Matthew 6 v 11 Give us this day our daily bread.
Matthew 6 v 11 Give us this day our daily bread.
The Lord Jesus Christ has given each one of us a blueprint with which to pray. The Disciples’ Prayer for some seems very short – but someone has said that even though he found it a short prayer, by virtue of the number of words contained in it, yet by the time he came to the 4th petition that is here in verse 11, he decided that it was so profound that it would take a lifetime to pray!
Let us notice first of all this morning that out of the seven petitions in the middle section of the Disciples’ Prayer only ONE is about prayer for material matters.
In the first three petitions we have had a longing expression – a desire for three things about God – Thy Name, Thy Kingdom and Thy will. That Thy Name might be exalted and glorified; that Thy Kingdom might be extended here on earth through the Gospel; and that thy will might be done perfectly on earth just as it is done perfectly in heaven – by the saints and angels.
But in the remaining four petitions we find requests framed like this - give us, forgive us, lead us and deliver us.
Furthermore of these four only ONE of them is a request for physical needs to be met – the other three are for our SPIRITUAL needs to be catered for – forgiveness, strength in the battle with sin and deliverance from attacks by the enemy.
Or as John MacArthur has put it “11 Give us this day our daily bread speaks of physical life. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors speaks of the mental life. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: speaks of the spiritual life. Bread is God’s provision for the present; forgiveness deals with the past; leading and delivering us looks after the future.”
Now it may seem a little mundane and earthly to switch from praying with deep desire for God’s glories to speaking to the Lord about our groceries!
But bread is the food that sustains us – and not only bread – but all that we must have for daily living.
We need then to look at the words of the text first.
“Give us” is a straightforward way of asking for something. It is an imperative but is a common form of respectful request in the Greek language. What is important here is the Lord’s command to use US rather than ME. It is not give me my daily bread, but give us – which indicates the nature of the prayer – namely that we must not merely pray for our own needs but also the needs of others. We must love our neighbour as ourselves.” And in this way we obey the command of Ephesians 6 v 18 –
“Praying always for all saints.”
Next we must notice the word “DAILY”, which is the focus of the request. The word translated DAILY bewildered scholars for centuries. Because this word only occurs in this and in Luke’s account of the Prayer in Luke 11 v 3 in the whole of the New Testament. It is EPIOUSIOS. I am told that it does not occur anywhere else in Greek literature either. Then a few years ago an archaeologist unearthed a papyrus fragment which had on it a homemaker’s shopping list. Next to several items the woman had scribbled this Greek word EPIOUSIOS - DAILY. It is assumed that it meant “enough for the coming day.” So we can see that a translation of Jesus’ words can go like this – “Give us today bread that is enough for tomorrow.” When the prayer is prayed in the morning, it is a prayer for the needs in the hours of the day ahead. When prayed in the evening it is a request from God the mighty provider, for the needs of the next day. God promises then to supply all of our needs in order that we may honour Him from day to day and do His sovereign will with the strength that bread and other necessities provide.
As we shall see bread is not the only commodity that this prayer encourages us to ask for. Perhaps we in our Western culture have a real difficulty in praying this prayer.
Yesterday morning I wandered around Tesco for a few moments and I felt my eyes opened afresh to see all the thousands of different things that are available today. Walking past the bread counters alone I counted 35 different kinds of bread – and I probably missed a few more!
When did we last pray this, “ Lord God I plead with Thee to provide me with a meal!”
Perhaps we today more often pray a prayer something like this, “O Lord – please prevent me from eating too much – please teach me self-discipline – because I have more than enough bread for myself – my store cupboard will feed several more people for several days.”
If we are honest, the prayer “Give us this day our daily bread” seems a little incongruous – it doesn’t fit in with what we know in this society of abundance. And sadly it is we who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who think that this prayer ought to be uttered by those in Namibia, Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, but not here in the UK. We could not be farther from the truth. We are faced straight away in this line of the prayer with 2 major truths.
