutrition and the inability to feed our families basic nourishment like bread.
Well, that brings us to another important word in this little phrase in the Lord’s Prayer–– “OUR.” The phrase is “Give US this day OUR daily bread,” not “Give ME this day MY daily bread.”
‘Give us today OUR daily bread.’
What I love about all six requests in the Lord’s Prayer is that while we are expressing dependence on God to meet needs, we are not off the hook. In all six requests we see the need of both an act of God, and also an invitation to participation and responsibility on the part of the one praying.
What can we do to ensure that this prayer for daily bread is met? What can we do to eliminate fear and poverty in the world?
The first century, middle eastern culture that the Bible was originally written to is one that understood fear and hunger, but they also understood community in a profound way. That OUR needs are more important than MY needs. As a Western culture, the United States was built on principles of rugged individualism. The most important entity in an individualistic society is the individual person. Our identity comes from how we distinguish ourselves from those around us. I am responsible for ME and not for YOU.
What if in this part of the Lord’s Prayer we see ourselves not as an individual that is in DAILY need, but as a potential answer to the Lord’s Prayer? An instrument that God wants to use to stave off the pangs of hunger, to eliminate fear and restore joy in the present and hope for the future? Doesn’t this align with the way of Jesus we see in the Gospels?
So, the next time you have any kind of bread, will you pause and say a little prayer? A prayer of thankfulness for the bread you are about to eat. A prayer of gratitude for not just having enough to meet your individual daily needs, but an abundance that could be shared with others. A DAILY prayer that reminds us of OUR needs and not just my own.
Toney, and his wife, Stacie, have been in ministry for over 25 years. The majority of Toney’s ministry has focused on planting new churches in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Stacie has been in Children’s ministry for more than 20 years and currently serves the church they started in Pittsburgh, PA as Children’s Pastor. Toney and Stacie have two great kids. Their son, Tanner, is finishing up his major at Ozark Christian College and will be moving to Tokyo, Japan where he will be a part of a team to plant a new church. Their daughter Haley will graduate HS in May of 2020 and plans to enter ministry after college and work with children and teens. Toney’s role with Stadia is to build relationships with churches and planters in the Northeast region and to help Stadia plant more churches that intentionally care for children in the Northeast and around the world.