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Praying Like Jesus: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

June 23, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 11:2-4 (NRSV)

“Father, hallowed be your name.
+++Your kingdom come.
+++Give us each day our daily bread.
+++And forgive us our sins,
++++++for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
+++And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

Focus

Jesus taught us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” When we pray in this way, we are set free from the pretense that we are fully self-sufficient. We are reminded of just how much we depend on God, even for the ordinary things we need to be alive. Plus, when we ask for “daily bread,” we’re also looking forward to the coming of God’s kingdom, which is portrayed in Scripture as a lavish banquet. We’re saying, in effect, “God, give us right now a foretaste of the justice, peace, and love of your future kingdom.”

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

Several years ago while walking along a street in New York City, I saw a sign that intrigued me. It read, “Le Pain Quotidien.” Curious as to what this might be, I walked over to discover a bakery-based restaurant. It seemed to be fairly popular, given the crowd of people filling the place. And it certainly smelled wonderful when I poked my head inside. But I wondered if it was actually a good idea to have the word “Pain” in the name of your restaurant in an English-speaking city. I also wondered how many of the people walking along that street in New York would have known that this restaurant had borrowed its name from the Lord’s Prayer. You see, “Le Pain Quotidien” is French for “The Daily Bread.” French-speaking Christians ask God to give them their “pain quotidien,” their daily bread.

At first glance, the meaning of “Give us each day our daily bread” doesn’t seem terribly complicated. It appears to be a straightforward request for God to give us the food we need to survive. This petition may harken back to the Exodus, when God fed the Israelites each day with manna—daily bread from Heaven, if you will. Though God doesn’t usually provide food in such a miraculous manner, asking for daily bread acknowledges that everything we have, including our ordinary food, ultimately comes from the Lord.

The Greek word translated in verse 3 as “daily” (epiousios) is quite unusual. It shows up in the New Testament only in the Lord’s Prayer, both in Luke and in Matthew. For centuries (literally) scholars have debated the meaning of the word epiousios. One third-century biblical interpreter was convinced that the Gospel writers made it up. Options for the meaning of epiousios include “necessary for existence,” “for the current day (today)”, and “for the following day (tomorrow).” Though there is still no scholarly consensus, the strongest arguments support the third option. Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray, “Give us each day tomorrow’s bread.”

Now, while this could surely mean something like “Give us the food we need each day,” it’s quite possible that Jesus was praying with a double meaning here. Not only was he asking for literal food, but he also was asking for tomorrow’s bread in a metaphorical sense. Later in Luke, we’ll encounter Jesus saying, “The people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God” (13:29). One of the ways faithful Jews in the time of Jesus envisioned the future kingdom of God was as a lavish banquet (drawing, for example, from Isaiah 25:6-10). Because Jesus thought of God’s future kingdom in this way, “Give us today the bread of tomorrow” seems to have had a dual meaning. On the one hand, it was a prayer for the daily provision of basic food. On the other hand, it was also a poetic way of asking for the coming of God’s kingdom, following on the heels of the more literal “Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2).

There is one more curious matter in the language of “Give us this day our daily bread.” The imperative, “Give us” is a present tense imperative in Greek, unlike the other imperatives in Luke 11:2-4. In Greek, the present imperative had an ongoing or continuous sense. It meant not just “Give us this day our daily bread” but “Give and keeping on giving us each day our daily bread.” In other words, the tense of “Give” reminds us that we need God’s provision not just once, but day after day after day.

When we pray “Give us our daily bread,” we are asking God to provide what we need to sustain ordinary life. Doing so reminds us of how much we depend on God and his grace each day. When I pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” I’m reminded that I am not as self-sufficient as I would like to think I am. Yes, it’s true that the food I eat today was purchased with money my wife and I have earned. But our capacity to work, our having people who want to pay us for our labor, our ability to easily purchase, store, and prepare food—all of this and so much more are gifts from God’s own hand. Thus, asking for daily bread reminds me of my need for God. It also encourages me to be grateful for the ordinary things of life, like the bread on my table.

Saying to the Lord “Give us this day our daily bread” is also a way to ask, once again, for the coming of God’s future kingdom. But we aren’t saying in effect, “May your kingdom come someday in the future.” Rather, we are asking for “tomorrow’s bread” today. We are urging God to give us a foretaste now of the messianic banquet of the future. We are yearning for an appetizer of God’s grace, justice, and world-transforming peace. We are expressing our longing for the future kingdom to permeate our lives and our world right now.

Reflect

To what extent do you regularly sense your dependence on God?

What helps you to realize just how much you need God, even for your “daily bread”?

If you’re someone who has a strong need to feel self-sufficient, where does this come from?

When you imagine God’s future kingdom actually being present today, what comes to mind? What thoughts? What images? What feelings do you have?

Act

Set aside some time to thank the Lord intentionally for the “little things,” for the ordinary things in your life that are gifts from him.

Pray

Father, hallowed be your name.
+++Your kingdom come.
+++Give us each day our daily bread.
+++And forgive us our sins,
++++++for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
+++And do not bring us to the time of trial. Amen.


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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread (Matthew 6:11)


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