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24. Our Daily Bread (Matthew 6:11

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Give us today our daily bread

Matthew 6:11 (NET)

One of the great lessons of the Lord’s Prayer is for us to seek God’s interests first and then our interests. We should come before God seeking that his name be honored, his kingdom come, and his will be done. Then we should bring our interests before God.

The fourth petition is a request for God to supply our daily bread. It seems strange that after asking for such great things as God’s kingdom to come that we should ask for something so insignificant as our daily bread. However, this shows God’s great concern for us and reminds us that not only is God our King but also our Father. As King, we are his subjects who do his bidding. As Father, we are his children who enjoy his presence, care, and provision.

In this study, we’ll consider what it means to pray for our daily bread and applications that stem from this request.

Big Question: What does it mean to pray for our daily bread, and what applications can we take from this request?

Prayer for Our Physical Needs

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to pray for our daily bread?

Bread was the basic sustenance for many in the ancient world and, therefore, was at times used metaphorically to refer to physical needs. Sometimes this is still true today. For example, the person in a household who makes the most money is often called the “bread-winner.”

When we ask God for our bread, we are asking him to supply our basic needs. Martin Luther said, “everything necessary for the preservation of this life is bread, including food, a healthy body, good weather, house, home, wife, children, good government, and peace.”1

Though this petition seems rather simple, there is also a little controversy over it. The controversy comes from doubt over what exactly the Greek word used for “daily” means. The reason for this is because its placement in the Lord’s Prayer is the only time this word is found in popular Greek literature (cf. Matt 6:11, Lk 11:3). Third-century, theologian Origen thought that Matthew invented the word.2 However, more recently, this word was found on an ancient shopping list in Egypt. The person was writing down exactly what things to purchase for the day.3 The word seems to be an adjective meaning “of the day that is coming.” If we pray it in the morning, we are asking for provision for the day. If we pray it at night, we are asking for the next day’s provisions.4

In the ancient world, this petition was very relevant. Commonly, laborers were paid on the very day that they worked. The pay was typically very low, and it only provided enough to purchase food for that day. It was almost impossible to save money.5 This prayer would have given these day laborers great hope—God would meet their needs for the day, just as he did the day before.

Though in many developed nations, people have food stored up for weeks and savings accounts to take care of them in an emergency, we still need to pray this petition and maybe even more so. We need to pray it to remind us that God is our provider and that we are dependent upon him. He gives us life, breath, and everything else (Acts 17:25). James 1:17 says that every good and perfect gift comes from above. God is the one who meets our needs. Therefore, we don’t need to be anxious or worried about the future. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan—we should. However, when we do, we must trust and submit those plans to God (Jam 4:13-15). God is the one who speaks and the bread comes. He speaks and a job opens up right on time. He speaks and there is strength and energy to work. When he speaks, provisions become available in times of need. He makes sure his children lack no good thing (Ps 23:1).

Application Question: Share a story of how God miraculously met your needs or how he continually meets your needs.

Prayer for Our Spiritual Needs

Though the petition for bread refers to our physical needs, it also refers to our spiritual needs. We can discern this by how Jesus uses the word in the Gospels. In John 6:35, he said, “‘I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.” We need Jesus more and more each day, and therefore, we should cry out for him. James 4:8 says to draw near to God and he will draw near to us. One of the ways we draw near God is in prayer—seeking to know him and his presence more. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” God’s Word is our bread. Like David, we should constantly petition that God would open our eyes to see wonderful things from his law (Ps 119:18). In addition, Christ uses food, in general, to refer to doing God’s will. In John 4:32 and 34, he said to the disciples, “I have food that you know nothing about; my food is to do the will of the Father and finish his work” (paraphrase). Here we must petition for opportunities to share the gospel, to disciple, and to serve others. Our bread is Jesus, his Word, and his works.

Application Question: How would you gauge your spiritual hunger on a scale from 1 to 10? What aspect of your spiritual needs do you most hunger for and what do you least hunger for and why (cf. God’s Word, prayer, God himself, evangelism, etc.)? How should one increase his or her spiritual hunger?

General Applications

Application Question: What applications can we take from our need to pray for our daily bread?