1. God’s Wonderful Provision.
2. Man’s Wicked Ingratitude.
In the face of our Great creator God who gives us His creatures everything that we need – abundantly, we ungrateful creatures rarely thank Him and imagine that all that we have and eat has been gained by our own self-sufficient strategies. The prayer should make us ashamed of ourselves.
1. God’s Wonderful Provision.
“Our daily bread” refers to the supply of our temporal needs. God’s people the Hebrews used the word BREAD as a generic term that covered all the necessities and conveniences of this life. God told Adam about his future after the disobedience in the garden. Up until the fall food had been in abundant and free supply. Adam just helped himself. But now look at the consequence of his sin in Genesis 3 v 19
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Later in Genesis when Jacob came to Bethel, virtually destitute, we read this about his confidence in God his provider –
Genesis 28 v 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: 20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, then shall the LORD be my God:
Therefore food, clothing and housing are all included in BREAD. But more than the material side of these things bread includes health and appetite, without which food will do us little good. Our nourishment is included in our petition and God’s blessing on what we ask for is to be sought.
This is confirmed to us by the scripture from the New Testament –
1 Timothy 4 v 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
God has provided EVERYTHING that we need. With this in view godly King Solomon leads us to pray like this – in the words of Proverbs 30
v 8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: 9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
Our God never gets weary in His giving. He has set the sun in space at the exact distance from the earth so that we are neither too cold nor hot. The seasons continue to produce food in crops and in fruit. Conditions prevail for the nurture of livestock. And it is the Lord who sustains nature in our interest.
More than this the Lord delights in giving to us.
Micah 7 v 18 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
Just as we parents and grandparents delight in giving to our children and children’s children, so the Lord God, Our heavenly Father loves to give His children bread – and everything else, by His mercy!
And notice that God gives to His enemies too.
Thomas Watson says, “Men spread nets for their enemies – God spreads a table for them.”
God’s dew from heaven drops on thistles as well as roses! And God feeds even the mouths of those who open them against Him in cursing and blasphemy. The Psalmist had it right when he said in Psalm 52 v 1
the goodness of God endureth continually.
Now it may be, as we experience in our culture, that God would grant us an excess of what we need. That is the situation in this land of ours, and it is no wonder that people from other nations come flocking here, taking desperate measures to get across the channel into England. Once again I am not surprised that they want to come when the shelves in Sainsbury’s and Tesco and other stores are full to bursting!
We need to understand that the good things of life are the gifts of God.
James 1 v 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
We seem to have no difficulty in understanding that FAITH is a gift of God; and that WISDOM is a gift of God; but we need to exercise wise faith to see that food, clothing, houses, and an excess of all these things – are also a gift from God to His creatures. All that we have is from the hands of God’s royal bounty. But do we believe this? Every meal, every item of clothing, every comfort, the heating of the homes that we have as well as the brick walls and windows; the beds in which we sleep are from God’s gracious hand. And if we are persuaded that it is by our own hard work alone that caused us to have these things then we fall into the same trap as Adam and Eve fell – they believed the serpent who told them “You shall become as gods.” In other words “you will be more able than God himself to provide for yourself – because you will have the power to work to get your food and clothing and housing and all that you need – you will be your own self-sufficient person – and God doesn’t need to be brought into it. In short – take of the fruit and you won’t need God!”
The message of the disciples prayer is this – EVERYTHING but EVERYTHING that we humans have, believers and unbelievers, come from God’s providing hand! He provides lavishly, and abundantly to all men and women boys and girls. He has provided enough in the world to feed and clothe and house everyone – because He is that kind of God. Bread in the prayer refers to all of the necessities – but it does not refer to the luxuries. What God chooses to give some people by way of luxuries (and if we are honest, we have many luxuries here) they all come from his gracious hand. We have to acknowledge and affirm that God is the source of our life, our shelter, our clothing as well as our food, all represented by bread.
