Week 4: October 23

Give Us This Day by Randy Ness

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What Bread?

After addressing God, adoring Him, and aligning our will with His will, Jesus’s model for prayer takes a pivot from the spiritual to the physical by making three earthly requests.

The first request is, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

What is this bread that we are to pray for? Is it a literal food? Is it a metaphor for something else? Is it both?

Consider the role bread played in the culture of the Middle East during biblical times:

  • Bread was the preeminent food staple. Whereas bread is secondary in western cultures to meat and other foods, it was primary in Middle Eastern cultures and other foods were secondary. 50-70% of the calories consumed were grains, mostly in the form of bread.

  • Bread was made daily. Nearly every household would make bread daily. All members of the family would be involved.

  • Bread served as a conduit for other foods. Some breads could be folded and used as a spoon to dip into the common dish. Bread could be used as a pouch to hold other foods when away from home.

  • Bread was considered a divine gift. Whenever it rained sufficiently enough to grow grains in this arid climate, the resulting bread would be seen as a tangible gift from God. In the tabernacle, the “Bread of Presentation” was a symbol of God as the source of life.

Bread, along with water, was seen as vital for daily physical existence. It was also symbolic of God’s provision and care. Bread was both physically and spiritually significant.

There is more.

After using a boy’s lunch of five small loaves of bread and two fish to miraculously feed a crowd of more than 5,000 persons, Jesus astounded onlookers and angered religious leaders by saying…

“I am the bread of life come down from heaven.” (Read John 6:1-59; Jesus says it several times.)

In his book, Living the Lord’s Prayer, David Timms writes, “Jesus taught the principles of the kingdom, but He also fed the crowds. Everything about his life combined the physical and the spiritual seamlessly.”

In conclusion, as we pray for our daily bread, let us pray for:

  • whatever we need physically and spiritually to engage the day before us,
  • a fresh vision of Jesus as the gift of life from our Abba/Father,
  • that we, too, may be life giving to those we encounter throughout our day.

For Reflection:

  1. Reflect on your prayer life. How often do you hopscotch over addressing God, adoring God, aligning with God’s will, and jump right to asking for daily bread?

  2. Review the list of the roles bread held in biblical Middle Eastern culture. How might any of these serve as metaphors for your relationship with Jesus? Which one(s) resonate most for you personally?

Additional Resource:

I highly recommend Karen Whiting’s succinct article, “What is the Significance of Bread in the Bible?” at Crosswalk.com.

Interesting Tidbit:

We know Jesus was born in Bethlehem. In Hebrew, “Beth” means “house” and “Lehem” means “bread.” Therefore, Jesus’ birthplace is literally “The House of Bread.”


Not Just Me, It’s About Us.

There I was sitting in the dentist chair waiting for the Novocain to kick-in.

Several months earlier the dentist abandoned drilling and filling a cavity on my lower molar because it would not get numb. Here I was for a second attempt. To say I was anxious is an understatement. Dread is more accurate.

This happened during the week my draft was due for this devotional “Give us our daily bread.” So, that prayer for God’s provision was fresh in my mind. I recited it like a mantra.

For the second time in Jesus’s prayer template first person plural pronouns are used - “Give US this day, OUR daily bread.” The Lord’s Prayer is not intended as a private prayer. It is a communal prayer. Clearly, Jesus wants us to pray not just for ourselves but for others.

However, as I sat in that chair, about 95% of my prayer was about me – for God to reduce my anxiety. The other 5% went to the dentist hoping she would have the skill (and whatever else was needed) to complete the procedure pain-free.

Jesus’s model for prayer nudges us away from a “me, myself and I” perspective toward an “us, our, and others” perspective. As David Timms writes in his book, Living the Lord’s Prayer, “When Jesus teaches us to pray for OUR daily bread, it becomes a prayer with a lateral glance.”

Looking back, I was too preoccupied with myself to take a “lateral glance.” My dentist is a person with daily needs, too. What concerns and issues did she have that day that I was unaware of?

Thankfully, the procedure was completed and my prayer turned to rejoicing. As I headed to the office to make payment, God would offer me another vivid lesson on praying for “us and our.”

The office manager and I shared some pleasantries. As we talked, I learned she was from South America. She shared her lament for the poverty there. Her homeland was especially reeling from the impact of the pandemic. And resources intended to help the poor were being siphoned off by corrupt government officials and charity leaders.

She shared an especially poignant experience. During her last visit home, her family ate at a restaurant in the capital city. Aware of some poor children begging outside, they took leftovers from their meal to give to them. She was startled when 20-30 other children emerged from the shadows also looking for handouts.

“Give us this day our daily bread” is a constant reminder to show mercy and compassion. It calls us to be mindful of the physical needs of others (like these hungry children) and the spiritual needs of others (office manager’s sadness).

