Give us this day our daily bread. [Matthew 6:11 (RSV)]
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. [Matthew 6:31-32 (RSV]
If “daily bread” refers to our necessities and nothing more, then what are the necessities of life? The most obvious answer is food enough to maintain us, water enough to sustain us, along with clothing and shelter enough to protect us. Chances are you are among the fortunate who have all that’s needed to support life (plus a great deal more.) I know I am. Should we then cease asking the Lord for our daily bread? Martin Luther would say, “No.”
When Luther explained the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer in his Small Catechism, he said “daily bread” comprised “Everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, and upright spouse, upright children, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”
For Luther, the words “daily bread” encompassed far more than whatever was necessary to sustain life. He expanded it to mean whatever is necessary for a good life. In the mostly agrarian society of his time, it’s easy to see why farm, fields, livestock, and good weather were a necessity to Luther’s congregations. Nevertheless, they’re still necessary in our increasingly urban society—without those, our grocery stores would be empty. When we continue to think in broader terms, Luther’s list makes as much sense today as it did in 1529. While we probably don’t have servants as members of our household, we may have employees or co-workers in business and we all depend upon other people’s employees when we dine out, bank, shop, visit the doctor, or take medicine. We may not have (or want) a spouse and children, but today’s children are tomorrow’s employers, judges, mechanics, police, and office holders and we need strong and upright family units to raise them to be good ones. Indeed, our daily bread includes far more than food, water, clothing, and shelter enough for survival. We all need families, friends, and neighbors along with good government, peace, health, decency, and honor and yet I’d never thought of these necessities as daily bread until I read Luther’s words.
Let us never forget that along with both our physical requirements and the less observable needs of life like friendship, there is yet another kind of bread for which we ask. When we ask for our daily bread, we also ask for the true bread of life—Jesus Christ—the bread that satisfies our spiritual hunger. He is, indeed, a necessity for life both in this world and the next.
Rather than asking God for my daily bread, Jesus’ beautiful model prayer asks God to give us our daily bread. Regardless of how much we may have, as long as long as there are people in our world who lack the true necessities of life, we must pray for their provision—their daily bread and the bread of life.
Our Father in heaven, give us this day our daily bread!