Lord's Prayer--The Fourth Petition

Text: Matthew 6:11

Give us today our daily bread.


How quickly conditions can change. Minutes before our day school opening service years ago the Russian Olive tree on our church property was standing big and beautiful. Then the high winds of a storm hit. Within minutes the tree was laying on the ground a broken shambles.

How quickly our life can be changed as well. A storm, an accident, a criminal, a disease can suddenly change our lives. Nowhere, however, is the possibility of upheaval greater than in the work place and family income. Job security is minimal. The company or institution you work for may decide to down-size its operation. If it does, without any forewarning you may suddenly be called into the office where you are told you have just been laid off permanently. Or, your company may decide to change the location of its plant, in which case you may suddenly find yourself having to move to another part of the country or face unemployment. I personally have observed chief engineers and vice-presidents with twenty-five years experience, men who had built their respective industry, suddenly laid off and fired overnight. Because job security in the work place is so shaky, you find yourself in the situation of having to provide for your family and pay for your home amid the concerns of whether you will have a job and an income in the future.

You may find this quite nerve-wracking and worrisome. Will your many future needs be met or not? You may wish you could put your mind at ease about the future. You may not be able to do this but our Lord can. The fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer teaches us life’s necessities are the gifts of God. It teaches us to put our trust in God daily.

Our Savior Jesus, whose death on the cross provided for our eternal needs, instructed us to pray for our earthly needs in this manner: “Give us today our daily bread.”

Daily bread is whatever we need to sustain our body and life in this world. Martin Luther appropriately explained, “Daily bread includes everything that we need for our bodily welfare, such as food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, fields and flocks, money and goods, a godly family, good workers, good government, honest leaders, good citizens, good weather, peace and order, health, a good name, loyal friends and good neighbors.”

God gives the necessities of life to man and beast alike. Psalm 145:15,16 state, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at its proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

We can see this is true. The Lord causes the sun to shine on all, man and beast. He causes the rain to fall on the fields of the wicked as well as on the fields of the righteous. In this manner he feeds the righteous and the wicked, and every living creature.

Besides providing for us through these natural means, our Lord can, when he wishes, provide for us through supernatural means, just as he sent the ravens to bring food to Elijah or he fed the five thousand from a few meager crumbs.

Our human reason should see in nature that our heavenly Father is showing us his goodness by providing for our daily needs. Acts 14:17 informs us, “And yet he has not left himself without witness by doing good, by giving you rain from heaven and crops at the proper times, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” James 1:17 also instructs us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or varying shadow.

While every person should know from nature that God provides the necessities of life, not everyone appears to understand this. Like myself, perhaps you have heard individuals say things like, “Everything I have, I obtained by the sweat of my brow. I earned everything I have.” Being sinful by nature, we also are tempted to forget that it is God who supplies what we need from day to day. We too often think it is we alone who must provide for ourselves. We tend to think our hard work, sound investments, smart financial planning, and thriftiness are the keys to a sound financial future that will provide for our future needs.

God has given us our reason and abilities to work and to plan for our futures. But without his blessings on our work and planning, all our efforts will come to nothing. We cannot earn an income if he does not give us the health to work. We cannot eat if he destroys the crops in the fields with storms or floods or drought. We will not have a job if he ruins our national economy. We cannot work if he rocks our nation with revolutions, riots, or foreign invasions. We cannot produce anything if he does not give us the raw materials and natural resources. We are dependent upon the Lord for our jobs, income, and financial prosperity.

This petition does not permit us to think we provide for ourselves when it teaches us to ask our heavenly Father to give us our daily bread. Since our Father gives us the necessities of life, we dare not think we earn them solely by ourselves.

The very fact that our Father gives us our daily bread verifies we have a good and gracious Lord. When we were children, our parents gave us everything we needed. Today we know how good they were to us. We therefore should say, “What good and gracious parents I have had! They provided for my every need and comfort, leaving nothing to chance. How much I am indebted to them.” Likewise, our heavenly Father has been richly and daily providing us with every good thing we need. Day in and day out he is continuing to prove his love for us and the enormity of his kindness by providing for our needs. We therefore should be saying, “What a good and gracious Lord I have! How indebted I am to him!”

