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Food for Thought - Manna

The Lord‘s Prayer: "Give us today our daily bread"

Give Us Our Daily Bread

As we ponder “Give us this day our daily bread” we transition from the three God focused petitions which began our prayer to four new petitions focused on personal needs. In the initial section of the Lord’s Prayer our attention was on the communal underpinnings of this prayer as well as the distinct person, character and authority of God. We were brought face to face with the twin truths of the immanent and transcendent qualities of God uniquely combined in the person of Jesus.

This second section of the Lord’s Prayer confirms the importance of the physical and emotional aspects of life as equally important as the spiritual while also continuing the communal theme. We see in this section of the prayer that the spiritual and the mundane are wed together thus illuminating the falsity of a secular/sacred dualism. This portion of the prayer encourages us to bring the totality of our lives, circumstances and very being to God in prayer. The dimensions of spiritual and physical are united as one and must not be viewed separately for the Lord himself brought them together in his incarnation and in this prayer. This section celebrates and affirms the marriage of the material (physical) and the spiritual.

Now some people seek to play down the practical earthy-ness of this petition (bread) reminding us of the words of Jesus; “a person does not live by bread alone” but Jesus is not saying that bread is not important! Jesus is stating that bread is not to be the focus of one’s life. Also it must be remembered that Jesus was known to feed the hungry not only with the words of life or the Bread of Life but on two separate occasions Jesus fed thousands with physical bread because they were physically hungry.

As we begin to ponder and explore the four petitions that follow it is important to remember that each of these petitions springs forth from the seeds planted in the first section of this prayer, namely, the truth of God’s transcendence, immanence, our prayer of dependence; “not my will but God’s will be done” and our communal connectedness to those beyond ourselves. As we move into these practical petitions it is easy to forget all that preceded it. The result of this is to reduce God to a type of magic lamp or divine vending machine rather than our Father in Heaven, hallowed, trustworthy and worthy of all praise.

One of the causes of this spiritual forgetfulness is being bludgeoned by fear. This is a prevalent cause of the spiritual amnesia that erases the truth of God’s being and character from our heart, mind and soul. This fear can cause us to jump to this second half of the prayer disregarding the earlier truths of the prayer concerning God being powerful and that our desire is for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Our fear can catapult us over the first section and into God presence demanding our needs be met and in essence saying not your (God’s) will but MY will be done and be done quickly. This fear also carries with it the added symptom of shrinking our concept of ‘us’ (give us our daily bread). As fear grows our focus can become narrower and narrower so that we become entirely focused on ourselves as an individual even family and friends can be eclipsed by fear.

If as you pray this prayer you sense fear is gaining control then cry out to God, save me, much like Peter as he began to sink beneath the waves. Ask God to help you to recall to your heart and mind that God is with you, God cares for you and purpose to trust in God and also in Christ praying; I believe help me in my unbelief.

Now let’s spend some time interacting with the words; “give us this day our daily bread.”

EXERCISES:

1. Once again we are confronted with the question; who is part of our ‘our’? When you pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’ who is included and who is excluded? Who is this prayer offered on behalf of? Is its primary focus on you and your family, your brothers and sisters in Christ and/or your brothers and sisters in humanity? Why?

As you pray this prayer:

-are you willing to be an answer to this prayer? Why/why not?

-if yes, how are you seeking to be an answer to this prayer? Ask God to help you to discern how you might be an answer to this very prayer.

Spend time pondering the following verses. What are their implications concerning the “us” of this prayer and your responsibility for the hungry “us” of the world, or your city, of your neighborhood?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Isaiah 58:7

1John 3:17-18 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

2. Spend some time slowly and reflectively eating bread, use warm fresh bread if you are able to (otherwise any bread will do), and let this lead you into a time of praying for those who will not eat bread or anything else this day. Seek to identify and join with those who will not receive this day their daily bread and bring them before God in prayer.

3. As you focus on your needs and those of the world for ‘daily bread’ can you pray this prayer with the mindset of ‘not my will but God’s will be done’? If no, sit before God with this question; What would need to take place in your mind and heart to be able to trust God when the circumstances of your life and the lives of those throughout the world cry out that God is not loving, caring or wise?

Spend some time sharing your questions and expressing your emotions to God.

4. Read the following passage and reflect on your ability to trust God and seek first his kingdom.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?... Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’…” For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34

What are the causes of worry in your life? What hinders your ability to fully trust God and whole heartedly seek His Kingdom and righteousness? When you think of God’s provision in your life what are the feeling and thoughts that arise within you? Is it difficult or easy for you to trust God for your daily provision? Why/Why not? Is it difficult or easy for you to live one day at a time and let God be concerned about the future? Why/Why not?

