Give us this day our daily bread…

Christ has begun his model prayer by establishing God’s goodness, greatness, and supremacy and our need to seek his perfect will for us. Now he models supplication. We are told in scripture to ask God for our needs and desires. In Jesus’ prayer, he asks for bread for “this day.” Like the manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness, we are given what we need daily.

In Matthew 6:34, Jesus tells his hearers, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” Though the Father promises a sure hope for tomorrow, he also gives us provisions sufficient for today. I have repeatedly returned to this truth when I am experiencing a trial, often praying the line from Thomas Chisholm’s beloved hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness: “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” The past is to be learned from, and the future is for hope, but we must choose to serve and glorify the Lord in the present, “as long as it is called Today” (Hebrews 3:13).

Christ tells his hearers in John 14:13-14, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” I have to admit, when I was younger, before I really knew Christ, this verse was a stumbling block for me. I had asked God for plenty of things and was denied many times. But as I told my children repeatedly when they were young, God is not a wishing genie. James 4:3 exhorts, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

The beautiful thing about drawing near to God, recognizing his love for us, his holiness, and his absolute goodness, is that the closer we get to him, the more our will aligns with his. Not because of anything we have done, but because of the indwelling of his good Spirit. Let’s face it, he knows us better than we know ourselves, and though sometimes our “daily bread” is dry or crusty, it is exactly the nourishment we need for our sanctification. Sometimes we get bread spread with sweet comfort, and sometimes we get the bread of adversity. If we are in Christ, we will receive the portion and type for whatever we need today.

John Piper takes this bread metaphor a little further. In his poem The Stone and the Snake, Piper contends that if we ask for bread, but our need is for a stone or a snake, God will provide for the need, not the request:

If you should need an anchor for your boat,

But lured by hunger, ask for bread,

I’ll mark you’re need, and lest you seaward float,

Give you a heavy stone instead.

 

Or if you need to drain a viper’s fang,

A healing antidote to make,

But ask for useless fish to ease the pang,

I will discern and give the snake.

God is faithful to give us what we need, whether it’s bread, a stone, or even a snake. Though we might not like the latter gifts, we know that the Giver is good and that each gift will ultimately benefit us if it comes from his kind hand.

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