It was a simple enough request. Like so many times recorded in the gospels, Jesus was praying and when He came back to His followers, they knew where He had been. So they asked Him: “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). And Jesus did. He taught them to pray.
You read through what we have come to call the Lord’s Prayer, and you see themes of God’s character and glory and the advancement of His kingdom. This is first and foremost. And, in fact, a desire for God to be known and honored throughout the earth is also in the background when we come in Jesus’ prayer to the moment for personal requests. In other words, it’s a mistake to think that we pray for God’s kingdom and glory to be known, and having checked that off the list, we turn the corner and pray for ourselves. Rather, it’s that even when we are praying for our personal needs we are still praying that God would meet these needs in such a way that He is glorified.
Jesus told us to ask God to give us this day our daily bread. In our day and time, when we have bread available in every grocery and convenience store, we might be tempted to downplay this part of our prayers. But consider for a moment with me why this would be a mistake – we should still be praying for our “daily bread.” True enough, we might not use those exact words. That’s fine. But the spirit of the phrase ought to be reoccurring as we approach the throne of grace. Here are three reasons why:
1. Praying for our daily bread moves us to humility.
Pride is so insidious. It creeps rather than explodes. We drift into a posture of pride slowly over time. One of the places this drift begins is with self-sufficiency. We work hard, we earn a living, we pay our taxes – we take care of ourselves and our families. We do this, or so we tell ourselves.
But praying for our daily bread? This is not only something we do because Jesus told us to; when we pray for our daily bread, we are owning up to our own weakness. Bread was, when Jesus first gave us this way to pray, the staple of life. The very basic element of every meal. And yet even this, Jesus reminds us, we cannot really provide for ourselves. And though we might have bread in our pantry today, praying for our daily bread is one of the means by which we pursue humility.
2. Praying for our daily bread magnifies our Provider.
We wear our seatbelts. We buy insurance policies. We accumulate 401Ks and retirement funds. Nothing wrong with any of those things. They are responsible things to do. But as we do them, we should also be careful to recognize that one of the unintended side effects of all these efforts at self-protection is that we can begin to trust in our ability to manufacture for ourselves some amount of self-protection and provision. Praying for our daily bread breaks us out of this funk.
Praying for our daily bread is a daily reminder to ourselves that we are not our own providers; all we have finds its source in God. When we pray in this way, we are acknowledging that fact. When we live with the awareness that God is our true Provider, we are, at least in this part, giving Him the glory He is due.
3. Praying for our daily bread refocuses us on Christ.
There were days long ago when the people of God walked in the desert. Having been delivered from the bondage of the Egyptians, they spent the next 40 years wandering, waiting for another opportunity to enter the promised land. And during that time, God provided over and over again. One of the ways He did so was through, literally, daily bread that came down from heaven.
In His teaching, Jesus reminded the crowd that it wasn’t Moses, but God, who truly provided bread from heaven. And just as God provided literal bread during the days of their ancestors, so was He then, at that time and now, providing the true and greater bread:
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again” (John 6:35).
Jesus is the true bread. He is the basic stuff of life. He is what we need in order for our souls to never be hungry again. And He has come. As we follow the commands of Jesus and pray for our daily bread, we have the chance to be refocused on our true need. Greater than a job, greater than a healing, greater than any other provision, we need Jesus. This is the bread God has provided for us now and forever.