Conclude your time sharing your thoughts, feelings and desires with God and then listen for God’s response.

5. Sit with the following words of St. Basil the Great (4th Century): “The bread that is spoiling in your house belongs to the hungry. The shoes that are mildewing under your bed belong to those who have none. The clothes stored away in your trunk (closet, garage) belong to those who are naked. The money that depreciates in your treasury belongs to the poor!”

What feelings arise within you around these words? What is the challenge and invitation implied by these words of St. Basil the Great? What may God be calling you to regarding your possessions, clothes…? How might the words of St Basil relate to the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:34-36 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'”

6. Jesus who teaches us to pray this prayer in verse 11 of Matthew 6 also tells us 14 verses later: (Mt 6:25ff):

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? …Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?...So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Spend some time pondering how the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, Give us this day our daily bread, and the above passage fit together.

What feeling arise within you as you reflect on these two teaching of Jesus? What is fueling those feelings? Spend some time sharing your feelings with Jesus.

7. Jesus says in Matthew 7:9-11 that if someone asks God for bread he will not give him a rock. Have you ever had the experience of asking God for something like ‘daily bread’ and not receive what you desired but for all intents and purposes seemed to be a rock? If yes, what feelings did this cause to rise within you? How does this currently impact your image of God and your relationship with God? If no, then spend your time thanking God for God’s goodness, faithfulness and provision in your life.

8. Jesus is the bread of life. Is Jesus your daily bread that feeds you and sustains you? If so, how? If not, why not? What feeds and sustains you instead of Jesus? When you think of Jesus as the bread of life, your bread of life what feelings arise within you? Take some time to share your feelings, positive or negative, with God/Jesus. If you are feeling resistance regarding Jesus being your bread of life explore this asking God to help you to discover the source of this resistance.

Additionally read the passage below and spend some time reflecting on who Jesus is to you and for you. Once again take some time to share your feelings, positive or negative, with God/Jesus. If you are feeling resistance regarding Jesus being your bread of life explore this asking God to help you to discover the source of this resistance.

“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”…So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:51-58.

This final exercise is for those who have more than their daily bread. Those who are, at least in this moment, set for tomorrow. In our day and age that is changing very quickly and because of that there is a tendency to hold on to what they have even tighter. This is the temptation in times of economic struggle.

9. Our petition this week contains within it a definite challenge/invitation regarding trusting God day by day. We are told to ask for our daily bread and not for our future bread. This is reminiscent of the manna that God provided the Hebrews in the desert (Exodus 16). In verses 4-5 it reads; The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. In the Old Testament time the manna would only last for one day and then would spoil. God wanted the people to learn to trust and depend on Him day by day and so God made it impossible for them to gather a weeks worth of manna. Unfortunately, for us it is very possible to pray for our daily bread and then hoard it so we do not have to depend on, trust in God. If we are to be honest our desire is not merely for daily bread but for an abundance of bread. We seek to order our lives so if all goes well we do not have to pray this petition from a place of neediness.

What would it look like for you to live a life of faith, a life characterized by trusting in God, depending on God? What might this mean in terms of how you make use of the resources God has given you stewardship over? Are you truly depending on God, trusting in God or are you trusting in the manna you have earned and stored up over time? This passage is not merely about bread, it is about living a life of faith, a life characterized by trusting God. Are you willing to live that life? What feelings arise as you read that challenge/invitation? Are they feelings of fear, of anger, of uneasiness, of excitement, of wonder? Bring your feelings to God and ask God to help you to discover what lies beneath those feelings. Finally ask God what God may be inviting you into.

Final thoughts

This petition (give us this day our daily bread) affirms the appropriateness of bringing our physical needs to God and a careful examination of this petition shows us that it is not solely concerned with our individual needs but is communal in it’s scope.

The phrase, give us this day our daily bread, is an invitation/challenge to depend on God and to embrace the plight of others in our world. It is beckoning us to a total trust of God, an abandonment to God asking only for enough for today and disregarding the coming tomorrow. It is reminiscent of Jesus’ words concerning not worrying about tomorrow for each day has enough troubles of it’s own! This phrase also expands and stretches our interests from ourselves to the needs of others in our own neighborhoods, cities, country and world.

As I sit with and ponder our phrase, the words of Jesus from Matthew 25 begin to rise up within me, challenging me to embrace in a greater way implications of praying ‘give us this day OUR daily.’ The truth be told I have enough bread for today and tomorrow. This phrase calls me to open my eyes and my heart to the need around me seeking to be a good steward of the resources I have been given stewardship over. I leave you with the words of Jesus.

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father: take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Matthew 25:34-45 (NIV)


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