When You Pray, Say: "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread"
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When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took His garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also His tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to His mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:23-30).
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Jesus has taught us to pray to our Father in heaven. To pray (1) that His name be kept holy among us; (2) that His kingdom would come to us; and (3) that His will be done among us. He teaches us to pray for this with all boldness and confidence as dear children approach their dear Father.
“Seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness,” Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, and trust that God will take care of everything else. God’s kingdom, God’s righteousness: All that comes with the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. All of these are yours out of the heavenly Father’s divine goodness and mercy without any merit and worthiness in you. So, why all the worry? He’s given you His name. He’s given you His kingdom. He does His will among you. He’s given you His very best; certainly He will see to all the rest of your needs.
And so Jesus gives us the Fourth Petition: Give us this day our daily bread. God gives all that we need for this body and life. He gives and gives and gives to all, whether you’re a Christian or not. As Luther writes in the Small Catechism: “God certainly gives bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”
It’s time to learn that God is the Giver. He gives daily bread to everyone. But He would have us Christians appreciate this. Let me illustrate.
There was a pastor who told all the people of his congregation to meet at the county courthouse at noon to hear a very important announcement. This sudden announcement did not come at a convenient time. The storeowners didn’t want to leave their businesses untended. The housewives said they had dishes to wash, clothes to iron, and babies to feed. The children said they all had to be in school. The farmers protested because they had crops to tend. And all the retirees said they had fish to catch or quilts to make. However, they loved their pastor and they granted him this one wish. All the people of the congregation gathered together outside the county courthouse to hear his big announcement.
When they were all present the pastor dressed in his vestments proclaimed: “I want to tell you that there really is a God in this world!” And that was it. Sermon over. But the people understood the point. They had been carrying on with their lives as if God didn’t even exist. They observed daily routines with all its incessant ritual and they recited the correct order of prayers; but their actions did not match God’s will for their lives. They were so busy enjoying the good gifts of their lives that they had forgotten the Giver!
“Give us this day our daily bread.” When we pray this prayer, we’re begging that we’d see the Giver in the gifts and receive them with thanks. When you pray for “daily bread” you’re praying for all that you need for your body and this life in the world. Food and drink in the refrigerator and on the table. Clothes and shoes in the closet. A house to live in. A bed to sleep in. A job to earn money. Money to buy what you need. The joy of being a family. Having a devout spouse and devout children. In this petition, we also pray that God would preserve our homes and families from divorce, drugs, drunkenness, and disobedience.
When you pray for “daily bread” you’re praying for a good and healthy economy. And that everyone in our country would do their jobs well—from the farmer in the fields, to the baker in the bakery, to the congress and president of the United States. Devout workers. Devout and faithful rulers. Good government. When you have that you have your “daily bread.”
When the workers, the rulers, and system of government are wicked—chaos results—and “daily bread” is hard to come by. The shelves in the stores can be empty. The prices too high. Unemployment metastasizes because greedy employers lay off workers for more profit. Productivity suffers because workers expect a paycheck just for putting in their time. Crime skyrockets as the meanest and strongest win the battle for the survival of the fittest.
When you pray for “daily bread” you’re asking that creation itself be maintained by God—Providence, it used to be called. Daily bread is a prayer for good weather and for peace in the world. It is a petition for protection against fire, flood, tornado, drought, pestilence, hail, and global warming. It is a prayer for God to give you health, self-control, and a good reputation so that you can work. So that God can use you to provide for your family and open your heart to the poor. Daily bread is a prayer for good neighbors and good friends too. So that they can help you in times of need, and so that you can enjoy them in times of plenty.
“Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray to our loving heavenly Father. And to all His giving, we say: “Thank you Lord. It’s all from you.”
And this is divine providence is true for all men. Jesus Himself, true Man, received daily bread from His Father in heaven. He trusted in Him and waited for the Father to provide Him with what He needed each day for His body and life—in times of plenty and in times of need. At all times!
Jesus was given His flesh and blood from His mother, Mary, without even asking. He received His sustenance from her as an infant, without even asking. After fasting 40 days in the desert after His baptism, He was hungry. Satan tempted Him to change the rocks into bread. But Jesus, the Son of God, would not, even though He was starving. He patiently waited on His Father to open His hand and give Him His daily bread at just the right time, no matter how much His stomach growled.
Yes, Jesus knew what it is to have plenty and what it is to be in need. At Sychar, Jesus was thirsty and He asked a Samaritan woman for a drink. And there were many times when He was tired and needed to sleep. On the cross—bloody and beaten and weary Jesus thirsts. He is in great need. Yet He still provides for others, not Himself. He provides daily bread for His mother. Flesh of His flesh and blood of her blood.
God had first used her to give Jesus His daily bread. Mary carried Him in her womb for nine months. She gave birth to Him. She nursed Him. Changed His diapers. Lullabied Him to sleep. She was at His side when the shepherds visited and when the Magi followed the star to worship Him as King! She was there at the temple when Simeon took Jesus in his arms and prophesied that a sword would pierce her soul, too. She had been there at the Cana wedding, where He’d turned water into wine. And now she’s at the foot of the cross. Simeon’s words have come true. Her Son is dying helplessly and unjustly on the Roman tree of torture.
And yet even in His death, Jesus returns the favor. He provides “daily bread” for Mary His mother. “Woman, behold your son,” He says of John. And to the apostle He says: “Behold your mother.” Jesus provides for Mary even in His death. He puts her in a family. Jesus is always taking care of others. Never putting Himself first. Even with His last breaths.
I have a very important announcement. There really is a God. He is Christ Jesus the Lord! He takes care of you. With “daily bread” that has everything to do with your body and life. What do you have? What have you accumulated? It’s all from Him. It’s His gift to you. For you. For your benefit. And for you to use in the service of your neighbor.
And with Jesus there’s always more. Jesus is the very Bread come down from heaven. He is the Bread of Life—the true and living bread that a sinner can eat and live forever. On the cross, Jesus is the Living Loaf. He gives and sustains your life by His Mount Calvary death.
And in the Lord’s Supper Jesus takes ordinary bread and presses it into His service for you. He speaks His Word that this daily bread is His very Body. Daily bread and Bread of Life Jesus are eaten together as one. Daily bread and eternal food become one Loaf. The altar becomes the Lord’s dinner table. He is the Host, the Butler, and the Meal. He bestows His Body with the bread given for you with the promise that your sin is forgiven.
The bounty of His giving: daily bread that is used to feed us with eternity’s bread, the very flesh of Jesus—results in thanksgiving. Eucharist! Eucharistic praying: “We give thanks to You, almighty God, that You have refreshed us through this salutary gift.” And then you are strengthened for daily living wherever He’s put you. To receive and eat your daily bread with thanksgiving. “Give us this day our daily bread.”
May God lead you realize and appreciate Him as the Giver. Each day, solely out of His goodness and mercy He provides all that you need for this body and life. What’s more, He gives you all that you need for eternal life in His kingdom. It is His good and gracious will that you have forgiveness and salvation in His holy name. Indeed, in His name, you are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Adapted from a sermon series presented by Brent Kuhlman at a pre-Lenten Preaching Seminar on Luther’s Small Catechism the 3rd chief part—The Our Father.