Give us each day our daily bread - Luke 11:3 (NAB)
Bread. How common and ordinary bread is. We rarely think of eating bread alone anymore – unless it’s warm from the oven. We tend now to think of bread smeared with jelly to flavor it, or covered with slices of lunch meat to add substance, or spread with butter – all of which makes us wonder why on earth anyone would want to eat plain, dry bread. For us, bread has become a side dish or an appetizer rather than the main course.
This has not always been the case.
In Hebrew, the word for ordinary bread, as found in Exodus 16:12, and the word for food, as found in Psalm 104:14, are the same (lechem). Perhaps the most famous story of bread in the Hebrew Bible comes in the gift of manna in the wilderness: “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread for you from the sky, and the people shall go out and gather each day that day’s portion — that I may thus test them, to see whether they will follow My instructions or not’” (Exodus 16:4 JPS).
God provided so that the Israelites ate manna for 40 years. Forty years on bread – how ironic that what we associate with a prisoner’s diet is God’s gift of providence to those newly freed from bondage.
Curiously, the manna given each day in the wilderness satisfied the need for food, regardless of how much or how little was required. Exodus 16:18 tells us that those who gathered much had nothing left over, and those who gathered little had no shortage. The daily gift of manna was sufficient to feed everyone who hungered. The daily gift of manna was sufficient for that day’s journey. The manna given by God was for that one day – no more, no less. Manna was, quite literally, daily bread.
Jesus teaches the disciples and us to pray, “Give us each day our daily bread.” At the heart of this petition lies our confession that we radically depend on God for the ordinary necessities of life. This prayer challenges us to reclaim a renewed vision of what embodies necessity and to demonstrate generosity in sharing all that goes beyond any day’s need. Answering the challenges presented by this prayer allows us to practice a genuine spiritual discipline, for doing so returns us to a deeper sense of our dependence on God. Abundance does not bless us, define us, or provide “our daily bread.” For true sustenance, we pray to – and trust in – God.
May we exercise generosity toward others modeled on the grace of God’s providence given to us. May we pray each day for what we need to face that day’s tasks, and may we share from our abundance to help others find the “daily bread” that they need.