Fr. Ron Millican
THE PRAYER TO BEGIN ALL PRAYER: THE LORD’S PRAYER, 7
Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
The first part of the Lord’ Prayer ascended the lofty heights of heaven and spoke of the grand ideas such as the will of God: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be they name; they kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Those are large, transcendental concepts.
The next part of the prayer brings us down to earth: “Give us this day our daily bread; forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil …” The matters mentioned in this part, though few actually cover nearly everything we need and want to pray about day by day.
You cannot get any more basic than this: “Give us this day our daily bread” that is, praying for the daily food we need to exist on day by day. Praying for our daily bread seems so pedestrian. Praying for God’s will, for world peace, for serenity—that is real prayer, right? But praying for the bread we need to eat does not seem very spiritual.
Baloney. Jesus is teaching us that there is nothing too basic or too mundane to pray about. Every one of life’s gifts is a gift from God ultimately, and it is not as if he created courage and faith and desire for peace, and then somehow bread just came along. Every gift—whether it be spiritual, moral, physical—comes from God’s hand ultimately, and Jesus is telling us that it is the Great Giver to whom we should turn to for such matters.
But why? This would seem to be one area where prayer has nothing do with it. I work for my daily bread by taking a job. And a lot of work by others goes into getting bread to my table: planting seeds, irrigating land, harvesting crops, shipping by railway, displaying in a supermarket, and so on. We can pray until the proverbial cows come home, but unless someone takes the trouble to get up at 4:00 a.m. and milk them, no one is going to have anything to put on their cereal. What does prayer have to do with all this?
Everything! This is exactly the point of this prayer: To remind us that the journey of good from planting to dinner table is a complex process that requires the efforts, skills, and faithfulness of countless people. Every time we eat, we receive a gift that comes to us through many hands. It is not merely our efforts that secure our daily bread. This is not the type of thing we ought to take for granted.
Then there is this little unpleasant fact: A few too many days without bread, and we die. Christian prayer is not about ethereal spirituality; it is no mere consciousness raising into airy transcendence. Prayer is about survival. This petition is a stark reminder of how close we are to not being, of how fragile our world really is, of how little it takes (a shipper’s strike, a hurricane, drought, a cancer cell) to disrupt everything we take for granted, of how vulnerable we really are. In other word’s, this is a prayer about dependence, utter dependence upon God for everything.
To be continued….