1. This petition reminds us to ask for our needs based on God’s generous, fatherly nature.

In Matthew 7:7-11, Christ says:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Christ encourages the disciples to not only pray but also to continually pray. It literally can be translated “ask and keep asking, knock and keep knocking.” Why? Because God is a Father who loves to provide good things for his children. Christ makes the argument that if a natural father provides, how much more will our heavenly Father—who lacks no resources and is not impeded by any sin in himself. In James 1:5, it says, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives liberally” (paraphrase). God is a lavish giver. He likes to provide for his children, and therefore, we should constantly come before him to ask for our needs to be met.

In Luke 11:13, the parallel passage, Christ says, “If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” In the original, there is no article before Holy Spirit. When this happens, it typically refers to the gifts or ministries of the Holy Spirit instead of his person.6 Therefore, this fits perfectly with God’s desire to bless us with spiritual bread. Do you want to know the Word? Ask and keep asking. The Holy Spirit will enlighten you. Do you want spiritual strength to serve? Ask. The Holy Spirit will empower you. Do you want wisdom to disciple others? Ask in faith. The Holy Spirit provides lavishly. God not only wants to provide our physical needs but also our spiritual needs.

Application Question: Why is it important to be persistent in prayer—to ask and keep asking?

2. This petition reminds us to be content with our needs.

When Christ refers to bread, he is referring to basic sustenance that any commoner would need. He doesn’t say to ask for steak, wine, or dessert. Sometimes in popular Christianity, it is taught that God wants to make every person wealthy. However, that is not biblical. The majority of Christians throughout the centuries have been poor and that includes Christ and the disciples. God promises to meet our needs and tells us to pray for them (Matt 6:33, Phil 4:19). Now, it’s not necessarily wrong to pray for wants, but in the Lord’s Prayer, we are taught to pray for our needs. Therefore, the implication is God wants us to learn contentment with having only our needs met.

In 1 Timothy 6:6-8, Paul teaches Timothy the same. He says, “Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit. For we have brought nothing into this world and so we cannot take a single thing out either. But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that.” The word “shelter” can be translated “covering” and therefore could refer to clothing and shelter. If we have food, clothing, and shelter, we should be content. However, most of us are not content with our needs, and therefore, we are prone to covet what others have, become jealous, and even complain. In the wilderness, God disciplined the Israelites for the sin of complaining, and he will do the same with us. First Corinthians 10:10 says, “And do not complain, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel.”

This petition reminds us to be humble and content with God’s provision. If he gives us more, praise God! If he gives us just enough, praise God! If we seem to have less than enough, pray in faith. He is faithful to his promises. God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory (Phil 4:19).

Application Question: Why is it so difficult to be content with our needs? How should a person learn contentment? Is it wrong to pray for our wants and desires?

3. This petition reminds us of how God cares for our bodies and not just our spirits.

Often people have struggled with the concept of a God that cares for our bodies. Greek philosophy considered the body evil and the spirit good. Regrettably, this has shown up in Christianity in various ways throughout the centuries. Sometimes people practiced ascetism—a rigid discipline of the body. Other times, it’s shown up in hedonism—the pursuit of pleasures, even sinful ones, based on the thought that our bodies don’t really matter. However, we must remember that the promise of salvation is not just a salvation of our spirits but a salvation of our bodies. One day we will be resurrected and have perfect bodies like our Lord. In 1 Corinthians 6:13, Paul said that our bodies are for the Lord and the Lord for our bodies. Later in verse 19, he says we were bought with a price and therefore we should honor God with our bodies. God cares not only for our spirits but also our bodies—that’s why this petition for daily bread has both spiritual and physical implications. In fact, we saw this in Christ’s ministry—he spent a lot of time healing people’s bodies and satisfying their physical hunger.

Certainly, this reminds us to stay away from harmful things like sexual immorality, gluttony, and addictions. It also challenges us to take care of our bodies by eating right, exercising, and getting good rest. Our body is the Lord’s. In this petition, we are asking for him to provide good things for our bodies, so they can serve and honor him. One day, he will raise our bodies from the dead; he cares for them and so should we.

Application Question: How do you take care of your body and seek to honor God with it? Are there some ways God is challenging you to be a better steward of your body?

4. This petition reminds us that no request is too small for God.

Sometimes people only pray when it comes to major events—a terrible accident or sickness, or when a need seems insurmountable. However, God wants us to bring all our cares before him. In 1 Peter 5:7, it says, “Cast your cares before the Lord for he cares for you” (paraphrase). The word “cares” literally means a “dividing of the mind.” We should bring anything that divides our mind—anything that makes us worry—before the Lord. However, we should not just bring our anxieties but also our joys, questions, and desires. God wants to know. This is a reminder of his love for us. Everything matters to him. Scripture says he puts our tears in a bottle and that the hairs on our head are numbered (Ps 56:8, Lk 12:7). God knows and cares about every detail of our lives, and he wants us to bring them before him at all times.

