Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:11
Bread – You can’t see it in English, but in Greek the emphasis on this part of the model prayer is not on the verb. It is on the noun – bread. In Greek, emphasis is determined by position in the sentence since there is no punctuation. “The bread of us the daily give to us today,” is the literal rendering. The focus comes first, and in this case, it is about our sustenance. That isn’t so unusual. What is unusual is that this is the only place in the gospels where such a request is addressed to God. You would think otherwise. With all of our contemporary emphasis on God meeting our every need, don’t you find it a little strange that this is the only place in the gospels where we request God to give us daily sufficiency? Does that make you question, just a little, whether we have the right perspective toward our needs?
If we looked at the Old Testament, we would find this kind of request quite frequently. So obviously, Yeshua assumes that His disciples know this. That’s because the Old Testament perspective on all of our provisions and assets is very different than our contemporary view. Everything is a gift from God! Remember Job? “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Maybe we need to contemplate Job’s attitude before we utter this part of the prayer. Maybe we need some adjustment before we start asking (demanding?) that God take care of our every need. Do we see “take away” as a gift too?
There is something else quite unusual about this phrase. Lohmeyer suggests that the use of the personal pronoun “our” has special significance. It doesn’t mean “Give us what we want.” By comparing this phrase with Old Testament parallels, we discover that it probably means, “bread that we need because, without it, we will go hungry.” In other words, we are not praying for the fat of the land. We are praying for the necessities. We are praying as the poor pray. “Today I will not eat without Your provision, O Lord.” To turn this prayer into a request for goods and services that enhance life is to ignore its simplicity. This is prayer cut to the bone. Most of us don’t even qualify to mention this.
This simple necessity is underscored by the use of the word “daily.” In Jesus’ cultural setting, there were plenty of people who had no expectation of tomorrow’s provision. They lived day-to-day because that is all they could do. They were day-laborers and beggars and orphans and widows. This is really their prayer. It is a prayer to the God of compassion who has a special place in His heart for those who have nothing but Him to sustain them. This is an extension of “blessed are the poor in spirit.” These people know what it means to have emptiness. They know what it means to beg. Pride is not a word in their vocabulary. These people have cast their cares on Him. They have no other choice.
So, I wonder if our rote repetition of the Lord’s Prayer disqualifies us. There are very few among us who live so close to the edge. If Yeshua’s model prayer includes a plea for these people, what does it say about us? Actually, the Old Testament gives us the answer. Almost everywhere that the Hebrew Scriptures speak about bread, they speak about sharing what we have even when we do not have enough. Maybe that’s the thought we need to take away from this. I may not live close enough to the edge to qualify to speak this phrase, but I do qualify to give according to this phrase. If the man next to me can legitimately pray, “Give us this day,” and I have the ability to give to him this day, the very presence to this prayer confronts me with God’s will. If I do not respond to his need from God’s gift to me, I not only harm one of the least of these, I also insult the giving God.
Topical Index: bread, daily, gift, Matthew 6:11