Asking for Daily Bread

Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash

Pray, then, in this way:
Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread…
(Matthew 6:9–11)

Bread is as old as civilization. Nomadic groups who turned from hunting and gathering to agriculture established the first permanent settlements by learning how to cultivate crops like barley and wheat. Bread soon became a staple food, one nourishing enough to sustain the growing populations of towns and cities. Daily bread meant life and growth and culture.

Baking bread is both an art and a science. The mouth-watering aroma, intricate flavors, and beautiful designs are the result of careful measuring, complex microbiology, and a practiced hand. Traditionally, the process of bread-making involves a live starter, a culture of yeast that serves as a leavening agent. The starter not only gives bread its rise and airy texture, but also imparts flavor and develops the gluten for easier digestion. The maintenance of a starter requires regular feeding and attentive monitoring. Daily bread means discipline and regimen and skill.

In the book of Exodus, when the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt, they were instructed to leave quickly. There was no time to prepare bread with leaven, so they baked flatbreads instead, the kind of bread that came to typify the Passover celebration and that Jesus used when he broke bread and gave it to his disciples at The Last Supper. After leaving Egypt the Israelites wandered in the desert for 4o years, but God provided manna to eat, though they were told only to collect enough for each day. Daily bread meant faithfulness and provision and obedience.

The prayer modeled in the gospel of Matthew includes a request for daily bread. This instruction comes after Jesus warns the disciples against drawing attention to their good works to earn the praise of men. Seeking to appear righteous through public demonstrations, even ones of charity or piety, ignores that true righteousness is a gift from God, not the result of works. Asking for daily bread is not only a request to fulfill the basic need of sustenance, but an acknowledgement that God is the ultimate sustainer of life, the one from whom all blessings flow. After all, “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

God wants us to rely on him like our bodies rely on food: daily. He is the only one who can satisfy our souls. As Jesus taught, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
(Psalm 34:8)

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