v. 11 “Give us today our daily bread.”
Christ teaches us to petition our Father for what we need, when we need it. This is a prayer of reliance, not self-indulgence. Let’s look at what “daily bread” meant to the Jewish people.
After the Lord delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, he kept them in the wilderness forty years to teach them to trust him. Not long after they had been liberated, the whole nation complained to Moses and Aaron that it would have been better to live as slaves in Egypt where food abounded than to starve to death in the desert. The Lord responded by providing manna—their “daily bread”:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” (Exodus 16:4-5)
God’s provision came with conditions.
The Jews were to only collect the manna they needed for each day. The day before the Sabbath, they were to collect food for two days. On any other day, if they tried to keep the manna overnight, it would spawn maggots and smell terrible. The Lord was teaching them that he was their trustworthy provider. And yet, they were unwilling to learn this lesson. Of the million or more who were freed from Egypt, God only allowed Joshua and Caleb to enter the Promised Land. All of the others who experienced the miracle of deliverance perished in their disobedience and lack of trust. Their children entered the Promised Land, but they did not. Nonetheless, the concept of “daily bread” was central to the Jew’s understanding of themselves and God.
When Jesus comes on the scene, he describes himself as God’s ongoing and ultimate provision for his people. In John 6, Christ has an extended conversation with his followers, who can’t understand that “daily bread” means more than material provision:
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. . . . Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (John 6:32-33, 49-51)
In these rich verses, Jesus connects God’s “daily bread” provision in the wilderness and the symbolism of the broken bread in the Passover feast with God’s ultimate provision for our spiritual hunger that would be satisfied by his broken body on the cross—memorialized in the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26). His disciples, like their spiritual ancestors, were more concerned with their physical well-being than their spiritual condition. Indeed, Moses, in his farewell address to Israel, warns them that God’s provision was more than just for their physical benefit:
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. . . . He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. (Deuteronomy 8:3, 16-18)
God wants us to fully depend upon him. Even the ability to produce wealth comes from the Lord. If we trust in riches rather than God, we invalidate his generosity and grace. This is why Jesus warned his followers about the powerful allure of money (“Mammon”). Rather, the Lord wants us to be good and faithful stewards of his provision—whether great wealth or extreme poverty. As the apostle Paul will later write:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13).
In verse 11 of The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us to live with palms open to receive God’s daily provision. We are also to live with hands outstretched in generosity; for it’s not “my daily bread” but rather God’s provision for our community and world. His provision is both personal and communal. Inherent is his blessing is the mandate to bless others.
We also are to understand that this “bread” is both physical—meeting our nutritional needs—and spiritual—meeting the deepest desires of our hearts. More than anything, Jesus wants us to realize that he is the Bread of Heaven—the means by which our needs and the needs of the world are truly met. To trust in anyone or anything else is futile and amounts to the kind of idolatry that is expressly forbidden in the first and second commandments (Exodus 20:3-4).
To follow Jesus, our deliverer, through the wilderness of this world means we can trust his provision every day. As we learn to trust our Father, we will proclaim with the apostle Paul, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).