Prayer: our daily bread

This is how you should pray: “Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need…

Luke 11:2-3

When we are born we are totally dependent. We have no ability to care for ourselves, in fact no ability to survive. We are, in as sense, desperate. If someone else does not give us what we need and take care of us, we will die. But as we grow and mature that changes. The goal of parents everywhere is to make their children independent, able to survive on their own in what is often a hostile world. Is that God’s desire for us?

Jesus says we should pray each day for the food we need. If God is our Father, does he not try to grow us toward independence? It would seem not. Otherwise, why would Jesus say that this particular phrase should be part of our daily prayers? He seems to want us to daily remember that we are dependent on him for the very food we need, in other words, the basic requirements for our existence.

This sense of dependence is a central part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. It is much easier to maintain if we have a sense of our need. One of the problems with wealth is that it leads to a sense of independence. When we are wealthy it is easy for us to forget God, because we believe that we don’t need him. When we are wealthy it is easy for us to think that our wealth is thanks to our own efforts, our own cleverness, our own achievement. It is easy for us to forget to pray, “Give us each day the food we need,” because we already have the food we need for each day and we don’t need to ask anyone, including God, for it.

I believe that this line in the Lord’s prayer is extremely important because it reminds us of our utter dependence on God. We may be rich today, but tomorrow we may be poor. We may have all we need today, but tomorrow we may have nothing. The challenge is to remain dependent, and daily acknowledge that no matter what we have or don’t have, we are completely dependent on God. Unless he provides we will die, whether we have an empty cupboard or a full one, whether we have a big house or no house.

But this petition is also important because it is the means by which we see God’s provision in our lives. Just as it is easy to believe that our riches are thanks to our own efforts and wisdom, we can easily fall into the trap of believing that if we are not wealthy it is a sign of our own failure, lack of wisdom, wrong decisions. Both beliefs are equally misleading. The reasons we find ourselves where we are in life are many and varied, and everything that happens in our life is not a result of our own actions. Much could be put down to luck – good or bad. Much can be put down to circumstances – being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people. Our actions do obviously affect what happens to us, but sometimes good people suffer, and bad people prosper. Life is not straightforward.

In the midst of that reality Jesus encourages us to pray that the Father will meet our daily needs. Whether we are wealthy in the eyes of the world, or poor, he challenges us to the same. For the wealthy it is a challenge to understand that we are really poor and need God desperately, otherwise we will die. For the poor it is a challenge to believe that God will provide all we need, and that in him we are in fact rich.

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