Give us this day our daily bread.
Prayer is acknowledging our need of God’s help. We tend to dislike our needs. We tend to want to meet our needs by ourselves. We may even feel ashamed of our needs. As a result, we are often afraid to rely on anyone else to help us, even God. But as we move away from self-reliance and begin to rely more and more on God, we begin to see how great our need is for God’s love and care.
Many of the psalms clearly express the need for God’s help and care. In Psalm 86, the writer begins by referring to himself as “poor and needy.” (Psalm 86:1). He goes on to list his needs to God, trusting that God will respond with help and mercy, because he has come to trust that God is “forgiving and good, abounding in love…compassionate and gracious.” (Psalm 86: 5, 15).
As we grow in our trust that God is loving and good, we are gradually freed from the fear and shame that keep us from turning to God with our needs. As we experience God’s loving response to our needs, we come to trust that God always welcomes us and our needs.
The writer and theologian George MacDonald described God’s relationship with us and our needs like this:
God is infinitely more bound to provide for his child than any man is to provide for his. God created both the child and his hunger. The relation is infinitely, divinely closer. It is God to whom every hunger, every aspiration, every desire, every longing of our nature is to be referred. He made them all—made us the creature of a thousand necessities—and have we no claim to him?…The child has, and must have, a claim on the Father, a claim which it is the joy of the Father’s heart to acknowledge. A created need is a created claim. God is the origin of both need and supply, the Father of our necessities, the abundant giver of all good things.” (George MacDonald, Discovering the Character of God. Compiled by Michael R. Phillips, Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers 1989, pp. 206-07).
Because our needs are so important to God, when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, part of what he taught them was how to pray about their needs. “Give us this day our daily bread,” Jesus prayed.
Jesus’ prayer of need begins with the phrase, “Give us.” This phrase holds a lot of wisdom in its two simple words. The word “give” expresses our need for God and our willingness to turn to God with our need. It also expresses a trust that God is a Giver of good gifts, that God is for us and not against us, that God sees and responds to us and to our needs.
The word “us” assumes that whatever need we are experiencing is also a need that others are experiencing. It is an expression of our common humanity, of the brotherhood and sisterhood of the human race. Sometimes our needs can leave us self focused. We can forget the needs of others in the midst of our struggles. On the other hand, our needs can be a vehicle that brings us together in common concern and support for each other. The word “us” calls us out of our isolation and self focus, back to allowing ourselves to be cared for and to care for others, to be prayed for and to pray for others.
Jesus continued in his prayer of need with the phrase, “this day.” Jesus teaches us here what he taught elsewhere, to be present to each day, one day at a time. We bring our needs to God each day, one day at a time. We tend to project our fears and worries into the future. Jesus reminds us not to live in the future, but to ask for and to look for God’s love and care for us today.
Finally, Jesus’ last phrase in this simple prayer of need is an expression of a specific need: “our daily bread.” We are invited to ask God for specific help with our specific needs.
You see my needs.
You invite me to bring my needs to you.
I feel a lot of shame about my needs.
I try so hard to take care of myself, by myself.
But the truth is, I need you
We all need you.
We need your help and care today.
What is it like for you to acknowledge your need of God’s help?
What help are you needing today?
Allow yourself to enlarge your focus to include the needs of those around you.
Talk to God about your need for God’s help simply, directly, specifically.
Ask God to show you how you might be a part of God’s care for others in need.