5. This petition reminds us to not worry about the future.

This does not remove prudent planning. But as we plan, we must understand how God works. He often only gives us the bread for today and not tomorrow. He often provides right when something is needed and not before, so we stay totally dependent upon him. When the Israelites were in the wilderness and God provided manna from heaven for them, he chose to provide it every morning and commanded them to not store up for the next day. When they disobeyed, the food spoiled (Ex 16). God was teaching them to trust in him, and he often does the same with us. He provides just enough, so we will learn to trust him for our daily needs. When we need to know the next step, he makes it clear. When we need the extra money, he provides it. In all of this, God teaches us to be anxious for nothing (Phil 4:6).

Are you worried? Trust him. He is faithful.

Application Question: What types of worries do you commonly struggle with? How can praying the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer help you and others have peace?

6. This petition reminds us to pray for others and help in providing for their needs.

The Lord’s Prayer begins with the plural “Our,” and the last three petitions are also in the plural—our daily bread, our debts, and deliver us. Sadly, prayer is often rooted in selfishness, like most of the human life. However, in true prayer, not only are we concerned with ourselves, but more importantly with God and others. In this petition, we must lift up the needs of others—bringing them before our gracious God.

Also, when we pray this, we implicitly commit to help provide for others’ needs, not only through prayer but also through other means. James said it this way:

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself.

James 2:15-17

Can we really only pray if we have the ability to help someone? James says, no. By praying, we are committing to being part of the solution to somebody else’s problem. The problem with the world today is not that we don’t have enough resources to take care of everyone; the problem is distribution of resources. Through praying for bread for those who lack it, we are committing to being part of God’s hands who provide it.

Are you willing to help provide bread for others?

7. This petition reminds us of how God’s providence and people’s diligence works with prayer.

If we pray for our daily bread and yet do nothing, most likely we will starve or lack resources. God’s means of providing for us is primarily through our own labor. The farmer ploughs the field, sows seed, and reaps a harvest. By seemingly natural means, God provides for the farmer’s daily bread. This is true for us as well. Certainly, God can miraculously provide manna from heaven, send ravens with food, or multiply a few loaves to feed a multitude. However, that is not his primary way of answering prayer. People pray and work, and God’s grace abounds over that work. For example, if a person wants a godly mate, one should prepare himself to be godly and maybe even put himself in a position to meet somebody. If a person wants to be a doctor, one should study diligently and go to medical school. If a person wants to save souls, one must pursue opportunities to share the gospel. In the same way that faith without works is dead (Jam 2:17), prayer is often dead and useless without work. It has often been said that we should pray as though it all depends on God and work as though it all depends on us. There is some wisdom to this saying.

Application Question: What is the proper balance between prayer and diligence? What is the improper balance and how can we avoid it?

8. This petition reminds us to give God thanks.

Every good and perfect gift comes from God (Jam 1:17). Did you have lunch today? Give God thanks. Did he help you resolve some conflict? Praise him. Do you have strength and health to work? Give God thanks. Did he provide you with spiritual manna through God’s Word and prayer? Praise his name. Are you alive? Give God thanks. He gives us life, breath, and everything else. Are you going through a trial? Worship him. Trials develop perseverance, character, and hope in God (Rom 5:3-4). The reality that God is constantly providing our daily bread should always draw us to the throne of grace to give him thanks. Thank you, Lord!

Application Question: What are you thankful for today? How has God been providing for your daily bread?

Conclusion

First, prayer begins with God, and then it turns to us. In the fourth petition, we recognize our dependence upon God for all resources. He is the provider of life, breath, and everything else. We must daily humble ourselves before God in prayer—trusting him to meet our needs and that of others.

Copyright © 2019 Gregory Brown

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1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (p. 388). Chicago: Moody Press.

2 Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (Third Ed., p. 250). Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.

3 Boice, J. M. (2002). The Sermon on the Mount: an expositional commentary (p. 191). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

4 Carson, D. A. (1999). Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: An Exposition of Matthew 5–10 (pp. 72–73). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

5 Carson, D. A. (1999). Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: An Exposition of Matthew 5–10 (p. 73). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

6 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1413). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Kingdom

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