We’re in the middle of a sermon series called “Pray This Way”, looking at the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve talked about “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name”, looking at why it’s important in our prayers to acknowledge who God is. We’ve talked about “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”, looking at how, as Christians, we have a responsibility to do our part to bring God’s kingdom and God’s will closer to our world on Earth. Today, we look at the next sentence of the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread”.
Unlike the first two sentences of the prayer, this is something that appears in both Matthew’s version of the prayer and Luke’s version. This was clearly something that stuck with the people who heard Jesus give this prayer. “Give us this day our daily bread”.
When the people of Jesus’ time heard this, they would’ve instantly thought of the story from Exodus we read today. The people of Israel were out in the wilderness. God, through Moses, had led them out of slavery in Egypt. But now, they’re out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat. And they’re not very happy about it. They accuse Moses, and of course by implication accuse God, of having led them out into the wilderness to starve. They say they’d have been better off to stay in slavery, because at least there they had enough to eat.
So, God gives them something to eat. Manna. Moses refers to manna as “the bread the Lord has given you to eat”. But, he tells them, they can only gather as much as they need for today. Don’t try to save any of it for tomorrow. That won’t work. God is only giving you enough for today.
Now of course, people being people, somebody had to test that, right? Sure enough, some people tried to save some manna for the next day, and sure enough it was no good. Surprise, God, speaking through Moses, told the truth. Who’d have thought? God only gave them enough for today. They’d have to learn to take it one day at a time. God would give them enough for tomorrow when tomorrow got there, and not before.
That’s the story people would’ve thought of when Jesus said this line of the Lord’s Prayer. And it goes along perfectly with what Jesus said in our reading from Matthew today. Jesus tells us, don’t worry about whether you’ll have enough to eat or enough to drink or enough clothes to wear. God knows we need those things. Jesus says, what you should be trying to get is not food or drink or clothes, but God’s kingdom. Jesus says that if we get that, everything else will fall into place.
That probably accounts for the order in which we say these things in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus tells us to first acknowledge who God is, then pray for God’s kingdom to come. Only then are we supposed to ask for anything for ourselves. And when we do, we’re supposed only ask for enough for today, and not worry about tomorrow.
In fact, it seems to me that the order in which Jesus put things in this prayer is a tremendous example to us about keeping our priorities straight. Jesus tells us that we need to keep our focus first and foremost on God. Not on ourselves, and not on the things of this earth. On God.
Jesus acknowledges that our earthly needs are important, too. It’s just that Jesus says they get a lower priority. Our first priority should be serving God’s kingdom and doing our part to bring about God’s kingdom on earth. In fact, if you think about it, probably the only reason we pray for our daily bread is that without it, we would not have the strength to do our part to bring about God’s kingdom on earth. We need food and drink to survive. But we’re not supposed to pray for those things for ourselves. We’re supposed to pray for them so we can have the strength we need to serve God.
Which is also probably one of the reasons Jesus told us to pray for bread. Bread, after all, is one of the staple foods of life. There’s nothing fancy about bread. I mean, nowadays there can be. People bake all kinds of fancy breads now. But in Jesus’ time, bread was pretty simple. It was pretty basic. That’s what Jesus told us to pray for: just our basic needs. Just pray for what we need, not what we might like to have.
That’s not always the easiest thing to do. There are a lot of times when we’re like those people of Israel who tried to save the manna for tomorrow. We don’t really want just our daily bread. We want enough for tomorrow and next week and next month.
We’re like the people of Israel in another way, too. Remember, in the book of Numbers, how the people complain about having nothing to eat but manna every day? They go to Moses and say, “All we ever get to eat around here is manna. Manna for breakfast, manna for lunch, manna for dinner, manna for supper. Manna for a midnight snack. Manna, manna, manna. Man, oh man, am I tired of manna! I’d rather eat a banana with my nana in Montana while wearing a bandana than eat any more of this stupid manna!”
And that’s true of us, too. We don’t want just to just have our basic needs met. We don’t want just enough to get by. We want a lot of other stuff, too. We want to have a nice house and a nice car and a nice home entertainment system and enough money to do some traveling and to have some more nice stuff, too.
Now, before we go any farther, please understand that I am not pointing a finger here. Everything I just said applies to me just as much as it applies to anyone else. And I’m not saying we cannot be Christians and have some nice stuff. I think we can.
But it gets back, again, to priorities. And it also gets back to what we should be praying for. Our first priority, in our prayers and in our lives, needs to be God’s kingdom. Our first priority, in our prayers and in our lives, needs to be serving God. Our first priority, again in both our prayers and our lives, needs to be to do our part to bring about God’s kingdom on Earth.
And our prayers, in terms of what we’re asking God to give us, is enough to give us the strength to do that. If God chooses to bless us with other things, that’s up to God. But God does not owe it to us to give us anything else, and Jesus did not tell us to pray for anything else. Jesus told us to pray the basic things we need to get us through the day. No more and no less.
What Jesus is telling us to do, basically, is take one day at a time. And you know, think of how much less stress and worry there’d be in our lives if we did that. Think how much easier our lives would be if we just asked God to give us enough to get us through today, and trusted that God would give us enough to get through tomorrow when tomorrow got here.
And then, think about how much less stress and worry there’d be in our lives if we carried that principle into other areas besides food. I suspect a lot of us have “to-do” lists. I know I do. And that’s okay. For me, it’s the only way I can keep from forgetting things, and sometimes I still forget things anyway.
But you know, sometimes, when we look at that “to-do” list, it’s kind of scary. We look at all the things we have to do for a week, or for a couple of weeks, and then we look at the amount of time we have to do them in, and we think, “How am I ever going to get all this done?” Have you ever done that? Happens to me all the time.
But what if we applied the “daily bread” principle to that? What if we prayed, “God, give me enough time and energy today to do the things I need to do today. And I’ll trust you that, when tomorrow comes, you’ll give enough time and energy to do the things I need to do tomorrow.”
How much less would we worry if we did that? How much less stress would we have in our lives? How much better off would we be, how much happier would we be, how much more able to serve God would we be, if we just trusted God to give us the time and energy to get done all the things we need to do?
God, through Moses, told the people God would give them enough for today. Jesus told us to pray that God give us enough for today so we have the strength to serve God’s kingdom. And Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow, because as long as we serve God’s kingdom, God will take care of tomorrow.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Acknowledge who God is, do our part to bring about God’s kingdom on earth, and ask for God to give us the basic things we need for today. No more and no less. If we pray this way, we can be pretty confident that God will answer our prayer.