Praying the Saviour's Way (V)
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by Timothy Cross
Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11)
Having given God and His glory priority in the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, in the second three, the Saviour instructs us to pray about ourselves and our needs. Specifically, He encourages us to look to God for our provision, pardon and protection – ‘Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’ (Matthew 6:11-13).
In the light of the whole Bible, we surely see a glimpse of the divine Trinity here: It is God the Father Who provides us with bread from heaven; it is by God the Son and His atoning death at Calvary that we may be assured that our sins are forgiven, and it is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we are strengthened to overcome temptation within and Satan without.
Our Saviour was aware that we are physical as well as spiritual beings. We are constituted of both body and soul (Genesis 2:7). Certain material necessities have to be met if we are to be able to live and hallow God’s name, pray and work for His kingdom and do His will. This being so, the Saviour instructs us to look to God and pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ John Calvin explains:-
To put it briefly, by this petition we are commending ourselves to the Lord’s providence and entrusting ourselves to His care, for him to feed us, look after us and preserve us. For this good Father does not despise having even our body in his keeping and care. In this way he trains us to trust him even in little things, moving us to expect from him everything necessary, even to the last crumb of bread and drop of water’ (Truth for All Time, p.58).
In this petition then the Lord Jesus is encouraging us to look to God our Father in humble dependence and childlike faith to supply what we need for our physical existence, so we may continue to live, love and serve Him here on earth. Bread falls into the category of a need not a greed – as does clothing and shelter. I pods, flat screen TVs and foreign holidays however do not, as we can serve God without them.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Elsewhere in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus also encourages us not to look too far ahead, but to trust God one day at a time as His providence unfolds. ‘Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day’ (Matthew 6:34).
An object lesson in trusting God for daily bread may be gleaned from the wilderness wanderings of the people of Israel. In those days, God literally provided daily bread for His people. ‘He rained down upon them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven’ (Psalm 78:24). This bread was a daily provision. ‘Morning by morning they gathered it’ (Exodus 16:21). Those who hoarded more than one day’s supply – keeping today’s bread for tomorrow – found ‘it bred worms and became foul’ (Exodus 16:20). God was teaching them to trust Him one day at a time. Interestingly, there was just one exception to this. The Israelites were commanded to prepare two day’s bread the day before the Sabbath. ‘On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread ... and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it’ (Exodus 16:22,24). Truly ‘His commandments are not burdensome’ (1 John 5:3).
Is trusting God for our needs incompatible with working to earn money to pay for our needs? No. Scripture teaches that work is a divine ordinance. God works through means. He provides us with work so that He can provide for our own and other’s needs. Paul exhorted ‘Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his hands, so that you may be able to give to those in need’ (Ephesians 4:28). The Lord certainly did give a miraculous provision to the Israelites in the barren wilderness. They ate without working. But this ceased when they entered Canaan: ‘the manna ceased on the morrow, when they ate of the produce of the land; and the people of Israel had manna no more, but ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year’ (Joshua 5:12). Nothing grew in the barren desert. Canaan though was a fertile land – ‘a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey’ (Exodus 3:8). There was no need for a supernatural provision in Canaan. If the Israelites looked to God and worked the land, He would provide for them naturally rather than supernaturally. Similarly today. We are to be responsible. We pray to God for daily bread, but we also work for a living – just as we pray to God for protection, but also lock our doors at night and pray for another’s salvation, but also give them a gospel tract and invite them to church.
The Goodness of God
‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Our Saviour is reminding us of our total dependence on God. Even in today’s sophisticated world, it is ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28). And our Saviour is also reminding us of the divine generosity, and instilling grateful thanksgiving and happy contentment in our hearts. ‘All I have need, Thy hand hath provided.’ ‘And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:19). The Psalmist testified ‘I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread’ (Psalm 37:25).
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.
Read previous chapters of Timothy Cross's Praying the Saviour's Way: