When we say the Lord’s prayer we kind of mouth our way through the words sometimes without giving them much thought, but there is one phrase in that prayer that strikes me every time I say it. “Give us today our daily bread”.
It sounds weird doesn’t it? I mean, who has a diet of bread every day nowadays? Especially if you are carb-conscious or are counting calories to lose weight, as a lot of people are. And why bread? Why not “give us today our daily MEAT” for example, or “daily MILK”. Both are essential for growth and nutrition so why BREAD?
There are two ways to look at it – the first is as I’ve hinted at above, that bread is an essential foodstuff to many people and we pray those words to ask God to give it to us. The second is that if we go deeper into bread being the food of LIFE, then we are asking God not only for the mechanical means to gain nutrition into our bodies, but his divine inspiration into our daily lives that we might live life to its fullest? We ask him to feed us so we can feed others.
What does that actually mean anyway? Living life to its fullest seems to be an idyllic way of living – to have enough work to do to be challenging without being exhausting, to have enough people who love you and whom you can love in return to be emotionally stable and well, to have enough food on your plate that you are not hungry and you never have to worry where your next meal is coming from, to have enough mental stimulation that you are constantly learning and growing, to have enough time to rest and relax on leisure activities that recharge your batteries, to have the emotional “stretch” to be able to support other people pastorally and to have enough strength of faith to be able to be a light shining for God throughout everything you do. Wow, who wouldn’t like a life like THAT?!
So when we ask God to provide enough for us to live our life properly and to its fullest through the words “give us today our daily bread” we are entering into a contract with him that in return for that, we will live our lives well and fully in his name.
But what if your life isn’t like that idyll I have just painted? What if you have too much work to do and you are constantly exhausted and stressed because of it? You haven’t the energy to be “nice” to people, let alone have the emotional stretch to help them when they are stuck. What if you don’t have enough food to eat and your thoughts really are taken up with where your next meal is coming from? It is difficult to appreciate the beauty of the world when you are constantly hungry and can’t enjoy the food you do have because you know it will be the last for a while. How about when you don’t have time to recharge your batteries? When the worry about day-to-day living takes its toll to the extent that you can’t switch off at weekends, you can’t sleep during the week, you can’t enjoy a holiday from work because you know it’s all piling up for you to do when you get back? How about the times when you are so bogged down with your own worries that you just can’t see how it is for other people? When your own parents are facing big decisions about their future because of infirmity or disease, and you have to manage their affairs as well as your own? There is little time for affection and love when duty and responsibility are piled on top of worry and grief. What about the times when you want to do things with your church, such as take communion to sick people in the parish, or help out at the play group in a morning but you can’t because you have to go to work? How about the times you want to be creative but the materials are too expensive and your time is taken up with work and stress and worry and duty to other people?
To live with all these things when we ask God to provide our daily bread we are asking him not just for the food in our belly, we are asking him to help us deal with our lives in such a way that we can and do make room for the things that make life worth living – the company of others, love and laughter, creativeness, joy in rest and so on. We are asking him to help us make room in our lives too for those things that bring glimpses of his kingdom to others here on Earth. Most of all, we are asking him to keep feeding us with his strength and his spirit so that we can grow and mature as spiritual beings as much as we do human beings.
Next time you say the Lord’s prayer, see how different you feel if instead of visualising a loaf of Mother’s Pride at that line, you visualise a life full of beauty and wonder with God pouring it all out to nourish your soul as well as your body. It’s all about trusting him to provide for us, even when we don’t know exactly what and why.