After stumbling through Thy Kingdom Come and Thy Will be done, we come to the final four petitions or requests – the ones that we can best understand. But before we get into the first of the four, there is something about all four that must be stated up front. They are all requests for God to do what is his inclination, natural to his stated being, already his will. They are give, forgive, lead and deliver.
The first note is asking God to give. God is abundance and disposed by to provide for all his children. This is the promise. Consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. But here, in the prayer Jesus taught, there are restrictions.
First of all it is given to us, not me. Thus the whole community of God is involved and recipient of God’s gifts. There is no room here for self-interest or for personal requests. How often do we pray and how often are those prayers matters of self-interest or personal requests? Just a thought.
Give us bread is reminiscent of Moses and the people in the wilderness when all the people received manna from heaven for their daily sustenance. Deliberate, I am sure, and at the same time it underlines another restriction. The bread is just asked for this day, not tomorrow or forever. The manna could not be kept overnight. Every morning it rained down fresh, enough for the whole day, but overnight it spoiled.
So it is give us this day, and if that is not clear it is our daily bread. And then it is bread, not meat or drink or seven course meals. The request is simply for sustenance – to be sustained by god’s grace. It isn’t selfish or asking above and beyond the call of duty. It is also not communion bread. The parallel there is a stretch. This is sustenance, and it is asking enough for today, and not just for me, but for all of us who belong to God.
You see, prayer is not like making wishes, though we often treat it that way. As far as I know, God only once offered a man anything he would ask. That was Solomon, and he could have asked for money, power, long life, but he asked for wisdom. Because of that request, God also gave him money, power and long life… but God is generous.
We ask for daily bread. It may be all we receive and that has to be fine. But God also gives liberally to his children and often we do not need to say “give us this day our daily bread.” Instead we should say, “Thank you for all the abundance you give.”
The first three petitions are Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done and give.