It is our Christian habit in our families to give thanks, ask a blessing or say grace before each of our meals. But recently I was made to think, when it was suggested to me, that when we get up in the morning and get dressed, that we ought first to give thanks for our clothing too! Is there scriptural warrant for this? Two texts – one in the Old Testament and the other in the New Testament.
Deuteronomy 10 v 18 He (God) doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
1 Timothy 6 v 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
Contentment indicates thankfulness. Are we thankful for all things?
When we put the key in the door of our homes when we have been out do we thank the Lord God that we have shelter?
When we go out and come home on a car journey do we pray for safety before we go and thank the Lord when we return?
Let us extend our acknowledgment of God’s provision of needs to all that He has sent and not hold back in our thanksgiving. Because, sadly, most of the time we do not.
2. Man’s Wicked Ingratitude.
Oh my friends we are all equally guilty of wicked ingratitude. We have all indulged in our sinful self-sufficiency. We have as it were built our barns and we are so liable to sit back and say to our souls, “Soul take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry.”
God feeds people but they fight against Him. People forget His mercies but worse than this they abuse the provisions. Abuse comes in many forms – overeating, amassing great hordes of things, (so that the life laundry is needed!) being greedy and avaricious for gain of any of the world’s goods so that others are deprived of God’s goodness. There is a stunning verse in Jeremiah 5 that says this – speaking to the people of Jerusalem, ripe for judgment and capture by the Babylonians, the prophet says –
7 How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses. 8 They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour’s wife.
This was gross ingratitude on the part of Judah. God had blessed them from King David onwards with abundance – milk and honey flowed – food was never scarce. David and his son Solomon had expanded their territory to ensure security and much prosperity – but they had indulged themselves in heathen idol worship and defected from the Living Lord God. Yet still he supplied their needs – and they abused them – by their ingratitude. My friends it is utter wickedness to sin against a bountiful giving God. It is like biting the hand that feeds us. God gave health and strength to His people and they used it to go against Him, to stop loving Him, failing to worship Him alone. It is like treason, to receive what God gives and to then abuse it. David’s son Absalom did the same to his father. As soon as David forgave his rebellious son and received him back into the kingdom, showing him kindness – what did he do? He began to plot against his father –
2 Samuel 15 v 10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron.
Do we abuse God’s mercies my friends? Do we take for granted all that we have? Do we squander the freedom that we have to read God’s word unhindered and to worship freely in this building, which God has provided? We in the church should take stock of all our blessings and thank God afresh for them all. How easily we look with disdain on those in our society who do not know God. They are fiddling their benefits – abusing the provision from the state. There are those who cheat in their taxes, those who steal, those who think that their prosperity is all down to them. And yet we can lapse into the same ingratitude as they if we are not careful. We have invented ways of not needing to pray for our daily bread. I remember when our children were young in their teens that we used to go through at least a dozen large loves in a week. There was a superb market where we lived where loaves could be bought cheaply and were in an abundant supply. We had at that time a large chest freezer with lots of space for lots of loaves. We could buy several days supply and not be dependent for a daily source of bread that only lasts a day or so before becoming stale. Without a freezer we could not have stored bread like this. I am not saying that we were not grateful for daily bread – we did teach our children to thank God – but the point is modern society has many inventions that, although good, can lure us into ungratefulness through independence. For centuries bread would only last a few days before becoming unpalatable. Freezers allow loaves to be stored almost indefinitely.
3. GOD’S MERCIES LEAD US TO THANKFULNESS.
God has designed this incredible world in which we live in order that we can express our thanks to Him the great provider. Think of the variety of foods there are – all covered by this one word – bread! The Bible lists fruit, vegetables, animals that could be eaten and of course the various grains – wheat, corn barley and others, from which bread products are made. Everything that we have and indeed eat comes from this earth that God has made! How dare we be ungrateful in our failure to acknowledge this fact? Let us be thankful and treat His many gifts with respect. Let us repent of our ingratitude my friends and be good stewards of God’s abundant mercies to us. And learn how to be thankful.