For Reflection:

  1. How well do your prayers strike the balance between “me, myself and I” with “us, ours and others?”

  2. How might you provide life-giving “daily bread” to those you encounter during a normal day’s activities?

  3. When Jesus mentions “us/our” is he instructing us to pray only for fellow Christ-followers or also to those outside the family of believers?


Savoring Bread Together.

Pizza. Cinnamon rolls. Whopper Cookies. Soft pretzels. These are bread-like foods that I love.

And if anyone waves a sour cream cake donut under my nose, they stand the chance of losing a few fingers. (I apologize if I just created an urge for you to run to Dunkin.)

Although these foods are tasty and bring delight, they are mostly empty calories that leave us unfulfilled and increase our craving.

To pray “Give us this day our daily bread” in a land of plenty probably seems mundane and irrelevant. We have behemoth supermarkets, restaurants, drive throughs, food delivery services. Food items stare back at us in the checkout lines of every type of store. We are surrounded by abundance. And we probably lead the world in obesity.

How about daily bread for our spiritual lives?

Sunday services. Small groups. Bible studies. Missions and service opportunities. Worship music. Podcasts. Online resources. And so many versions of the Bible that Gutenberg has probably rolled over in his grave - several times.

We have an abundance of spiritual activities available. And yet: How vibrant is our relationship with God? Are we spiritually fulfilled? Do others know us by our love?

After 50 plus years of doing many of the activities listed above, I still felt empty and numb. What was I missing? I yearned for something more. Participating in spiritual formation series like Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and Theodyssey along with other seekers helped restore my soul.

One practice that became my “daily bread” is an approach to reading scripture called “Hagah”, which means “to chew or gnaw just like a lion eating its prey” (See Isa. 31:4).

Instead of reading scripture just to check it off the list, this approach is to sit with a passage for an extended time (days, maybe months) and savor it. Read it continuously. Mull or chew on it. Meditatively pray it. To listen for God’s invitations.

“Hagah” is even more fulfilling and enriching when done in community.

Our small group spent 3-4 months on the passage where Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. It was enriching to hear from one another as we read, studied, meditated, and prayed together. Not only did the Samaritan woman encounter Jesus, we encountered Jesus, too.

In conclusion, consider how joyous it is to savor a holiday meal with family and friends as compared to grabbing a to-go meal and eating it somewhere by yourself. That is the spirit behind “Give US this day OUR daily bread.”

For Reflection:

1. Which of the following best describes your current level of spiritual practices? Why?

  • All-you-can-eat buffet
  • Fast food drive through
  • Boxed lunch
  • Holiday meal
  • Leftovers

2. When you read scripture do you tend to gobble it or savor it? How has that fed you? What next step can you take to shift toward a “hagah” approach to reading scripture?

Additional Resource:

If you wish to learn more about the “hagah” approach to reading scripture, see this study on Psalm 1 on the Theodyssey website.


Let’s Bake Bread.

Now, I invite you to schedule a time to bake bread. Yes, really!

To help you, here’s a link to a recipe for Challah bread. Or, if you have some extra time, check out this video.

I believe you will find this to be a much more satisfying experience than just hurriedly pulling a loaf of Wonder Bread off the shelf at your favorite market. Even If you don’t have the patience for breadmaking (or baking at all), chances are you’ll still find challah, the enriched bread often served on the Jewish sabbath and during High Holy Days, not only manageable – but fun.

Consider inviting friends or members of your family to join you in the making (and later in the partaking) of the bread. Or, as a tangible symbol of “give us and our” in The Lord's Prayer, consider baking an extra loaf of bread (or any of your favorite baked goods) to give to someone else that you appreciate and/or needs encouragement right now. 

As you make the bread, use the time to meditatively reflect on how God’s provision and sustenance are evident in your life and those you know and love. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you spiritual lessons as you work with the ingredients and progress through the various steps.

Allow the aroma of the baking bread to speak to you about hope and anticipation of the future. With praise and thanksgiving, break and enjoy the bread with others. 

Let the heavenly taste of butter melting on warm bread, remind you of Jesus’s words that “I am the bread sent from heaven.”

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

- Psalm 34:8

Day 5

This week we offer The King James Version of the Lord’s Prayer for you to read, pray and meditate upon. This is the traditional version many of us learned while growing up.

At times, It may feel like a time-worn, cozy sweater that we cuddle up in by the fireplace as we face winter’s chill. If this is you, read it slowly today and look for comfort. Be aware of how the “wear and tear” of familiar recitation over the years may have taken its toll on your interest in relishing its meaning and finding new inspiration.

At other times, this old King’s English version seems archaic, stiff, and dry. Several words might seem icy and distant. As you read it, what modern words would you use as substitutes to freshen its meaning for you?

As you offer this prayer today in either traditional language or using your own vernacular, invite the Holy Spirit to give you fresh, life-giving insights.

Our Father which art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name,

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.