If I’m honest, at times it seems a bit unnecessary to pray for my daily bread. I don’t really worry about whether or not I’ll have something to eat; the only question I face is what I will eat. Sometimes I feel like asking for my daily bread is just lip-service: I ask for it, but it doesn’t mean much to me. If you ever feel like this, I would encourage you to think more deeply about why we ask for our daily bread. We are blessed that, through the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gives us a model to inform and guide how we pray. If we reflect on why Jesus teaches us to ask God for our food, we discover three important truths.
1. Asking for our daily bread reminds us that we are sinners.
The fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that we depend on food to stay alive, but having food is not a guarantee. This wasn’t always the case. If we want to know why we must ask for food, we need to go back to the beginning of history.
The present reality, needing to ask for our daily bread, is the result of a past event. After God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, God said “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16). The food was abundant in Eden; it was a gift from God, ready to be plucked whenever Adam and Eve were hungry. There was no danger of hunger or starvation.
It is interesting that when Satan tempts Adam and Eve, he does it by using food. Even though God had given them all they need, Adam and Eve still wanted to eat the one fruit that was forbidden. At the heart of the first sin was dissatisfaction with God’s provision. As a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience the entire world was cursed, and with the curse came the need to pray for our daily bread. God told Adam,
Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:17-19)
Part of the punishment for Adam and Eve’s sin is that food no longer comes easily. The very ground that brings forth food is cursed; producing food now requires hard labor and pain. This is our present reality: the world is a place in which daily sustenance is hard to come by. Every time we pray for food it ought to remind us that we have an even greater need, a spiritual need because we are sinners. We have merited the curse of God for our sins, both because of our original sin in Adam and because we ourselves have sinned. Therefore, we need a savior.
Our sin is our greatest problem because God is holy. The good news is that God has solved this problem by sending his Christ. It is striking that Satan tempted Christ with food just as he had tempted Adam. The difference is that when Christ was tempted to turn stones into bread, he did not give in but instead quoted the Old Testament: “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Christ overcame the temptation for us, freeing us from Satan, sin, and the power of death!
2. Asking for our daily bread reminds us that God is good and gracious.
If we jump ahead in the Sermon on the Mount, past the Lord’s prayer, Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). Christ tells us that we don’t need to worry about food, clothes, or any material need. How can we be free from anxiety?
A few verses later, Jesus continues on to say, “the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:32). The reason Jesus says we do not have to be anxious is because God is our Father. He already knows what we need and what is good for us. If we seek the spiritual—the work of the Kingdom of God—our Father in heaven will provide for our physical needs. We can be certain of this because God is a good Father. Jesus says:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)
If a good earthly father gives what is best for his children, God will provide in an unimaginably greater way! He is good to us and gives us what we need most. He is gracious and blesses us even though we don’t deserve it.
3. Asking for our daily bread reminds us that we have a future hope.
As we pray that God would grant us our daily bread, there is a greater hope than simply having our physical needs met. We look forward to the hope of a new heaven and earth, the hope that the creation will no longer be under the curse. This hope is first found in the declaration made to the serpent in Genesis 3:15: “he [the seed of the woman] shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” Ultimately this prophecy is fulfilled in the person of Christ and the work he accomplished in his death and resurrection. Through his death, Jesus defeated Satan and purchased eternal life for his people. We look forward to Christ’s second coming when he will usher in the new heavens and earth.
When the Bible talks about the new heavens and earth, it often mentions food. Isaiah, for example, promises the Israelites that in the new heaven and earth “they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit… they shall not plant and another eat” (Isaiah 65:21-22). In the new heavens and earth, the fear of marauding nations stealing away food is gone; God provides safety in which food is guaranteed. Another example can be found in the prophecies of Amos. God makes promises, ultimately fulfilled in the new heavens and earth, which focus on food. Amos says:
‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine and all the hills shall flow with it… they [Israel] shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,’ says the LORD your God. (Amos 9:13-15)
This picture of an overabundance of food can only refer to the new heavens and earth. It is an eternal state from which God’s people can never be uprooted. As Christians, when we ask God to provide us our daily bread, we long for the day when we will no longer be under the curse. We long for the day when we no longer eat bread by the sweat of our brow. Instead, we will spend eternity in a land that overflows with wine and fruit.
When we ask God for our daily bread, we should look towards the hope of eternal life. In the book of Revelation John records a breathtaking vision of this life:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. (Revelation (22:1-3)
The new heavens and earth will not be under the curse that the present creation is under. The tree of life will be there for all to eat. No longer will the ground be cursed to produce thorns and thistles. No longer will our daily bread come by the sweat of our faces. No longer will death reign over us. We will be eternally satisfied because we are in the presence of God! How foolish I am to ever think that asking for my daily bread is meaningless and irrelevant.