The Lord’s Prayer| Rev. Rolf D. Preus| Fourth Petition| St. Matthew 6:11| August 7, 2011
“Give us this day our daily bread.” St. Matthew 6:11
Give us this day our daily bread. What does this mean? God gives daily bread indeed without our prayer, also to all the wicked; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. What is meant by daily bread? Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
The Lord’s Prayer is called the perfect prayer because it came to us from the Lord Jesus. It contains everything for which we should pray. Not only does it petition God for everything worthy of prayer, it is also perfectly constructed. It begins by addressing our Father in heaven and asking him to bring the treasures of heaven to earth. This is done when his name is hallowed among us, when his kingdom comes to us, and when his good and gracious will is done for us. Our Father in heaven is making his home with us here on earth. The last three petitions ask God for what will bring us from this earth to heaven. God will bring us from here to there by forgiving us our trespasses, by leading us not into temptation, and by delivering us from evil.
Right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer is the single petition that deals specifically with what we need to live our physical lives here on earth: “Give us this day our daily bread.” God has hallowed his name among us by baptizing us into it and keeping us in the grace of our baptism. God has brought his kingdom to us by purchasing the kingdom on the cross and placing us into it by the preaching of the cross. God’s good and gracious will has been revealed to us to persuade us that our suffering in this life cannot rob us of our hope for joy in heaven. It is as God’s children that we are bold to ask God for our daily bread.
Who is going to give us our daily bread? It is our Father who has hallowed his name among us, brought his kingdom to us, and revealed to us his good and gracious will. We are not asking daily bread from an unknown god who doesn’t even know what we need. We are asking daily bread from the One who saw us in our deepest need before we were even born and met that need by giving us his only begotten Son. From whom are we asking our daily bread? We are asking from the One to whom the whole world belongs. And if we are his children, this means that whatever belongs to him is ours as well.
Children will call the house owned by their parents “our house.” Christians should regard the world that their Father has given them as “our world.” This world doesn’t belong to itself. It belongs to the One who made it and he is our Father. Therefore, it is our world. When God created everything out of nothing by the word of his mouth, he blessed Adam and Eve whom he had made in his own image. Then he said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) It is true that sin brought God’s curse on this world, but the world still belongs to God. And while sin distorted the image of God in mankind, we are still to have dominion “over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Just as God is our Lord and Father, we are to be lords over the world he has given us. As we govern the world at its lords God will provide every bodily need we have. He does so through this good earth on which he has placed us.
It is not as if God made the world and now ignores it, leaving it to its own devises to make it or break it according to certain laws of nature. No, God personally sees to it that the sun rises and sets, the rains and the snows fall, the crops grow, and the rivers flow. God governs this world. He not only directs natural events, he also directs human events. We pray for a pious spouse and children. We pray for pious and faithful rulers. We pray for good government. We pray for whatever is necessary in the day to day provision of our bodily needs. And we are praying to the One who governs this world.
Good governments that respect private property and laws that reward industry, thrift, and investment serve as God’s means of providing material abundance. Bad governments that ignore God’s law as that law is written in the conscience will bring poverty, scarcity, and even famine on the countries they rule.
Take the simple command of God, “Thou shalt not steal.” If the law cannot protect private property, people won’t work. Why work if what you are working for can be stolen from you without any legal recourse in getting it back? And if nobody works, who will plow, plant, and harvest? Who will teach, and build, and invest? God uses good government to provide us with daily bread. This is why we should pray for our rulers, even when we think they are corrupt or incompetent. The same God who determines the heat and the moisture of the atmosphere can change the hearts and behavior of even the most cynical people. Our Father in heaven runs this world. How else could we confidently call on him for our daily bread?
Our Father in heaven made this world for his children and he gave this world to his children. It is not ours to do with as we choose, but it is ours to care for as servants of God. God made Adam and Eve in his image. They were like him. They were capable of worship. They were endowed with a will that desired God above all things. When they lost the divine image by sinning, they didn’t lose their value as human beings. God redeemed us in order to restore the lost image. Through Christ we can once again know God and worship him. Jesus reveals or shows us his Father by humbly and dutifully laying down his life for us on the cross. There, in the suffering of Jesus, we see the glory of our heavenly Father. There his name is hallowed. There his kingdom is established. There his good and gracious will is revealed. There the forgiveness we need is obtained. There is the power to withstand all temptation. There we are delivered from evil. And there is also where we find the assurance that our Father will always provide us with our daily bread.
The attitude we have toward our material needs is strongly influenced by our attitude toward the One who provides them. Is he for us or is he against us? Does he love us or does he not? Is he really concerned with the specific details of our life or is his attention directed somewhere else? Jesus is the One who has revealed the Father’s love for us and Jesus is the One who invites us to pray to our Father for our daily bread. Jesus, who has purchased our redemption, both body and soul, assures us that our Father in heaven will never forget our bodily needs.
We should never value ourselves according to the standards of our world. Unborn children are aborted because their continued existence is inconvenient to others. The weak and the disabled are considered less valuable than the bright and able bodied. We live in a culture of selfishness that values human life by the standards of material gain. How much are you worth? We hear the question and think in terms of dollars. But that’s not what we are worth! We are worth the price that God himself has placed upon us when he chose to become poor so that through his poverty we might become rich. What is our worth? We are worth what our Lord Jesus paid for us. He placed upon us a value far above the value of all the money in the world. The value of a single life redeemed by the blood of Jesus is incalculable in monetary measurements. Not only does this world belong to us Christians, the wealth of heaven is ours as well. It is ours right now, even while we still live here on earth.
So we pray for our daily bread. Not a lifetime supply. We don’t need that much. We only need what we can use right now. Far from teaching us not to invest and plan and work for our future, Jesus’ command to pray for our daily bread teaches us that when we plan and work we let God do the worrying about where the planning and working will leave us. It’s not as if our daily bread depends on us. If it did, Jesus wouldn’t teach us to pray for it. Jesus teaches us to pray for daily bread because we need, more than our bread, to rely every day on our Father to provide it. We pray for our daily bread. I don’t pray for my daily bread while you pray for your daily bread. We pray together for our daily bread.
The Old Testament Church was formed during the forty years of wandering around the Sinai Peninsula as they ate a food called manna that God rained down from heaven. If they gathered more manna than they needed, it would turn rancid on the second day. So they learned to take only what they needed and to let God worry about their provision for the next day. When we begin to understand how nature works and how the economy works we may begin to assume that there is a perfectly natural explanation for how we get our daily bread. That would be a mistake. God is the One who provides us with our daily bread through the means of planting, harvesting, transporting, marketing, and providing a sound economy within which it can all happen for our good. Whether God works through such means or whether God rains manna from heaven in either case it is God who provides for our daily bread. This is why we must pray for it.
Albert Einstein was a brilliant man. He was once asked if he knew the answer to a specific scientific question. He confessed that he didn’t know. The questioner was rather surprised. He knew how smart Einstein was reputed to be. But the great scientist went on to explain that he knew where to look to find the answer. Why should he have to know the details?
And why should we? Do you know how you will make ends meet, how you will pay all your bills, how your daily bread will keep on coming in next month and next year? Maybe not. But in Christ you know the One who will give you your daily bread. Surely your Father in heaven who loved you enough to send his only Son to suffer and die to take away all your sins and make you his holy child also loves you enough to see you clothed and fed. Why would he grant you the greater gift and withhold from you the lesser gift? He who, for Christ’s sake, has given you eternal life will surely provide for all your bodily needs in this life. Amen