“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today 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 the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:19-13 NIV)
This is a passage we are all undoubtedly familiar with. Regardless of your religious affiliation, I would bet that you have heard this passage before, memorized this brief prayer, or heard it uttered in a time of fear. This is a common passage and prayer to recite when times are turbulent, but really it can be used at any time.
This prayer is most recognizable by two different names, the “Our Father” or “The Lord’s Prayer.” In the above passage, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. It’s not that he is teaching them the exact words to pray, but rather the posture that should be taken. It is prayer of humility and petition.
Recently, during my devotion time, I was prompted to pray this prayer. I generally breeze through with little thought to what I am saying, but something within me told me to slow down. So I took every line slowly and contemplated it’s meaning.
“Our Father in Heaven…” I would let the words hang in the air, praying about that thought and its significance. And then, after a few moments, I would move on and read the next line; “Hallowed be your name…” and I would continue to repeat this process until I said “amen.”
It was a deeply relaxing and meditative process for me, which allowed me to hone in on what these thoughts and truths meant to me in my life, right now, during COVID-19. The line that stuck out to me the most was found in verse 11; “Give us today our daily bread.”
This is an intriguing line to me, because the meaning imbued in this line is so different than what I am used to and all that I’ve known. Bread was insanely important to people in this time. Bread was not just a guilty pleasure, like it is for us, but it was staple and mainstay of meals in this time and day.
The culture and people hearing this passage had no clue where their next meal was coming from. They prayed to God for sustenance, because they had no clue if they would eat otherwise. So to pray for God to supply your “daily bread” was to pray for God to give you life. It was to pray to God to keep you sustained and moving forward. It was to accept and embrace total submission to God above.
Bread was life.
And the people of this time knew that God was the giver of life in all its facets. Bread was a symbol to these people. It was an image of peace, comfort, and salvation. Think of the Last Supper. What does Jesus use to symbolize his body?
It says in the Gospel of Luke; “He [Jesus] took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” (Luke 22:19 NLT)
Bread was important. It had value. So when Jesus prays, “Give us today our daily bread.” He is praying for exactly that, physical bread, and yet, he is also praying for so much more. There are layers to this. He is praying for life.
Throughout my life, as I have prayed this prayer, that line has always stuck out to me. For the bulk my brief life, I’ve always known where my food was coming from. I never prayed that God would give me food, only that he would bless the food I was about to eat. I know that this fact alone means that I have been highly blessed and I have experienced great privilege. While I may not know the full weight and gravity that is happening here, praying for physical nourishment and sustenance, I have prayed for emotional and spiritual nourishment and sustenance.
Earlier this week, as I prayed that prayer and held on to every line, I thought about my “daily bread.” What could that be for me? What does it mean for God to give us life in this time? I truly believe that for many of us, our “daily bread” in this season is peace and comfort amidst the not knowing.
In a season like this, when everything is up in the air, many of us feel like we are suffocating under the unknown? When will the stay at home order be lifted? When will we find a cure, a vaccine, a whatever is needed to solve the COVID-19 pandemic? When will our health or our family’s health get better? When will we go back to work? When will everything go back to normal? These are just a few of the questions I have heard this week alone, and I can sympathize because I am starting to feel the pain of waiting and the depth of the unknown.
I have found that to pray for our “daily bread” is to surrender our assumed control over this life. The need for all the answers. The desire to know what is to come. Right now, for me to pray for my “daily bread” is to pray for peace and comfort in my not knowing. To accept my lack of control and to trust that God is here, God is loving, and that God is guiding me somewhere.
“Give us today our daily bread.” That is a prayer of radical submission and counter cultural trust. It was the prayer of a people who knew and served the God of sustenance and life. It was the prayer of a people who lived lives that echoed the Psalmist, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13-14 NIV)
“Give us today our daily bread.” Is a prayer of waiting, trusting, and knowing that God is still here in the middle of it, with us.
So as we continue on this week, and the questions start to pile up, take a breath. Slow down. Remind yourself of the value and significance of bread. And pray that simple prayer.
“Give us today our daily bread.”
Be safe. Be wise. Be Jesus this week.