Our Father knows what we need, even before we ask him for it. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:8, “Your Father knows what things you need before you ask him.” Yet with this petition we ask him for our life’s necessities. If he knows what we need before we ask him, then why do we ask him? The reason is so we do not forget that he gives them to us and so we then say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his love endures forever.

What is more, Jesus teaches us to pray “Give us today our daily bread.” He instructs us to pray for one day at a time and to ask for only what will sustain us for another day.

To pray this petition truthfully and sincerely our hearts must be free of greed and the love of even the most basic things so necessary for life. To pray this petition we must humble ourselves and have a change of heart. We must become a different person. This is so, for we naturally want a whole month’s worth of daily bread, and we believe that having many years’ worth of daily bread is even more preferable. Should we doubt this is true, we only need to ask ourselves what we would prefer: one loaf of Wonder Bread? or a whole freezer full of food?

We have been influenced by the materialism of our society. To think of being content with no more than what we can use today, with no regard for tomorrow, next week, or the future, is foreign to our way of thinking. We are altogether accustomed to think in terms of having what we will need for the future. Like the rest of our society, we desire to be comfortable in life with no need to worry about where our next meal will come from or whether or not we can afford to spend a buck for this or for that. Thus we all need to take to heart our Lord’s word in 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world,” and to pray: “Give us today our daily bread.”

Our desire to be comfortable and worry free over life’s necessities is really a yearning to enjoy a little bit of heaven on earth. Unpleasantness and hardships and suffering are so commonplace since sin corrupted God’s perfect creation that we long to escape from it all. We long for comfortable, pleasant surroundings where we are well provided for without any worries.

The world has taught us that the means to those comfortable surroundings and abundant life are hard work and financial planning. But as soon as we rely on ourselves, our jobs, our financial planning, the national economy, social security, and so forth--we are on the road to becoming worry-warts. For in this world the only thing that is certain is that everything is uncertain. Nothing is guaranteed, including our financial security for the future. What is more, we know that if anything can go wrong or fail, it will, which leaves us out on a limb.

Jesus, contrary to our manner of thinking in terms of having an abundance for the future, teaches us to pray for one day’s necessities at a time. Our Father has not promised or guaranteed us an abundance. On the contrary, he tells us that if we have food and clothing we should be content with these, like Jesus himself was. He had no home of his own nor a pillow on which to lay his head.

We are far from being poor, however. We are richly blessed. Consider our standard of living with our well furnished, expensive homes and all their comforts compared to our Christian brothers and sisters in Africa, who have grass huts with dirt floors and no clothes except those which they are wearing. We have a rich abundance in comparison to them and in comparison to many others in various parts of the world. In our own country our abundance far surpasses what those who lodge in card board boxes on the streets have.

Since the fourth petition prays for only one day’s provisions, it teaches us not to worry about tomorrow or the future. Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:25-34 not to worry about our life. He said, “For this reason I say to you, stop worrying for your life – what you should eat, or what you should drink, not even for your body, what you should wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky; they do not sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they? 27 And who of you by worrying is able to add one hour to his time of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Observe well how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin. 29 Yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 Therefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is cast into a furnace, will he not much more clothe you, You of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or, ‘What shall we drink?’ or, ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.” In 1 Peter 5:7 God tells us, “Cast all your worry on him, because he cares about you.

Don’t worry. Simply trust. This is what our Father in heaven wants us to do. Proverbs 3:5 urges us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” By faith we simply trust our heavenly Father will provide us with what we need. He always has until now. We have no reason to fear he will not do so in the future. Psalm 37:25 assures us, “I was young, now I am even old, but I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging for bread.” So why should we worry?

Each of us knows to what extent we have worried, to what extent we have not been content with having only our daily bread, and to what extent we have failed to trust our heavenly Father to provide for us. In our sinful weakness we have sinned against the first commandment. Without his loving forgiveness of this sin, and all our other many sins as well, we would perish eternally.

Thanks be to our Father in heaven, however, who has assured us of the greatness of his love for us by providing us with a Savior from our sins and from the punishment in hell that we deserve--his Son, Jesus. Jesus redeemed us and reconciled us to him and saved us from hell by his death on the cross. Through Jesus our Father has provided us with everlasting life and salvation.

Since our Father has provided for our greatest need, our everlasting life and salvation in heaven, we should know that he will also freely give us what we need for our body and life while we are still in this world. We have no reason to worry. We need only trust in our heavenly Father, to whom we pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” Amen.