Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11)
I love the smell of fresh baked bread, whether walking through the bread section of Price Chopper or in my own kitchen. Charleen and I used to make all our own bread in the early years of our marriage. I made sourdough and anadama, and she made oatmeal-molasses and whole wheat. She still bakes bread periodically, but it’s been years since I had my hands in dough.
Our young adults’ Bible study just started the book, Praying Backwards, by Bryan Chapell. He reminds us that when Jesus teaches us to pray, “give us this day our daily bread” he has in mind more than Pepperidge Farm or Arnold, or for that matter homemade sourdough. It is a request for God to provide us with the necessities of life, whether it be enough groceries for tonight’s meal or next month’s rent.
Does that mean it is out of place to pray for strawberry shortcake a la mode as Chapell asks? Even the psalmist says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4) While we can’t hold God accountable to giving us everything we might want, like strawberry shortcake or a million dollars, it is not necessarily a sin to seek the desires of our heart. The real question is, do we delight ourselves in the Lord first and foremost? Chapell writes, “When we delight most in fulfilling his purpose (having his name reverenced and his kingdom furthered), then God gives us the desires of our heart. However, when we try to nourish our heart with empty pleasures or self-destructive pursuits, then the prayer for daily bread actually becomes a petition for a healthier diet.”
Chapell quotes a letter that was allegedly found on the body of a Civil War soldier after the battle of Gettysburg. It expresses well the desires of a heart shaped by the Holy Spirit:
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might humbly learn to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I feel the need for God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I among all men am most richly blessed.
I’m always a sucker for fresh baked bread, hot out of the oven, and strawberry shortcake with lots of whipped cream, but what do I really pray for? And what do you pray for?
Pastor Tom Bridgman