God Is Concerned About “Little Things”, Too
The order of Jesus’ model prayer makes clear that the glory of God and the accomplishing of His will in the world must always be at the heart of the life and thinking of the Christian. His prayers, like his life, should begin and end there. It is on just such a note that the section of the sermon which contains this instructive prayer concludes (Matthew 6:33). Yet this does not preclude the bringing of our own needs and burdens to God’s throne. This is made evident by the three (some say four) concluding requests of the prayer (Matthew 6:11-13). These all center on basic human necessities.
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). With these words the Lord makes a sudden shift from the exalted to the commonplace. The apparent discontinuity of it caused many of the ancient commentators to spiritualize the “bread,” but there is nothing in the context to justify it. On the face of things it just seems that physical considerations should be left till last, after forgiveness and the strength to endure temptation. But that is not where Jesus put them (either here or in Luke 11:2-4). He certainly does not intend that physical necessities become life’s overriding concern (Matthew 6:19-32) but He is also not discounting their importance. The “Word” who became flesh understood from experience the bodily needs of men (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15) and demonstrated how seriously He took them in His compassion for the sick and hungry (Mark 1:40-41; Matthew 15:32; 25:41-43). The inclusion of this brief petition demonstrates that there is no matter so small that we may not with confidence bring it to our Father. Paul urges this: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication... let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Peter says the same: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Once we have determined to do His will at all costs, we may speak freely to Him of all our needs from the least to the greatest.
This simple petition speaks not only of God’s wide-ranging concern but of our own complete dependence on Him. “Bread” as here used likely stands for all of life’s bodily needs—food, shelter, health, family, etc. In any case we cannot by our own unaided strength supply one of them. As Clovis Chappell once observed, we could no more create one loaf of bread than we could create the universe. “The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness” (Psalm 24:1). Hence we have no real choice but to trust God even at the most elemental level.
The English translation “daily bread” is somewhat of an educated guess since the Greek word for “daily” occurs nowhere else for certain in Greek literature. It may suggest bread for the day ahead or bread sufficient to sustain us. In either case Jesus teaches us to ask for no more than a day’s supply. This is a tough assignment for people like ourselves who are inclined to fall to pieces without a lifetime provision in hand and fully insured. If we follow the Lord’s counsel we will quit trusting in bread (John 6:25) and learn to lean wholly on God and His promises. Learning to live trustingly with what we have each day calls to mind God’s manna experiment with Israel while they were in the wilderness. “He humbled you,” wrote Moses, “allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna... that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus had used this passage once to great advantage (Matthew 4:4). We can do the same.
However much, then, it might have seemed at first that this prayer for bread was prayer from a very low ground, it turns out to have a powerful spiritual benefit. It teaches us faith. And this is a prayer for the poor and the rich alike; for no matter how little or how much we have or how hard we struggle to obtain and keep it, God alone can secure it. If we will learn to trust Him, God’s children can live serenely in the confidence once expressed by the aged David: “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). And if we learn this kind of trust about bread, it will free us to get about the things that are even more important.
This article was written by brother Paul Earnhart, a servant of the Lord who passed away last week. He labored for many years and in many places, and now abides in the rest of the LORD. May we all strive to show our light in as abiding a manner as brothers and sisters like him.