It seems odd, at first glance, to have such a specific prayer for provision in the midst of those high-sounding phrases in the Lord’s Prayer. The God of Heaven, the eternal Father of all, whose very name is holy, and before whom all we can do is ask forgiveness…. some food please. Anyone spot the apparent bathos?
We pray that his kingdom might come, and are told that “the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” (Rom14:17), so why here do we ask for bread?
The key, I believe, is in that word “daily.”
That is to say, the primary referent is not provision, but trust in provision. The God who creates, also sustains. The God who forgives, also gives grace upon grace on a daily basis, like the manna of old, sustaining the covenant people day by day. The God who is holy, also imparts his holiness and effects it within human lives. He is able to keep us from falling and to present us before him without fault and with great joy! (Jude 24)
And so “daily bread” becomes a metaphor for joy in the journey and confidence that we will indeed arrive. It is faith and assurance that “he who began a good work” will see it through and that we will still be singing when the evening comes.
A few years back, when we were fostering children, it often happened that we would find food, taken from the dinner table, that had been hidden under a child’s pillow. Sometimes it made quite a mess!
It was a poignant reminder that some of the children in our care had not always known the luxury of regular meals. And some, -those from Kosovo and Afghanistan,- faced a daily anxiety that there would be nothing for them tomorrow. And so they had learned to survive as best they could.
It took a while for them to learn to trust us for their daily bread.
This petition of the Lord’s Prayer, then, teaches us to come to God in confident dependence, asking God to provide what we need and to sustain us from day to day. We are not given license to ask for great riches, but we are encouraged to make our needs known to Him, trusting that He will provide.