So how should we pray? In this part of the prayer we are called to pray for PHYSICAL material things. Do we pray for them in the same way that we pray for Spiritual things? We would probably answer ‘Yes’ until begin to realise that there is a difference.
When we pray for MATERIAL things represented by bread our prayers should be LIMITED. Jesus SAID “GIVE US this day OUR DAILY BREAD.” Not bread for 2 weeks time – but just enough to keep us alive. We must ask God for the things that He sees are good for us. Sometimes He chooses to withhold material things from us for our good – to learn further dependence on Him. Some things, wealth, abundance, prosperity, could be a snare to any of us and draw our hearts away from God. Therefore when we pray this petition we should be praying for God’s will and submit to it.
On the other hand when we pray for SPIRITUAL mercies and provisions we must be ABSOLUTE in those prayers. We should pray and pray until we receive a reply from God.
We pray for pardon from our sins – we should pray until God pardons us!
We pray that the Lord will grant us grace to grow in sanctification – we should pray for more and more growth every day.
We pray for God’s favour on our lives – we should pray earnestly that we will know His blessing.
God will never withhold blessing in these areas, which is why we may pray in an absolute way. We desire with all of our hearts God’s spiritual favours.
Bread pictures Spiritual food for the believer. We depend on having nourishing food from the Word of God. There are many, many people who are so efficient at arranging and organising their daily food, and yet are so inefficient at organising their intake of spiritual food.
We have to ask for and gather our spiritual food, day after day, one day at a time. Many of you take the Bible Reading Notes – it is no accident that they are called OUR DAILY BREAD. Actually the notes are not the bread but the scriptures to which they point they are the bread. Some Christians do not want the food of Doctrine – all they want in some highly spiced morsel such as prophecy or some favourite pet theme. But every Christian needs plain ordinary unremarkable BREAD. We must accept the food that the Lord gives us and learn how to feed on Him. Let us pray to be richly fed with the Word of God every day – and have an appetite for the nourishment of the Scriptures. Give us this day is an absolute request for spiritual blessings.
But we need to be cautious about praying the same way for material things.
In Psalm 106 there is the chilling consequences of the actions of the Children of Israel in the desert who became bored with bread – manna sent from heaven was not enough for them. They wanted more than this. They were ABSOLUTE in their request for food. Numbers 11 has the detail –
18 And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. 19 Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; 20 But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?
Psalm 78 v 30 But while their meat was yet in their mouths, 31 The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them,
And then Psalms 106 v 15
And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.
It is possible for us to pray in error. But we must pray according to the will of God – or else we may receive more than we wanted!
While we think of Spiritual provisions we can see the term Bread being applied to the needs of the soul. We read from John 6 earlier in which the words of the Lord Jesus Christ are so precious – “I am the bread of Life.” Salvation is pictured by bread. Bread is supplied to the human body from the outside. Our human bodies by metabolism cannot produce the food that we need from the inside. Salvation also comes from the outside – we must be given new life – the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ must be imputed to us. Bread is vital for life – and salvation is vital for eternal life.
Bread has to be harvested and gathered in, milled and baked. So it is with salvation. We need to seek the Lord – if we do not we shall not find Him. If we do not repent we shall not be forgiven. If we do not yield to the Lord we shall never be directed and led by Him. Have you repented my friend? Have you tasted of the Bread of Life? Have you sought the Lord Jesus with all of your heart and soul? Has His life come into you yet?
“Give us this day our daily bread” is a plea to the Lord to give you Himself, who is the bread – and He will give you enough to bring you home to the Father’s house.
So may we all know how to pray this prayer and to know what we are praying.
Give us this day our daily bread.