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