Our daily bread
Our daily bread
People sometimes wonder why in the Lord’s Prayer we should ask God to give us our daily bread when we get our bread from bakers. But, of course, bakers don’t produce their loaves of bread by waving a magic wand over their ovens and saying abracadabra. They make the bread from flour, and the flour comes from wheat and the wheat is sown by farmers. But it is God who gives life to the seed in the first place and who gives the sunshine and rain to make it grow. And God is the giver of all our food.
The word bread in the Lord’s Prayer means more than the loaf of bread which you have in your kitchen. Some of you will know the expression, the ‘breadwinner’. The breadwinner in a family is the person who works and earns money to keep the home going. And so the daily bread for which we ask in the Lord’s Prayer includes everything we need to keep us healthy and well in body and soul. The word “daily” here means “enough for today”; that is to say, we pray for the things we really need, necessities not luxuries. So the Catechism in the Prayer Book explains this prayer “Give us this day our daily bread” in these words: “…I pray unto God, that he will send us all things that be needful both for our souls and bodies…” (1)
For our bodies
The things we need for our bodies include, not only food, but also clothes and shelter. Now these things have to be paid for, and so this is also a prayer that we may have work so that we may be able to earn the money to pay for them. God expects us all to work for our living if we can, if there is work available and we are fit enough to work. Although, as Jesus has told us, God feeds the birds, yet for all that they have to look for food and peck it up. So God’s will is that, if we can, we should do some useful work – studying in College, or perhaps working somewhere such as an office or a shop or a hospital; or it may be the work of looking after the family at home.
For our souls
We have been talking so far about the needs of our bodies, and they are very important. But the most important is our soul, the real you and the real I. The time will come when our bodies will grow old and die, and that will be the end of them. But our soul, that part of us which thinks and knows and decides to do this or that, our soul will go on living for ever. That is why, when we pray for our daily bread, we also include all the things which our souls need to keep them healthy and well.
There are many people who go out of their way to see that their bodies are all right, but do not give a thought to their souls. You wouldn’t think that anyone could be so stupid. Of all the living creatures in this world, we human beings alone have been given the power to know our Maker and to love him and to choose to be his here and hereafter. And yet there are many people who just eat and drink and work and play, and do not bother whether their souls are healthy and strong or weak and diseased. They probably never wonder what state their souls are in, but God knows because he sees the soul of every single person. The souls of the saints are pure and clean. The souls of evil people are stunted and horrible (Revelation 7:13,14; Matthew 6:22,23). And in between the two are the souls of ordinary people, sinful and weak.
Food of the soul
Now, just as the body needs, among other things, regular food if it is to grow strong and healthy, so also does the soul. And the food of the soul is God himself. As the soul is spirit, so it needs the Holy Spirit of God to make it grow and keep it well. We receive the Spirit of God in two main ways: when we pray and when we receive the Sacraments of his Church, such as Confirmation and Confession. But the special and most necessary food of the soul is the Blessed Sacrament, which we receive when we make our Communion. For the Blessed Sacrament, the Living Bread from Heaven as Jesus calls it, hides Jesus himself in his risen and ascended Body; the same Body which was born in Bethlehem and was nailed to the Cross but which is now a spiritual and heavenly Body. So Jesus has told us, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (NRSV, John 6:51).
But remember, our Communion will not do us any good at all unless our souls are prepared as well as possible to receive Jesus. We need to love God and be truly sorry for the sins we have committed by thought, word and deed. That is why we must always carefully prepare ourselves, before we make our Communion, by thinking out our sins, telling God we are sorry for them, and giving ourselves to him in trustfulness and love to be his for always.
Praying for the needs of our bodies and souls
So you see, “Give us this day our daily bread” is a prayer, not only for everything our body needs in order to be healthy and strong, but also for everything our souls needs to become like Jesus and so to be brought in safety to Heaven.
And because we pray “Give us this day our daily bread” we are praying not only for ourselves but for people in need all over the world. So we are including in our prayer, for example, people who are hungry, homeless, unemployed; and those Christians who, perhaps as a result of persecution, are unable to make their Communion freely as we do in this country.
1. “Daily” bread means enough for today.
2. Daily bread means the things we need to keep our bodies well (such as food and clothes and shelter) and our souls healthy and strong (namely, the Holy Spirit of God and the Blessed Sacrament).
1. Church of England (1662) The Book of Common Prayer. A Catechism. Available from: http://www.cofe.anglican.org/worship/liturgy/bcp/texts/catechism.html (Accessed 19 August 2010) (Internet).